Favorite Espressos 2017 - Page 2

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#11: Post by michael »

Vg+ after I moved the temp back to 93 C 8)

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#12: Post by Chert »

When is next review planned? I like Team HB reviews.
LMWDP #198


#13: Post by RyanJE » replying to Chert »


I actually learn a lot about the process and tasting rather than the just the specific coffee.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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#14: Post by TomC »

In following what has become my usual pattern when evaluating an espresso formally for HB, I've practiced a simple approach to cover as much interest as possible, meaning that not all the members are going to like lighter 3rd wave S.O. espresso, and thus, we've generally opted to switch it up between reviews, one doing a lighter S.0. and next usually a more developed, traditional (some say "comfort food") blend. The pendulum swung this time to that more developed traditional blend range and landed us at Velton's Coffee Roasting, specifically, his well established Bonsai Blend. I found it surprising that we hadn't officially reviewed it beforehand; I had enjoyed it previously and thought it deserved a closer look here at HB :)

Velton's Bonsai Blend was famously noted for its very high scoring early on by reviewers like CoffeeReview, which at the time wasn't a common achievement for an espresso blend. We formally reviewed it over the past month, with a disclosure that there was a minor glitch in the first review of the coffee around the time of the SCA Expo. The first sample wasn't on the same level as what I had personally experienced prior; simply put, that review was done blindly by everyone except myself who organized it, and we discovered we weren't all evaluating it the same. Jim noted that the last portion of his sample was predominantly smaller beans, which prompted those of us still early in the review to re-homogenize the bag for better results.

For fairness and accuracy sake, we took another critical look at it and had better results. For those looking for a flexible, lower acid blend of chocolate, light nuttiness, and some gentle red fruit tones, I believe it's worth consideration.

When the following reviews were repeated, however, it wasn't done blind, due to the nature of our discussion about the coffee, the roast, etc. We'll share some opinions here shortly. In closing, I'd like to personally thank Velton and his small team for sponsoring this review and working thru the hiccups along the way!
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#15: Post by HB (original poster) »

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Velton provided basic brew parameter recommendations. Initial temperature of 201°F and normale brew ratio worked well (e.g., 17.5 grams coffee, 35.6 grams beverage). An extended preinfusion and overall pour time of 43 seconds yielded an unpretentious espresso with overall light-roasted nut tones. The aftertaste was clean and mild. Those who enjoy simple, low-acidity blends will appreciate this coffee. The subsequent espressos were easy to pull and featured the mild nutty tones of walnuts and hazelnuts with tobacco and a hint of light chocolate. Pulled with a coarser grind as Tom later suggested brought some interesting baked goods overtones, reminding me of cannoli and fresh bread.

I experimented with lower doses; some acidity emerged with taste of lemon, cranberry and a mildly tangy finish. As the days wore on and the bag emptied, I tried updosing, producing a higher brew ratio around 70%, and increasing the temperature to 202°F. It boosted the roasted nuttiness that had started to fade, though it didn't increase chocolates as I'd hoped. Overall, a pleasant, malleable espresso that will appeal to those who've tired of "third wave OJ" blends and those who want a reminder of mild-mannered Illy coffees from their vacation in Northern Italia. This is a friendly blend for those new to espresso; more experienced drinkers who seek prominent fruit notes may find it well executed but unremarkable.
Dan Kehn

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#16: Post by shadowfax »

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Favorite espresso 2017, #3

Coffee #3 was roasted on May 7; I received it on Thursday, May 11. This review was not blind to me: I was aware of the roaster, blend components (pulped natural Brazil, natural process Mexican, and a washed Ethiopian), and the suggested brew parameters: an 18g dose, 28-32 seconds extraction, with a yield of 45-50 (unit not specified, unclear if g or mL), and a brew temperature of 201°F.

The coffee is medium roasted; the aroma is mellow, but it reminds me of brownies, with subtle notes of dried fruit. The coffee produces a sweet, well-rounded espresso with notes of red fruit (the roaster's suggestion of strawberry is very distinct for me near the suggested brew parameters) and very mellow citrus (usually orange), toasted nuts, and slight chocolate. The body tends to be juicy, and the flavor is clean.

I began working with the coffee 5 days post-roast. While it was workable on that day, I noticed an astringency in these shots that could be tamed but not eliminated; this subsided by the 7th day.

The roaster's spec was relatively accurate for me. I found extractions behaved best around 17-18g in a VST basket, and yields in the 45-50% range produced the most balanced, interesting shots. The coffee is generally sweet, and as such, a range of profiles seem to work. Lower dose and finer grind tends to produce more of a dark, dried berry acidity, with deeper caramels, more nuttiness, and (to me) more complexity. A coarser grind and higher dose (and/or increasing the initial flow rate) produce a lighter, cleaner shot that more distinctly reminds me of strawberries and Sweet Tarts (Smarties?) with a hint of chocolate. The suggested 201°F brew temperature worked well for me; for this coffee, I really didn't explore more than a degree in either direction from there. The coffee took well to a soft preinfusion over ~15 seconds, with about a 25-30s brew time, with slower flow generally more favorable than fast.

This coffee makes a pleasing cappuccino. Its profile is distinct in milk, but I don't think it would stand up too powerfully in a larger milk drink; I stuck to my usual 5 oz. cappuccino. The higher-dosed shots were best for me in this format, characterized by creamy chocolate and caramel, with berries especially distinct in the finish.

Again, this is a well-rounded coffee with a prominent but tamed red fruit acidity that's only mildly citric. It is interesting as a straight shot, and not particularly challenging to dial in. As such, I think this is a good crowd-pleaser espresso that has something to offer to many palates.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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#17: Post by another_jim »

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INTRODUCTION: This is the Bonsai Blend by Veltons. The blend consists of a wet processed Guji, a dry processed Oaxaca, and a pulp natural Brazil. The roast is medium. My tasting was not blind; I knew all the details for the reasons discussed in Tom's introduction.

OVERALL TASTE: The dry fragrance is fruit with pleasing, mildly alcoholic ferment notes. In the wet aroma this is mostly obscured by smokey, resinous notes. The taste and finish are very much derived from the ingredient coffees. The Guji adds fruit, the Brazil coffee a sweet, malty banana note, and the Oaxaca a rustic, smokey and resinous note. The trick is finding a brew or espresso recipe that brings all these flavors into a good balance.

DIALING IN: The coffee responds fairly dramatically to changes in grind, dose, flow, temperature and pressure. At finer grinds, lower flows and higher temperatures, the Oaxacan coffee, with rustic smoke and resin notes, dominates. At very coarse grinds and faster flows, the coffee becomes the usual third wave fruit juice. Medium fast flows, medium temperature and medium to coarse grinds was the sweet spot for me, bringing out the creamy mouthfeel of the Brazil, a hint of smoke, and plenty of fruit.

WHO SHOULD BUY: This is a solid everyday, but not superlative, espresso blend. What makes it a bit of a standout is how dramatically the taste changes in response to changes in the brew recipe. This makes it a great blend for those in their learning curve with new gear or new techniques; since the taste will change very perceptibly in response to technique changes. Note: if you do not like even a hint of smoke or tobacco; you may want to avoid this blend
Jim Schulman

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#18: Post by drgary »

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Velton's Bonsai Blend

I like this coffee. Taking it through its paces yields some constants. Foremost of these are juiciness that combines sour and sweet and a tea-like mouthfeel, and a mildly roasty finish. This isn't a dense, sticky espresso and doesn't do well as a ristretto. The juiciness stands out from anything I've tasted. It makes a nice milk drink if you brew it to bring the sourness forward without going too hot, where the latter creates bitterness. The best shots also have some jammy sweetness and mild Baker's chocolate, with dark dried fruit and hints of Middle Eastern spices in the finish.

The main challenge dialing in was taming the moderate sourness. Sourness and sweetness were well balanced with temperatures of 196 - 198°F or 201°F - 203°F. Sour peaks were at 199 - 200°F and 205°F and above, when it became increasingly bitter and astringent. I found 205°F best for milk drinks because it sufficiently emphasized the sourness to create a Meyer lemon cappuccino. I liked this coffee best as a pourover when I first tasted it 5 days post-roast. I tried it as espresso on days 5 - 8, freezing it at peak at the end of Day 8 to try different brew ratios and temperatures. Pourover brewing at day 8 found the flavors muted and less interesting.

The roaster's recommended parameters for espresso were 201°F, 18 gm in, 45 - 50 gm out, 28 - 32 second pull.

Equipment notes: My Conti Prestina commercial lever has a gentle spring action and approximates pump machine parameters by adding about 20 seconds to the pull after a boiler pressure preinfusion of at least 15 seconds. My espresso temperatures are a 52°F estimated offset from PID (computer) temperature control in the boiler. My espresso grinder is a Fiorenzato Doge Conico 68 mm with manual doser. My pourover brew equipment is a Bonavita PID kettle, a Driver metal filter, and a Bunn LPG grinder retrofitted with Ditting 802 flat burrs.

I first inspected the coffee on Day 5. Beans were of mixed size and a City Roast, where the coffee has been taken through first crack. The dry aroma revealed mild acidity.

On Day 5 I tried a pourover at 201°F. This coffee brewed with a refreshing, almost mint-like character, layering nuts over Middle Eastern spices like cinnamon and cardamom with a mild background of Dutch cocoa. As it cooled, there was just enough clean acidity to be refreshing. Further cooling resolved to an aftertaste of walnuts and spice. The initial taste was slightly grassy, but in a pleasant, cooling way. Another way to describe this was "juicy." Mouthfeel was like a rich tea. As it cooled to room temperature, a plum-like acidity increased and the Middle Eastern spices hovered over a gentle and balancing raspberry sweetness. The cinnamon and cardamom notes left me wondering whether there was some Yemen in this blend.

My best shot was an unusually slow one on Day 8. Temperature was 198°F with 20 gm in, 45 gm out, a 30 sec preinfusion, and a 1:27 lever pull. This unusual technique can produce great shots for some coffees on my Conti Prestina, which minimizes overextraction with its relatively soft spring and a large intra-shot temperature drop.

Trying a coffee as it opens up is a moving target, so here's a summary of what that was like.

Day 6: Since this was pre-peak, I was concentrating on dialing in, starting close to the roaster's recommended parameters. The first shot wasn't timed. Otherwise it was 19.4 gm in, 42.6 gm out, 201°F, 15 sec preinfusion. This was too sour up front with a lower range of dry cocoa powder. The Middle Eastern spiciness only appeared in the long finish. Another shot at 19.7 gm in, 55 gm out, 196°F, 15 sec preinfusion, 60 sec pull tamed the sourness, brought more sweetness and dark chocolate with a walnut aftertaste and some spice in the finish. The spice was stronger in the long finish, with a slight hickory smokiness.

Day 7: 196°F, 18.1 gm in, 53.3 gm out, 30 sec preinfusion, 45 sec pull. This had a compelling cider-like juiciness with a mildly bitter bottom note. It was a bit hollow, lacking sweetness or fruit pungency in the mid-range. In the aftertaste the bitterness resolved to almond and the sourness came forward. The long aftertaste was roasty/toasty, with Baker's chocolate. Another shot at 18 gm in, 40 gm out, 198°F, 30 second preinfusion, 37 sec pull reduced bitterness but increased sourness and intensity in ways I didn't like.

Day 8: 18 gm in, 37 gm out, 30 sec preinfusion, 28 sec pull, 197°F. This was an improvement over the previous day, perhaps because it had reached peak, because it was more dialed in, or both. At first it was sweet, moderately juicy, with a hint of bitters and medium mouthfeel. It became more juicy as it cooled with just a hint of roasty, smoke flavor. The sweetness had an intensity like blackberry or strawberry jam, without the distinctive floral aromas of those fruits. Bitter merged into mild orange-like sourness, also without the floral flavor. As it cooled this was so juicy it was refreshing. The last sip had a dark floral note and the finish was Baker's chocolate tinged with sweetness. The aftertaste was dark toast, almond, Baker's chocolate, with a slight edge of grapefruit tartness. The long aftertaste was tobacco.

As noted above, the best shot this day and overall was 198°F, 20 gm in, 45 gm out, 30 sec preinfusion, 1:27 pull. The long, slow pull with the declining pressure and temperature profile of the Prestina created a refined, juicy espresso where the flavors were integrated and a sweet almost floral fruitiness came forward. This shot toned down the Baker's chocolate/tobacco note that resolved to mild bitter almond. The aftertaste was a mild blend of roast, raisin, almond, and a mouth-drying powdered chocolate that stopped short of being astringent. In the long finish the chocolate took on a hint of cumin.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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#19: Post by TomC »

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Testing at day 7 and day 8 at it's likely prime, the shots are complex, balanced and apparently capable of being pushed around quite a bit differently, yielding a significantly different shot. My best shots are dosed slightly higher than they recommend as a starting point. I definitely recommend a coarser grind to keep the highlights at their best. Finer grinds yielded more distillates and the deeper end of the roast development that could lead to astringency quite easily and it buries what makes this blend otherwise shine. As the coffee ages, it also yields more of the brandy/ darker fruit notes that can get a bit odd at finer grinds too. This coffee is easy to extract, don't overdo it. I am using 20g in my 20g VST, and getting 42-43g in 36 seconds. Flavors are well developed (no 3rd wave Oj), with a good roast backbone. Acidity is slightly muted, but not flabby. There's structure to the shot, with flavors of chocolate, Nutella, and a slight almond alternating with dark cherry backend. Left to cool, the dark cherry sweetens. Overall body is rather thin, surprisingly. I didn't get that much needed bittersweet cherry until I started grinder coarser.

In milk, it stands up plenty fine. It makes a more interesting cup than your traditional comfort capp, details don't get lost, but obviously there's a predominant caramel shift. I note more of an almond -roca cookie flavor, maybe the faintest hint of strawberry but it's subtle. Overall very enjoyable.

Day 8, I pushed the coarseness to the limit, swapping in an IMS basket at the same dose/beverage mass, but the edge of lower extraction yielded a lot of anise, which I'm personally not fond of and carried with it some sour undertones. If I hadn't had success with previous attempts, I'd have toyed with the idea of bumping the temp a bit to see what came of it.
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#20: Post by HB (original poster) »

TomC wrote:The pendulum swung this time to that more developed traditional blend range and landed us at Velton's Coffee Roasting, specifically, his well established Bonsai Blend. I found it surprising that we hadn't officially reviewed it beforehand; I had enjoyed it previously and thought it deserved a closer look here at HB :)
Thanks once again Tom for arranging this review! I'll leave the reviews behind spoiler tags for awhile should members wish to try it blinded.
Dan Kehn