Favorite Espressos 2020 - Page 2

Behind the scenes of the site's projects and equipment reviews.

What is your favorite espresso?

Coffee A = Klatch Coffee ~ Belle Espresso
Coffee B = Dragonfly Coffee ~ Espresso Crema Dolce
Coffee C = Caffe Lusso ~ Gran Miscela Carmo Espresso
Total votes: 110

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Team HB

#11: Post by Jeff »

First, thanks to the H-B team for putting this together, as well as the roaster that helped out.

Next, please take my opinions as opinions of a daily drinker, not necessarily an experienced taster. Lastly, my machine is new to me and different enough from 15 years on an E61 HX that my "feel" for making changes is nowhere near as good yet. I had only tried three roasts on the DE1 before these three. I took this opportunity on based on the frustration of one of the previously well-respected "comfort" blends failing to meet expectations and the challenges of seeing if I tasted some of the things that others were finding and how they were 'fixing" things.

I tend to prefer medium or lighter roasts and have been dabbling in SO roasted for drip for many years.

I'm only "good" for a few shots a day, so this was a slow process, even with twice my normal intake!

Compak K10 WBC (single dosed), DE1+ v1.3, VST 18, CG water from "Weed" source

Coffees tried one at a time; B, C, A. The other two bags were vacuum-sealed in their original bags and frozen until the day before I opened them.


C, for me, was notably different than the others in its general character. For me, it was what I remember from the cafes of the 90s and 00s, when "creamy" and "chocolatey" were the adjectives of choice for many. To me, this is "comfort" espresso. It tastes like, well, coffee. It's polite enough that non-aficionados won't be offended, either as a shot or in a pint glass of vaguely coffee-flavored, steamed milk. It won't wow those looking for subtleties, but there's nothing "off" about it. This would be a great bag to keep in the freezer for guests and those days when that light, SO, just won't pull a decent shot and you want something no-fuss.

Uniform, medium to medium-dark roast, peaberry as one of the beans.

Pulled this at 18 g, surprisingly coarse grind in a VST 18, 30-33 g out, "Default" DE1 profile (fill basket then hit 9 bar, slow decline to around 8 bar at this shot length). A little hotter than "usual" (caveats that I haven't completely decided on "usual" for my DE1) smoothed out the hints of bitterness on my early extractions.

Medium-dark roast, peaberry content evident and hints of robusta led me to think that this might be a coffee came across looking for "what do I order next?" as I try to get used to my new gear, but haven't tried before,

Spoiler: show
Cafffe Lusso Gran Miscela Carmo or perhaps Lionshare


A medium-dark to medium roast that appeared to be a blend of individually roasted coffees.

I struggled with this one to find a point where I could push back ashy flavors. At cooler temperatures it was revealing orange juice notes, but just too sour in its balance for me. Raising the temperature slightly brought out a hint of brightness and nuttiness without excessive bitterness. Shorter shots were, for me, excessively bitter. Much more than 1:2 and it again swung bitter on me.

A hair longer PI phase seemed to bring out some of the brighter notes again after tightening down the grind a "bump" on the K10.

18 g, moderately coarse grind in a VST 18, 34 g out, 8-10 s PI with a modified "LRv2" profile (shortened PI). A little hotter than usual.

Goes well with milk. Very drinkable as a straight shot, though nothing exceptional to me.


Perhaps a bit lighter than the "A" roast, but still firmly in the medium range to my eye.

This one dialed in at a couple different places as I explored it, my favorite ended up with a bright balance and occasional hints of cranberry running through my head. I couldn't get that cranberry to be repeatable, but the hints of fruit made this more enjoyable for me as a straight shot than the others. I spent a lot of time getting the roast notes out, or at least toned down. I found a reasonable balance, without excessive bitterness for my tastes, more nutty notes than dark chocolate to ashy ones.

18 g, moderately coarse grind in a VST 18, 38-41 g out, 6-8 s PI with a modified "LRv2" profile (shortened PI). "Normal" temperature.

Better to my taste in a straight shot than "A", but not enough to convert me from lighter roasts. Worked in milk, but we agreed that "A" was a better match.


#12: Post by hercdeisel »

Working with a Kinu M47 Traveler we had family in town visiting from Wednesday through Sunday and spread the tasting around over about three of us tasters (yes, I've put on about 5 pounds of arm muscle from the hand grinding...)

First dialed these in to target a standard 1:2 extraction ratio over ~30sec pull time. Using 15g coffee for 30g shots. The pump on the machine takes about 10 seconds to ramp to pressure (and first drops to start to emerge from the portailter) and the shot would then run 25-30 seconds more to get to 30g out. Each coffee required a different grind setting for these with B being the finest (about a 3.1.2 on the kinu), A in the middle (3.2.0) and C the coarsest (3.3.0). For comparison, trying to pull C at B's grind settings would choke the machine and trying to pull B at C's grind setting would be a 15 second gusher. Really interesting to see how different these were even in the grinder!

B had a harshness at these ratios was obvious and the dominant taste experience (couldn't tell you from taste alone whether it was bitterness or sourness, just a very unpleasant sensation; given how I remedied the taste by going much finer for a long pull, I'd retroactively describe it as sourness).

We started all of these coffees at about 198 brew temp setting. Eventually settled on 190 for A and C, 206 for B.

At the standard extraction parameter grind setting and pull time A and C were quite similar in terms of chocolate-y/nuttiness but A had an additional fruity acidity to it that was pleasant (giving the espresso a sweetness missing from C), though C had more body and lasting crema. Experimenting with grind settings, we found the taste characteristics of A and C were pretty constant over different ranges, pull times, and pull ratios. Pulling slightly longer and faster shots with C tended to bring out a bit more of what we liked in C. Slightly shorter, slower shots made for some of our favorite shots of A as it brought out more of the acidity and sweetness that we liked in it.

Among a group of three tasters, we ultimately had a slight preference for A over C for straight shots. C was probably our favorite for the most classic tasting milk drinks. C was also the favorite of our taster who strongly prefers Italian blends over fashionable contemporary American comfort blends.

This morning, after my fellow tasters left, I started experimenting a bit more with B. I ended up grinding much finer (3.0.2 on the Kinu) and going for a long pre-infusion and shot time. Overall I settled on a 20 second pre-infusion, followed by a 30-35 second shot time for about 35 grams coffee out of a 15g dose. I thought these shots were really quite nice. The acidy/fruity sweetness in the shot was really nice and replaced the harshness from our 'standard' extraction parameter shots.


Judging these relative to a 'Contemporary American Comfort Blends' scale I'd say:
A is most on brand. It's got some fruity acidity to it. It's a bit more darkly roasted to bring out more body and chocolatiness to it, but not afraid of its acidity.
B is more cutting edge. Leaning into its fruity acidity. Home hobbyists will probably like this most, especially those with the equipment to dial in longer, more finely ground shots.
C is resisting the trends, leaning towards more classic espressos. It's still got a foot in the big crema, big body. Chocolatiness is the goal here. Minimal fruity acidity though.


#13: Post by false1001 »

First off, I had a lot of fun trying things out and dialing in each of these coffees. Once again, many thanks to Dan for organizing everything... I'd love to make this a yearly thing.

That said, unfortunately at this point I think the rest of each bag is going into the coldbrew jar. None of these coffees particularly lined up with what I generally enjoy in my espresso (I generally like complex, fruit forward, light roasts with either high acidity or sweetness). But I'd like to emphasize that my overall experience during this was positive even if I won't be ordering these coffees again.

One caveat: I am not drinking milk right now so I could only judge on straight espresso and Americanos.

Coffee A:
Initially my least favorite and difficult to dial in, Coffee A has grown on me immensely due to its flexibility and nuance. Pulled one way it's a straightforward comfort shot, pulled another way it has really pleasant citric acidity balanced with the chocolate, and pulled yet another way I get cranberry-esque bittersweetness. That said, I feel the difference between a sink shot and a drinkable shot for Coffee A is a razors edge... if I had a more traditional machine and grinder setup, didn't single dose, and pulled the same bean every day I think I'd have much more success with this one.

Silvia PID set at 213, slightly coarse grind, pulled at 16g in 30-32g out.

Coffee B:
Probably the coffee most similar to the flavor profile I generally enjoy, but at the end of the day a little boring. Very smooth, balanced, and a pleasant mouthfeel, but nothing really stood out to me. I actually tried blending this with some random single origins I had laying around and almost always ruined the shot, which makes me think this is a very carefully calibrated blend that aims for consistency. There is a very noticeable lack of roasting defects within this blend, you can tell this was very well roasted.
Spoiler: show
Both of those characteristics are hallmarks of Dragonfly, and I concur with those who think this is Crema Dolce, although I personally remember Crema Dolce being a bit sweeter and having noticeably more caramels than this batch

Silvia PID set at 217, slightly finer grind (very adaptable to different grind settings though), classic 1:2 17g in 34g out

Coffee C:
Not good! I do not like Coffee C! Herbal, a bit earthy, chalky finish, and to my tastes straight up ashy. This is the stereotypical espresso shot that you'd get from a random coffee shop that resells Costco pastries, has a noticeably dirty espresso machine, and tries to sell overpriced art on the walls. At no point could I tame the bitterness in the aftertaste, and that could 100% be due to my lack of barista skills but I could pull pleasant shots with the other two coffees and at a certain point the roaster has to make it easy for the end user!

My best shots were pulled with the following settings, but I would not recommend people use them as a reference point!
Silvia PID set at 215, more coarse grind, short shot @ 17g in 28g out


#14: Post by shotwell »

I've been tasting for a few days now, typically quickly prepping and pulling 15g doubles as a full flight of 3.

Coffee A was pulled everywhere from 1:1.5-1:2.5. I used temperatures ranging from 200-204f and used grind size to fit the profile I was working with for tasting. The best results had a short, low debit pre-infusion of 10 seconds and an extraction time of around 20 seconds at 1:2 and 200f. The sweet spot has little acidity, but some kind of funk that reads as manure to me. It's not my taste, but there is a bitter chocolate flavor there with a note you could vaguely call 'berry' if not for the barnyard aroma. The nut flavors trend towards hazelnut and can go astringent easily at high temps or longer ratios. A little more caramelization would have been nice for this roast level. This was my least favorite, primarily for the manure aroma.

Coffee B was explored in the same manner as Coffee A. The best results had a straight ramp to 9 bar at a moderate water debit. Extraction time was roughly 30 seconds, ratio as 1:2.25 and temperature was 204f. There are two things going on here that are positive to me. The Indonesian in the blend is providing a woody/leathery but not astringent note. There's some nice caramelization that probably doesn't get past that almond/marzipan level of development to impart a little sweetness. It lacks complexity and acidity, but the good shots are good. It reminds me of lighter roast monsooned Malabar coffees but with a touch of extra sweetness. The roast level caps the extraction a little lower than I'd prefer. Extraction balance is kind of on a knife edge, small adjustments make big changes to taste. It's better under than over extracted with my setup. It lacks clarity at higher extractions.

Coffee C was explored in the same manner as A and B. The best results were pulled in basically the same way as A. I found this coffee to have a sharp orange note at the opening that turns into a tremendously powerful vanillin note as it cools. It's really a shame that the chocolate notes aren't more prominent. There's not enough backbone for real vanilla, not enough complexity to balance it, and not enough chocolate to hold up to milk. Trying to pull longer than 1:2 to find some bitter balance for the orange and vanillin notes just turns into a dry, bitter mess. If you're after something sweet and inoffensive, this can fit the bill. This had a strong Indonesian aroma while grinding, but none of those potentially interesting notes can punch through the artificial vanilla for me. Produces an unusual quantity of fines.

It's probably worth saying that my taste is more towards very high extractions of very light roasts. This was out of my wheel house, and actually a lot of fun!

Supporter ♡

#15: Post by cpreston »

Well, here's my 2 cents. For reference, my usual drink is a macchiato and I'm using a Cremina with temp gauge.

For all three coffees, I tried various ratios but found I liked the ristrettos the most. All seemed best at near or just above my normal temperature.

A: a very good, rich, traditional dark roast, I would guess mostly of South American, with rich multilayered dark flavors. Reminded me of the Vivace blends, and like them it worked best for me at a very tight ratio around 1:1.2.

B: seemed like a familiar type of cafe blend with perhaps some Ethiopian over a South American base, and an excellent example. Reminded me of Full Cycle in taste. I ended up liking it best at 1:1.6 in a slightly fast ristretto.

C: another South American dark roast, somewhat like A but with a milder flavor combination of chocolate, almond, honey, etc as compared to the leather/tobacco of A. Very approachable and easy to like. As with A, I preferred it at 1:1.2 or so.

All three were very tasty and showed no flavor defects at all, once dialed in. At higher ratios and/or coarser I could get some harshness and underextracted bright tones, but no real fruit from any of them. B at its best had an extra bit of zippiness from the Ethiopian (or whatever it was) component, maybe barely floral, and it was my favorite. But I thought all three made excellent coffees and will enjoy every cup.


#16: Post by nrh »

Roaster A:
sweeter than B, but subtle sweetness compared to
chocolate notes
nutty aftertaste

Roaster B:
graham cracker
smokey aftertaste
generally mild flavors

Roaster C:
more of a classic roast compared to A and B
milk chocolate
caramel hints

Favorite C
Least Favorite B
Nick H.


#17: Post by Bret »

I did more dialing in with A & B today, as well as my first pull of C.

In general, I had to tighten the grind a bit on A & B, no other changes (same temp, etc.) I got closer to the thick, syrupy, slow shots that I prefer.

A: 201 deg, 20g in, 27 g out, 70 sec. The shot was drinkable, thin mouth feel, and slightly sour. I'll tighten the grind a bit more and target 1:1 next. The latte made from that shot was excellent. Strong character of the shot held up well in milk.

B: 201 deg, 20g in, 27.8g out, 62 sec. Shot ran a bit fast and thin, so will also tighten grind and go directly for 1:1 instead of just watching the pull. The shot was drinkable, no noticeable sourness, really no noticeable character. The latte made from the same shot was plain/weak. It tasted more like a very weak hot chocolate than a latte. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and might warrant a bit more experimentation to bring the chocolate notes forward. Not sure exactly which direction to take here: maybe higher temps? Suggestions?

C: 201 deg, 20g in, 21.4g out, 73 sec. This was my first pull of C, and I used settings from A/B as starting point -- very close to ideal for my taste, but a little tweaking is still warranted. Best tasting straight shot today, grind seems exactly right, might try just a bit tighter to confirm. I think it is time to vary temp (higher) for this one to see if there is more to be gained. The latte from the same shot was excellent. The shot had a lot of character and was strong but not overpowering, did very well in milk.

A & C seem fairly close in "goodness" while tasting very different. The vote for top two plan is sound in my view: so far I would hate to eliminate either one, though if forced to decide based on today, I'd rank C at the top. This wouldn't be fair, though: I need to try all at 1:1 and was not consistent at all about that today.

My wife sipped each latte and, without hesitation, said A was her favorite, C was very close second, and did not care for B at all.


#18: Post by thoang77 »

Had more to write, but I decided I'll just keep it brief (partially since I have terrible notes for C, ha).
Tested both as a straight shot and with milk as cortados and/or flat whites

Preferred extraction will be Temp (F), Dose/Yield, Time (seconds)
A: 199F, 17g/33g, 27 sec. Roasty flavors, but not offensive. Wine-like acidity, bittersweet chocolate flavor, with some almond/nut skin flavor on the finish

B: 203F, 17g/31g, 29 sec. Honey like sweetness, smooth milk chocolate with some stonefruit and raisin flavors

C: 202F, 17g/32.5, 30 sec. Very nutty and smooth with subdued sweetness and chocolatey notes. A little woody. Overall a little flat, kind of gives me a baked roast type of vibe.

Final rankings: B, A, C

Some additional photos taken during the experiments:
Spoiler: show





#19: Post by acg »

Background: I mainly drink lattes. Equipment used for the evaluation are Londinium R24 and Monolith MAX

A: I really like A in milk. With proper extraction, (3 bar pre infusion, 18g in, 36g out) the latte tastes with good chocolate flavor, a bit nutty, and sweet. One thing to avoid is over extraction as it would give a less pleasant flavor, less chocolate and a bit burnt.

B: it is a good straight shot coffee. Good acidity, and more complexity overall. I set the PI at 5.5bar and 1:2 ratio. It worked well. It also works quite well with milk. Less chocolate but more fruity and a bit nutty and sweet too.

C: I think I can recognize what this coffee is. It is a good coffee for latte and is similar to A, but I like A more than C for the stronger chocolate flavor and sweetness of A. I set the grinder a bit coarser than A to avoid bitterness.

Overall I am happy to buy any of those. But for the review I am ranking A=B>C.

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#20: Post by Qporzk »

Alright, so here's my review, with a confidence factory of about 0.75 :lol:

Coffee A:
Best Recipe: 18g in, 27g out, 28 seconds at 198F, 13 on NZ
Easy to dial in, pulls best as a ristretto. Slightly roasty, sweet and chocolaty. Some orange zest, candied lemon sweetness comes out in an americano. Pretty standard in a cappuccino, with no distinct flavors showing through.

Coffee B:
Best Recipe: 17g in, 47 out, 60 seconds at 203F, 11 on NZ
Harder to dial in, pulls best as a long, low debit preinfusion shot at higher temperatures. No roasty flavors, good acidity, lots of sweetness and smoothness in a long shot. Good in an americano with nice acidity showing through, if lacking some sweetness and complexity. Nearly indistinguishable from A in a cappuccino, likely due to the low bitterness.

Coffee C:
Best Recipe: 18g in, 30g out, 27 seconds at 196F, 14.5 on NZ
Also pulls best short, but has more spicy character than candy sweetness. Gets a bit lost in an americano, likely due to the low acidity. Tasty and fairly forgiving in a straight shot, with more of a tendency towards bitterness than the other two. Best in a cappuccino, as it cuts through the milk more, likely due to the bitterness.

This was a lot of fun, but has taught me that I am much better off choosing 1 coffee for my day-to-day and really getting to know that. The switching back and forth and dialing and re-dialing in got to be pretty hard to manage by the end. Thanks for putting this together!