Favorite Espressos 2020

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

User avatar

#1: Post by HB »

It's true, somehow three years have slipped by since the last Favorite Espressos Review. This review will be with extensive community participation -- 100 members signed up to receive three coffees in anonymous packaging:

Evaluations will be blind and reviewers will not know what espressos are being evaluated.

For ease of reference, this thread will contain just the reviews; questions about the review process, brewing recommendations, etc. will be in Comments on Favorite Espressos 2020. Team HB participants will lead the review in the posts below. Once they're complete, reviews posted in the comment thread will be merged into this one so they're all in one place without pages of side discussions.

The coffees should arrive by Tuesday of next week. :D


And the coffees are:

Spoiler: show
Coffee A = Klatch Coffee ~ Belle Espresso
Coffee B = Dragonfly Coffee ~ Espresso Crema Dolce
Coffee C = Caffe Lusso ~ Gran Miscela Carmo Espresso
Dan Kehn

User avatar
Team HB

#2: Post by TomC »

Roaster A:

Most commonly pulled 17/30-34, at 201 standard pre-infusion from the Speedster.
This blend pulled the sweetest tasting shots of the three, especially with coarser grinds. The blend contained many poor quality beans on visual examination with many shell beans, but it still pulled decent shots. A bit gassy and trickier to dial in a "pretty shot", if that matters. The taste in the cup were standard dark chocolate, mild nuts, mild anise, a dry finish and thin body. Flavors didn't stand up in milk, but the sweetness shown thru in milk.

Roaster B:

Most commonly pulled 21/28-30, very coarse, tried all temps from 197-201
Within a few dial in shots, I was pretty sure I already knew who this roaster was (and humble brag, I was correct) only because I had just received a kilo of the exact same coffee one week before these review coffees arrived and I was not very impressed then either. I enjoyed shots of this blend in the past, and would recommend it to anyone seeking an intense Reeses Peanut Butter Cup tasting latte. In my opinion, this current offering is only suitable in milk.

Roaster C:

Easiest to dial in, most commonly pulled 21/32 at 201
My favorite straight, and slightly more complex in milk than Roaster A, but a tad less sweet. There's nice toast and sesame notes, the crema pulls a deep chestnut color. The flavor is typical dark chocolate and anise. A very silky mouthfeel and it cools sweeter. It edged out Roaster A on the merits of the better mouthfeel and more developed flavor, which punched thru milk better too.
Join us and support Artisan Roasting Software=https://artisan-scope.org/donate/
★★ Quite Helpful

User avatar
Team HB

#3: Post by homeburrero »

Here's my review (patched in with an edit on Aug 1, 2PM EDT)

Blind, labeled A, B, C
Roast Date: appx July 14
Arrived: July 20 via UPS, in bags with one-way valve
Evaluated: July 21 - Aug 1 (~ 7 - 18 days post roast)

Monolith flat w/ 75mm TiN
Rocket Giotto Evo V2 (E61 HX, rotary pump). Refitted w/ stainless mushroom and 0.7mm gicleur.
18g VST basket

Short flush-and-Go with cooled group and EricS group thermometer all at appx 200-202F brew temp
No special pre-infusion shenanigans
overkill grooming (WDT, groom/strikeoff with curved blade, OCD tool)
Each bag split into 2 small Ball jars upon arrival, stored cool and dark, never frozen.
Softish home-made water with appx 50 mg/L alkalinity and 40 mg/L hardness - roughly equal potassium, calcium, magnesium bicarbonates.

Appearance, Fragrance:
C was unique because it had many small beans. All seemed about the same darkness. Some faint fruity/complexity to C on opening the bag, then later it faded and B seemed to have the most fruity fragrance. None of them stood out there.

Dialing in:
First pass with all at the same grinder setting:
A: 18.3 g : 36.6 g : 32sec, first drop at 6 sec
B: 18.3 g : 35.1 g : 33 sec first drop at 6 sec
C: 18.3 g : 30.0 g : 47 sec, first drop at 10 sec

(Coffee C clearly would need a coarser grind on my grinder to get the same flowrate as A and B.)

After a few tasting trials I settled on these for espresso:
A: 18.3 g : 36.6 g : 32sec
B: 17.5 g : 39.6 g : 35 sec
C: 18.3 g : 31.1 g : 37 sec

And found that for my 5 oz cappuccinos (appx. 120 grams of whole milk) I preferred a tight slow ristretto-ish for all three coffees:
A: 18.7 g : 31.2 g : 44 sec
B: 18.6 g : 27.0 g: 49 sec
C: 18.2 g : 22.1 g: 37 sec

Don't take my opinion too seriously - I am by far the least experienced of the HB team, especially when it comes to tasting different espressos alongside experienced tasters. My taste tends to prefer ristrettoish shots for both espressos and especially for my milk drinks, I also favor medium-light roasted Ethiopian naturals. I'm not sure I have a good palate for appreciating these comfort blends.

I tried the hardest with B. Based on opinions of others I tried down dosing a little and pulling slightly lungo, which I think helped but that may be confirmation bias. Still nothing remarkable in the flavor, but good balance and crema, maybe a little thin to my taste. The others seemed to do best to my taste when pulled per my usual preference - slightly ristretto. Syrupy mouthfeel and a lot of chocolaty finish. No special flavor notes to speak of (but I'm not good at identifying flavor notes). Coffee A at one point seemed to have a faint apricot maybe, and both A and C were nutty and chocolaty, especially milk chocolate in the milk drinks. B, when pulled slow thick and gloppy and in milk had a strong dark chocolate taste, but unfortunately was also a little ashy. I'll vote for both A and C since I don't have a strong preference for either.
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

User avatar
Team HB

#4: Post by RapidCoffee »

Roast A
medium-dark roast level
no prominent dry grinds aroma (other than coffee)
medium-coarse espresso grind on Robur
15g->30g (1:2) in 35s at 92-94C, flat 9 bar (no PI) on Spaz S1
generic coffee flavors, some bittersweet chocolate
not as well balanced as B/C
slightly washed out in milk (maybe Werther's caramel coffee candy flavor?)
mild recommendation

Roast B
medium roast level (lightest of the blends)
dry grinds exhibit liquor aromatics
medium-coarse espresso grind on Robur
15->30g in 35s at 94-95C, flat 9 bar (no PI) on Spaz S1
pretty pours (see pix)
less body/mouthfeel than C
minor sour cherry notes, plus odd unidentifiable flavor
good straight shot
good with sugar
OK with milk (somewhat weak), some toffee/caramel notes
mild recommendation

Roast C
mixture of small peaberries and larger beans
medium roast level
dry grinds exhibit liquor aromatics
super coarse espresso grind on Robur
15g->30g (1:2) in 30s at 92C, flat 9 bar (no PI) on Spaz S1
mild, smooth, nicely balanced acidity/bitterness with rich syrupy body/mouthfeel
good straight shot
good with sugar
does not hold up well to milk
mild recommendation (my favorite of the three)

I do not expect prominent acidity/fruitiness in comfort blends, and these roasts lived up to my expectations. Surprisingly, I did not experience any strong distinguishing comfort blend flavors (chocolate, nuts, caramel). The flavor profile of all three roasts was basically coffee-flavored coffee. Nothing wrong with that (other than boring). Roast C in particular stands out for good balance and rich, syrupy body/mouthfeel.

Also surprisingly, these roasts do not hold up well in milk drinks. Even the generic coffee flavors weaken when you add more than a couple ounces of milk.

In hindsight, I wonder if extended delivery times (10 days shipping in summer heat) took a toll on these roasts.

Thanks, Dan!

A | B | C

espresso porn from B

User avatar
Team HB

#5: Post by dominico »

Note to reader: I made my dialing in and tasting notes while the coffees were all still blind; however I did not put together this impressions summary until after the coffees had been revealed.
Secondary note to reader: I never tried any of these in milk. I don't really like milk, and I drink pretty much exclusively straight shots, so I don't feel like I could really give useful input to how they would do as a latte or otherwise; so all notes in the rest of this post are in the context of a straight espresso shot.

Dialing in procedure:
I use a commercial lever with a 1 bar preinfusion which generally runs on the slightly cool side; though I know how to increase the brew temperature when I need to.

I start most coffees at 16 grams, with a 10 second preinfusion and a 1:2 ratio; then adjust from there based on the balance and strength of the shot. These guys all being "espresso blends" there wound up not being a lot of need to wildly deviate from my normal parameters.
I tried them all between 14 and 17 gram doses, eventually settling back on 16g in and ~30g out on all of them. A and B both liked a higher temp than I normally give espresso blends. C fell right into my typical comfort blend parameters.

Coffee A
My initial impressions of coffee A upon opening were "pleasant, easy, inoffensive". It was not bitter or roasty at all, not any really noticeable acidity, but it wasn't very interesting either. It seemed to taste the same no matter how I pulled it: a non bitter- generic tasting espresso, with a nondescript nuttiness. I really enjoyed the mouthfeel, which had a sort of creamy, mallowy feel to it.
It had a sort of dark berry aroma to the nose, but I couldn't seem to pull off any berry or fruit like flavors in the actual cup. That all changed after a week, when this coffee really started opening up. The last third of my bag I was pulling a wonderfully pleasant shot of dark chocolate cherry. Though not the sweetest and not the chocolaty-est; it was full and rich; and made me wish I had gone through the bag last, as it seems I ran out just as it was starting to peak. In the end this is the one I voted for; ironic because initially it was my least favorite.

Coffee B
This was easily the most acidic coffee of the three; my first impressions were that it was actually too acidic to be what I would consider a "comfort" blend, which is what I was expecting this to be. It was very juicy, in a good way, almost as if they had created a redcurrant jolly rancher flavor. The finish was very sweet. Of all three coffees this one gave me the sweetest shots.

Although not unpleasantly bright I attempted to curb the acidity by downdosing to 14g and tightening the grind. That was mistake. The acidity stayed but went from juicy to grassy. I went the other way, back up to 16 grams but pulled it at a higher temp. This time it tasted much more like a comfort blend, almost nutty. A very interesting coffee indeed, I could repeatably get two different flavor profiles from it by adjustments to the temperature alone, after I had found the right dose.

Coffee C
Coffee C when I first pulled it was very chocolate forward; cocoa nibs: it tasted the most like what I would expect an Italian style espresso to taste like. I liked it, and I thought it would be my winner. I put it away for a bit to focus on A and B a bit more as I thought I wasn't getting those to realize their potential yet.

As time went on and I got back to C however; it began to gain a more nondescript acidity and less cocoa-like. I kept trying to pull it back into those darker chocolate flavors but couldn't quite get there. It moved closer to the flavor profile I was getting from A for most of the bag. I think it was starting to peter out by the time I could really devote some serious attention to it.

Final thoughts:
All of these coffees were pleasant; I only had a couple "sink shots" out of the entirety of the lot. I did not experience any of the "roastiness" or unpleasantness that others had mentioned; though I can't venture to guess why that would be.

I wish I had tried the coffees in the reverse order, focusing on C first, then B, then A, as I think C peaked early and A peaked later. I really enjoyed my first shots with C, and my last shots with A. B was consistently good throughout, but a bit further away in "style" than the other two.
Il caffè è un piacere, se non è buono che piacere è?

User avatar
Team HB

#6: Post by another_jim »

The Tunable, Finicky, and Big Easy

Although this is a review of comfort food espresso blends, judging by the three finalists, our HB members seem to have very different ideas about what that means. To me, these are three very different coffees; so much so that I can't really compare them to each other. Instead, I'll talk about each coffee, and compare it to others I think are like it.

Starting with C, the Big Easy. I don't know the coffee, and will probably end up with egg on face, but to me this tasted like a very good Sumatra, not the basic funky Mandheling kind, but a nicely prepped Gayo. I call it the Big Easy since it taste exactly the same brewed, pulled hot, cold ground fine or coarse. It simply is what it is. If you like good Sumatra coffees, piney, heavy, redolent with complex woodsy aromatics, you'll love this coffee. If that's not your thing, you will hate it. If I were cupping this with other Sumatras, I'd give it somewhere between 87.5 to 90. When we find out it's from Guatemala or somewhere like that, you can all laugh; but I'll still think it tastes like a good Sumatra.

On to B, the Finicky. Somehow, the beans turned into glass while roasting, since this takes the record when it comes to coarsening the grind. If you grind too fine, it will taste like grass. Then, once the grind is right, if you pull it at an intermediate temperature, it will taste like grass. You have two choices, grind coarse, brew hot, and you get something like a Reese's peanut and chocolate flavor. Not my favorite, but I get it. Brew it coarse and cool, and you get sweet and sour pit fruit, with a hint of light caramel and a dash of mallard savory browning. This was my favorite way of pulling it, and it comes out as a solid, but somewhat generic, light roast spro, around 87.5.

Finally, A, the Tunable. This is a classic comfort food espresso to my mind. Brew it hot, and it's all nuts, milk chocolate, and dark caramels; brew it cool, and you get more malic acidity to balance it out. Choke the flow a little, and the bitters get more intense, making it good in milk. If you have this one on hand, it has all the comfort food flavors, and you can pull it in enough different ways to keep everyone happy. The flavors are pretty basic, but its versatility makes it a winner at 87.5, and higher if you are mostly in it for the milk drinks and low acid, caramel and nut flavors.

And the Winner ... I thought each one had its strengths; but this is supposed to be about comfort food espresso, and to me only one is in this genre. So the winner, by default, is A.
Jim Schulman

User avatar
HB (original poster)

#7: Post by HB (original poster) »

Even though I know the roasters, I wanted to play along as best that I could. So I had a helper strip off the bag labels and randomly jar them as 1, 2, or 3. :D

UPDATE 1: This morning and before my son told me the mapping, I guessed the roasters. Honestly, it really wasn't that hard and I got them correct. :D Since I know the roasters, I'll hold off on posting my review until others have weighed in.

UPDATE 2: Coffee A - nutty, sweet, easy to pull. Coffee B - nutty with hints of fruitiness; one or two completely unexpected sink shots. Coffee C - creamy, mild tobacco, improves with age; good balance with small milk. My favorite: Coffee A (Klatch's Belle Espresso).
Dan Kehn

Supporter ♡

#8: Post by dsblv »

Here's my final review:

Coffee A
This is the darkest roast of the group. I got the best results at 199.6 degrees with 17.5g in and a 1:2 brew ratio. Shots had lots of crema. Higher temperatures brought out tobacco notes. After the coffee was dialed in, I got plenty of semi-sweet chocolate flavors and some nuttiness. The coffee did really well as a latte and shots were very smooth. But, it wasn't that great as an Americano.

Coffee B
As others have commented, I had to grind much coarser to dial in the shots with Coffee B. I got the best results at 201.5 degrees with 17.5g in and a 1:2 brew ratio. Shots were consistently sour and I couldn't tame this. But, the espresso tasted great in a latte. I didn't like it as an Americano due to the sourness.

Coffee C
Coffee C was very disappointing. The espresso was really harsh and had a burnt, smokey flavor. I got the "best" results at 200.5 degrees with 18g in and a 1:1.5 brew ratio. Lower temperature shots were somewhat acidic. Longer shots tasted like burnt rubber. Shots produced tons of crema. I've never tasted an espresso like this before and there was a lot of speculation in the thread about the blend containing robusta beans. I didn't like this coffee at all.

I rated Coffee A as the best because I liked the chocolate notes and the shots were smooth. I thought coffee A produced the best latte. I would rate Coffee B as my close second choice and Coffee C as my far distant third choice.

User avatar
Supporter ❤

#9: Post by LBIespresso »

First of all, this has been a great experience for me. Thanks to Home Barista, the roasters, the other tasters, and all who contributed to this project! I rarely drink comfort blends and really felt kind of lost in the beginning. By the end I was pulling shots I enjoyed and have a new understanding of the roast profile. I will still be drinking light roasts 90% of the time but now when I do have one of these I will be much better able to pull a great shot thanks to this experience.

Comfort roasts are a bit out of my comfort zone so I did my best to taste these for what they are and not based on my likes although I include those thoughts here as well.

First thing I did was dose out 7 14g doses of each bag for the freezer for a later date. In doing so I tried to take out the shells and bean fragments as best I could without being ocd about it. Saving them as I went I ended up with 1.2g of A, 0.4g of B, and 1.7g of C. It was clear that B was lighter than A & C.

Like others mention these all had to be ground much coarser than the light roasts that I am used to. I did choke the first couple of shots getting things dialed in. My process is grind into a Lyn Weber tumbler, WDT in the tumbler, dump, rake, 1 downward tap, hog (I will start a thread on this later), and tamp. All pulls here were pre-infused at 1 bar ( I usually use 3 for light roasts) and all pulls were 9 bars declining to keep flow constant to my eyes and ears.

My first task was to pull a traditional shot of around 2/1 @ 198 (bell temp of my Cremina) with 6 second dwell and 36ish total pull. I pulled a few and am only posting my comments on the best of each.

A: 13.7 in 24 out in 40 seconds total. I got jammy acidity with some sweetness and a touch of bitter baker's chocolate. I was pleasantly surprised by the acidity but did not like the smokey baker's chocolate bite at the end. Overall, I get it but not for me. Looking forward to this as an americano.

B: 13.7 in 26 out in 36 seconds total. Balanced with peach acidity, nice dark chocolate and creamy mouthfeel. My kind of comfort shot.

C: 13.7 in 26 out 40 seconds total. Slight hint of acidity left me wishing it was brighter.

Next was cortados which I generally prefer.

A: 13.5 in 14 out 10 sec pre-infusion at 1 bar 46 seconds total. Underneath the smoke was sweet, creamy, mixed berries. I really enjoyed this but only when I was able to ignore the smoke.

B: 13.5 in 14 out 10 second pre-infusion 40 seconds total. No smoke, just grilled peaches and milk chocolate. This was, by far, the shot I enjoyed the most.

C: 13.5 in 14 out 10 second pre-infusion at 1 bar 40 seconds total. Compared to A, tad less smoke, a tad sweeter, more chocolate/nut, same mouthfeel, and a tad less complex.

I went on to make americanos but did not learn anything new from it.
LMWDP #580

User avatar

#10: Post by CarefreeBuzzBuzz »

I think my wife and I learned that we aren't comfortable with "comfort espresso." She ultimately liked C the best probably because as other people described nice crema, holds up in milk and it makes you think of Clint Eastwood, nothing, good, bad or ugly in it. She called A the King of Ash. She preferred C over B because B wasn't great in a cappuccino, kinda getting lost.

For me B and C were a toss up. A was too roasty for me. It's clear we like light and medium roasts. I ran out of B, but I would have liked to try it even hotter and coarser as Jim had suggested. Probably didn't go far enough that way topping out at 201.5 I recall. The toss up comes again as C was better in milk.

We will be interested to see which ones they are. Carpe Diem. This certainly was fun.
Artisan.Plus User-
Artisan Quick Start Guide