Do you handicap your single-origin espresso evaluations? - Page 2

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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roastaroma

#11: Post by roastaroma »

Ciao,

I've been making espresso for about 3 months, and by now I like to think I have a handle on basic barista fu: puck architecture, temp surfing, cleanliness, freshness, etc. I use a naked PF and can tell how my extractions are going. I can pull decent shots with Blue Bottle blends and find them quite satisfying. My palate and vocabulary still need to catch up.

However, on the two occasions when I tried S.O. coffees, the experience was so different that I wondered if I was doing something wrong -- or if certain S.O. coffees are simply not suited for espresso and would be better brewed in a vac-pot, press pot, or pour-over.

The two coffees in question were: a Nicaraguan Caturra from Cooperativa Vasquez, COE #19, roasted by Blue Bottle, and a 100% Kona roasted by Kele's Coffee in Honolulu. While the Vasquez was a "reasonably OK" change of pace (I'd never before had an espresso on the light, citrusy end of the flavor spectrum) -- the Kona was a disappointment, not even naturally sweet as Kona is reputed to be.

Another thought that occurred to me is that perhaps certain espresso methods & machines work better with S.O. coffees. For ex., do people get better results with levers rather than electric pump machines? As I recall, the folks at Blue Bottle Cafe use a La San Marco lever for S.O. coffees, but mostly they brew S.O.s with their fancy vac-pots.

Brother, can you spare a clue? I'm not inclined to make S.O. espresso again until I understand what's going on.

Grazie mille,
Wayne
"Non è la macchina, è la mano."
LMWDP #223

King Seven

#12: Post by King Seven »

I think my attitude to SO shots is that we really need to distinguish between espresso as a brewing process and expectations of an espresso.

I don't have much when it comes to the later. I don't think an espresso ought to taste any particular way apart from (hopefully) delicious. What I expect from a successful espresso brewing process is that the best of that coffee is condensed into the cup below. I want to taste what is interesting about that coffee, what is desirable and distinct.

Ultimately expectation will be handicapped if I think the coffee itself isn't good enough to yield great drinks through any brewing method.

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Jasonian

#13: Post by Jasonian »

Well put, James.

It's about the coffee. Not the brew method.
Owner - AJ Coffee Company
HB Rocks!

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malachi

#14: Post by malachi »

Handicap?
No.
It needs to stand on its own two feet - regardless of number of beans that combine to make the shot (1-N).
HB wrote:I pulled him one of the last shots and asked him what he thought, including what he'd assign it as an SCAA competition score (related poll). "It was really good. I'd give it a 4," he said. I agreed it was quite tasty, but thought it was unbalanced. The chocolate bitters, while very pleasing, stood out too starkly. Peter continued, "We talk about espressos having to be extracted in 25 seconds at 9 bar. But what if I think it tastes better extracted in 15 seconds? Am I by definition wrong? The taste of the espresso you served was true to the coffee. It said 'Yemen' to me. That's why I would evaluate it a 4." (paraphrased).
In this case... I think the issue is the constraint of the "SCAA competition score".
Personally... I think that the current SCAA competition scoring is both out-dated and wrong-headed. Not just for SO espresso - but for ALL espresso.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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KarlSchneider

#15: Post by KarlSchneider »

roastaroma wrote:Ciao,

[snip]

However, on the two occasions when I tried S.O. coffees, the experience was so different that I wondered if I was doing something wrong -- or if certain S.O. coffees are simply not suited for espresso and would be better brewed in a vac-pot, press pot, or pour-over.

The two coffees in question were: a Nicaraguan Caturra from Cooperativa Vasquez, COE #19, roasted by Blue Bottle, and a 100% Kona roasted by Kele's Coffee in Honolulu. While the Vasquez was a "reasonably OK" change of pace (I'd never before had an espresso on the light, citrusy end of the flavor spectrum) -- the Kona was a disappointment, not even naturally sweet as Kona is reputed to be.

Another thought that occurred to me is that perhaps certain espresso methods & machines work better with S.O. coffees. For ex., do people get better results with levers rather than electric pump machines? As I recall, the folks at Blue Bottle Cafe use a La San Marco lever for S.O. coffees, but mostly they brew S.O.s with their fancy vac-pots.

Grazie mille,
Wayne
Wayne,

In my limited experience you are absolutely correct, "certain S.O. coffees are simply not suited for espresso."

To my taste Central Americans like the Nicaragua you mention do not make good espresso. And, Konas are less good that CA's as espresso.

On the other hand I love Konas as Americanos. And most Centrals also make great Americanos. In an Americano these coffees give the great taste of the coffee itself.

My experience (which is limited to a manual lever and a spring lever) SO coffees that make great espresso are Yemen and dry processed Ethiopians. Some Brazil SOs can also make fine espresso. Tonight I had three fine pulls of Brazil Coromandel Faz. Sao Joao at 4 days old done in my Millenium/2002 Cremina. This same coffee has disappointed me in my Elektra Microcasa a leva at days 2 & 3. Great chocolate permeates the flavor.

Do not give up on SO espresso just yet.

KS
LMWDP # 008

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roastaroma

#16: Post by roastaroma »

KarlSchneider wrote:My experience (which is limited to a manual lever and a spring lever) SO coffees that make great espresso are Yemen and dry processed Ethiopians.
Grazie, KS,

Fortunately my local roaster Blue Bottle offers a number of SO coffees, including a 100% Yemen & 2 kinds of dry processed Ethiopian. I might sample them first at the cafe, to give me a better idea of what to expect.

Clearly my palate has some catching up to do... I've spent the last few months just getting competent at pulling shots -- while my taste palate & working vocabulary have remained mostly "primary colors". Often I'm literally at a loss for words when I want to describe what I've been tasting!

BTW, it seems very likely that my next macchina will be a lever -- partly due to the influence of this forum. :wink:

Ciao,
Wayne
"Non è la macchina, è la mano."
LMWDP #223

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Jasonian

#17: Post by Jasonian »

malachi wrote:Handicap?
No.
It needs to stand on its own two feet - regardless of number of beans that combine to make the shot (1-N).



In this case... I think the issue is the constraint of the "SCAA competition score".
Personally... I think that the current SCAA competition scoring is both out-dated and wrong-headed. Not just for SO espresso - but for ALL espresso.
I agree 110%.

(I got major points off for my espresso not fitting the "taste profile" standards... but the espresso wasn't SUPPOSED to fit the standards in the first place. Flawed system it is.)
Owner - AJ Coffee Company
HB Rocks!

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#18: Post by IMAWriter »

HasBean wrote:I'm not sure handicap, but I guess there is part of the brain that would do that subconsciously.

But then evaluation is soooo personal (even using a framework), and you have to evaluate why your scoring something.

Something like a Yemen is always going to get punished if you evaluate it for say balance, but you could reward it for its flavours so a counter balance?

Interesting thought though got me thinking.
I think I agree pretty much that I judge an SO based on my preconception of how it's "supposed to taste,"
perhaps due to the fact I drink a lot of the same coffee via vac pot.
OT on Yemen. The best shot PERIOD I've pulled came from a Yemen Ismaeli I roasted about 3 years ago. Pulled on my Anita. Subsequent pulls never duplicated that one, which I guess goes along with Andy's or Mike's (?) comment that SO's can be a bit more demanding.
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com

roblumba

#19: Post by roblumba »

The SO's I tried were recommended as good SO's by the staff at Barefoot Coffee. An Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Trabocca and a Limu. Then there's Ecco Caffe's Brazil - 2007 Fazenda Cachoiera Taste of the Harvest (EEC #3). These were all eye opening experiences.

I suppose you can think of SO selection much like the selection you make to create a blend. You select a coffee for it's flavors and enjoy it. There's coffee's that really have excellent characteristics that can truly be best experienced on their own. They have aromas, flavors, textures that are almost amplified on the pallete when they are allowed to stand on their own. When the same bean is put into a blend, some of the clarity and focus of those characteristics are lost in the blend.

I find the same thing true with other foods. For example, really good steak, cooked just right just needs a little salt rub for preparation. If you take that same excellent steak and mix it with a bunch of other stuff, you loose some of the focus on the steak flavor as other flavors join the mix.

Nickk1066

#20: Post by Nickk1066 »

My view is that Barista is there to get the best out of the coffee itself.

I certainly that treating each coffee in a generic abstracted way (applying the same process/timing to every coffee) then I believe that the Barista is failing todo their job.

Coffee is like an animal. To show that animal's best traits you have to work with it, get to understand it and then show that.

The evil goblin in this perfect world is time which the Barista has little of!

House blends are fine and show expertise to maintain the standard taste over time - champagne houses do the same with non-vintage curvee (which means blend) hence all standard bottles should taste the same. Consistency of taste is the key and the quality of the result is paramount.

Single origin, to me, are more like vintages. They taste different over each year, over the lifetime of the bottle and show expertise in getting the best out of the particular harvest.
The key isn't consistency of the taste profile, the key is to get the perfection from the harvest itself.
There are exceptional years where the harvest is perfect, the creation of the bottle is perfect and the bottle itself ages to perfection. Culminating in equivalent 'god shot' moment as the aroma and taste leave the drinker with a lasting memory.

The Barista is there to select and then work to deliver the best out of the coffee itself. A machine would be better to deliver a 25 second pour at 9 bar repeatedly.
Barista - applied pre-emptive hydro-thermodynamicist.
(#208)