Espresso Blend Does Not (Always) Mean Dark-Roasted

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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drgary
Team HB

#1: Post by drgary »

Or,

How To Advise Commercial Roasters for Espresso?
(Original title changed at HB's suggestion to make this thread easier to find. GS)

OK. Here's another pet peeve for many of us. I just received of a gift of some Kona estate coffees that I would be fascinated to try, but they all appear over-roasted. I have had a dark roast I like, but it's unusual, kind of like a dark roux properly prepared compared to a burnt one. What's more, the roaster's site advises people buying his coffee as a gift to go with a Full City+ roast. His promotional literature reads as follows:

"Medium Roast: .... Distinctive flavor notes are not masked by the roast."

Full City+: "The perfect in-between roast, the favorite of most, a little darker than Full-City (sic). The additional roasting further develops the flavor profile, so the brew tastes bolder, not bitter. The delicate flavors are still discernible." In another part of their site they recommend buying this roast as a gift if not sure what roast to choose between these two categories and a dark roast.

So far the Full City+ roast I've tried tastes slightly burnt and bitter to me, whether as espresso and in an AeroPress, and there's not much flavor subtlety. I'm still hoping to dial this in, but it may be a lost cause. Four packages of excellent beans may be wasted. I'm asking more experienced folks here to offer suggestions for such an operation to post on their site when buying for espresso enthusiasts, so such experiences aren't repeated.

My initial stab at this is:

"If you're buying for a connoisseur who enjoys formal cupping of coffee or fine wine, we recommend the Medium Roast, because the distinctive flavor notes are most apparent. Espresso enthusiasts in particular will appreciate the ability to dial in their equipment to bring out the maximum flavor subtleties of our fine estate grown coffees. ("Espresso" does not designate a dark roast but a method of preparing concentrated coffee.) In addition, we mark the roast date on each package to help the coffee enthusiast find the "sweet spot" where the coffee reaches its peak after resting."

What do you think? Humorous stories encouraged! :roll:
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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Marshall

#2: Post by Marshall »

As I'm sure you know, roasters usually have a separate website section for the blends and (more rarely) origins they believe are suitable for espresso. I doubt you will find many who will spend time and web space cupping and re-describing all their coffees for espresso.

If I were buying expensive coffee that was not specifically recommended by the roaster for espresso, I would contact them first to see what their thoughts were on preparing it that way.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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drgary
Team HB

#3: Post by drgary »

Hi Marshall,

Actually what I'm trying to encourage here is a thread to get sellers of expensive coffees to meet the needs of people like us too, not just those who have heard of their coffees as brands. Kona seems to have acquired that branded moniker. In this case a well meaning friend was given insufficient instruction on the seller's site to properly order the coffee as a gift.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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another_jim
Team HB

#4: Post by another_jim »

Familiarity with a roast level changes ones perception, not so much of the flavors, but of how well they balance.
-- If all you ever drink is first pops of the second espresso, lighter roasts will taste sour and darker roasts ashy. You will not appreciate the sweetness of the lightly caramelized sugars in light roasts, or the darkly caramelized ones in the darker roasts.
-- If all you ever drink is cupping roasts, anything that gets even close to the second crack tastes flat.
-- If all you ever drink is Peets, anything that isn't done to a rolling second crack will taste sour and watery.

It is normal, even for experts, to settle on a single roast level which they claim shows the optimum development of a coffee. That is fine, but their degree of specialization virtually excludes them from critiquing coffees roasted to other levels.

I don't normally drink dark roasts. So if I do need to taste one, I try to calibrate myself by drinking a high quality dark roast for a few days ahead of the tasting. For this, I recommend Kenyas, since they develop their characteristic clove and blackcurrant flavors only at darker roasts, and demonstrate the value darker roasts can have for some coffees. Mexican and Sumatran coffees also develop some of their characteristic flavors only at darker roasts.

Kona, on the other hand, I doubt even Willem Boot would usually recommend roasted dark.
Jim Schulman

Phaelon56

#5: Post by Phaelon56 »

My answer to the question "How to advise commercial roasters for espresso?" is simple: Don't.

Instead try to find a roaster whose roasting style matches your tastes and preparation method preferences. Not being flippant - just stating the reality as I see it.

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cafeIKE

#6: Post by cafeIKE »

drgary wrote:I just received of a gift of some Kona estate coffees...
See RANT: How to stop people buying me coffee?

One solution is to tell the travelers ahead of time what's good in the area. This tactic has recently netted Epic, Apollo, Rustico, Aficionado... all visitors to Costa Rica are advised that Cafe Britt is its rhyme.

Anything in a supermarket, hotel gift shop or airport is likely DTC*


* Direct To Compost

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drgary
Team HB

#7: Post by drgary »

I love the rant!
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

User avatar
drgary
Team HB

#8: Post by drgary »

another_jim wrote: -- If all you ever drink is Peets, anything that isn't done to a rolling second crack will taste sour and watery.
Agreed. When talking with the folks at the MauiGrown Coffee Company in Lahaina last summer, I was told they like the lighter roasts themselves and recommend the darker roasts for those who expect them. I suppose it's the Peet's factor that may affect many operations like the one that sent me those Kona beans. They cater to a public that largely doesn't know the full variety available and have equated rich coffee with dark coffee. Perhaps some of these roasters know the difference themselves, as indicated in this case by their description of their medium roast.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

User avatar
drgary
Team HB

#9: Post by drgary »

Phaelon56 wrote:My answer to the question "How to advise commercial roasters for espresso?" is simple: Don't.

Instead try to find a roaster whose roasting style matches your tastes and preparation method preferences. Not being flippant - just stating the reality as I see it.
In this case, the roaster may well offer a roast that matches my taste. More helpful directions on his site would guide buyers like me or gift givers like my friend to make a better choice. When buying for my own preferences, of course I have found favorite roasters. And when I proceed further on my learning curve, I'll order green and roast my own too.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

User avatar
Marshall

#10: Post by Marshall »

drgary wrote:My initial stab at this is:

"If you're buying for a connoisseur who enjoys formal cupping of coffee or fine wine, we recommend the Medium Roast, because the distinctive flavor notes are most apparent. Espresso enthusiasts in particular will appreciate the ability to dial in their equipment to bring out the maximum flavor subtleties of our fine estate grown coffees. ("Espresso" does not designate a dark roast but a method of preparing concentrated coffee.) In addition, we mark the roast date on each package to help the coffee enthusiast find the "sweet spot" where the coffee reaches its peak after resting."
There is an assumption here that people with cultivated taste automatically prefer lighter roasts. Alfred Peet and Jerry Baldwin's tastes were/are plenty cultivated, and they strongly preferred dark roasts.

A roaster can't advise on the espresso friendliness of his coffees without sampling them that way (you can't "cup" espresso). If a conscientious roaster intends their coffees for espresso, they will not only sample them, but use that experience to optimize the entire roast profile for espresso (not just a particular roast color), and give the project up, if it none of the roasts work well.

So, no, I don't see much espresso-focused labeling happening for such coffees. FWIW, one of the greatest espresso coffees I ever enjoyed was the Kona (2 coffees)/Maui (1 coffee) blend that Pete Licata developed to win the Western Regional Barista Championship last year and then modified for the USBC (where I scored a bag from him to take home!).
Marshall
Los Angeles