Sweet espresso?

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

#1: Post by Thatchmo »

Hello,

I've been lurking on this great site for months now, reading, learning, buying equipment...I now own a Macap 4 stepless and an Ascaso Dream for now...before I upgrade to a pricier machine I want to see how much I wring out of the Ascaso with temp surfing, grinding, tamp pressure, etc....So here is my situation...I am getting great "looking" shots with some very nice beans from Supreme Bean and Coffee Klatch Roasting, but the taste still leaves a lot to be desired....the shots start out with a thick, syrupy look and feel, and are about 25 to 30 second long for a 1.5 to 2 ounce shot...

So according to everything I've read....they look right and feel right according to the numbers, but I have yet to taste anything I would describe as "sweet"...or even chocolatey...Now I know I have a very sensitive nose for smell, and a fairly educated palate when it comes to tasting red wines...and I am very well versed in various chocolates from all around the world....So I know what many of the flavors ascribed to espresso are referring to...but as yet, haven't tasted anything "sweet"!

I live in the greater Los Angeles area and have been thinking of visiting some high end, artisanal espresso/coffee houses like Intelligentsia or Urth Cafe....but was wondering what I should try there to educate my palate as to what I am aiming for at home!

I love full, big flavored Zinfandels, very dark chocolate and hope to find Espresso brews that are in the same vein!

Any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Also, since I know I will be asked...I have been using freshly roasted ( within a week) Palermo and Bella Luna from Supreme Bean and Coffee Klatch's WBC Championship Blend.

Thanks,

Kirk

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another_jim
Team HB

#2: Post by another_jim »

The espresso inquisition won't throw you in the dungeon for using sugar; several million Italians are said to do it on a daily basis.

Other than that, you can try lower doses, leave at least a 1/2 inch between the top of the puck and the shower screen. Finally, you can grind about a half hour before you use the coffee.
Jim Schulman

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cafeIKE

#3: Post by cafeIKE »

Drop by Supreme Bean to pick up your order and have them pull you a shot or two.

Thatchmo

#4: Post by Thatchmo »

I thought about doing that at the Supreme Bean!
The folks there were so nice and helpful....

Also would love to try the same thing out at the Coffee Klatch at one of their retail locations...

I have no problem putting sugar, milk, syrups, cinnamon or any other spice/flavoring in my cuppa, but I figure the less I need to put in the better! And I would really love to get to know what a "god shot" tastes like...or at least a really good shot!

Thanks so far,

Kirk

CafSuperCharged

#5: Post by CafSuperCharged »

Thatchmo wrote:I love full, big flavored Zinfandels, very dark chocolate and hope to find Espresso brews that are in the same vein!

Any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Also, since I know I will be asked...I have been using freshly roasted ( within a week) Palermo and Bella Luna from Supreme Bean and Coffee Klatch's WBC Championship Blend.

Thanks,

Kirk
You got feedback/attention from e.g. one of the characters that positively dominate the scene/quality of this community (another_jim). I however still have a few things to add - from far away.

If a roaster calls their espresso blend Palermo, I would expect this to be a reference to regional differences in roasting style in Italy. One of the roasters in my country would do Milano, Firenze, Roma, Napoli and Palermo.
I think they reduced that to 3 later.
That said, a Palermo would be a very dark roast, probably not as sensitive to less good water or water higher in minerals, and I would not expect a chocolaty tone in there, or it would be buried so deep in other overtones you would not get it.

I definitely have experienced the chocolaty (taste) god shots and those are the ones that make my wife go "wow, this one is great". My espresso machine being a $1500 E/61 HX (and I am satisfied with it), I have problems still with repeatability. I do no back-to-back (prudent intervals) series and hence do not benefit from the E/61 being operated in an area it was designed for. I would really need a thermometer in the E/61 group (erics in the HB community) to develop a precision routine where I, one day, might not need the instrument feedback anymore.

Extremely important is the forgiveness factor of the roast. When I started serious espresso, I imported some Black Cat (Intelligentsia), as well as Dolce & Vita (Vivace/Schomer) from the US in order to be able to compare my learning process with HB and CG forista.
At that time, Dolce had a reputation of being very unforgiving.
With my coffee vendor adding a new line, they asked me to experiment with their new espresso blends and give feedback. One of them was excellent, but after some time I got fed up with its unforgivingness and switched to another blend (Roman style espresso bar blend). This last one is forgiving upon superficial consideration, however when I explored its optimization space, I discovered I had hit a local optimum in that optimization space. Significantly reducing brew temperature (3.5C) from where I was, I arrived at another (local?) optimum that I liked much better: more syrupy, more speckled crema and more chocolaty.

When we brew espresso, we have all these partialities that are culturally determined. US people in these fora IMHO tend to overdose (triple rather than double), adapt filter baskets to that, tamp seriously and extract until blonding starts. The classical Italian grind would be finer with a different effect on pre-infusion and pressure profile to be expected than a US tamped coarser grind would give. Or, a different extraction with different taste profile.
But, this may also mean roasters adapt to this (have you thought about what that does with world coffee prices? Think cubic inches and the price of gas here.)
Looking at Italian barista at work, I would say they dose for a double, level (if at all, but generally not tamp), and pour two single cups of espresso from that (20-30ml including crema).
Now an Italian lady might take the spoon and pull some of the crema up along the wall of the cup to make the crema meet the lips even before tilting the cup. (increasing surface and potentially influencing "nose")
The espresso is served almost immediately and drank almost immediately after serving.
Less is more. If you are thirsty, you need to drink water.
Sugar, or sweetness, may be a function of roast and I am not sure what the effect of caramelization during roasting is. Tasting sweetness may be a function of the way you drink. If you take a bite of bread in your mouth, briefly chew and swallow, you never noticed the sweetness. If you had given enzymes (saliva) time to break down the starch/carbohydrates in your mouth a bit more, you would have tasted the sweetness.
It may work the same with coffee.

Regards
Peter
Netherlands
Europe

CoffeeOwl

#6: Post by CoffeeOwl »

another_jim wrote:Finally, you can grind about a half hour before you use the coffee.
Jim, what would it be for? (please explain). Wouldn't it make the coffee be just perfectly out of taste?
'a a ha sha sa ma!


LMWDP #199

zin1953

#7: Post by zin1953 »

Thatchmo wrote: . . . I love full, big flavored Zinfandels, very dark chocolate and hope to find Espresso brews that are in the same vein!
KIrk,

Just to state the obvious, there are hundreds of Zinfandels out there that actually do contain some residual sugar, and yet there are thousands of dry red wines (dry = no residual sugar) that are often described as being "sweet" on the palate, or as having "sweet fruit," etc., etc.

Short of adding sugar in the cup, there are blends of espresso that are known for producing a "sweet" cup, for having "chocolaty" notes, for having fruity notes (of peach or apricots, etc., etc.), as well as all sorts of other characteristics that -- like wine -- are not physically present in the cup, yet have aromatics or flavor characteristices that are reminiscent of those actual fruits, herbs, spices, flavors, etc., etc., etc.

(OK, I said I was stating the obvious.) :wink:

From your description, it doesn't sound as if it's your technique that is causing this "lack of sweetness." I would think it's the coffee itself.

I would go to various cafés/micro-roasters in your area and have them pull espresso shots for you . . . find one you like, that has those qualities you are seeking in your (home) cup. Find those, and buy half-a-pound or a pound to experiment with . . . see how your cup compares with what you tasted at the café.

I personally keep coming back to Espresso Vivace's Dolce, but that's me. They are great at delivering absolutely fresh roasted beans (e.g.: I placed an order for 2 pounds on Monday, 14 April; it was roasted on 15 April, and arrived in Berkeley on 17 April via US Priority Mail).

Cheers,
Jason

P.S. I, too, am not sure what grinding the coffee 30 minutes before using it would accomplish, but I have no doubt Jim will provide an answer . . . .
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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another_jim
Team HB

#8: Post by another_jim »

CoffeeOwl wrote:Jim, what would it {grinding 1/2 hour ahead} be for? (please explain). Wouldn't it make the coffee be just perfectly out of taste?
This is something new to me, but worth a try if the lack of sweetness is from harsh edges.

I've been advocating down dosing to reduce bright and bright-bitter flavors, and to increase sugars for a while now, and trying this is pretty SOP for unsweet shots.

Finally, there is a matter of correctly dosing for the basket and machine being used. My guess is that a newbie, using the slightly smaller than usual basket in the Ascaso, and having a quick education in Schomer style shot pulling, will be seriously overloading the basket. On almost all machines, the puck should not show the impression of the shower screen at its top after the shot. Since the puck swells, this means leaving a gap between the dry coffee and the shower screen. Moreover, there should be at least 5 seconds of "dwell time" between turning on the pump and seeing the first drop of espresso. If either of these is not happening, it is almost certain that you are overloading the basket.
Jim Schulman

CafSuperCharged

#9: Post by CafSuperCharged »

zin1953 wrote:P.S. I, too, am not sure what grinding the coffee 30 minutes before using it would accomplish, but I have no doubt Jim will provide an answer . . . .
Neither do I know, but in the context of great wines - do you ever decant a wine?
Have you seen the decanters with a long and narrow bottleneck and a very wide and flat/low body?
Pour the wine over into the decanter and let it carefully flow along the wall of the neck. It then fans out along the wall of the flat and wide body, exposed to maximum surface. This causes contact with air (oxidation?) to the extent an aging process that should normally take place over a long time in the bottle is sped up (albeit not exactly the same). Of course you can pour the wine through the middle of the decanter neck to avoid the fan out and large surface, even though the type of decanter still causes a larger surface exposure on the bottom of the decanter initially and on the wine surface later than in if poured over into a decanter shaped more like a regular bottle. Each serious wine lover should have a decanter like this and buy the stand with it for it to drip dry after rinsing. Use it if the wine is actually too young still, but you want to know what direction it will take - Zinfandel, Barolo, Brunello. Or if you do not have time to take the cork off the day before you want to have it with dinner.
Or, do you remember dinners where you took a sip of a great wine and did not exactly love it, then don't touch it for a longer time and much later take a sip again and say

Grinding before may cause some oxidation, I would say. I would try this especially if the coffee is too fresh actually.
I had the impression with Turkish grind (finer than Italian espresso grind) that the fineness does not allow airflow and the ground coffee can stay fresh longer than pre-ground coffee drip filter or espresso coffee. If I perceived that correctly, fineness may drive the 30 minutes up considerably to get the desired effect.

Regards
Peter
Netherlands
Europe

CoffeeOwl

#10: Post by CoffeeOwl »

Jim, BIG THANKS!!! for the links! It's incredible to discover the coffee beans secret life.
in his article Jim wrote: (...)And all this because of an unintended consequence of using fresh coffee. I think it's high time for baristas to relearn their dosing.

As a final note: since posting early drafts of this paper, I have found out that this is changing already. In Scandinavia and Australia, many top competing baristas are replacing their fingers with curved swipers(...)
I feel less lonely with my levelling with a needle! 8) :D
'a a ha sha sa ma!


LMWDP #199