Thoughts on an Italian Espresso Blend - Page 2

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

#11: Post by Bluecold »

Sadly Jim, you are wrong. You can not hope to even approach the brilliance that is certified Italian Espresso. Sure, your beans are certified. Even your spanish (gasp!) grinder is certified. I'll even believe that your knowledge of espresso far exceeds the standards of INEI certification. But alas, your machine is incapable of making real Italian espresso.

http://www.espressoitaliano.org/eic_come_ricerca_en.asp

PS, INEI is having a roasting competition.
http://www.espressoitaliano.org/doc/EA2 ... lation.pdf
It'd be hilarious if -for instance- Intelligentsia took them on and beat them at their own game.
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Alan Frew

#12: Post by Alan Frew »

another_jim wrote:I'm sure you're right, but it wasn't the point I was trying to make.

I think the usual explanation that Italian roasters have proprietary connections to perfect robustas, unavailable to others, is wrong. Instead, they are using the "bad" robustas in ways we do not understand.

I'm guessing they deliberately source robustas with the right kind of solvent smell, bake them early in the roast so they taste very woody and bready, and then stale them until the solvent, bread, and wood flavors morph into the whiskey-like feel that turns this blend from boring to fascinating.
One word: No.

The only way to eliminate the "burnt rubber" smell and taste is (AFAIK) steaming and drying the beans. There aren't any great "trade secrets" involved in roasting Robusta except bean sources, and neutral Robustas command comparitively high prices. Some origins just do it better.

There are still loads of cheap, rubbery Robustas used in Italian mass market blends, try a pack of Lavazza "Crema e Gusto" to experience it. Even ancient (3+ years old) packs still taste like old tyres.

Alan

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jc69

#13: Post by jc69 »

Hi Jim, thanks a lot for this post. That kind of de-dogmatization really brings in some fresh air.
another_jim wrote:I wrote the original post over the last few days. Drinking this blend continuously is a bit like eating nothing but fried foods. It's fun to start with, but after a while the fattiness of this style of blend gets cloying in a way that crisp, acidic coffees don't. But that could be a result of my habitual taste.
Just out of curiosity, did you use a single batch of coffee? While I am not surprised at all about the mere existence of a great Italian blend, I really can't believe that the coffee didn't change after opening it. Did you try it really fresh, too (in terms of minutes?). What happened one or two days after opening?

Regards, Jan

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another_jim (original poster)
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#14: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

jc69 wrote:Just out of curiosity, did you use a single batch of coffee? ...I really can't believe that the coffee didn't change after opening it.
It's a kilo of two month old whole bean coffee in a valve bag. This means (I think) it's staled more or less completely, but has not been exposed to oxygen. I've been using the beans from the bag and resealing it for the last four days and haven't noticed a change.

Alan Frew wrote: ... The only way to eliminate the "burnt rubber" smell and taste is (AFAIK) steaming and drying the beans. There aren't any great "trade secrets" involved in roasting Robusta ...
I need to be clearer in what I'm trying to say:

I sample roast, cup and pull shots from about a dozen premium green robustas each year: there's a specialty robusta association that gives out samples and growers send Bob and me some for assessment. The bottom line for classical cupping, or for espresso appreciation based on cupping standards (think of Chris Tacy's reviews on the HB espresso reviews), is that Robusta is a different beverage from Arabica, with a different range of flavors, that cannot easily be rated on the same scale.

In particular, there are no fruit flavors at all from Robusta, instead there are solvent aromatics which sometimes taste obnoxious, perhaps because they are fermented, and sometime taste clean, sharp, and interesting. Toasty, woody, and chocolate flavors are present in Robusta, but tinged with a dark tarry component that is reminiscent of a dark roast Arabica flavor, but not the same. This flavor ranges from a pleasant scotch-like tinge of peat and smoke to an unpleasant hot and dirty asphalt.

Here's how I rate the robustas I cup:
  • If the Robusta is truly "neutral;" that is, with neither good nor bad solvent and tar flavors, then it just plain sucks, a flat, boring, nothing of a drink. I do not think premium Robusta growers are aiming for this, although the large Vietnamese ones supplying the solubles (instant coffee) market are.
  • If the flavors are predominantly hot asphalt and fermented solvent, you get the characteristic cheap robusta "truckstop on the interstate flavor."
  • But if the peaty and solvent flavors are mild and clean, they meld with the other flavors to create a complex flavor unlike those of Arabicas, but interesting to drink.
My point is that the the "cheap robusta" and "expensive robusta" flavors are combinations. They partly arise from good bean selection, but like all flavor combinations, they are also partly due to good roasting and staling/resting.

Now to Miscela Masini. Since I roast plenty of very good Robustas each year, I knew immediately when tasting this coffee that they know something I don't in terms of profiling the roasts and resting the coffee. My talk of the coffees being baked, relative to an arabica profile, and staled (or rested a very long time) are informed suppositions that I intend to test when the opportunity arises.
Jim Schulman

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tekomino

#15: Post by tekomino »

Coincidentally couple of days ago while ordering some cups I put the can of Miscela D'Oro espresso in cart just for hell of it. It was roasted April 14, so quite old and stale.

Defining flavors for me with this coffee is alcoholic aromatics and kind of fermented finish that has long aftertaste. I had to chase this thing with some Epic to bring world back to balance. There is absolutely no acidity in this thing.

And while I am not great fan of acidic blends, this is way too heavy and dark. In no way, shape and form can these blends compare with fresh stuff we drink here. No way. Its okay to drink sometimes, but can't justify drinking it with great, fresh coffee we have here.

I don't think this coffee taste better when fresh. The aging is baked into the blend.

One thing I noticed is that coffee is extremely tolerant to brewing temperature. I got very little difference with almost 10F swing in brewing temperature, from 200F to 190F there isn't much difference. This roasted, fermented, smoky flavor is just too dominant to be upset by such silly thing as brewing temperature...

Which made me understand while many of Italian espresso machines simply don't have good temperature control. Levers, pump machine etc. don't need good temperature control when you are pulling blends like this. No matter what you do, they come out the same...

It is masterful though that they manage to make and roast blend that tastes acceptable while having 36 months shelf life :shock: Says right there on the can...
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jasonmolinari

#16: Post by jasonmolinari »

Italians might actually know something about espresso, blending and coffee in general? Well, that's just not possible...not after everything i've read here on HB!

It's nice to see some re-evaluation of the dogmatic ideas that some people on here seemed to have developed without actually tasting the products and giving them a chance. If you were an infrequent reader her you might come to the conclusion that the millions of italians who drink espresso every day must grimace through it and force it down.

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tekomino

#17: Post by tekomino »

jasonmolinari wrote:Italians might actually know something about espresso, blending and coffee in general? Well, that's just not possible...not after everything i've read here on HB!
Of course they do, they started the damn thing.

But Italian blends available to us, here in US, can't hold a candle to exceptional blends roasters produce here... Its like bringing a knife to a gun fight...
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jasonmolinari

#18: Post by jasonmolinari » replying to tekomino »

But isn't this exactly what Jim is saying isn't accurate, and based on misconception? They CAN hold a candle. The flavor profiles might be different but they seem to be pretty darn tasty based on Jim's report.

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tekomino

#19: Post by tekomino »

another_jim wrote:How can stale coffee be this good? Miscela Masini isn't quite up to the standard of the best coffees we reviewed in the favorite blends project; but it completely spanks anything you'll pick up in a supermarket, and is better than most of the fresh espresso blends done by specialty roasters in the US.
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jasonmolinari

#20: Post by jasonmolinari »

Fair enough. Still "better than most of the fresh espresso blends done by specialty roasters in the US.", which is a far cry from what the general consensus is of old italian coffee.