Forgiving espresso blends for the beginner...

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

#1: Post by ProHobo »

I am a recent purchaser of a Alexia / MACAP-4 Rig (from Chris Coffee) - note: I ordered a LB of beans from them as well.

However - I have been reading about beans, I am certainly looking for something forgiving and I also hail from a local that is not hip on the espresso scene (SRQ). The other issue I find is what was good last year, may not be good this year. I have read the resent fall from grace of Black Cat (yet I have never tried it - but people seemed to be less pleased with it.)

Obviously I need to start the question is where. Sure I could pick up some local roast or order from several places - but since my palate is untamed / untrained (I certainly know what bitter espresso taste like) - I need something to start at that I know (or you know) can pull a good espresso, so that when I am able to do so (or even get close to it) - I can work from some sort of base line.

Sure - it would be great to get a Barista and some fresh beans to give me a once go-round and have me learn good from bad. Unfortunately - I don't know of any good local Barista's.

So back to where to start.

My goal - to pull a slightly sweet, mild, and non-bitter espresso. I once had an espresso in San Francisco (actually several times - some years back) that I never had to add sugar too. It was good, could taste the flavor and it sure didn't give me that after taste (as if I hadn't brushed my teeth for two weeks). I guess that was my experience of the God Shot (who knows - all I know it was damn good.) I don't like SWEET, I like sweet - if you catch my drift. I don't like sugar for the most part and only add the very smallest amounts to rid the acid/bitter taste of the majority of espresso's I have.

In my business a frequent saying is "Garbage In, Garbage Out!" - Ok, I am a full-on newbie and don't know my a$$ from a hole in the ground, however it would stand to reason that pulling a good shot also means starting with fresh roast and GOOD beans - otherwise (it would seem) the rest is mute - regardless of grind, machine, or barista skillz.

So back to my question.

A good mild semi-sweet bean that I can order that (you all know) can (with the right grind, time, temp, and barisita skillz) pull a very decent shot.

Please note - I have searched some posts for similar requests - but if you look at dates of the posts many are 2006 or 2007. Are they still good? Have the beans changed? Are they in a similar boat as the Black Cat situation (debate)? - What is a good consistent forgiving newbie starting bean?

Maybe (a suggestion) for Home-Barista is to run a continual poll of espresso beans - taste, price, forgiving, temp. etc.

Anyway - any suggestions....(sorry to be such long winded.)

ProHobo (original poster)

#2: Post by ProHobo (original poster) »

I was reading in another thread about 408 - it seems to fit my bill - any comments? ... Detail.bok

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#3: Post by HB »

These are due for an update, but for reference, the threads Forgiving beginner's coffees and
Three good beginner espressos please offer suggestions.
Dan Kehn

ProHobo (original poster)

#4: Post by ProHobo (original poster) »

Thanks - those were the two threads I was talking about, while very helpful and informative - they are from 2006. Does that hold true today? With all the debate with Black Cat, (and while I should probably try it) - is it still a good starting place?

Thanks for pointing out the links - just looking for a FRESH review of a FRESH bean.....


#5: Post by portamento »

I recently discovered Gimme Leftist to be a very forgiving blend for a cappuccino. The shots pour beautifully and they really stand up well in milk. We also love it as an americano. It is mild in the sense that acidity is low, and chocolate-caramel sweetness is high. However, it has some punch to it, so it might be too strong for your palate as a straight shot. If you are looking for something similar to the original crowd-pleasing Black Cat, I would try out the Leftist.

There are milder blends out there more suitable for straight shots. You might look for a Brazil Daterra Estate coffee. It is a clean, high-quality blend of smooth Brazil crop produced by one of the most technically-advanced farms in Brazil. You can read more about Daterra on Sweet Maria's. Brazil Daterra is the magic behind the ultra-mild Illy blend. Of course Illy itself is stale and overpriced, so I do not recommend it.

There are many roasters who offer Brazil Daterra... one notable one is Terroir. However, I wouldn't start there... many people find it necessary to push certain parameters out of the "norm" to achieve optimal results.

Ecco Caffe is another roaster with excellent Brazil offerings... however shipping to Florida will be slow and they are pricey.

My favorite Brazil Daterra (in terms of price, shipping speed, AND taste) is from Tony at Caffe Fresco. He has not been taking online orders over the last few months much to many forum members' dismay. However, your timing is perfect because he will resume selling online this Friday. I would definitely encourage you to check out in the next few days.

To summarize, Caffe Fresco's Brazil Daterra for straight shots... Gimme Leftist for milk drinks. Both are reasonably priced and forgiving. I find the Daterra milder at slightly lower than average temperatures, whereas the Leftist pulls sweetest around the typical 200F.

Regarding the 408 from Barefoot... I wouldn't recommend it as a "forgiving" espresso. Barefoot roasts very light and in my experience requires pretty specific temperatures and doses to extract the maximum sweetness from their coffees. That said, they are a top-tier roaster to keep on your radar.

Please do report back on what blends you choose and how they turn out for you!

ProHobo (original poster)

#6: Post by ProHobo (original poster) »

Thanks for the very detailed response and I am looking into those. I ordered some Black Pearl from Chris Coffee (good recommendations over on the Coffeegeek site). Since I ordered the machine and everything else from them - I decided to go with a lbs of the Black Pearl as well. Got to start somewhere.

I did some local research - we have a local roaster: Latitude 23.5

I don't know anything about them - other than they are a local roaster. I WILL give them a try, but if anyone knows anything about them - I am all ears. A local barista said the Lat 23.5 espresso is a little too dark for her taste - but that is what she is pulling at the shop. I watched her pull - she SEEMED to know what she was doing - but the shot was bitter. It's hard to watch a barista - other than the TAMP - you can't tell what the grind is, no temp on the commercial machine, and it was a 21 sec shot. I was not impressed with the shot (but what do I know). She seemed to know the basic routine - but it was more of a mechanical thing for her, not an art form. Again - what do I know....

I wrote down Daterra - and will probably make an order of that - thanks again.

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#7: Post by HB »

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, the Resources page under Commerce links the roasters who sponsor this site. Intelligentsia's Black Cat, Counter Culture's Toscano, PT's Bella Vita, Klatch's Belle are good starter choices. I like Paradise Roasters' Classico too, but it's not one of those chocolate bomb espresso blends preferred by many beginners. Caffe Fresco announced they're back to roasting and posting next week; Tony's blends are super easy espressos to pull.
Dan Kehn

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#8: Post by uscfroadie »

For a sweet easy to pull chocolate shot, I agree with the recommendation of Tony's Daterra Reserve (Caffe Fresco), and for a fantastic cappuccino, try PT's La Bella Vita.

Good luck!


#9: Post by IMAWriter »

You've opened the floodgates, Hobo!
I recently posted a thread discussing Klatch Roastings wonderful "Belle" Espresso.
It was somewhat forgiving of temperature, and grind.
Chocolate-y with some dark cherry overtones, nice aftertaste.

Just saw Dan's post...a good way to go.
All the mentioned coffee's are winners. If you like lots of crema, Dolce, from Espresso Vivace, and Classico, from Paradise are interesting. I found Dolce easy to handle, though some think otherwise. It is nice and goopy, and Classico is elegant.

ProHobo (original poster)

#10: Post by ProHobo (original poster) »

Thanks everyone.

I ordered the following:

Black Pearl (Chris Coffee), Black Cat, Klatch "Belle", CCM blend (pretty cheap)....

I'll use the CCM to practice = then try the other three.

My equipment and some coffee (according to UPS) arrives today!