My First Espresso Blend

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
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#1: Post by Tristan »

Good Morning! I am working on putting together my first espresso blend. I'm going to roast it later this evening. This thread will serve both as a forum to open up suggestions and also as a place for me to post my results.

I would roast this in a few different batches, but since it is very cold outside, I'm going to try combining all the coffees with a goal of roasting into the first snaps of second crack. Here is the blend so far:

Name: Bastage Espresso Blend
Bean                Amount in oz    Percentage  Processed?        Roast Level
Brazil Formosa              5.00        50.00%  Dry Processed     Full City
Bali Kintamani Arabica      1.25        12.50%  Semi Wet          Full City+
Ethiopia Yirg Kochere       1.25        12.50%  Wet Processed     Full City
India Robusta               1.25        12.50%  Wet Processed     Full City+
Aged Sumtra Lintong         1.25        12.50%  Semi Wet          Full City+
Totals                     10 oz       100.00%
I will combining these coffees and roasting them in the SC/CO. I will preheat to ~370 degrees and roast at ~370 for 3 minutes, increase to 401 for 4 minutes and then go up to ~430-450 from there depending on how first crack goes.

Based upon this plan, I would very much appreciate suggestions!

Edit: Thanks to Dan for making the table look purty. I've learned more than one new thing from this forum today!

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#2: Post by jamhat »

Tristan, I look forward to the follow-up posts about your "bastage blend". I kind of wonder if you might want to add a Central in there for high notes? I am also new to blending; I am learning as I go. I have had some luck with the following:

140 grams total:
70g Brazil Monte Carmelo
20g Sumatra Mandheling
20g Columbia Las Frutas
20g Yirgacheffe
10g Mexico Nayarita

It's great in milk, but it seems a tad boring as a straight shot (not sure why).

Good luck!

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#3: Post by jamhat »

I'm curious to find out how your blend worked. Have you pulled any shots with it?

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Tristan (original poster)
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#4: Post by Tristan (original poster) »

Good Morning James!

Here is the progress so far.

I roasted this batch to the first few snaps of second crack. Some of the beans looked like they were a bit past City+. I was nervous about this, because I feel this may be too light for espresso. I've also never blended with Robusta before. This Indian Robusta from Sweet Marias came with a recommendation of being roasted to AT LEAST full city ++.

Yesterday, the blend had rested ~36 hours so I gave it a shot. The results were decent. The espresso straight was very potent but was just a tad fresh with a tingling on the tongue and maybe a tad too bittersweet. In milk, it really cut through and was very nice.

Today I tweaked my grind to get a little less than 2 oz in 30 seconds with 14 grams measured by weight on a gram scale. The blend tastes great in cappuccinos. My wife loves it. I didn't taste the espresso straight today, because I was in a hurry to get to work. I do still taste a little too much bittersweet coming through.

I'm looking forward to really tweaking the grind to this blend and zeroing in on Saturday. I think the coffee will be adequately rested by that time.

One thing that I want to change is the roasting. I want to roast this blend a little darker before making any substitutions. I think maybe some of the beans might taste a little "baked" due to not being roasted dark enough. I might actually roast in two batches next time; separate the coffees that need a darker treatment (FC++) and the ones that just need to be roasted to about Full City.

After changing some of the roast parameters the first substitution I think I will make is removing the robusta and seeing what effect this has on the flavor. After that I think I will be putting in a central as you suggested. Changing for the third batch I'm also thinking of taking out the Bali and doubling the yirg. I think the Bali might have added too much of a bittersweet undertone to the espresso. I'm guessing it's the Bali or the Robusta that added unpleasant notes to the shots. I do like my shots on the bright side and I think more yirg in the blend will do this :)

I'm really looking forward to experimenting with this blend. I'm only going to change one thing at a time. So, again, I'm going to roast a bit darker with the same coffees and see how this effects things.

Any suggestions? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

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Tristan (original poster)
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#5: Post by Tristan (original poster) »

It looks like the blend has hit a turning point and it seems 3.5 days rest is minimum for complexities to emerge. Today some nice floral notes and a pleasant acidity have started to pop out. The bittersweet taste today is far more muted, but still present as a balancing factor. I can taste the influence of the Yirg in the blend. This blend definitely cuts through milk with ease. Today the high end is much more established.

I'm drinking the Brazil Formosa I used for the base of this blend as SO from french press. It's very nice. When I poured it initially from the thermos it was too hot, but I took some time to inhale the aroma. It's intoxicating. I knew just from the wet aroma that this is not going to be a mild coffee.

This particular bean has what I look for in a Brazil. Med-Full bodied with a balanced mouth feel, acidity, dry fruity tones and of course of raw/milk chocolate tones that are wonderful with a touch of cream. The finish is a lingering raw cocoa. As the coffee cools there is more of a snappy dry fruit hint. This coffee will be a superior compliment to a fine cigar. I'm looking forward to pulling a SO shot of this Brazil tomorrow before house hunting.

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#6: Post by jamhat »

I'm guessing it's the Bali or the Robusta that added unpleasant notes to the shots. I do like my shots on the bright side and I think more yirg in the blend will do this
I think it's the yirg that I like in a blend. There is a brightness in the taste and it adds such a nice aroma to the beans (I love opening the jar and taking a big whiff!)

My only experience with Robusta is SM Classic Espresso Blend. I did not notice an unpleasant taste but it had more punch. (Kudos to you for jumping right into Robusta, btw! bold)

Bali? I've never had it? Does it have earthy tastes like other Indonesians? If so, that might be the culprit, by adding more leathery or "dirt" tastes to it. I had to cut back on the Sumatra in my blending for that reason.

I've also found that smelling the spent puck helps me to pick up on what I may be tasting in the cup. When I was using too much Sumatra, I could smell it clearly in the spent grounds. (of course that may be the worst possible way to do it! I am learning as I go!)

Let us know how the Saturday tests go!

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#7: Post by Tristan (original poster) »

Thanks for the kudos James! I was nervous about the Robusta, but I'm looking forward to exploring it further!

The bali I'm using is here: ... iKintamani

One of the reasons I wanted to try the Bali was that it made a bold SO french pressed cup, but was a tad boring. It didn't have much high end, but a HUGE bass blast and a great tobacco note. Now that I think of it the cup did taste a tad dirty, but in a good way (kind of like certain women). This might have been amplified in the blend due to the Bali not getting roasted long enough. I also think due to it being a harder bean it needs more roast time to develop. SM recommends a FC+ or Vienna and I can see why!

As far as the Bali is concerned, I don't have a desire to drink this as SO, but wanted it add more bass to the espresso blend. It might have added to much "dirt" to the blend roasted this way. Also, logistically, the Bali is a semi-wet processed low acidity coffee so I thought it would be a good mixer for complexity.

This leads me to start laying out a game plan for roasting this blend again on Sunday or Monday. I want to break this into two 8oz batches. This is what I was thinking:
Bean                Amount in oz    Percentage  Processed?        Roast Level
Batch #1
Brazil Formosa              4.00        25.00%  Dry Processed     Full City
Aged Sumtra Lintong         2.00        12.50%  Semi Wet          Full City
Ethiopia Yirg Kochere       2.00        12.50%  Wet Processed     Full City

Brazil Formosa              4.00        25.00%  Dry Processed     Full City+/Vienna
Bali Kintamani Arabica      2.00        12.50%  Semi Wet          Full City+/Vienna
India Robusta               2.00        12.50%  Wet Processed     Full City+/Vienna

Totals                     16 oz       100.00%
The Brazil is excellent at Full City plus in SO french pressed. The aged sumatra likes City + the best, but the darker Full City treatment will probably hold the fruit hints from getting out of control in the blend. I like the Yirg best 30 seconds after the end of first crack so this treatment should be about ideal!

As far as Batch #2 is concerned, in order for me to roast consistently in my SC/CO the batches need to be at least 8oz. To do this I need to roast half the Brazil in batch #2. The Brazil might get injected with more roasted flavors, but still should be good for bass. I've roasted this type of Brazil to Vienna/French Roast and it was still excellent. The bali and robusta will get the treatment they need. I intend to take the batch to the brink of full on second crack. Probably about 455 on the thermoprobe:

Let me know what you think of this plan!

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#8: Post by jamhat »

I would imagine that taking your blend to a darker roast than you had before will smooth it out a bit and take some of the earthiness away. It's also good that you are not changing your blending percentages around. That way you are only working with one variable at a time.

Today I ran out of the blend that I have been roasting, and I decided to go by Batdorf and Bronson to pick up my old favorite, Dancing Goats. I figured it was a good idea to go back to pro-roasted espresso every once in a while to compare with my own blends/roasts. I pulled a couple of shots of it tonight, and that showed me that I still have a long way to go! Dancing Goats is much smoother and more balanced than what I have been producing myself. That being said, it's still fun to create my own blends, and I am sure they will continue to improve over time.

I'm looking forward to hearing about the next batch of Bastage Blend.

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#9: Post by pauljolly65 »

I've been toying around with different blends for a few years so I'll chime in with my two cents. First, I'd suggest reading more from the likes of Cannonfodder, another jim, and Compass Coffee and others who wrote on a similar topic. Unfortunately, I cannot find the thread! But it's out there--check around.

Read here for a ton of info about roast profiles--a critical component of successful espresso roasting:
Roasting Profiles for Espresso?

Here's a shorter thread on espresso blending: Favorite recipe for espresso blends

I've gotten into the habit--for better or worse, tho' usually for the better--of going quite heavy on the Brazilians. Since they often make such excellent SO espresso I figure that a bit of tweaking can make them even more interesting. In that regard, I usually use a 40% base of Brazilians--20% DP and 20% semi-washed or natural. I like the earthiness of a Sumatran or the viscous body of another Indonesian--add 20% of that. An Ethiopian or Kenyan will add fruitiness (20%), while a bright Central brings floral or spice (say 10%). Now, to blow it into another realm, try adding Monsooned Malabar to bring it to 100%. It was one of the weirdest things I'd had in espresso when I first tried it; now I just love it. (I've had a similar experience with Aged Sumatras, but they've got to be good or their smokiness will dominate.)

OK, now it looks like a friggin' grab-bag of beans...I mean, who on earth will taste 10% of a Central in a blend like that? Why make it so complicated? The simple answer, to my tongue, is that the espresso tastes better. I might have a hard time picking out the Central, but when I blend without it I find the espresso lacking. I use it regularly in blends now.

The other week I thought I'd try two blends, both with the above Brazilian/Sumatran base. One then finished the remaining 40% with a mild leftover Oaxacan, Australian Mtn. Top, and Greenwell Farms Kona. I wanted a really mellow, hopefully sweet espresso. On the other hand, starting with that same base, I thought I'd aim for something much more aggressive/ I finished it with equal parts Harar, Monsooned Malabar, and the '04 Aged Sumatran. The 'mellow blend' was so mellow that I think I saw the girl from Ipanema walk by. The smokey blend was much more interesting, but too aggressive. After three days of tasting I mixed the remaining half-pounds together and enjoyed some wonderfully complex, rich, chocolately espresso.

I've never found much use for robusta--the crema enhancement doesn't seem much needed when I'm starting with a good load of Brasil. I try to think of balance above all: balancing brighter flavors with sweetness, balancing spiciness with deeper body, balancing DP with washed. Looking at your list, I'd probably trade a Guatemalan for the robusta and try a Mandheling instead of the Aged Lintong. That would open up lots of room for the subtler aspects of the blend. As weird and complicated as blending can get, it's usually successful (there's only been one blend I've made in the last two years that I've cared less for). I hope that you continue to enjoy it and to report on your progress.

OH, one more note: never throw out a blend until it's three weeks old. Some of them taste like crap after a good week's rest, only to open up around day ten and stay great for a few days...or even longer.


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Tristan (original poster)
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#10: Post by Tristan (original poster) »

Thanks for the input you guys! Paul, thanks for the links and the past experience. The thread on profiles get a bit over my head, but I'm going to try to read it a few more times to get the gist.

Based on the advice you gentlemen have provided I think I will trade the robusta for a central next time around.

Yesterday, the cappuccinos were divine. Very balanced and the "dirty" taste was not as pronounced. The brightness was far more balanced and I couldn't taste the Yirg as clearly. Very very nice.

Today (day 7-ish), the cappuccinos tasted kind of flat. The pours seemed a tad too fast. I think it was the grind just needing to be a tad finer as this coffee ages. Less Co2 to bind the water possibly? Maybe vibrations loosened the grinder up a tad?

Today, however, the SO shot of Brazil I had (roasted same time as the first blend, 1/21) made up for any flatness in the cappa. Absolutely wonderful was this SO shot of Brazil. It was sweet, strong, awesome smooth mouthfeel. It's a classic! All my willpower was necessary to not have another shot immediately. These days I try not to overdo the caffeine, but it does make Mondays far more manageable!

Blend Update: I roasted the coffee exactly as I intended to for a change! The light batch I took to FC+, 455 on the thermoprobe. The dark batch, I took to almost 465 into the start of rapid second crack.

Both coffees did not look chipped, overroasted, or over dark. I was VERY pleased. I can't wait to try this. I have about two days of the first blend left. That will leave the latest batch to rest for an acceptable period of time.