Bringing out the sweetness

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by dsc »

Hi everyone,

sorry if this was discussed before, but I couldn't find the stuff I wanted via the search engine (I know it was malachi's post which had a lot of useful info about dialing your machine/grinder ie. what to do when)

I got some Ritual Vitamin D espresso blend from Nicholas and was dialing my grinder today to get some good extractions. First shot with this coffee was a very tight ristretto, run at 92*C, from 15.5g which resulted in a very sweet, no-bitterness-at-all great tasting cup. I did a couple of tweaks to the grinder setting to extract it more as a normal double, but I lost some of that sweetness in result. What's the easiest way to bring the sweetness back? Is it only tightening the grind? higher temps to extract more sugars?


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#2: Post by HB »

I don't mean to be flippant, but as suggested in Abe's The obsession with sweet espresso - a dogma in the making, you could add a quarter teaspoon of sugar. Or if you want to get fancy, sugar glaze the bottom of the demitasse using steam.
Abe Carmeli wrote:Sweet espresso has become so synonymous with the most desirable attribute in the small cup that it is now on the verge of becoming a dogma. This notion is very American to begin with and in the espresso space, it raises eyebrows in most of the world where espresso is consumed sweetened.

If you spent a week roasting and blending coffee you are probably able to figure out that to get sweet espresso, you may need to exclude many good coffees, and more often than not end up with a boring cup. I often feel all dressed up and nowhere to go when blending for sweetness. That inexplicable fear of adding ¼ teaspoon of sugar to your cup is beyond me. Think about this: Would you give up dark chocolate just because a little sugar was added to it? For my palate, most chocolates with less than 70% cocoa are no more than brown goo. It is the intensity of flavors fused with a relatively small quantity of sugar that transforms it. Lindt's 70% cocoa dark chocolate is a good example.

Yes I know, there are great sweet espressos out there; but I can count those on one hand and still have two free fingers to flip the bird. There could be many more great blends, if only adding a little sugar were not a Federal crime. Holding up sweetness on such a podium has a chilling effect on the development of espresso. Roasters are going after it because we are, and together, we are drawing the boundaries of our own development.
Dan Kehn

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dsc (original poster)

#3: Post by dsc (original poster) »

Hi Dan,

I'm not sure why, but I can't stand sugar in coffee, in bigger quantities it can make me nauseous. I don't mind natural sweetness though (totally different thing of course).

I will try bumping the temp a bit and see if it makes a difference sweet-wise.


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Team HB

#4: Post by another_jim »

I disagree with Abe on this a bit. There's nothing wrong with adding sugar to a shot of espresso; especially if it's from an Italian style budget blend. But if its a blend from specialty coffee, it should stand on it's own two feet.

But the OP's notion that an espresso blend ought to taste good throughout the extraction space seems ridiculous (I'm probably missing something in his post). If it tastes best as a ristretto, pull it as a ristretto.
Jim Schulman


#5: Post by acquavivaespresso »

HB wrote:if you want to get fancy...
Dan, in Italy we say "DOLCE IL CAFFE, AMARE LE DONNE" now dolce means sweet, amare can be translated "bitter" or "love" and also implies the actual "making love" : so probably that is the main reason why most people have their coffee sweetened ...
ps . most of the times mine is without sugar, but that is a different story .....

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#6: Post by Psyd »

In 'Amurriken' that would translate as an instruction.
'Put sugar in your coffee, put love in your women.'

"La donna è come una buona tazza di caffè: la prima volta che se ne prende non lascia dormire."
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175


#7: Post by acquavivaespresso »

I like that AMURRIKEN thing,
Still when you put out instructions like that : PUT SUGAR.... PUT LOVE ..... you have to be careful which side of the fence you are standing .....
But as you get used to it, you still go to sleep very easy .....

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#8: Post by brokemusician77 »

But since the OP is asking for advice on how to dial in sweetness, rather than a philosophical discussion on the state of espresso in North America......

What advice would you give?

(This is the "Tips & Technique" area of the forum afterall.)
"There's a fine line between hobby and mental illness." - Anon.
LMWDP #326

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John P

#9: Post by John P »

Each espresso is, of course, going to be different. I happen to have a small bag of Vitamin D that I am finishing off. 92 C (198F) seems about right for the Vitamin D. I definitely wouldn't go above 93 C. I would up the dosage closer to 18 g (changing grind accordingly) and pull as a ristretto. This is where I have had my best results. It's really all about personal taste. What is sweet, or balanced, or bitter to me may be perceived differently by someone else. There's always joy in experimentation -- at least until the espresso runs out.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT

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#10: Post by malachi »

brokemusician77 wrote:But since the OP is asking for advice on how to dial in sweetness, rather than a philosophical discussion on the state of espresso in North America......

What advice would you give?

(This is the "Tips & Technique" area of the forum afterall.)
Buy a coffee that has a lot of sweetness.
Experiment with the brew parameters (and in general, play around with lower brew temps and shorter volumes).
What's in the cup is what matters.