No more roasts for espresso

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.

Postby faustroll » Jan 31, 2014, 10:50 pm

Here's an interesting blog post from Heart.

They don't produce any roasts specifically for espresso anymore because they have increased the 'solubility' of their roasts to allow them to extract enough. There isn't a lot of specifics in terms of profile (except 'even development' and avoiding 'baking'), but the idea is you can get a lightish finished roast color with decent solubility that will brew well as an espresso.

So if you've been watching Nordic Roaster's Forum, Scott Rao's new espresso book, Matt Perger's espresso developments, Tim Wendleboe's espresso roasts or Ben Kaminsky none of this will sound exactly new, but it's refreshing to hear Wille be forthright about where he think improvements are possible and his insights about the state of espresso in general. Last year I finally learned why I was never really a fan of espresso in 'third wave' coffee shops.


Postby faustroll » Feb 01, 2014, 12:49 am

This blog post is timely because I bought some beans this January from Heart and noticed they seem to be roasting 'darker' and I've been meaning to post about it. I remember some things changing around October or so, and I believe they have made even more changes very recently. I wouldn't say I dislike the change, though I had been starting to develop a taste for their lighter roasts. The bean's surface is smoother, with less of the dark veiny wrinkles. The color is a little darker, but not much. The beans seem to have more CO2 when they come into contact with water.

I've tasted all of their single origin coffees since last spring and I've never had a roast from Heart I considered 'underdeveloped'. Never any hay or grass taste or green bean taste. I have gotten a malty taste, like in their Yukro from last September, but it was combined with some nice graham cracker and honey and it wasn't overpowering. This was at a time when I was just learning to brew and taste, and I don't know how reliable my memory is.

This week I started learning to roast and I've been going for a finished roast color similar, or maybe slightly lighter than what Heart used to be. I've tasted some of my coffees and compared to them to Heart and mine taste a little under done in comparison. I don't brew espresso, but even at a 22% extraction yield manual brew it was a little acerbic. The sweetness was there, but not enough to balance out the bad flavors. Going forward, I need to figure out how I can roast to get a light finished color but have enough development to make it taste good.

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Postby Marshall » Feb 01, 2014, 2:30 am

Doesn't all this presuppose that single origin is the hallmark of a good espresso? I think about the blend before the roast and expect a sweet background coffee standing behind a fruitier foreground. On the whole, I prefer blends far more than single origins for espresso. For drip I drink nothing but SO's.
Los Angeles


Postby faustroll » Feb 01, 2014, 2:49 am

Marshall, I think the message is less about single origin vs blend and more about roast development. They still offer Stereo, which they now call a 'seasonal blend' instead of 'espresso blend'. What Wille is saying is they no longer offer espresso roasts of their single origin coffees. Even their blend has no espresso designation written for it.

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Postby TomC » Feb 01, 2014, 3:50 am

faustroll wrote:I need to figure out how I can roast to get a light finished color but have enough development to make it taste good.

Focus on the later, if they end up looking lighter in color too, so be it.

George Howell has been mastering the light roast done properly since I was in diapers. I have found, what he has always been teaching, so no great discovery on my part, that the green to yellow phase shouldn't be rushed. I believe it allows for a more thorough maillard phase and development of delicious solubles before pushing the roast so far that you rob from it's unique cultivar characteristics to imprint roast fingerprints all over it.

Underdeveloped coffee is the foundation of much of the 3rd wave coffee found in my area. I hope some of the big boys in town follow Hearts lead. I've had a few of their coffees and always enjoyed them, without getting any hay stuck in my throat.


Postby Gipper37 » Feb 01, 2014, 12:07 pm

I have never liked Heart very much. More accurately, I have disliked Heart. Although I have never purchased their coffee for home brewing as their preparation has been subpar every time I visit (3 times now). I believe they are doing a great job, at the moment, of marketing themselves as Third Wave, but to me they have always been a bit wanna be Third Wave, as evidenced by the fact that they are just now moving away from espresso as a roast. Second Wave thought caught at that paradigm shift intersection to Third Wave. And this all may be due to the fact that I have had poorly prepared coffee at their cafe. There is, after all, only one roaster/cafe that nails the preparation as well as they do the roasting. That would be Coava Coffee, here in Portland, but they still don't take the prize for best prep in the Portland area. That goes to a shop that's only focus is in their name, Barista. Although moving to expansion may begin to change that, they are up to four locations now, Billy Wilson has done the best job to date at preparing espresso and featuring some of the best coffees in the world from the best roasters in the world. Now, you may look up Heart and/or Barista and find that Heart has been featured at Barista multiple times and assume that I am contradicting myself. Maybe the solution is that Heart should stick to what they do best, roasting, and leave the prep for places like Barista.


Postby GregR » Feb 01, 2014, 12:46 pm

This is a great discussion. For a while now I've felt that the Third Wave, or whatever you want to call it, albeit a big step in a positive direction, it's not what I love in an espresso.
Barista- that's the place where I had the espresso that completely changed my preferences. Talk about impact... shots I've never forgotten. Gipper37- you are so lucky to live near there. I only get up that way once a year.

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John P

Postby John P » Feb 01, 2014, 1:32 pm

I often remind people that there are just as many levels of roast for espresso as there are for coffee. And when using high Specialty grade coffees, whether SO or blend, there is really only a specific range of roast that is usable in order to maintain the varietal characteristics of the coffee.

I, like Marshall, prefer blends for espresso and only roast SO for coffee. It's not that SO are not good enough for espresso, but many are not. Forcing a particular coffee to work for espresso by excessive manipulation of the roast profile really takes away every reason you purchased that particular green in the first place. And even when I roast an SO for espresso, I roast two or three separate profiles and then post blend to create greater complexity in the cup. Many coffees have multiple sweet spots. Why not use them to showcase the best that bean has to offer.

It's always about roast development. It's the HOW your profile is sculpted that matters. There's something to be said about the difference between internal development and external color of the coffee that can be affected by correct or incorrect application of heat during roasting. Just because it looks the same on the outside doesn't mean it's the same on the inside. And the wiggle room that exists between those two things are often the difference between what works great as espresso and what does not.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT

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Postby damonbowe » Feb 01, 2014, 2:03 pm

There is an entire thread complaining about Counter Culture Coffee doing this: not reciting "espresso" blends but just stating the flavor profile and letting you figure it out.

To me, this is the fun of having espresso at home. Shops cannot switch espresso very easily and they probably wouldn't for fear that they might offend some people. But if I just wanted shop coffee at home, I'd probably just live near a shop and not invest in my own coffee equipment.

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John P

Postby John P » Feb 01, 2014, 3:38 pm


While it does take someone who's willing to push, learn, and create, changing espresso blends frequently is quite doable.

I roast all of our espresso on site, and I change our espresso about every 7-10 days, so I will do about 40-50 different espresso blends per year, and I never repeat. We always tell about our espresso -- name (something strange or interesting I concocted), beans, and basic tasting notes. Our customers have come to expect this.

This does two things: It allows me to educate through the cup about the vast array of flavors possible in coffee/espresso, and it gives me far more experience as a roaster. I did the single espresso blend thing for maybe the first year I was roasting, and it became boring because I wasn't learning anything new. I've been roasting over eight years now, and some several hundred espresso later, it's a hell of a lot more rewarding.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT