How to improve coffee beyond "good enough"? - Page 3

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
kye
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#21: Post by kye »

mgrayson wrote:I like washed Colombian Pink Bourbon's roasted medium quite a lot, but do miss darker roasts. I can't seem to generate them on the Ikawa without weird aftertastes - bitter and metallic - Rob Hoos writes about Dark Roasts (I have his book) and is an Ikawa user.
I also like the dark roasts and want that chocolate/caramel flavour profile. Many years ago I experimented with home roasting (using a modified popcorn maker - it doesn't get much dodgier than that!) but I was very methodical and kept meticulous notes on the power level and roast times. I found that as you roast more (increasing either temp or time or both) the coffee gets darker (obviously) and the flavours start to get more chocolate/caramel and my subjective rating went up and up and then all-of-a-sudden they drop off a cliff and the coffee tastes burnt and metallic and absolutely disgusting. I was amazed at how such a tiny difference right on that threshold went from a 9/10 to 2/10 simply by changing the roast time from 15 minutes to 15 minutes and 30 seconds (for example).

This was the case with three different beans and occurred at various temp/time combinations, so while my knowledge of roasting is practically zero, that's one thing I'm pretty confident about.

kye
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#22: Post by kye »

In addition to the above, I also discovered that coffee roasted very dark like this tasted absolutely diabolically awful when brewed fresh. It literally tasted like I'd brewed with ashes from a fireplace instead of coffee beans. I can't recall how long they needed to rest before they were good, but it was something like 2-3 days before you could start using them.
I have no idea if this is the case for lighter roasts, but I was just amazed at how something that tasted like an ashtray one day could turn into a chocolate and caramel dream only a few days later.
I was also surprised at the incredible amount of smoke and terrible burning smell that occurred during roasting too. The chemistry in what happened during those first few days resting would be well beyond my high-school knowledge, but would be fascinating to know.

mgrayson (original poster)
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#23: Post by mgrayson (original poster) replying to kye »

Immediately after roasting, I grind a shot and let it sit for an hour. That lets enough CO2, evil spirits, and whatever else needs to out-gas so that the shot is not bad. After that, I give it 5 to 10 days before I go at it again. Sometimes, by a month later, it will still be good, sometimes cardboard.

As for smoke, I live in an apartment with NO outside venting. Zero. Blame the Landmarks Commission. So I have two industrial air scrubbers. One with a hose right over the roaster and a monster with 26 pounds of activated charcoal out in the room. No smell! Home units are silent, have a lot of LED's and phone apps and PlasmaWave™. These have on-off and fan speed. And they're loud.

StoicDude
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#24: Post by StoicDude »

Short answer here for me and my experience, coffee taste is personal and up to the person consuming it.

If its a competition or a professional setting, where ratings are involved, that changes the game.

I'll elaborate in my long answer.

My journey has been rather short. Picked up coffee as a thing to try to connect with my wife over something we can build a routine together.

Started with milk drinks and flavors syrups, progressed to milk only, then half half machiatos and now am on straight espresso/ ristretto and black filter coffee.

Two things that changed my whole view on coffee.
1. Scott Rao s statement about naturals and Chemex. He states, in one of his blogs, "my advice is to save the chemex and natural coffees for your least favorite customers". I enjoy the chemex and also really like naturally processed coffees.
Wood fire roasted coffee, Timor Leste Laco natural.us currently my top.
Prior to that it was a naturally processed Colombian.
Cherry and blueberry tones on both mixed with chocolate.

Second thing that made it very evident was a simple blind test.
3 people, who have been drinking coffee for years, got 2 coffees.
1 a freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffe from a local roaster that was very good to excellent in my.opinion.
2 a pre ground Folgers that's been sitting around for 6 month plus, opened.

2 out of 3 thought Folgers was better! This was fun for me and a nice way to not take things that seriously when it comes to coffee.

How do you get better and how do you tweak things? For me, I try to take classes and have somebody educate me so I know what to look for. This forum has been great of course

My local roaster does classes a d thats been awesome. Flavor wheels, roast profiles, tasting notes all get done in his classes and help me.

I usually pull a shot and if it's really exceptional I'll have another right after. That's the biggest reward for me when it comes to espresso.

However, my wife, even with that exceptional shot, will thinks it's just plain disgusting and spit it out. :D

Great topic

DrugOfChoice
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#25: Post by DrugOfChoice »

mgrayson wrote:To be clear - I'm not unhappy with my espresso. It's consistent. And I have several beans I like. As the thread title says, it's good enough. I just have no idea if it could be much better. Maybe a bean is great and I'm abusing it. Maybe my roasts have any one of 15 kinds of defects. I'm pretty sure the answer is to locate people and/or formal instruction and pull shots in person. I was just curious what other people did to get better.

Of course, "pay attention" is very good advice, just as "listen" is good (and seldom followed) advice for improving at the piano.
Maybe this is the wrong audience for this observation, but in my opinion and experience the optimization mindset is more often than not a recipe for unhappiness.

If the coffee is consistently good, then enjoy it. Isn't "good enough," by definition, good enough?

I'm not sure playing the piano is a great analogy since there is such a huge range between basic competence and high-level artistry, not to mention such a diversity of styles and genres to potentially master, and the role of innate talent.

It is likely that your coffee is 90%+ of what it could be (maybe 99%+). Does that make you happy or frustrated?

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Jeff
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#26: Post by Jeff »

Since coffee is a moving target and I have no desire to go back to the "classic" coffee of 1950s diners in the US, it becomes a process of continual improvement. What was "good enough" with even second-wave beans and roasts, for me, is no longer enjoyable compared to "good enough" with what was available on the market even a decade ago. The last decade or so has seen significant improvement in roasting as well as in greens and processing, further widening the gap.

Happy that I've gotten to where I am, excited to take it even further.

Edit: Don't be afraid to take big steps. Little ones will often take you back to the same peak. Sometimes there is a bigger peak on the other side of a valley that you need to jump over or at least cross through.

Capuchin Monk
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#27: Post by Capuchin Monk »

StoicDude wrote:Second thing that made it very evident was a simple blind test.
3 people, who have been drinking coffee for years, got 2 coffees.
1 a freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffe from a local roaster that was very good to excellent in my.opinion.
2 a pre ground Folgers that's been sitting around for 6 month plus, opened.

2 out of 3 thought Folgers was better!
I remember that test. :lol:
Years later, they tried it again. https://www.folgerscoffee.com/taste-test

mgrayson (original poster)
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#28: Post by mgrayson (original poster) »

Capuchin Monk wrote:I remember that test. :lol:
video

Years later, they tried it again. https://www.folgerscoffee.com/taste-test
Saturday Night Live had a good version of that test.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQKVDUBu2g

kye
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#29: Post by kye »

DrugOfChoice wrote:Maybe this is the wrong audience for this observation, but in my opinion and experience the optimization mindset is more often than not a recipe for unhappiness.
You raise a good point, and I think that a necessary part of the optimisation mindset is having part of your brain dedicated to being critical of your experiences, thus lessening the enjoyment by a certain amount.

I think there are three mitigating considerations though:

The first is that I think this critical mindset is something that people either have or don't have, perhaps as a part of their personality. I have also been interested in hifi and I found that the common thread amongst hifi aficionados was an appreciation of quality in all things. We all liked good food, good coffee, good tea, good alcoholic beverages, etc etc. (note: some people are interested in hifi just for bragging about the price - I'm not including those people!).

The second is that the lessening effect of being critical is potentially offset by the improvements that get made over time. A 20% boost from not being critical doesn't overpower a move from 4/10 coffee to 9/10 coffee over the years, especially considering that an interest in espresso is likely to yield the most results in the first few years as the person 'catches up' to the current best practices.

The third is that some people want a hobby, not just a beverage to appear for them to drink. I would suggest that almost everyone here, who took the time to find these forums, register, explore the boards and get familiar with the place, and then post, is interested in this as a hobby and not just a means to an end.

Capuchin Monk
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#30: Post by Capuchin Monk »

mgrayson wrote:Saturday Night Live had a good version of that test.
I remember that too. :lol: Maybe that's the reason why so many people don't want to do blind test.