How to improve coffee beyond "good enough"? - Page 4

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

I once thought I'd make a list of all the variables that I could think of that affect the godlyniss of my shots--you know, things like degree-of-roast, variety, temps, pressure at extraction, profiles, water, whether teeth were recently brushed, yadda, yadda. Did that for15 minutes and lapsed into a big snooze. Decided I occupy a coffee space that can be called, "Good Enough Plus." Sometimes it's a little plus. Sometimes a big PLUS! Wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Heat + Beans = Roast. All the rest is commentary.

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drgary
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#32: Post by drgary »

I like the comments about appreciating "good enough." I also think there's no substitute for engaging your curiosity and persisting. I also like reading what others have written and trying those things.

The advantage of using a programmable sample roaster like the IKAWA is that you can probably closely replicate what others are doing, adjusted for altitude. In a way, this is bridging the gap between following typed words and being able to replicate an experience and discuss technique. I like that we are sharing profiles and pairing them to coffees on this thread.

IKAWA Home - profiles

For a long time I've been able to do very good dark roasts. You'll need appropriate greens for best results. One that I always like is India's Mysore Nuggets. Look for new arrivals because the harvest season in India is January through March.

https://thecaptainscoffee.com/pages/cof ... ailability

I read some suggestions from Neal Wilson and our member Oldmatefromoz. I tried what they were suggesting and now can do Neapolitan style roasts. Matt, if you haven't seen this thread, you may find useful info there. It might be fun to try to emulate what was done on your IKAWA Pro. I can roast along with the same green on my IKAWA Home and we can compare results, especially since I'm inserting thermocouples to observe bean temp in Artisan.

Roasting, Resting and Brewing Dark Roasts

Long ago, I read Alan Adler's suggestion to brew at about 175°F. He had done taste tests for the AeroPress and came up with that temp. He lived nearby, saw what I was posting on H-B and invited me to his workshop. We developed a friendship. He's the one who turned me onto roasting, lending me his FreshRoast. At that time he took his roasts into second crack. Ever since then I've tended to pull dark-roasted espresso at a similar temperature and found the upper bound of that style is 178°F. After that you may extract unwanted bitter flavors. There are some dark roasts that are excellent at higher temps, but if you haven't tried this, it's worth a go.
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!
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bialettibarista
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#33: Post by bialettibarista »

espressoren wrote:This is a good point. You're probably not going to learn skills by trying coffee at a shop.

At the same time, I think the advice is really only meant to apply to people who don't know what espresso should taste like. One can follow instructions online but without the reference point you don't know if you're doing it right or not, or maybe you just don't like espresso. With the reference point, there's a chance you can manage to find and refine your technique if you happen to be reproducing good results, but generally it isn't going to be enough to build technique on its own.
One possibility is coffee/food always taste better on vacation :lol: .I am serious though. Mood and atmosphere can greatly influence our perception. Once while in Croatia I took and brewed my own coffee the entire time I was there. It was absolutely amazing! Upon returning home I still had coffee left and my wife and I drank it at home for a couple of days. Somehow it had lost all of its lost all of its luster. Maybe it was the water but I doubt it.

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

drgary wrote:I like the comments about appreciating "good enough." I also think there's no substitute for engaging your curiosity and persisting. I also like reading what others have written and trying those things.

The advantage of using a programmable sample roaster like the IKAWA is that you can probably closely replicate what others are doing, adjusted for altitude. In a way, this is bridging the gap between following typed words and being able to replicate an experience and discuss technique. I like that we are sharing profiles and pairing them to coffees on this thread.

IKAWA Home - profiles

For a long time I've been able to do very good dark roasts. You'll need appropriate greens for best results. One that I always like is India's Mysore Nuggets. Look for new arrivals because the harvest season in India is January through March.

https://thecaptainscoffee.com/pages/cof ... ailability

I read some suggestions from Neal Wilson and our member Oldmatefromoz. I tried what they were suggesting and now can do Neapolitan style roasts. Matt, if you haven't seen this thread, you may find useful info there. It might be fun to try to emulate what was done on your IKAWA Pro. I can roast along with the same green on my IKAWA Home and we can compare results, especially since I'm inserting thermocouples to observe bean temp in Artisan.

Roasting, Resting and Brewing Dark Roasts

Long ago, I read Alan Adler's suggestion to brew at about 175°F. He had done taste tests for the AeroPress and came up with that temp. He lived nearby, saw what I was posting on H-B and invited me to his workshop. We developed a friendship. He's the one who turned me onto roasting, lending me his FreshRoast. At that time he took his roasts into second crack. Ever since then I've tended to pull dark-roasted espresso at a similar temperature and found the upper bound of that style is 178°F. After that you may extract unwanted bitter flavors. There are some dark roasts that are excellent at higher temps, but if you haven't tried this, it's worth a go.
Gary,

Huh! I haven't tried enough different temperatures. Dose and grind - well, mostly grind - sure, but not temperature. I have some Mysore Nuggets n the deep freeze and will give them another try. I was not successful with them the first time, but kept a few pounds for later experimentation.

I'll look at those links. Thank you!

Matt

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drgary
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#35: Post by drgary »

Matt,

I will see if I can dial in that coffee as a dark roast on my IKAWA.

A key roasting skill that I didn't add and have been discussing in our profiles thread is combining a profile with your sense of smell. I stop a dark roast the moment I smell distillates. So the profile can be set up to go a bit longer than the actual drop time.
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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drgary
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#36: Post by drgary »

Here's a further thought on using your senses to develop sprezzatura, defined in Wikipedia as "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it".

Many H-B members favor precise measurement and control. That has the advantage of repeatability but neglects developing the skill to improvise while using your senses. I believe the best path forward with very good equipment is to combine both methods. But attend to the approach that you may have neglected.

This morning I made an excellent shot from two aging coffees that I'd sample roasted, and it was deliciously balanced for mouthfeel and acidity versus sweetness. The ability to pull this off came from my long practice of analog skills that enabled me to improvise. The dose was somewhat higher than usual for those coffees closer to their roast date so I would underextract. I dialed in the grinder setting to approximately fit the higher dose for two dense beans at a light medium roast level. The espresso machine I used is a vintage Olympia Express Maximatic, which is a dragon HX, which means you flush water to temperature surf between hot and cool. This machine has no computerization. While flushing, I listened to the intensity of the water flash boiling out of the group. How was I going to time the shot? Again, not by numbers. I pulled it until the stream just started to lighten because I wanted a denser shot rather than a fully extracted one. This emphasized the caramels and created a mouthfeel between a thick ristretto and a tea-like one. The result was a medium body shot that balanced acidity and sweetness and had dominant flavors of caramel and sherry.

Learning to pull off something like this requires allowing mistakes and learning from them. If I'd pulled that shot longer, it would have been bitter and washed out. The prior shot of one of those coffees had come out that way. I enjoyed adapting my technique to get the desired result on the fly.
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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yakster
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#37: Post by yakster »

bialettibarista wrote:One possibility is coffee/food always taste better on vacation :lol: .I am serious though. Mood and atmosphere can greatly influence our perception. Once while in Croatia I took and brewed my own coffee the entire time I was there. It was absolutely amazing! Upon returning home I still had coffee left and my wife and I drank it at home for a couple of days. Somehow it had lost all of its lost all of its luster. Maybe it was the water but I doubt it.
Absolutely this. Studies have shown that even the color of your coffee cup can influence your perception.

I was camping near Santa Cruz in California in the redwoods and roasted some Guatemala Dry Process Oriente coffee over the campfire and it was more enjoyable than it had any right to be for the roasting method used. I picked up cedar notes in the coffee that may have been influenced by cedar wood trees in the area.

-Chris

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kye
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#38: Post by kye »

For me as someone who takes milk and sugar, I'm well into the territory of experimenting for the curiosity and entertainment value rather than results, so the side-benefit is great tasting coffee, rather than the other way around.

I was into high-end hifi for a long time and mostly people listen to their setups in the evening. I heard a lot of people with very high-end setups and by the time you're at $100-250K or more into your system the improvements to the sound made by having a beer / wine / cocktail every time you listen are far greater than putting the same investment into the equipment itself. So why do people continue to spend the money? Often it's a love of experimentation and anticipation when buying new things or trying new ideas etc.

I like that saying "oh, you bought an espresso machine - congratulations on your new hobby" but it didn't apply to me - I had the hobby already!

Mat-O-Matic
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#39: Post by Mat-O-Matic »

drgary wrote:he best path forward with very good equipment is to combine both methods. But attend to the approach that you may have neglected.
Tons of great advice throughout. My own experience suggests that improvement comes from a defined pursuit. I tend to reach plateaus where everything is pretty good to great, then get curious about what I might be missing, find a goal, and figure it out. Whatever it is--tuning a certain flavor profile, better understanding of one brew variable, technique, basket selection/equipment, type of bean--my coffee afterwards is improved even if whatever I was chasing is ultimately not to my preferences.

Try new techniques to see if they do something useful for you, try to achieve an unfamiliar type of shot, take one shot you know well and try it with (many) different parameters, do something wrong but try to make it work.

I disagree that trying coffee in other places has low value. I rarely enjoyed third wave light roast coffee until I had a shot that showed me what it can be when done well. Then I had a lot of experimentation and learning to do at home.

It does seem like you have a specific profile of espresso as a focus. If that's the case, these forums can help you fine tune exactly what you're looking for to the nth detail.
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mgrayson (original poster)
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#40: Post by mgrayson (original poster) »

Indeed, much great advice here, and I'm very grateful for all of your contributions. If nothing else, they give me hope. And without experimentation, nothing will change. Today's coffee, which was a roast of the tail ends of a Colombian and a Brazilian, is very pleasant. Unfortunately, it WAS the tail end of those two bags. But a flavor once achieved remains possible!

Matt