What espresso standards, fads, and trends have reversed over the years? - Page 3

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IamOiman
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#21: Post by IamOiman »

I do not think I have ever seen a La Marzocco Leva considering their crazy 25k+ price. It would not be very popular I think due to that though they may exist in a bar somewhere over there.
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Peppersass
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#22: Post by Peppersass »

Chert wrote:A version of a commercial lever I would like to see is in use this month during Ditta Artigianale residency at La Marzocco Seattle cafe.?
I'd like to see that lever in action, too.

So cool that Ditta Atiguanale is visiting the USA. I had the pleasure of visiting that great cafe in Florence a few years ago, as described in this post.

[EDIT: Wow, I just realized that was five years ago!]

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TheMadTamper (original poster)

#23: Post by TheMadTamper (original poster) »

IamOiman wrote:I can tell you that south of Rome in Italy levers absolutely dominate, with La San Marco 80/85 Leva machines being as common as La Marzocco in the US with a smattering of various levers (Wega, Bosco near Naples, Izzo/MyWay, Fiorenzato, etc) taking up most of the remaining market.
That's really interesting. I'm actually surprised it's Southern Italy where levers dominate as opposed to Northern. Aren't Southern roasts typically darker with the lighter roasts in the North? I'd have thought pumps would have prevailed where darker roasts prevailed.
Chert wrote:LMWDP. For a bit there, one might have thought the lever could dominate the espresso world.

To a degree, levers have taken hold among hobbyists but pump machines - some that mimic the lever profile or improve upon it - resist the fad and trend of lever machines in cafes.

Feel free to discuss, I have no such erudite piece on this to offer as Peppersass penned (nice job!).
Italy aside (thank goodness they still stick by the tradition!) I still wonder if a lever revolution might still happen. A lot of the superstitions about levers are turning out not to be true, and their forgiving nature, low cost of operation, and quiet operation have a lot of value in commercial use. I think given the right conditions (not relating to quality at all) it could still happen.

But I think the reason we're not going to see that become widespread commercially is that the very problems the pump machines were created to solve are commercial problems of speed, consistency, training....and in the modern landscape, probably liability. Large spring loaded brass bars at body contact level are not very insurance/lawyer friendly. Levers are slower, thus requiring more groups/space and knowledge of using them well, create more opportunity for injury with overworked, underpaid, often younger staff, both with slipped levers under tension, RSI (worker's comp!) and with trying to remove a PF under pressure and getting hot water (and hot brass) launched at them. If not for those issues they'd probably replace pumps worldwide based on TCO alone.

That, plus in the US, we don't sell coffee, we sell coffee flavored milk. LM became popular because of their famous steam blaster capabilities. Sure they also produce top notch coffee, but that's not what made them the go-to choice for commercial use, and certainly not at the absurd prices they charge. The textures of levers would be pretty lost in a country that almost never serves shots even in top end gourmet cafes.
Peppersass wrote:What I've observed over the 10 years since I got serious about coffee is not so much a series of changing standards, fads and trends, but an evolution in the cultivation, sourcing, roasting and preparation of specialty coffee.

Jim implied an aspect of this evolution when he described the shift from medium-dark to light espresso roasts. As he said, 10 years ago baristas were cramming as much coffee as they could into triple baskets and pulling Ristretto shots. Why? Because if you pulled a classic 14g Normale in 25 seconds those dark roasts would over-extract and you'd get bitter roasty flavors. The overdosing and short pulls were designed to reduce the level of extraction so that, maybe, you'd get some origin flavors like fruit and chocolate instead of turpentine and soot. Titan conicals became the rage during this period because, IMHO, their grind distribution reduces the extraction level of darker roasts.

Another theory of mine (and probably others) is that the overdosed Risretto period came about because U.S. specialty roasters were using 100% Arabica beans for their espresso roasts, and were missing the moderating effect of Robusta beans blended with Arabica beans in Italian espresso roasts.

Alas, there was nothing U.S. baristas could do to completely eliminate the roasty notes . At best, we got hints of the origin flavors that might be there. Thus began the macro trend towards lighter roasts. And with lighter roasts we had to reduce the dose, grind finer and pull longer to avoid under-extraction -- e.g., lemon juice. As the roasts have gotten lighter, it's become harder and harder to extract them. Enter pressure and flow profiling. Pressure profiling extends contact time to increase extraction, while flow profiling uses long, slow preinfusion to "relax" the puck so you can grind finer and achieve very long pull times without choking the machine. Massive flat burr grinder have become the rage because they appear to eek out a tad more extraction from light roasts than big conicals (though I hasten to add that this is based primarily on anecdotal observation not scientific evidence.) And lever machines are back in vogue because they can achieve pressure and flow profiles that may extract light roasts better than shots pulled with pump machines with fixed profiles.

I don't see the increased focus on dose/beverage weight and brew ratios as a fad, either. I think that may have evolved from recognition that consistency is the holy grail of espresso -- without it you simply can't dial in properly -- and eyeballing doses and volumes doesn't produce consistent shots. Also, I believe Andy Schecter's seminal post on brew ratios here on HB had considerable influence on understanding the properties of different brew ratios, which in turn highlighted the importance of accurate dose and beverage weights. Finally, I think the emergence of affordable, easy-to-use refractometers and accompanying software further pushed the emphasis on using scales to achieve accurate dose and beverage weights for a desired brew ratio.

[To avoid inciting an argument, I must add that using a scale to weigh dose and beverage, and/or using a refractometer to measure strength and extraction, aren't substitutes for using your eyes, nose and tongue when dialing in a shot. Measurements can provide useful information, but you still have to assess the flow rate and color, and of course smell and taste the shot.]

My guess on tamping is that the evolution of the technique (lighter tamping, no tamping, use of grooming tools instead of tampers, etc.) is a function of the huge growth in the number of cafes and restaurants offering espresso, as well as the number of home baristas. As more people pull shots, more experiments are conducted and we get more information about what works and what doesn't. Further, there are a lot more espresso accessories on the market to try than there were 10 years ago.
That's a great writeup, that I think covers a lot of the deeper rationale behind the changes. Though I still only half agree. Your point about roasting and sourcing producing a different bean requiring different preparation probably is a lot of the reason for the shifting fads, great point!

Where I start to disagree though is the implication that this is an "evolution" not a "fad". I still think it's very much faddish. I don't think it's an evolution, I think it's a knee jerk reaction to the, honestly, always terrible "Schomerism"/Seattle/"Charbucks" overdosed dark roast ristretto era. A century on, Italy has kind of standardized on a medium-ish roast, with a balanced-ish blend with a medium-ish dose. I don't think they stumbled onto that because it's the first thing they tried in 1905 and never really bothered trying anything different. I imagine they already went through all this experimentation, on a less precise scale, and landed there as the best balance between all the extremes based on the passage of time. They may not have obsessed over "god shots" in that time, but they arrived at a very stable, consistent, average. Schomerism attempted to reinvent the very idea of espresso for a different market. It worked, largely due to Starbucks and "lifestyle marketing" more than anything Vivace did. It made it worse, IMO, but it reinvented it, redefined it as a sweet dairy drink for desserts and busy mornings, and at least popularized it here, which deserves credit. But my feeling on the matter is the current trend toward light roasts and methods to support roasts that, IMO, aren't really suited for espresso extraction in general, is a reactionary effect resulting from a round rejection of Schomerist "chocolate bombs" - and as a result swings hard in the opposite direction to something that's not really better, just opposite.

The dosages and weights and ratios, like the bottomless, I still see as a tool for understanding, not a workflow to follow. I do think that will eventually reverse and a stronger emphasis on process and variables rather than absolutes will become the fashion again, simply because the absolutes are so impractical for a speedy workflow. Fine for enthusiasts pulling 2 shots a day and chatting about it for a few hours, not fine for cranking out 60 an hour, which, ultimately, is where the results really matter, and where the real trends end up having to navigate.

My gut tells me, that in a decade or so, we end up "rediscovering traditional espresso in the specialty coffee industry" with a focus on medium-ish roasts, with balanced-ish blends, at medium-ish doses, brewed at a medium-ish volume in a medium-ish time.... And that's when we can get back to perfecting the real deal the process was really designed around, rather than reinventions and adventures in the extremes. Then laugh at the lemonade as hard as the chocolate bombs, and all the little measuring tools instead of working on developing reliable, repeatable processes without lab equipment that work at speed rather than in a home version of Frankenstein's coffee bar. "Refractometers, software, beverage weights" are all phrases in a single sentence that tell me this. :mrgreen:

For what it's worth, my own adventures in espresso started me with traditionalism. I then followed the "Seattle" fad very briefly, and discovered I dislike it. I did the knee-jerk, myself, into acidic fruity SOs (before it was cool! 8) )...thought I really enjoyed it. Then realized, more than anything, traditional medium blends really deliver the best base to work from after all. I figure I'll spend another decade working on my own traditional approach, so that way next decade I'll be ahead of the curve when it becomes normal. Maybe that's when I should throw my hat in the WBC ring. :twisted: Hard to believe this adventure has been, what, 15, 20 years already? Feels like yesterday I was playing with my little Krups where the big gear now sits. Where does time go? I wasn't nearly as deep into the coffee...but I still enjoyed the morning process just as much back then.... and in hindsight there was a simplicity I kind of miss.

Robusta: I wanted to highlight this part of your conversation though because it's one that's been on my mind recently, and I'm surprised to hear it mentioned at all! As I said, my focus has always been on the traditional, and after wandering in other directions, always returns. But that one element that is one of the reasons for some of the traditional dosages and such is the presence of robusta in traditional blends that has been missing for quite some time in the US. I'd forgotten about that entirely until a fateful failed temp probe that took a month to source from Italy a year ago made me actually buy a Nespresso (In hindsight I could have put the Salvatore on the bench again....oh well.) In trying the shots I was greeted with a very alien flavor. And it took me 2 days to realize what I was tasting was Robusta. Since then I've become aware again of it's missing presence in US coffees. But your comment about US roasters "at that time" missing Robusta made me curious. What roasters today are using Robustas in their espresso blends?? I'd love to try one. I'm not familiar with any. Paradise ha been my go-to for many years now, and while they periodically offer robusta coffees on their own, I don't believe their espresso blends use any. It's been quite some years since I did the round-robin trying out other roasters, but back, 10 years or so ago, none of the popular blends, to my knowledge, included Robustas.

Conicals: I do wonder about the "taste notes" and extraction levels between the grinders being terribly different. Ironically I always had my dark roast in the flat and the lighter roasts (medium, really) in the conical. Never really had a problem with either. What I value most about the conical though is the foregiveness factor. It's the lever of grinders. The flats I need to constantly, daily, adjust. The conical seems to be just fine being "close enough" just about always, no matter the bean or age. Maybe it's not dialed perfectly for every shot, but it's always dialed well, for every shot. Plus the rating for the burrs means I should have to replace them every 30 years or so...
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C-Antonio

#24: Post by C-Antonio »

interesting, sometimes amusing, thread to read
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

jevenator

#25: Post by jevenator »

Joe (TheMadTamper),

Nicoletti coffee roasters based off in Brooklyn NY deal through Amazon and my dad enjoys their coffee and buys it periodically. When I got started with espresso I hated the light roast. Then I tried this and enjoyed it. Chocolate and nut. Now can't stand it and will mainly drink light roast espresso. But nevertheless. The reason why I bring them up is because they use 25% Robusta in their espresso blend.(One more roaster in USA that uses Robusta).

I've met some Russians that really like their coffee to be super bitter and can drink 100% Robusta prepared Turkish style.

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Peppersass
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#26: Post by Peppersass »

Joe (TheMadTamper), there's so much in your post I'd like to quote that I'd end up quoting the whole thing! So I'll just jot down a few responses.

1. While we may disagree as to whether we're seeing fads or evolution, I do agree that the heavy swing to light roasts overshot the mark -- by a lot. That's been discussed a lot here, primarily by those of us who got really tired of grassy, under-developed roasts, lemon juice in the cup and/or having to jump through all sorts of crazy preparation hoops to extract anything close to a balanced shot from the ultra-light roasts being produced by specialty roasters (for example, I spent considerable time modifying my GS/3 for pressure and flow profiling.) Ultimately, I, too, switched to medium-light and medium roasts a few years ago, though back then good ones were pretty hard to find. More recently, I believe at least some roasters have gotten the message and we're seeing more offerings in the medium-light and medium range.

2. That said, I do like berry-bomb African naturals, and most of what's available out there is roasted really light. So I also drink those. However, I took up home roasting about 18 months ago, hoping to coax berry flavors out of naturals with something closer to a medium roast. Not easy.

3. Not sure I'd characterize Italian beans as medium roast, though I don't have much experience with them. Based on what I've seen in Northern Italy (Florence) and beans imported from Italy, they're not Charbucks but at best they're on the dark side of medium.

4. I didn't mean to imply that roasters "back then" didn't have Robusta beans. I meant that virtually all roasters in the USA use 100% Arabica beans -- then, now, and likely in the future. I don't know of any USA roasters using Robusta, but I think they do exist. Someone else with more info on that should comment. Of course, you can always buy genuine Illy or Lavassa espresso beans with Arabica and Robusta from Italy if you don't mind beans that go stale really fast after you open the nitrogen-packed cans.

5. Like my venerable old K10, my Monolith Flat doesn't require readjustment once dialed in. That may be because the roughly five day portion of beans I defrost at a time doesn't age much in that period, or it could be that the Monolith Flat is not like flats of old.

6. I can't agree that scales, ratios, refractometers, Scaces, the bottomless and so-forth are fads, and that eventually we'll all revert to pulling 7g of a medium-roast in 25 seconds with a lever machine. I believe those tools have taught and will continue to teach us a lot about coffee, and that the holy grail might look different from traditional Italian espresso. In fact, I think the most likely area where we'll see evolution is in roasting. I believe that the growth of specialty roasting, both commercial and home, and the growing interest in instrumentation and experimentation, will eventually lead to some breakthroughs in coffee roasting that will allow us to get all of the origin flavors out of a coffee bean without under- or over-developing it. That's what I mean by evolution.

mathof

#27: Post by mathof »

My go-to formula is "7g of a medium-roast in 25 seconds with a lever machine". But then I developed my espresso habit in northern Italy.

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TheMadTamper (original poster)

#28: Post by TheMadTamper (original poster) »

Peppersass wrote:Joe (TheMadTamper), there's so much in your post I'd like to quote that I'd end up quoting the whole thing! So I'll just jot down a few responses.

1. While we may disagree as to whether we're seeing fads or evolution, I do agree that the heavy swing to light roasts overshot the mark -- by a lot. That's been discussed a lot here, primarily by those of us who got really tired of grassy, under-developed roasts, lemon juice in the cup and/or having to jump through all sorts of crazy preparation hoops to extract anything close to a balanced shot from the ultra-light roasts being produced by specialty roasters (for example, I spent considerable time modifying my GS/3 for pressure and flow profiling.) Ultimately, I, too, switched to medium-light and medium roasts a few years ago, though back then good ones were pretty hard to find. More recently, I believe at least some roasters have gotten the message and we're seeing more offerings in the medium-light and medium range.

2. That said, I do like berry-bomb African naturals, and most of what's available out there is roasted really light. So I also drink those. However, I took up home roasting about 18 months ago, hoping to coax berry flavors out of naturals with something closer to a medium roast. Not easy.

3. Not sure I'd characterize Italian beans as medium roast, though I don't have much experience with them. Based on what I've seen in Northern Italy (Florence) and beans imported from Italy, they're not Charbucks but at best they're on the dark side of medium.

4. I didn't mean to imply that roasters "back then" didn't have Robusta beans. I meant that virtually all roasters in the USA use 100% Arabica beans -- then, now, and likely in the future. I don't know of any USA roasters using Robusta, but I think they do exist. Someone else with more info on that should comment. Of course, you can always buy genuine Illy or Lavassa espresso beans with Arabica and Robusta from Italy if you don't mind beans that go stale really fast after you open the nitrogen-packed cans.

5. Like my venerable old K10, my Monolith Flat doesn't require readjustment once dialed in. That may be because the roughly five day portion of beans I defrost at a time doesn't age much in that period, or it could be that the Monolith Flat is not like flats of old.

6. I can't agree that scales, ratios, refractometers, Scaces, the bottomless and so-forth are fads, and that eventually we'll all revert to pulling 7g of a medium-roast in 25 seconds with a lever machine. I believe those tools have taught and will continue to teach us a lot about coffee, and that the holy grail might look different from traditional Italian espresso. In fact, I think the most likely area where we'll see evolution is in roasting. I believe that the growth of specialty roasting, both commercial and home, and the growing interest in instrumentation and experimentation, will eventually lead to some breakthroughs in coffee roasting that will allow us to get all of the origin flavors out of a coffee bean without under- or over-developing it. That's what I mean by evolution.
Based on this, and other threads, I do think we're in pretty close agreement on what a good espresso is, and the..err...unusual direction specialty coffee (or at least enthusiast coffee and third wave marketeers) has swung to. Maybe not identical shot or bean preference in all cases but it sounds like we're in the same hopper. I do recall also liking berry bombs. If I recall during the time a number of years ago I went on an SO adventure, my two favorites were a particular batch of a Coasta Rican with very sweet-citrus/lemon tones (I could never duplicate it...the next two bags did not taste the same) and a Ethiopian peaberry that was like a cup of raspberries. Brazils bore me to no end. Most South Americans bore me. Actually single origins in general bore me, but there are those few origins that end up being very memorable.

Italian beans...dark side of medium probably is accurate there. I know it varies by region. I also don't have much experience with them (outside of Lavazza Dek which remains the only decaf espresso I've found that I actually can say I enjoy as much as my fancy-pants roaster beans (not that it's any cheaper...and is often more expensive...) But even among American roasters that classify their beans by Italian comparisons, it's generally a medium or dark medium. (Paradise Classico, Nuevo (well they classify it sort of central Italy, sort of "remade for the American (second wave) market and cutting through dairy", the old CCC Rustico, etc.) Illy IIRC is actually all Arabica as well, so technically even Italy has treated 100% Arabica as the premium option for a good long while now. Though I still think robusta shouldn't be dismissed so readily for a blend (I'll give you the Indian Sitara 100% Robusta I tried a decade ago is....an acquired taste....and mouthfeel....)

5. I think Monoliths are just special/different in general in their design. I'm not sure the rules of a commercial grinder could really apply to it's design. It's a single doser's dream, that's for sure. I single dose my K10 well enough, but, I admit if I were more heavily into single dosing, I'd lust for a Monolith. It's purpose built for being used one way, in a particular environment, after all. I still laugh at the grinder thing. The threads and threads and threads all written on recommending conicals, and "if you can't afford the K10/Robur/Kony" the F8/Major/Max/whatever is still really great too!" type advice has reversed into "F8/Major/Max just runs circles around K10/Robur/Kony!" And the prices follow.... :roll:

6. Well, I can't disagree on a "roasting revolution", if for no other reason there hasn't been that strong a focus on roasting equipment like with brewing. It's not as marketable and exciting. But it's also a wild west ripe for development. So that part is probably true. But I still hold that all the gizmos and tools and measurements that do admittedly contribute to learning are not practical for using. They may be a helpful part of the quest to learn about coffee and ultimately lead to roast improvements, but I still don't think they have a long lived practicality in actual daily espresso prep. Fun toys for enthusiasts and those studying coffee to enhance it. Not practical for actual production cafes, except for trendy places that want to show off how much dedication they put into each cup. The same kind of places that thought 20g in a 14g basket, that now think 90 seconds over a uniform bed of green beans with a twist of lime is a good idea.

The moment I saw the envied grinder of choice became a shop grinder with bag clamps was the moment I recognized specialty coffee went waaay over the deep end. 10 years from now we'll be hearing the praises of pre-grinding your coffee at least a week before use so the beans can "properly rest and settle to develop the flavors as the oils dry." :twisted:
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C-Antonio

#29: Post by C-Antonio »

TheMadTamper wrote: technically even Italy has treated 100% Arabica as the premium option for a good long while now. Though I still think robusta shouldn't be dismissed so readily for a blend
There is a lot of marketing in it... internet hasnt helped there, spreading the idea that just going with Arabica means better coffee, no mention of quality... but we still use a lot of Robusta in our blends.
I think that leaving behind the Robusta just ends helping the bad quality crops that get bought for cheap by big roasters, if noone else is willing to pay a good price for good quality Robusta just because its not that popular.


Some go 100% Arabica and roast very dark because they are looking for a certain flavor, maybe they would find it roasting lighter and blending in some good Robusta...
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

OldNuc

#30: Post by OldNuc »

There are some roasters here in the US that are roasting 100% robusta that is not suggested for straight espresso or any other espresso based drink. They claim a cherry and chocolate flavor and not bitter. I have pulled it as a straight espresso and it is not bad at all. I does not smell or taste like burning tires either. 8)

The requirement for 100% Arabica is just another fad that is ripe for reversal.