Why not a ristretto? - Page 2

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#11: Post by Jasonian »

bcquinn1 wrote:I think ristrettos can be very limiting, and in many instances, are often compensating for poor green quality. Or, put differently, ristrettos often compensate for darker roasts, which are often compensating for poor green quality.

A traditional double - by traditional, I mean ~1.75 ounces of liquid pulled in ~25 seconds - pulled from high quality, lightly roasted beans can offer incredible nuances that make ristrettos taste dull and flat in comparison. You can get higher-toned flavors and aromas of citrus, berries, and flowers that are just crushed by the overwhelming mid-tone flavors in ristretto pulls. You appreciate the sense of balance and range in the coffee as well - those higher notes playing against the more "typical" flavors of chocolate, nuts, and tobaccos in the coffee.

I made a point about green quality, because ristrettos can also smooth out defects or detracting notes in a coffee. You can take a funky, fermented Yirg or an overwhelmingly earthy Sumatran, and knock down those flavors by roasting dark. You can also knock them down by overdosing the basket and tightening the grind. That high note of wild strawberry funk, and that deep note of wood and earth get knocked down - because, in my opinion and experience, the ristretto pull tends to underextract the higher and lower notes in a coffee.

And some coffees, in my opinion - even high quality coffees - taste terrible when pulled as a ristretto. Terroir's Southern Italian (yes, I mean the darker roast) tastes like ash when I push the dose into the 18-21g range. At 16g, you get a nice mellow cup with some great flavors of pecans and hazlenuts, with some chocolate and citrus on the edges. And in no way does that cup lack in flavor or intensity. It's just different.

I'd also say that in my experience, darker roasts and tighter pulls are actually easier to do at home than the more traditional double. Paradoxically, I find ristrettos FAR more tolerant of distribution issues than lighter doses and lighter roasts.

When I first got into higher quality espresso, I used to really like ristrettos. Lately, I find them to be pretty boring. I don't know if you're into wine at all, but for me, ristrettos remind of the whole California cab craze 10-15 years ago. You had these wines coming out with incredible body and extraction - thick, inky, tongue-coating wines. And some of those wines were great, but many were really relying on extraction to make up for lackluster / boring fruit flavors. They turned my head at the time because of the mouthfeel, but as time went by, I started to really appreciate the incredible finesse and clarity that a great Bordeaux or Burgundian wine offers, or a top quality California Pinot Noir. The latter three wines, for me, are the best analogy for what a great traditional double offers.

So, no, I don't think ristrettos should be the default pour at all.
...Who are you? Where have you been? And all this time, I've felt so alone. :lol:
Owner - AJ Coffee Company
HB Rocks!

psycho_supreme (original poster)

#12: Post by psycho_supreme (original poster) »

haha nice follow up Jasonian, I got a little giggle out of it.

On, a serious note, I'm totally blow away by how many people don't actually prefer the ristretto. I mean, all this espresso porn going around is all for the ristrettos. Maybe we need a little balance here.....


#13: Post by bcquinn1 »

...Who are you? Where have you been? And all this time, I've felt so alone.
Ha ha. Just an average home user who got hooked (and educated... and opinionated, I guess) at the original Rao's in Amherst and at Simon's in Cambridge. I've been lucky to have fairly easy access to excellent espresso. And the problem is that if you haven't had a good normale shot pulled for you, I think it's very natural to default to the ristretto. It's a very forgiving technique that produces predictable, if often bland results. And I think that predilection is reinforced in these forums, where the majority sings glorious praise to "thick" "gloppy" "honey-like" "yummy" shots.

But looking past peer influence, why do so many people gravitate to that profile? You can't argue taste - so apparently some drinkers just prefer that flavor profile. But the coffees used have to play a role as well. The more popular commercial coffees like Black Cat (a fairly dark roast), and all the home-roasters pushing Harrar and Sumatras and Monsooned Malabar... sure, push the roast and stuff the crap out of the basket. Because a normale made from a more gentle roast may shine too bright a light on what you're actually drinking. I'm definitely not the first guy to come to this opinion on roast and green quality - in the states, at least, the Barismo guys and Terroir have been banging this drum for some time now.

I hate to use another wine analogy, but the two major advancements in commercial wine production over the past fifty years have been:
1) improving fruit quality (e.g., improved sorting, reducing spoiled / underripe fruit and stems, restricting yields, etc.)
2) perfect production hygiene (e.g., avoiding bacterial contamination, temperature controlled fermentations, etc.)

BOTH to ensure the purest expression of the fruit and terroir of the growing environment. And I have to believe that coffee will eventually trend in the same direction. 2000 years ago, the Romans and other Mediterranean cultures started getting serious about viniculture in wine quality. But then in production, they often pushed the alcohol levels past 16% to help preserve it and kill off the remaining yeast, stored it in clay jars sealed with pitch (which often tainted the wine), and then, to cover up all the undesirable flavors they added, served it oxidized and sweetened with honey. Anybody else see the parallels here? Does anyone want some honey in that glass of Caymus?

At least they had an excuse - clay jars were fairly state-of-the-art as far as available transportation and storage vessels at the time. But 2000 years later, we still use jute bags...

Getting back on topic, I have nothing against the ristretto technique, but man, there's just a lot more out there.

Anyway, I'm glad my amateur ramblings have inspired some enthusiasm and experiments.

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#14: Post by Jasonian »

bcquinn1 wrote:
Ha ha. Just an average home user who got hooked (and educated... and opinionated, I guess) at the original Rao's in Amherst and at Simon's in Cambridge.
That explains it all. :)

There's a whole sub-movement in the direction you described. Barismo is probably the most blatant with it on a public blog, but there are others.

I think part of the reason you don't see much talk about it on HB type forums is because the green quality required just isn't easy to come by in the States, or anywhere for the home-roaster, for that matter. You have a few "espresso porn" gurus gushing about monsooned coffee, harrars, big body, syrupy texture, and chocolate, and all of a sudden it becomes the norm.

I'm sure you're aware of all of this already, but a little support never hurts, right?
Owner - AJ Coffee Company
HB Rocks!

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#15: Post by HB »

psycho_supreme wrote:Why isn't everybody striving to pull the gloppy, thick, flavor-exploding ristretto?
Lately my tastes have veered away from gloppy ristrettos and more towards borderline ristrettos / regular espressos (i.e., a brewing ratio of 60% instead of 100%). This change correlates with my developing interest in more nuanced / complex blends instead of "chocolate bar" blends made primarily for cappuccinos. I certainly enjoy a "gloppy, thick, flavor-exploding ristretto," but I also enjoy adapting the espresso preparation to explore the coffee's flavor profile.
Dan Kehn


#16: Post by greatinfusions »

I find it is easier to make a good espresso ristretto than a 2 - 3 oz pour.

It seems to me like making that classic full shot just can go astray somewhere between 1oz and 3oz.

My first shot (most important of the day) is always a 2.5 oz poured from a 14 gram basket and made into a cappa. It's consistently a good shot and once in a while a god shot. I never pour over 3 oz. Through the day when I make shots at the shop I will make 1oz ristrettos of pure crema and shoot em straight.

It's all good!
Sebastian Little
Coffee Beanery & Espresso Machinery