Levers and SO coffee

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
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srobinson

Postby srobinson » Dec 17, 2005, 12:52 am

I wanted to start a new thread to talk about enjoying Single Origin coffees on the lever machines. I am beginning to believe that a great lever and a SO is a decedent combination. Tony over at Caffe Fresco had send me some great Datera Reserve that he is working on. Chuck has tempted me twice with some outstanding Yemen and Dave (rockygag) just sent me some great Tanzania AAA that is peaking right now. Tony has some new coffee coming to me and Chuck has promised me a refill in the new year and will try to put up some good posts on what I am currently drinking. I wanted to share with you some pics of Dave's homeroasting prowess since his coffee is peaking right now.

Here are the notes on this one from Sweet Marias:

Notes: It's good to have a little background information on Tanzanian coffees; A good Tanzanian coffee from the North can be a treat, but many lots that arrive in the U.S. never had a chance. The Northern coffees are grown near Kenya (Mt. Kilimanjaro) and bear that out in the cup: more acidity, lighter body. But the Southern district coffees from the mountains of the northeast rim of Lake Malawi are full bodied, have milder acidity, and extremely long in the aftertaste. The problem with Tanzanian Peaberry has less to do with where it is from and the original cup quality it possesses. Poor cup character is the result of poor transportation routes to port, and while at port the shipping container that is delayed from leaving the country can bake the coffee in the humid, blistering sun ...not good. So even a good Tanzanian coffee can go bad en route. The result are harsh, baggy flavors in the cup. This flatbean coffee shows none of that, and is a sweet coffee without much of the characteristic East African hidey character. What amazed me is I cupped this with a table of 17 Auction Lot Kenyas (the powerhouse E. African coffee) and it was my favorite. What struck me was this very aromatic Dutch cocoa quality in the cup, which really came out alongside some very citrusy, acidic Kenyas. It has vanilla hints, moderate brightness and a lighter body than last years crop. There are floral (rose) aromas as it cools to, and the chocolate -vanilla quality remains lively and soft (not bittersweet or harsh). This lot can really take a wide range of roasts and display a slightly different character in each, from a bright, light-bodied City roast to a pretty pungent Vienna, I would say it has multiple personalities but in a way this lends itself to the craft of roasting, and your interpretation of the coffee! I plan on having some real fun in the Probat with this one...


Here's a view of Dave's handiwork...smaller size bean and a not a full roast. Dave I will let you append on how you tackled this bean:

Image

As it got to me it still needed some degassing, but it really came together today. As an espresso shot, I am getting very good crema and a bit lighter color than the heavier blends that I use as a daily coffee. The body on this is light, with a good earthy undertone and a light chocolate/vanilla aftertaste that really stays with you. It will take a tighter grind (8 on the Rocky...reference point is 10 for Black Cat) and on the Olympia I did my deeper older basket, about a 12 second pre-infusion and about one and a quarter pull.

Image

So my challenge to the board is to see if we can do some education on coffee instead of just machines. Dan has a coffee forum, but I would like to see what you are drinking, how you are pulling them and if you are home-roasting how are your treating your SOs. News about blends are fine, but I have a selfish interest in SOs. So let's pay it forward and use this as an opportunity to educate everyone on what you are drinking.
Steve Robinson

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another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Dec 17, 2005, 4:18 pm

I use only the Peppina for "espresso-cupping" since the clearer taste helps.

Rockygag

Postby Rockygag » Dec 19, 2005, 10:13 am

Some Comments on the Tanzania:

It was roasted in a SC/CO combination. The heater on the SC is disabled. I roast in a garage with the door open. The ambient happened to be much lower than usual here in Houston, around 50F or so. I do not preheat the SC/CO as a general rule, but in this case, I had done a batch before.

Right now, I am roasting more or less based only on what I see/smell/hear. I do have a digital thermometer, and I have tried to get a few profiles together, but with the kit I have I have never been able to get really consistent temperature control. ( Think VARIAC in the near future, look for dead band in the forums!) . That said my roasting method is turn CO to 500 and let the beans ramp to just the first noise of first crack, power off, lift lid, listen till cracks just die, then add some heat, repeat until end of first crack. --- Once the first is over, back to full heat. --- Second starts, for this SO roasting for someone I didn't know, I decided to stop at what I thought was full city. From Steve's comments, it seems to be a good guess. I am clearly not a pro at this, but I do look at SM's color cards, and that seems about right in comparison. For my self with this coffee, and most others in fact, I go just a touch past the end of second. I use the same add heat lift lid method. I like the oil just to show on a small percentage of beans. For those of you who home roast, I try to stop just at the end of the first wave of acrid smoke. ( If you don't roast, that's a really tough one to explain ) So I try to stretch the gap between first a second a bit. ---- Steve asked for a SO, so I sent him one. However, for my self, I really prefer about 25% Indian coffees with the balance African to make my espresso blend.

The Indian is a mix of 1/2 robusta and half Monsooned malabar. That, I roast MUCH lighter than the base coffee. Say just into rolling first crack.

I cool the beans on a cookie baking sheet.

Degassing is in silver (mylar?) valve bags.

I find that I do have to grind finer as the coffee ages, the Oly seems to take a little finer grind than the Gaggia. I have a Mazzer at home, and in general I think the coffee at home is better than at work where I have a Rocky/Expobar. I was grinding too coarse until I won the coffees off this site for my entry into their last contest. Counter culture sent some great SO coffees, and I was getting crap crema, and then I started tweaking the grind. I am two clicks finer on Rocky and about 12 degrees on the mazzer than when I started. ( This confirms the conventional wisdom, Fresh beans, Great grinder, any machine = good in the cup )

Hope the holiday season treats you all well.

Best;

Dave

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KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Dec 19, 2005, 11:19 am

H,,
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KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Dec 28, 2005, 9:08 pm

srobinson wrote:I wanted to start a new thread to talk about enjoying Single Origin coffees on the lever machines. I am beginning to believe that a great lever and a SO is a decedent combination.

In support of Steve's desire to develop a thread on enjoying SO coffees and lever machines i can report the following tonight. Before I proceed I must point out that it is often said that telling university profs what to do is like herding cats. I am not as requested going to post pics of either the beans or the shots. Following my own post suggesting we all need to learn how better to express in words what we taste I will describe the coffee in question and what I taste.

The coffee tonight was Sulawesi Toraja Grade 1 from Sweet Marias roasted on Monday afternoon. It was roasted slowly in a Hottop to a Medium French Roast of 18.3% weight loss. All three shots were done with ca 7 gm (not weighed) in a standard Elektra single 49-mm basket. The first shot ran a bit too fast at ca. 19 sec. The dominant flavor was of a stony quality. There was little aroma from the cup. The finish was best of all with a clear but simple chocolate quality. The second shot ran also as fast although I had set the Mazzer finer. Obviously less tamp pressure. The color of the crema was actually darker as is usual with my Elektra. Either finer grind or heavier tamp make for darker crema. Flavor in the mouth was similar to the stones of the first with less chocolate in the finish. The third shot was again more finely ground and the tamp was a bit heavier. The aroma of this one was much better. Clear aromatics. The time of the shot was a much better 30 sec. I find that time of shot on an Elektra with its pre-set spring pressure is quite important. In this shot I was able to get more complexity of flavor. The stones were still there but now they were accompanied by a vegetable flavor close to potato but not quite that. I want to say rutabaga but I am not confident I know rutabaga well enough. These were all quite nice espressi. They did not reach the transparency of the best but they surely were heading in the direction of singular distinction. They tasted like coffee grown in some definite place more specifiable than "Indonesia." This one set invites me to work through several days of a Sulawesi. I do not have more of this batch but will return for more observation

KS
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KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Dec 29, 2005, 8:52 pm

A different SO this evening. This one was a SM's Brazil Fazenda Santa Helena. This is a natural pulped coffee as recommended by malachi in his SO tasting notes. Mine was roasted on Monday as the Sulawesi above. This was reduced 17.8% by weight so not as "dark" as the Sulawesi.

First cup was pulled in a good time of 30 sec. The first sip was incredible. Immediately there was this wonderful chocolate essence. Not really in the aroma but in the beginning of the sip and through the end of the first sip and through the final two sips. So very different from the Sulawesi. This one is all chocolate. No stones, no root vegetable flavor. The Sualwesi had a thick somewhat muddled taste quite appropriate with vegetables. The Brazil had no such soft thickness. It was utterly clear and focused chocolate. This was by far the best Brazil SO I have ever tasted. The first Brazil to excite me. Finally I get a glimpse of why malachi praises them. It is now 20 + minutes after the third cup and there is still this delightful delicate chocolate taste in my mouth.

The second cup was a similar 30 sec pull. As almost always no match of quality. Everything was lightened. Nothing bad but overall lacking. I think the major issue was heat. As anyone who follows the Elektra story knows there is a lingering heat problem. I noticed that the coffee was hotter in the cup than the first one.

The third cup was a comparative disaster. As Steve has noted the Elektra is unforgiving with overdosing. I overdosed and was not forgiven. Realizing my mistake I tamped harder and got the pf locked in place. But then the pull was too slow. So as my recent habit, when I note a slow flow I do a second pull on the lever because it allows for faster flow. But the result was thin and too hot.

One exciting shot.

KS
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KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Dec 30, 2005, 8:50 pm

Still another SO this evening. This was a SM's Yemen Mokha Sana'ani roasted a bit darker than my usual - to 19.6% weight loss. This one has rested over 4 days and is near the peak for Yemeni beans which seem to me to get to their peak more slowly.

First shot was my usual in a single basket and a target 25 sec from the time I release the lever until it reaches the top of its travel. I usually do a 10 - 12 sec pre-infusion. I prefer to see a few drips before I release the lever. No distinctive aroma before the first sip but there was pleasant aroma. The sip was pure Yemen and I must confess my favorite of all flavors for espresso. I think one has to separate weight of the coffee from concentration of flavor. This is a somewhat light-bodied feel in the mouth. But the intensity or concentration of flavor is superb. In wine one hears the phrase "iron fist in a silk glove." That is the Sana'ani I had tonight. Also Yemeni SO's have a complexity of flavor that far surpasses either the Sulawesi or the Brazil of the past two evenings. The Sulawesi had a clear but simple stone/root vegetable taste and the Brazil had pure chocolate which was in its simplicity closer to Herseys than to fine Belgian or Swiss chocolate. The Yemen has layers. It does not need anything added. All one want to do here is as I suggested elsewhere to let the character of the bean itself fully and clearly express itself. Richard Olney says the same kind of thing about roast beef. Good beef roasted properly needs no marinade, no flavorings. It is by itself as good as it can be. Other meats get better with marinades or herb flavorings. So do many coffees get better by blending. Not Yemeni beans in my experience.

For the second cup I concentrated on getting as close to the first as possible. I succeeded rather well. Another 25 sec. pull and another classic Yemeni SO espresso.

So for the third I decided to experiment. But wanting only a small change I decided to leave the grinder as is and to tamp harder. I got a slower pull to no surprise of 35 sec. The crema was indeed darker. And most different of all was the taste. There was more weight in the coffee itself. In addition there was a softer texture. I am wondering if this is part of the much reported mouth feel. Added to the heavier weight and softer taste profile was for me a decrease of clarity in taste. The complexity was less dramatic. Like a picture just a tad out of focus. I have to admit preferring the first two shots.

KS
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KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Jan 05, 2006, 9:06 pm

KarlSchneider wrote:Another thing I have noted is that my SO preferences do not extend to dry processed Brazil's. I have about 4 recent SM Brazils and I have yet to get an espresso shot from them I really like. They seem dull and lacking structured flavors as do the blends coming from the lever.


Although this was true when I wrote it I must now revise my comments. Last week I roasted a Brazil Fazenda Santa Helena. This week I am drinking Sul de Minas Yellow Bourbon. These are natural pulped Brazil coffees. The other two Brazil's I refer to are not natural pulped. These two latest batches were also roasted darker than hitherto. This is always a dilemma for me. I know i prefer darker roasts. But others often recommend lighter roasts. I give in (to the "experts") and roast less dark. And almost always am disappointed. These latest two Brazils have been roasted dark enough. And I have to admit that I love the taste. It is exciting. In both cases the taste is dominated by chocolate. They are quite different chocolates but emphatically chocolate even if also delicate. They still lack the full complexity of a Yemen but in their own place they are wonderful. And until two weeks ago I had missed this.

Was it malachi who said, "The problem is on the near side of the roaster."

KS
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espressoperson

Postby espressoperson » Jan 06, 2006, 12:36 am

KarlSchneider wrote:This is always a dilemma for me. I know i prefer darker roasts. But others often recommend lighter roasts. I give in (to the "experts") and roast less dark. And almost always am disappointed.


There was no dilemma when I first started roasting. Sweet Maria's Monkey from morning till after lunch, then Donkey afternoon and evening. Typically roasted 30 sec into 2nd, sometimes just to beginning of 2nd, and very occasionally to rolling 2nd for a Vienna plus or French roast.

Then I decided to explore varietals. Tom offers wonderful beans and wonderful sounding descriptions of coffees from around the world. They were too tempting to pass up. I started buying and using them but I decided to pursue the varietal taste, which to me meant a divergence from espresso. The best roast level (and even style of roasting) for maximizing varietal taste seems to be different than for espresso in many if not most SOs. Much as I love espresso and prefer it as my first choice of drink, I started to roast the SOs for brewing French press, vacuum, and Americanos. Of course I am still consuming my share of Monkey and Donkey as espresso.

I am just now on the verge of wanting to explore the SOs as espresso. I have been pulling SO shots from these varietals all along, but interestingly, because I am not trying to maximize them for espresso, I have no expectations. So the SO espresso experience has been more of an education in SO taste than than a pursuit of SO espresso excellence. Notable successes so far: Ethiopian Harar and Ghimbi, Yemen Ismaili, Sulawesi, Tanzania, Sumatra. Notable disappointments so far: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Costa Rica LM. Lots more varieties coming up soon but I am trying to use up these older first-in beans before moving on to the waiting Brazils, Panamas, and other later purchases.

I really appreciate your reports. My lack of response till now is more a reflection of lack of intelligent things to say rather than a lack of interest. I hope you will continue to share your experiences. One piece of information that I would find more useful than % weight loss would be the degree of roast relative to cracks. I think that would be more helpful information for me to relate to the degree of roast you are achieving.

KarlSchneider wrote:Was it malachi who said, "The problem is on the near side of the roaster."


I'm afraid you'll have to take the credit for that quote.
michaelb, lmwdp 24

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KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Jan 07, 2006, 12:29 pm

espressoperson said ...

I really appreciate your reports. My lack of response till now is more a reflection of lack of intelligent things to say rather than a lack of interest. I hope you will continue to share your experiences. One piece of information that I would find more useful than % weight loss would be the degree of roast relative to cracks. I think that would be more helpful information for me to relate to the degree of roast you are achieving.

Thanks for the encouragement. Allow me to disagree with the suggestion that you "lack intelligent things to say." Since I read your post two days ago i have been having an on-going discussion with you. Here is one of the parts.


"Then I decided to explore varietals. Tom offers wonderful beans and wonderful sounding descriptions of coffees from around the world. They were too tempting to pass up. I started buying and using them but I decided to pursue the varietal taste, which to me meant a divergence from espresso. The best roast level (and even style of roasting) for maximizing varietal taste seems to be different than for espresso in many if not most SOs. Much as I love espresso and prefer it as my first choice of drink, I started to roast the SOs for brewing French press, vacuum, and Americanos.

I have been thinking a lot about this proposal. What intrigues me is the fact that my experience is just the opposite. I find that the highest way to express the unique quality of an SO is precisely in an espresso. I love the concentrated essence of flavor I get from each separate coffee in espresso form. I also think a lever machine allows this expression of pure flavor essence better than other kinds of espresso machines (specifically my Giotto). When I try the same coffees in french press or Americani I find less pure expression of taste. I do still like SO's in Americani because I get to follow the tastes as the coffee cools and there is a whole story to be observed in that progression. But in espresso I love those two or three perfect sips and the long finish and echoing of the original.

As I wondered about our different preferences last night I happened to be listening to Wilhelm Furtwangler conducting Wagner's Trauermarsch. It was an incomparable performance. But I was also thinking of how I also love Toscanini conducting the same piece and it is so wholly different. I must have a dozen different performances of this music and they each have a distinct quality. I suspect the same difference applies to espresso.

In a different thread I have mentioned how I prefer a single basket / single pull for the espressi I make on my Elektra. This preference is driven by my focus on the creation of maximum individual coffee flavor. I do not focus on crema. I do not focus on thickness of mouthfeel. These differences of emphasis seem like the difference between Furtwangler and Toscanini and Chally each conducting the same Wagner music. The same piece can come out very differently.

So, at least for me you give much to think about.

KS
LMWDP # 008