Favorite Espresso Blends 2010 - Page 11

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#101: Post by RapidCoffee »

Zoka Paladino Espresso (roasted June 25, tested July 4)
coffee dose: 15.6g
brew ratio: 68-71% (shot volume 40ml, espresso weight 22-23g)
shot time: 30-35 sec after appearance of espresso on bottom of basket
temperature range: 88C-93C (190.4-199.4F) in increments of 1C

Grinder: Robur with doser and (full) mini-hopper.
Espresso machine: La Spaziale S1 V1, no preinfusion, blind basket brew pressure 9.25bar, 53mm double basket, bottomless portafilter.
Ground coffee into tared basket and adjusted dose to exactly 15.6g.
Very brief WDT stir with needle, then tamped to ~30#.
Pulled shots into prewarmed shot glass on tared digital scale, stopping at ~40ml/30sec/blonding.
Visually, all pours were good to excellent.
For tasting, poured shot glass into prewarmed demitasse cup. Sampled straight, then with 1/2t sugar, then with small amounts (1-3oz) of microfoamed milk.

Tasting notes
Slightly bitter, slightly earthy, but otherwise mild and well balanced.
Slight soda acidity with sugar.
Milk chocolate, brown sugar and some fruitiness with milk.

Bitterness and soda acidity down, fruitiness up.
Milk chocolate, brown sugar, and cashew flavors in cappuccino.

More fruit, especially with sugar.
Milk chocolate, caramel and nut flavors with milk.

Good, mild, balanced shot.
Really nice fruity acidity, especially with sugar.
Excellent mild cappuccino, with milk chocolate, brown sugar, and cashew flavors.

Slightly sour but still a very good shot, increasing fruitiness.
Excellent juicy fruit cappuccino.

Definite sourness in straight shots.
Still makes a decent cappuccino (but this is as low as I go).

Zoka Paladino was a new blend for me, and I'm happy to report that I really enjoyed it. Paladino is a classic espresso roast: mild, balanced, sweet, with milk chocolate and nut flavors that emerge in milk drinks. It is an exceptionally fruity blend, initially orange peel but morphing into more generic fruitiness as the roast ages.

I liked Paladino best at slightly lower brew temperatures, around 90C (my Spaz S1 settings). That (plus a bit of sugar) really highlights the fruitiness. Paladino seems to respond best to moderate updosing and ristretto pours, although it is a fairly forgiving blend.

This blend was excellent after 5-6 days of rest, and probably peaked within the first week. By the time of testing (9-10 days post-roast), some of the fruit flavors had faded.

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#102: Post by another_jim »


INTRODUCTION: Zoka is one of the original 3rd wave roasters; and Paladino is their flagship espresso blend, used extensively in barista competition. When I first had it at the Seattle SCAA five years ago, it was a quintessential chocolate bomb blend; but as with all the competition blends, it has evolved away from that. The flavors it has now are a lot more attention grabbing.

TASTE DESCRIPTION: The dominant flavors are mandarin orange on top with cinnamon-cocoa beneath. Accompanying these are notes of orange peel, chocolate, and smokey distillates. The chocolate note is stronger when the coffee is 4 to 5 days old, and recedes as the coffee gets older. The sweetness is balanced but not overly pronounced. Low dose shots are marred by light body, higher temperature ones by the citrus peel astringency.

  • Temperatures should be kept low, below 200F for all shots, to avoid citrus peel astringency.
  • There are tasty shots at all doses, but no completely perfect ones. Low dose shots have an even balance of orange, cinnamon and chocolate, but are light bodied. Higher dose shots have a creamy body, but the orange flavor become overly dominant.
  • Low dose shots should be made ristretto, higher dose ones at normal flow rates.
  • Paladino requires a fine grind: you need about 1.5 grams more Paladino than a straight Brazil to get the same flow at a fixed grinder setting. This means you really need to choke down the grind to get a low dose ristretto, getting close to the powder consistency of a Turkish grind.
WHO SHOULD BUY IT: The roast is as light as it gets for espresso blends. If you have entry level equipment, you will have issues with sour and citrus peel astringent shots. The blend requires a very fine grind, and has a tendency to channel unless meticulously distributed. Beginning baristas will have a hard time getting consistent shots. However, the taste of shots outside the sweet spot is not terrible, just somewhat ragged. So while beginners shouldn't expect to get consistent shots from Paladino, they won't get punished for trying to improve their skills with it.
Jim Schulman

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#103: Post by cannonfodder »

Zoka is a new roaster for me. Being a west coast roaster and me on the opposite coast, the transit and shipping cost are usually prohibitive. My Zoka arrived on July 2nd but was roasted and shipped on June 25th. It spent 7 days in transit.

I cannot add much to what has already been said about Paladino. On my equipment, La Cimbali MAX grinder and the Elektra A3, I found that my preferred extraction parameters were very close to those of Chris's second sweet spot. I was running 19 grams for 198-199F with a 26 second shot. My espresso was 29.3 grams extracted. That puts it in the 63% brew ratio range. That yielded a light citrus and berry cup with medium acidity and buttery, coating texture. I had started at lower doses and higher temperatures but the shots tended to get bitter and astringent. A down side to that buttery coating cup is when your shots are off, that bitter astringent taste just lingers.

In a cappuccino the citrus was still there but the chocolate flavors came forward yielding a cup that tasted of chocolate orange candies. Kind of reminded me of a dark chocolate and Grand Marnier ganache, quite tasty.

The coffee appeared to have more to offer, unfortunately spending 7 days in a UPS truck traveling across the country in record heat was not kind to the coffee. I wish I could have started enjoying this coffee about 3 days earlier. Over the next couple of days the coffee degraded quick and the fruity acidity faded away. Another reason I tend to not order from the west coast, by the time the coffee arrives it can be past its prime and the summer heat accelerates the staling of the coffee.

For its short life, I enjoyed Paladino. It was relatively easy to pull and the citrus and fruit flavors go well with a hot summer's day. It was not overly complex but very enjoyable. I would purchase it as part of my regular rotation but that shipping time takes a toll on the coffee. Maybe once fall and winter arrive I will revisit it as the cold temperatures will help to sustain the coffee as it travels across the country.
Dave Stephens

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#104: Post by HB »

Daterra, North Italian Style Espresso

George Howell's Terroir Coffee has been discussed in threads on the effects of aging / staling, but there's been precious little commentary on his coffees. This review focuses on the Daterra Northern Style Espresso, which is described "as an espresso, it has a floral, cocoa- almond aroma. The cup is elegant, smooth, of one piece from first contact to aftertaste. It is honey textured, extra-sweet and lively, with notes of mellow clean fruit, chocolate, nuts and refined butter-marzipan. Other brewing methods produce a rich very mellow, low acid cup with complex nutty-chocolate flavors."
Dan Kehn

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#105: Post by another_jim »


INTRODUCTION: Terroir's Northern Italian is an estate blend -- a selection of different coffees grown on the Daterra estates, each processed in a different way. The blend includes wet, dry and pulp natural processed coffees. In the year it was introduced, 2006, the blend won the World Barista Championship. In those days, it stood out as something completely different -- a crisp shot with breathtaking levels of acidity in a world of heavy and somewhat dull tasting smoke and chocolate blends. It is a testament to its success that it now has imitators, and is no longer an outlier in terms of acidity and clarity. The Black Cat and Paladino we reviewed previously are much closer in style to this Daterra blend than they are to the Black Cat and Paladino of old. In the world of top end espresso, Terroir's Northern Italian set off a major trend.

HOME ROASTING INFORMATION: Daterra is sold as a green blend for home roasters. As is normal with Terroir's green coffee offerings, the prep is flawless.
When a coffee is sold both green and roasted, it is an opportunity for home roasters to improve their skills and broaden their style by learning to duplicate the taste of the shop roast as closely as they can. The Terroir roast is distinctly lighter colored ground than whole bean, showing that the bean centers are much less caramelized than their surfaces. This indicates a roast that goes from the start of the first crack, when caramelization begins, to the finish, at a fast clip. The tradition in espresso is to slow this roast phase down, in order to get a tightly focused taste for each bean, and to use different origins to get different flavors. Finishing fast, with a hotter environmental temperature, and taking the bean surface darker, lets the same beans display a wider range of origin and roast flavors. So faster finishes are a good way to widen the flavor range of coffees.

TASTE DESCRIPTION: This is not a coffee with bold flavors that stand out. Instead, it is crisp, understated and flawless. The range of flavors are typical of Daterra coffees and other COE Brazils: delicate florals, citrus, marzipan, and lightly caramelized sugars, accompanied by a cream soda mouthfeel. As is usual for Terroir coffee, the coffee has tremendous clarity, with no musty or flawed flavors. In this case the clarity is used to highlight the blend's subtle and understated flavors.

  • The temperature must be kept low, 88C to 90C (190 to 195) to avoid lemon peel astringency
  • Higher doses and faster flowing shots are citrus intensive, lower doses and more ristretto shots favor a bland creamy almond
  • The sweet spot is a low to medium dose, with a just slightly lower than normal flow.
WHO SHOULD BUY IT: This blend celebrates clarity, subtle understatement, and a crisp but restrained acidity. It lives in an alternative universe where the taste criteria for brewed coffee and espresso are the same. So this Daterra cups and makes shots with almost the same flavors and balance. The blend requires a good quality grinder and a machine that can make shots at the low end of the temperature range, but it flows well and doesn't require expert manual skills. If you enjoy coffees like COE Brazils or Huehuetenangos brewed, you will enjoy this coffee as espresso.

A NOTE ON FRESHNESS: Terroir doesn't ship their espresso blends coffee on roast days, instead it ships when the order is received from coffees in stock. The packages are labeled with a roast date and a "best by" date roughly 3 months later. We received the coffees roasted on the 22 June on the 30th, 8 days post roast. The tasting went on for a week, so to 15 days post roast. I cupped a portion I froze on receipt against the coffee I had been trying for the last week. There was only the slightest hint of a difference, with some of the low notes missing in the older coffee. The espresso shots of the two ages were within the zone of shot to shot taste variation. Therefore, while I don't think this is a great practice, the Northern Italian ages gracefully enough that it isn't an issue if you use it up within a week.
Jim Schulman

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#106: Post by malachi »

Every now and then someone asks me what the best espresso I've had is.
And I tell them that I've kept a mental list of the top 5 espresso drinks of my life for years now - updating it as new experiences come my way.

How is this relevant to my review of the Terroir Daterra Northern Italian?
Because #4 on that list is a shot of this coffee from 2005 that was pulled for me by Troels Overdal Poulsen. It was a stunning shot - with beautifully integrated caramel and fluffy marzipan, some light chocolate for structure and wonderful vanilla and orchid aromatics.

Sadly I've only had this coffee once in the 5 years since that shot.
So you can imagine how happy I was that we'd be reviewing it.

The first thing I need to note (both as a caveat and some background) is that I didn't get the coffee until 14 days post roast. Now... I know that people keep talking about this "trend" towards long rest times with espresso but I'm still a skeptic. None the less... the reality is that I'm on the West Coast, and the coffee is 2 weeks old. So I'm working with what I've got here.

The advantage of this delay is that I started pulling shots after others had already posted their results. So I was able to start from their directions and parameters. But after tasting the shots at the parameters others had arrived at - I decided to continue to experiment to see if I could find any better options.

My results ran something as follows (in order):

Low temp, downdose, ristretto ratio extraction - imagine sour-patch kid syrup. sacharine sweetness, citric-acid sourness, super concentrated flavor. Very hollow - with no bitterness and no balance.

Middle temp, downdose, ristretto ratio extraction - concentrated bitter / sour alcoholic. Like hot limoncello -- but less sweet.

High temp, downdose, ristretto ratio extraction - flat, bitter, dark spice, burnt chocolate. Unpleasant.

High temp, neutral dose, short / fast normale extraction - smooth, chocolate dominant, marzipan finish, hints of spice, vanilla aromatics.

Middle temp, neutral dose, short / fast normale extraction - harsh, mexican chocolate, burnt lemon rind.

Low temp, neutral dose, short / fast normale extraction - very sour, acidic, thin, paint thinner.

Of these various options, only two were what I would describe as drinkable. The "prescribed" parameters (low temp, downdose, ristretto ratio) resulted in espresso that was interesting and different and unique but to my taste flawed. The high temp, neutral dose normale ratio extraction was my personal favorite. While not as interesting or unique, it was far more drinkable, far more balanced (and works in milk unlike the alternative).

Low temp, downdose, ristretto ratio:

I've tasted a number of espressos that go for the concentrated "sweet and tart candy syrup" profile. The first was back in 2004 or so at the Nordic Barista Cup in Iceland. Ritual here in SF also does espresso of this profile. It's never been a personal favorite of mine due to what I perceive as a lack of balanced and completeness. These shots are interesting and different but there is no way I could drink them for (to give an example) 3 days in a row (much less every day).

Compared to the other espressos out there that go for this profile (some of the Scandinavian coffees, Ritual, etc), the Terroir is finicky and difficult and has even less body than the norm (already quite low). The shot is dominated by very strong lemon and kumquat syrup flavors that are so concentrated that they start to verge into artificial flavoring territory. The espresso is also very very sweet - in a corn syrup or perhaps simple syrup manner. The sweetness has no fruit or cane or caramel or molasses notes. There are hints of marzipan in the body and some simple aromatics of vanilla and lemon zest.

On my machine, these shots were extracted at:
- 196f (lower temps resulted in shots with decreased perceived sweetness and shocking acidity)
- 16g (LM OEM double)
- 1.5oz
- 29s

High temp, neutral dose, short / fast normale ratio:

My preferred extraction, this yielded shots that were strongly dominated by chocolate flavors, with vanilla and agricole rum aromatics and fluffy marzipan and tropical spice finish. While these shots were quite flat - lacking any acidity - they were good tasting.

In some ways, with this profile the espresso became more traditional - more "Italian" in profile. The shots reminded me of what you would get from a good coffee bar in Florence or Pisa. Simple, uncomplicated, undemanding, good tasting.

This is not an interesting profile. But it is smooth and round (albeit unbalanced due to the lack of acidity). It's good in short milk drinks. It's something I could, in fact, drink 3 days in a row without a problem and without suffering palate fatigue. It's simple, enjoyable.... it tastes good.

These shots on my machine were extracted at:
- 202f
- 17g (LM OEM double)
- 1.75oz
- 21s

This coffee is definitely nothing like what I tasted back when it was first released. It's too bad. I honestly don't know how much is due to the age of the coffee. To me - it tastes distinctly stale. At 15 days post roast, the stale flavor was most noticeable once the acidity was tamed in the espresso. At 16 days post roast, the stale, flat notes were clearly discernable in all shots and were clearly visible in the shots (quickly dissipating crema, early blonding). Knowing how staling impacts coffee flavor, however, I can't help but believe that the age of the coffee isn't contributing significantly to the lack of the caramel and marzipan flavors that used to dominate this coffee. And I'm reasonably sure it's not creating the overwhelming sweet / tart effect either. I'd love to taste this coffee at the higher temp profile when 5 days post roast - just to see.

This coffee is also without a doubt the hardest coffee to work with that we've tested. The two sweet spots that I found that yielded drinkable shots were both very narrow, and small deviations resulted in terrible espresso. Deviations of brew temp or dose or flow were all very problematic.

I think this is one of those coffees where, if you love things that are new and different and exciting - and just want to try a new flavor or experience (regardless of how "good" it tastes) - then you might enjoy playing with a pound of so of this espresso. Of course... you'll want to have very good barista skills. And equipment that is very well controlled. Otherwise it's probably a pass for most home baristas.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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#107: Post by shadowfax »

Terroir Daterra North Italian Style Espresso

Terroir is a wholly new experience for me; I've never ordered coffee from George Howell's company before. Given what I'd read about Howell and Terroir, I was really looking forward to experiencing this coffee for the first time. As Chris and Jim noted, Daterra arrived to many of us rather later than the other coffees we've reviewed. While I don't have the experience with the fresh coffee to say it didn't lose much character as it aged from 8-10 days several days beyond that, in my experience Daterra had plenty of nuance with the rest time it had when I received it. That said, cupping it yielded a flat cup with some nice wood tones on the low end, good sweetness and little I could identify in the high end. In a siphon brewer (I used a 3-cup with a thoroughly rinsed paper filter, 24 g. coffee, 45s. steep time, ~45-55s draw down), the cup livened up nicely. The same wood tones from the cupping held up the bottom again, the sweetness seemed honeyed, but now a nice new note of vanilla and a nice balance of citrus acidity.

Approaching Daterra as espresso, I was expecting to need a low dose and low temperature. I was surprised to find that on my setup (GS3 w/ Synesso ridgeless double basket and Nino/Baratza Vario grinders), these parameters didn't fare well. With low temperatures ranging from ~195°-197°F (at doses from about 15.5g to 18g), shots were consistently dominated by lemon-lime tartness and lacking sufficient sweetness to be palatable, even at ristretto ratios.

On the GS3, the sweet spot fell at a medium-low temperature (198°-199°F), a dose of a neutral 17.5-18g, and a brew ratio in the slight ristretto range of 65-70%. Shots in this range had again aromatic wood tones and vanilla, a hint of almond/nuttiness, really nice sweetness, subtle notes of lemon acidity, a soft, slightly creamy body; a good, indeed flawless shot, but very much understated, like a shot that's all nuance.

High doses and higher temperatures yielded lemon rind and bitter flavors. Low doses across most temperatures and anything but tight ristretto flows favored extraction flaws that showed up in the cup as sourness and often astringence; this phenomenon made me wonder if the coffee would have yielded a tamer brightness at lower temperatures and doses in a smaller double basket with a lower "neutral" dose, but I don't have one currently to try my experiment. Overall, Daterra seemed to have a tight sweet spot whose best shots were mild and subtle. As Jim said, the coffee is flawless. And it makes a good shot of espresso: but it's not outstanding.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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#108: Post by HB »

This concludes the formal review of Espresso Paladino - Zoka Coffee and Daterra North Italian Style Espresso - Terroir Coffee.

For those who wish to add their results for these two coffees, this thread will remain unlocked until the start of the next review cycle in approximately one week. The next two coffees will be announced in Nominees for "Favorite Espresso Blends" review.
Dan Kehn

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#109: Post by malachi »

"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin


#110: Post by Richard » replying to malachi »

Why are reviewers receiving and then reviewing coffees two weeks out of the roaster? This would seem to negate anything that might otherwise be helpful and informative about the coffee(s) in question.
Richard J. Wyble