Favorite Espresso Blends 2010 - Page 13

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#121: Post by RapidCoffee »

My bags of Terroir Daterra arrived July 2, a week and a half after roasting. If you believe the package notes, this is not a problem.
Roasted 6/23, best before 9/21. :shock:

I declined to review the blend because I did not care for the lemon drop flavor profile. (My tasting notes were fairly close to those of Chris Tacy.) And yes, I thought it was past its prime within a day or two.


#122: Post by IMAWriter »

malachi wrote:two responses:

1 - counter-intuitively, with a lot of coffees - the best way to deal with aging is to coarsen the grind and increase the dose.
Thanks for that advice,. I'd actually forgotten that.
As regards Hairbender, though described as a "learning process' to paraphrase, would this coffee be amenable to a lever pull with my lovely Olympia Cremina?
Coarsening the grind seems to lead to more squirts than I got with my Anita years ago. Maybe due to the manual (and occasionally imprecise) nature of my technique.
Thanks for these wonderful reviews and descriptions. The love for all things coffee punches through like Robusta at a Quick Stop. :lol:

OT..I really miss this place(HB), but business and other things are making it difficult. Cheers to all.
LMWDP #187


#123: Post by CoffeeOwl »

It may be tough for as I remember Cremina likes not so high doses?

Regarding the OT, we miss you too!!!
'a a ha sha sa ma!

LMWDP #199

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#124: Post by HB »

49th Parallel, Epic Espresso

To-date, all the reviewed coffees are from roasters based in the U.S. With strong support from the membership to the north, 49th Parallel's Epic Espresso joins the other favorites. 49th Parallel describes their blend as a "culmination of our search for the sweetest and most complex espresso we can create. We work every day to improve it - always looking for the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The individual coffees change throughout the year as fresh crops become available, but you can always find the current recipe, and brewing tips."
Dan Kehn

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#125: Post by another_jim »


OVERALL TASTE DESCRIPTION: Cupping reveals a surprisingly brisk acidity for an espresso blend. The origin flavor is a profoundly winey pink grapefruit. The roast has clove and turbinado sugar, wth a very slight hint of almond. The tastes are mainly from the Kenya, but more rounded and gentler, due to the blended Centrals. There is a slight hump of dullness or unclarity in the middle of the taste profile, a papery/astringent note.

Shots have a tightrope narrow sweetspot of high dose, high temperature and medium/high flow where the cupping experience is reproduced and the papery astringency vanishes. My strong advice is to brew this blend before making shots, so you know the target of your taste shaping efforts. Moreover, the coffee is harder than usual to pack for a smooth flow, so use a naked PF initially to make sure.

The blend is much easier to use for cappas, since milk swallows the astringency and amplifies the roast flavors.

DOSAGE CHANGES: Lower doses bring out the dull paper/astringent taste. Avoid

TEMPERATURE CHANGES: At lower temperatures, the roast flavors of clove and brown sugar are lost, and the shot tastes less sweet. People who like a refined acidity and don't mind the lack of either roast or sweetness may enjoy low temperature shots, for me the balance is better at higher temperatures.

FLOW CHANGES: As the flow is moved towards ristretto, the grapefruit and white wine gradually disappear, and the blend loses its point. Stick to faster flow rates and normal brew ratios, unless you are very acid shy.

AGING: As the coffee ages, its roast tastes become more prominent, and its acidity decreases. To compensate, drop the shot temperature. The wineyness is lost after the first week.

WHO SHOULD BUY IT: Kenya is a notoriously difficult coffee to use for espresso, and when a roaster pulls it off, it's a rare treat for those who love both Kenyas and straight espresso, and rarely get both at once. This version of Epic is all about the Kenya, although it also has Bourbon and Villa Sarchi varietals in the blend. It should be tried by anyone who likes Kenya coffee or who wants to try working with difficult but rewarding blends.

A NOTE ON BLEND CHANGES: This is the second version of Epic we've tasted. The first had no Kenya in the blend and tasted quite different. Those who order it for the Kenya will need to move quickly, since Epic appears to showcase different coffees 49th Parallel likes for espresso, with blenders added only to round out the taste. Once the Kenya is gone, Epic will showcase a different coffee, and the blend will be a completely different experience.
Jim Schulman

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#126: Post by malachi »

Epic Espresso

(First - full disclosure time. After starting the review process I was hired to do some consulting work for 49th Parallel. I want to make sure that this potential conflict of interest is clear to all before writing about this coffee. As those who know me well can attest, if anything I'm harder on my clients than I am on other companies.)

So... I'm biased.
I prefer clean washed coffees.
Or to be more exact - I dislike coffees that taste "dirty" to me. As a result I tend to be biased against coffees that are naturally processed and semi-washed coffees. I tend to be very biased against almost all indonesian coffees and all monsooned and aged coffees.
And I prize coffees that have a clean transparency of flavour.

The Epic is exactly the sort of clean coffee that I'm biased towards.
That being said - there are tons of clean coffees I don't like. You see... unlike some coffee buyers out there, I don't prize clean above all else. I want clean - but with character and depth. A tough balancing act.

Does the Epic pull this off?
Yeah... actually it does.

The Epic is an unusual espresso. It's sort of the "anti comfort" blend if you will.
When we think "comfort blend" we think chocolate and dried fruit. We think rich and dense. We think easy to work with.
The Epic is none of these.
It's sweet - but rather than caramel or honey or molasses sweet we're talking fruit sweetness.
It's got tons of fruit - but not dried fruit or blueberry or stonefruit. Instead we're talking grapefruit and tangerine and cassis / red currant.
Instead of having a lingering heaviness on the palate it's crisp and clean in the aftertaste.
Instead of being easy to work with - it requires attention and discipline.

But for those of us who want something more than comfort in our coffee -- for those of us who want to be challenged by the coffee and want to graduate from "beginners' blends" -- the Epic is perhaps just the ticket.

Working with the epic requires two things IMHO.

First - the temperature range for the coffee is quite narrow. You need to keep the brew temp within a 2f range for the most part. At below 199f the shots become very sour and tart. At above 201f the shots become bitter and flat. And within that range you will find that small and subtle changes to the temp result in significant changes to the flavour profile. I'll detail these below.

Second - you need to know how to manage a consistent flow rate. With the Epic there seems to be a "correct" flow rate (regardless of dose or temp or ratio). Keeping this as a constant is the key to good results in the cup.

Obviously, managing small subtle changes in brew temp AND keeping a consistent flow rate is going to be hard for many home baristas on most home equipment. So, as noted, this is not a beginners' espresso.

Extraction suggestions:

The following are some suggested combinations for you to play with. I would suggest starting with some of these and then tuning to your own personal taste. Keep in mind that experimenting with this coffee is like driving fast on ice -- keep all your inputs subtle and well thought out in advance.

Option 1 -
65% ratio
neutral dose (19g in a Simonelli double basket)
Yields a shot that is dominated by a strong candied red grapefruit note. Very bright and lively on the palate. Wonderfully sweet. Finishes clean and crisp. Not ideal in milk.

Option 2 -
65% ratio
neutral dose (19g in a Simonelli double basket)
Now the grapefruit become more tangerine like. Get cassis and some leather in the body. Finishes with a nice red wine / cocoa powder note. Still a sweet tasting shot. Interesting creamsicle effect in short milk drinks.

Option 3 -
80% ratio
slight updose (20g in a Simonelli double basket)
The red currant has moved to the forefront with mandarin and grapefruit mostly in the aromatics. Leather and wine tannins in the body. Dutch processed cocoa and cassis finish. Less sweet but denser and more muscular.

Option 4 -
75% ratio
slight updose (20g in a Simonelli double basket)
This profile only becomes possible after more around 7 days rest post roast. Prior to that, the higher brew temp becomes bitter and grapefruit pith dominated. Once rested, this yields a balanced shot with strong cocoa and candied tangerine rind and currant notes. While less sweet and thus less enjoyable as a straight shot, this works very very well in short milk drinks.

Two quick side notes on this coffee.

1 - The coffee needs at least 5 days rest and to me hit its peak at 7 days post roast. Otherwise the shots are very acidic and unbalanced and unintegrated.

2 - While there are ways to make this espresso taste good in short milk drinks - it is absolutely best as a straight shot.

So... who would likely enjoy this coffee and who wouldn't?

If you like clean, sweet and crisp coffees you'll probably like this espresso a lot. If you like sweet citrus flavours in your cup you'll probably dig this.
If, on the other hand, you crave thick syrupy chocolate heavy shots and like sumatran and african natural coffees you'll probably not love this espresso. If you drink big milk drinks or don't want to mess around with precision in your barista technique you'll probably find this coffee frustrating.

For me.... it's in the top 3 of the coffees we've reviewed so far.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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#127: Post by RapidCoffee »

49th Parallel Epic Espresso Blend (roasted Aug 5, tested Aug 10)
coffee dose: 15.0g
brew ratio: 63-68% (shot volume ~40ml, espresso weight 22-24g)
shot time: ~30 sec after appearance of espresso on bottom of basket
temperature range: 89C-94C (192F-201F) 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 15.0g.
Very brief WDT stir with needle, then tamped to ~30#.
Pulled shots into prewarmed shot glass on tared digital scale, stopping at 45-50ml/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
Pithy bitterness overwhelms the flavor profile.

Drinkable straight shot, but on the bitter side.
Decent with milk.

Good straight shot, very little bitterness, some citrus sourness.
Sweet and fruity with sugar, yummy red grapefruit flavors.
Decent with milk (but better without).

Good straight shot, no bitterness, citrus sourness increasing.
Sweet and fruity with sugar, yummy red grapefruit flavors.
Decent with milk, with emerging chocolate notes.

More sourness, hints of bitter pith.
Decent with sugar.
OK with milk (some chocolate and caramel/brown sugar notes).

Flavor profile is overly sour, even with sugar.

In many ways, 49th Parallel's Epic Espresso is the antithesis of a classic northern Italian "comfort food" espresso blend. Epic has a citrus-dominated flavor profile (red grapefruit), a fairly narrow usable temperature range, and works best for straight shots rather than milk drinks (imagine a grapefruit milkshake).

My best shots came at 91-92C (196-198F) on my Spaz S1. In this range, Epic is exceptionally mild, sweet and fruity. At lower brew temperatures (under 90C) it becomes overly sour. A pithy bitterness takes over at higher temperatures (above 93C).

In line with roaster recommendations, a moderate rest period (at least 5 days) is recommended for this blend.

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#128: Post by HB »

While I've heard of 49th Parallel in online forums, this was my first opportunity to sample their coffee. We tried two different versions of Epic Espresso since they're in the process of reworking the blend; both versions were ultra clean, delicate espressos with a goodly amount of acidity. I thought the second revision was a step in the right direction, especially for those seeking added complexity.

A lot of taste descriptors get tossed about: Among the most heavily (ab)used are "smooth" and "clean." Epic Espresso epitomizes these characteristics, but given the general nature of the terms, I'll elaborate on my meaning:
  • Clean - Free of taste defect, e.g., no ash overtones or medicinal flavors. Mild aftertaste.
    Smooth - Pleasantly balanced taste of bitterness/sweetness.
In the latest rendition, those favoring espresso blends featuring chocolate/roast notes should steer clear of Epic. It is dominated by citrus flavors: The first sips begin with grapefruit start (not lemon), then transition to a red grapefruit and dark cherry finish. The aftertaste is decidedly clean and delicate, though occasionally mild roast notes would linger among the lemon drop finish.

I would like to note a discrepancy between my experience and 49th's description that Epic is a sweet, complex espresso. While sweetness is noteworthy in the finish, it's not in the sense commonly discussed among espresso drinkers seeking blends dominated by almond/chocolate notes; rather it's begins as an attenuation of acidity and transitions to greater sweetness as the effects of the brightness fade.

Others have provided specific shot preparation values, to which I'll offer a simple hint: If the espressos are one-dimensional, lacking brightness, and dusty on the palate, try decreasing the dose while keeping the same flow rate (brew ratio of approximately 70% to 80%; I found dullness below this ratio and acridity above). It this change improves the taste, try dropping the temperature a degree or two, depending on the tradeoff you're willing to make between added interest/complexity and fleeting sourness.
Dan Kehn

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#129: Post by shadowfax »

49th Parallel Epic Espresso

My first experience with 49th Parallel was a few years ago when a friend of mine and I ordered a few bags of Epic and Sammy Piccolo's WBC Espresso from them. At the time, I recall Epic was a classic comfort-food espresso loaded with chocolate and thick of body, pretty easy to get a nice shot from. But their WBC blend was something to behold: I remember watching Sammy on Ustream giving his performance—Texas grapefruits. He had slices of it on the table serving his drinks, and it played big in his signature drink as I recall. Sure enough, when we pulled shots of his coffee at home that super-clean, sweet juicy grapefruit dominated the shots and sang out with a striking clarity and depth. Delicious.

The new Epic is a lot more like Sammy Piccolo's WBC Espresso than the old Epic, a huge shift in a new direction. This is an espresso that's characterized by a red citrus and blackberry brightness and strong fruit sweetness that hits right in the front of the shot; roast tones of mild cocoa and wood enter just enough to balance the shot and no more, playing mostly in the finish; the texture is light and juicy. It's a huge departure from a typical espresso blend, indeed the antithesis of comfort food as Chris said.

Epic can be difficult to brew well. Low-dosed shots definitely exhibit the strange astringency Jim described. As Chris mentioned, the temperature range for the best shots is narrow at about 2°F wide (199-201°F for me as well), even narrower at a fixed dose. There's certainly a tendency to get slightly uneven flow from shots, especially the more fast-flowing ones, if they aren't meticulously prepared—even with a big conical.

My best shots were pulled at 199-200°F with a high-ish 19.5-20.5g dose in a ridgeless double basket, pulled to a 70-85% brew ratio in 25-29s. Higher brew ratios paired with slightly higher temperatures yield a shot that is brighter right up front but not quite puckering; the texture is heavier, juicy with a hint of creaminess, and fares better in milk drinks. Lower brew ratios and temperatures yield a more balanced (bitter vs. bright) shot that loses some of the fruit sweetness and a lot of the grapefruit intensity that hits you right up front; these certainly don't fare as well in even small amounts of milk-grapefruit milkshake indeed. As for age, my best shots were in the 6-7 day range; I haven't tasted it much past 7 days due to some traveling I did over the weekend, but at <5 days it is indeed rather frustrating to coax a balanced shot out of—just too much acidity and astringency going on in the shots; it felt like chasing my tail trying to dial it in.

What I tend to enjoy most in coffees are distinct, mildly sweet fruit flavors. I love the blackberry in Kenyans, the blueberry and strawberry in great Sidamos, the dark cherry in a good Brazilian coffee, and fresh, ripe citrus notes that can be found in many lighter-roasted coffees of various origin. These are flavors I connect with most in coffee and the ones I most want to be well-defined and interesting. Epic delivers this in a big way as espresso, and I find that exciting. If you like fruity, bright coffee, you'll probably enjoy Epic. For my part, it's my favorite espresso that we've covered in this review series.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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#130: Post by cannonfodder »

49th Parallel is a new roaster for me. I have not ventured outside of the continental US for coffee other than an unfortunate run-in with Illy. So I did not know what to expect. As mentioned, Epic has undergone a major shift in flavor in very recent history. If you ordered a pound 3 weeks ago, you got a different blend. Frankly, I did not like that iteration; Epic V2 is much more enjoyable to me.

Epic is a relatively light-roasted coffee with most of the beans in the milk chocolate color range and no surface oils. I found the dry aroma to be, for lack of a better term, refreshing and candy-like. It had a light sweet and tart aroma; it reminded me of Sweet-Tart candy with some coffee tossed in.

49th Parallel recommends a generous aging for the blend and I would agree. I tend to like my coffee fresher than most roasters recommend. With Epic, it really does need at least 5 days of rest before you start using it. Prior to that the coffee is very acidic and pucker-your-face tart. I was getting the best results starting at 6 days rest.

Epic is not what I would not call a beginner coffee. The blend is sensitive to small changes and someone with entry level equipment may be in for a tough time. I was getting the best shots using a La Marzocco straight sided triple basket with 19 grams of coffee pulled at 200-201F for 2 ounces (full demi) extracted in 26 seconds. That gave me a mildly sweet, medium acidic grapefruit shot that danced on the sweet and tart line. Just a hint more of either would have been too much but this balanced out nicely for me. At lower doses, the coffee was unbalanced and bland with an off taste. Temperature is a real key with this blend. It is not very tolerant of temperature swings. Below 198-199F the coffee turned sour, like a lemon and grapefruit were crossbred; it will pucker up your face. At higher temperatures (above 201F), it gets a citrus pith bitter and some ash notes. I found that to be the case regardless of dose and flow.

In milk, well, it did not work well. If I went more ristretto and bumped the temperature up to just over 201, say 201-202 the coffee would hold up better in milk and I would get some chocolate roast notes but in general, it is best enjoyed as a straight shot. Another note: As the coffee ages, it becomes more tolerant of higher temperatures. An interesting espresso dominated by red grapefruit. If you do not like grapefruit juice or your equipment is prone to large temperature swings, you may want to go with a different blend.
Dave Stephens