Favorite Espresso Blends 2010 - Page 14

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HB
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#131: Post by HB »

Ambrosia Espresso, Caffe Fresco

Tony at Caffe Fresco started around the same time as this site and the popularity of his Ambrosia Espresso has grown along with the site membership. Caffe Fresco's blends are frequently cited as a solid recommendations for those new to espresso because of their high forgiveness factor, as indirectly noted in their description of the Ambrosia Espresso blend: "Once you've tasted a god shot with its buttery and flavorful crema, rich body, and sweet and lively flavors you'll understand why the blend is called Ambrosia, 'food of the gods'. Ambrosia Espresso works well for all brew methods too."
Dan Kehn

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another_jim
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#132: Post by another_jim »

Introduction: Cafe Fresco's Ambrosia is something new under the sun. It is an espresso blend that is not served in any cafe nor sold in any store; instead, it is only sold via the net to home espresso enthusiasts. Within our little world, Ambrosia has gathered a sterling reputation, and since it isn't unlikely to get reviewed in the New York Times, it's high time we did it here.

Flavors: The major flavors are from the roast, and consist of medium caramel, hazelnut, milk chocolate, cola. Origin flavors are cherry with a hint of apricot, and an oaky edge. The coffee has a powerful cola finish. It is best in its first week after roasting, after that the cola and oak flavors become aggressive and unbalanced.

Dose: At low doses, the medium caramel dominates, making the shot very sweet. This diminishes as the dose is raised. Dose level also interacts with temperature, at low doses, temperature changes don't have much effect on the taste; at higher doses, the effect becomes pronounced.

Temperature: Low temperatures bring out the cherry & apricot acidity and the hazelnut & milk chocolate roast flavors. As the temperature is raised, the cola flavor becomes dominant.

Flow: Crema is excellent at all flow rates. There is no oak flavor at normal flows, as the flow is lowered and shots become more ristretto, the oak edge becomes more pronounced, until it reaches Seattle levels at full ristretto brew ratios.

Personal Assessment: I can see why this blend has impressed home baristas. First, almost any combination of dose, temperature and flow makes a tasty shot, and second, it responds with almost linear precision to changes in these variables. These two properties make it my top recommendation as an "espresso-school blend" for anyone who is learning how to change the Mano variables: dose, flow, and temperature; since it is easy to taste the differences they create.
Jim Schulman

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RapidCoffee
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#133: Post by RapidCoffee »

Caffe Fresco Ambrosia Espresso Blend (roasted July 27, tested Aug 4)
coffee dose: 15.0g
brew ratio: 65-70% (shot volume ~45ml, espresso weight 22-23g)
shot time: ~30 sec after appearance of espresso on bottom of basket
temperature range: 88C-95C (190F-203F) in increments of 1C

Protocol
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
95C
Some bitterness and woodiness, but not bad.
Adequate acidity/fruitiness, little nuts or chocolate, some caramel.
Made a decent cappuccino.

94C
Slight bitterness.
Some woody (oak) overtones, maybe cola.
More fruitiness (sour cherry), some aromatic distillates.
Good with milk.

93C
Bitterness continues to decrease.
Less woodiness, more cherry cola.
More caramel flavors emerging in cappuccino.

92C
Bitterness, woodiness mostly gone.
Still hints of cherry cola with sugar.
Increasing fruitiness (sour cherry).
More caramel in milk.
Perhaps the best temperature setting on my machine.

91C
Similar to 92C, but an unpleasant off flavor is emerging in straight shots (largely masked by sugar).
Caramel, cola, and hints of milk chocolate in milk drinks.

90C
Unpleasant sour/acrid flavor is becoming more prominent, although still masked by sugar.
More fruit (sour dark cherry).
Mostly caramel flavors with milk.

89C
Sharp, unpleasant acrid taste in straight shots.
With sugar: caramel flavors, cola aromas.
Cappuccino was OK but not great.

88C
Unpleasant straight, still drinkable with sugar.
Cappuccino was a bit sour.

Conclusions
Caffe Fresco's Ambrosia, like Klatch's Belle Espresso and Counter Culture's Toscano, is a classic espresso blend. It works well for both straight shots and milk drinks, at a reasonably wide range of brew ratios and temperature settings. There is nothing in particular that makes this blend stand out from other "comfort food" espressos. The flavor profile has fruit (sour cherry) and caramel, with a hint of milk chocolate and very little nuttiness.

My best shots came at 92C (198F) on my Spaz S1. That setting seemed to balance the better fruit and caramel flavors, while minimizing the bitter woodiness of higher brew temperatures, and the unpleasant sour acrid note that emerged at lower brew temperatures.

In line with roaster recommendations, a long rest period (at least a week) is suggested for this blend.
John

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cannonfodder
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#134: Post by cannonfodder »

Caffe Fresco is no stranger to me. Tony is just a couple hours up the north east extension from home. That makes for a very fast and convenient shipping. Ambrosia has changed over time, but every coffee does. After all it is an agricultural product and prone to shifts in flavor every year.

My coffee arrived one day after roasting. I let it sit for 4 days before I opened a bag to try it out. Fresco recommends a longer rest time for the coffee but I like to see how the cup develops over time. I also prefer my coffee fresher than most roasters recommend. A year ago 3-4 days post roast was the norm, this year everyone is recommending a week rest.

I found Ambrosia to work best at cooler temperatures with normal flow. At higher temperatures it got bitter/ashy but behaved much better on the cooler end of the scale. I settled in on 18 grams pulled in 26 seconds at 197'ish for 2oz. The dominate flavor is cola nut with some background fruit, medium acidity and a little molasses/caramel sweetness. Think cherry cola but the fruit slowly fades as the roast ages. When pulled tighter into the ristretto range the fruit fades away and the woody notes step up with the cola nut becoming very strong. If you could age Coke in a sherry cask, it would taste a lot like this. Ambrosia is a crema bomb. It produces huge amounts of crema. I would use my 3oz cups when pulling doubles due to the large volume. It was a relatively forgiving blend making an acceptable shot across a wide range of variables.

In milk it holds up quite nicely. I get more hazelnut and chocolate, the fruit fades away. I found it to be a nice cup but if you dont like cola, you may want to pass.
Dave Stephens

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HB
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#135: Post by HB »

My apologies for being so late to the party! Between vacation and recovering from vacation upon returning to work, I'm well behind on my other responsibilties. Excuses aside... for years, Caffe Fresco has been a frequently recommended "go to" espresso for those learning the barista craft, so it's only natural their flagship blend, Ambrosia, is recognized in this thread.

As others noted, when pulled as a tight ristretto, the taste profile becomes acrid and the roast notes exaggerated; burnt cedar and peat flavors dominate. However, if pulled with a slightly fuller flow and allowed to continue to blondness, creamy milk chocolate overtones emerge complimented by buttery crema. If espresso were made into a crema soda, Ambrosia would be the prototypical blend. Those seeking a simple, easy going espresso with luxurious crema and no acidity will adore Ambrosia.
Dan Kehn

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shadowfax

#136: Post by shadowfax »

I have to also offer my apologies for my lateness on writing and posting this review. I have no real excuses to offer, so I'll just offer this late review.

Caffé Fresco Ambrosia Espresso

Caffé Fresco holds a special place for me as one of the first roasters through which I was exposed to fresh, skillfully roasted specialty coffee. Tony's Ambrosia and Daterra Reserve Espresso were main features in my rotation of mail-order coffee. Ambrosia was always a big comfort food blend that was easy to pull, great for a beginner like me. I've only had Ambrosia once or twice since Caffé Fresco's return from sabbatical, so this review was an interesting opportunity to approach the blend from a new perspective.

If I were to sum up Ambrosia in 4 words, I'd have to copy Dave: cask-aged cherry Coca-cola. Both the cola nut and the woody/earthy tones (the "cask-aged" part) consistently jump out in the coffee, with cherry being easier to get when the coffee is younger, 4-6 days post-roast; as the coffee ages, the fruit becomes much milder and the wood/earth tones become more prominent. The balance of these flavors, as well as the more typical roast flavors of chocolate, caramel, and nut can be manipulated to emphasize some flavors and mute others as dose, temperature, brew ratio and age are varied. The cola and wood/earth tones are most potent in tighter, more ristretto shots. The fruit flavors are more prominent at cooler temperatures, becoming unpleasantly sour as you go too low.

My shot preference was about 198°F, 16-17gram dose (certainly increasing with age) with a brew ratio of about 60-70%. Cola nut, cherry liqueur, mild funkiness, ample caramel sweetness for a balanced espresso. As other reviewers mentioned, Ambrosia's pretty heavy on the crema and can easily fool you into thinking you're making a much faster-flowing shot than you are, especially when it's younger. It's a good candidate for brewing on a scale (and, like every coffee, adjusting by taste!) for that reason. Overall, Ambrosia is a low-acid blend, and I preferred it somewhat younger than recommended (4-6 days post-roast) due to the more prominent acidity at this age. Later, the acidity becomes less distinctive and present more as a balancing flavor than one easily picked out.

While Ambrosia makes a very good espresso, I found it actually best in a cappuccino. Here, a lot of the wood and earth tones diminish in prominence and the cola nut shines through consistently. When dialed in for a shot with cherry liqueur flavors, Ambrosia produces a remarkable cherry-cola float (minus the voluminous sugar) that is a great juxtaposition of contrasting flavors—interesting and delightful; Ambrosia cappuccinos were my favorites of this review series so far.

Ambrosia is an espresso blend that's easy to get a good shot from, especially if you favor low-acid espresso and enjoy or don't mind wood/earth flavors. It's a consummate beginner espresso for this reason, and also a good choice for a seasoned home-barista looking for a coffee of this flavor profile.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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HB
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#137: Post by HB »

With the last two coffees, we've reviewed half of the "favorites" nominees. The next pair will be announced shortly; in the meantime, your comments on 49th Parallel's Epic Espresso and Caffe Fresco's Ambrosia are welcome.
Dan Kehn

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tekomino

#138: Post by tekomino »

I had recently tried 49th Epic in both standard and organic varieties. The old Epic, back from February/March this year was one of my favorite espressos. Nice balanced acidity with sweetness. Worked great in straight shots and in milk.

This last one I did not enjoy so much. Probably because these new acidity blends (Black Cat, Epic etc.) are all starting to taste same for me: chewing on apricot pits while stuffing your cheeks with grapefruits and lemon rind... I do enjoy them from time to time, but not by the pound. Thanks to freezing I don't have to. Epic was good but not as good as old Epic, you know, same story as Intelligentsia Black Cat (Epic is more enjoyable to me still).

I also had bag of Ambrosia. Unfortunately I think something was wrong with it. It just tasted burnt no matter how I made it and how much it rested. Beans looked burnt to me so there might have been something going on with that batch. It ended up in compost...

But, I would like to highlight two great finds from this favorite blends list: Ecco Espresso and Terroir Daterra blends.

Ecco Espresso is now my favorite. Really polished, subtle, smooth espresso that is simply comfort food. Straight and in milk it is just great. I love it. Flavor that I was most surprised to get out of it was salty candied caramel which was really nice.

I also had Terroir Daterra: Calabria, North Italian and South Italian espresso blends and they were all really, really good. Flawless, understated and smooth. My favorites were Calabria and North Italian which was reviewed here. I can recommend these to beginners since they were easy to work with and tasted good right off the bat. Mine were shipped quiet fresh...
Refuse to wing it! http://10000shots.com

AUSTINrob

#139: Post by AUSTINrob »

This is so interesting because I too disliked my last batch of 49th epic & Organic...and I should say that these two beans have been my favorite for a long time. I'm glad that its not just me!

aaespresso

#140: Post by aaespresso »

tekomino wrote:I also had bag of Ambrosia. Unfortunately I think something was wrong with it. It just tasted burnt no matter how I made it and how much it rested. Beans looked burnt to me so there might have been something going on with that batch. It ended up in compost...
+1

I just finished a bag and couldn't seem to get it right. I tried pulling shots with the above parameters, dosing a little more, dosing a lot more, dosing less, changing the flow, etc. I just couldn't seem to make a shot I liked. In all fairness, I tried Ambrosia a couple years back and didn't care for it but I had different equipment then and was just starting out. Maybe we just got a bad roast?