Favorite Espresso Blends 2010 - Page 10

Behind the scenes of the site's upcoming equipment reviews.
User avatar

#91: Post by TrlstanC »

After my morning espresso today, here's what I think about Dolce. It's very good at tasting like coffee, which is an incredibly complicated flavor made up of many other complicated flavors, and we probably all don't agree on exactly what that flavor is. But it seems like there are probably lots of interesting flavors coming out of the less then perfect beans that contribute, or even are a key part of this flavor. 30 mins after I finished my machiatto I could still taste it, and could identify a little bit of muskiness or leatheriness, and those flavors fit right in with what I would expect a traditional espresso, or traditional cup of coffee to taste like.

Now, sometimes I might prefer to have coffee that has some strong blueberry or almond flavors instead, but if you're going for a coffee flavored coffee you might need to use some less then perfect looking beans to get some of the flavors that round out that complex palette.


#92: Post by wildbwilson »

After reading the reviews and comments on the Vivace Dolce blend I decided to pull a bag out of the freezer and have a look see. The quality of the beans seems quite standard, when compared to other high caliber roasters (to my eyes) and I'm a little confused by the discussion on subpar beans started by Malachi - did all the review bags have the same characteristics or was it only a bag or two? I've been buying Vivace beans for a heck of a long time and I've never been less than impressed with the quality of the product. I'm not as fond of the new recipe as I was of previous incarnations but my bag of beans looks mighty fine indeed. They were roasted a couple of months back and have been in a vacuum sealed bag since purchased.
Here's a couple of pics

one lump or two?

#93: Post by one lump or two? »

I'm curious if anyone has discussed the topic of robusta relating to Vivace. Apparently they dropped robusta from the blend in 2009. I'm wondering if those familiar with the blend may have noticed this change. I personally have only drank their espresso in their cafes. I think the only straight shot of theirs I have really, really enjoyed was a straight shot of Vita, not Dolce. This was recommended by the barista working when I asked was their anything different I could try.


http://espressovivace.com/schomerblog/i ... flow-rate/
wabi sabi - nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect

User avatar

#94: Post by HB »

Dan Kehn


#95: Post by Junior »

I just finished a pound of Dolce prior to this discussion and thought it was fantastic until it fell off about 8 days post roast. I just loved the shots I was getting with an updose and higher temps. However, when I asked my wife her thoughts on the same pulls, it was thumbs down, despite our usual very similar tastes in coffees. I'm not sure what is so polarizing in the taste profile, but it means I'll likely skip it for office purchases and go back to the crowd pleasers like Belle or Ambrosia. A shame really.


#96: Post by CoffeeOwl »

I'm very impressed with the reviews, and specially thankful to Chris for his way of evaluating the Espresso Vivace coffee. All the reviews are very enlightening and should be really helpful for those wondering what blend to choose. At least it looks like it to me.

David Schomer is controversial person to me because of his book on the barista techniques. It was first professional source of information on espresso I ever read and from which I learned, while I had plastic pretend-espresso machine. What I learned later turned out to be still useful; yet the amount of debunking of information in the book was huge and a real treat to me, a real way of pointing out me being naive. On the other hand, this book is a masterpiece of marketing, of successful marketing. Take the famous two espressi photo as an example. This picture is a flag of the roasterie and is used in the book too and then followed by a picture of badly extracted shots... But the two photos are made with different white balance, one is nice reddish colors and the other one whitish. Is this honest, with respect to the material being discussed? It is a manipulation to say the least.
It's not a surprise to me that the espresso is David's focus, not the coffee, while he states that it is making the coffee taste as it smells what is his goal. Well, it may be true in a way - I'm not in his soul so what can I know? But it is a surprise what I read about the blend here, looks like he has another goal or vision which he realised; in real I would have thought it is some marketing mastery again, but obviously it's not if the coffee is found to be controversial, finicky etc.

So I am tempted to try and in a way I owe trying it to me and to David, to find out for myself what it is about and how I see it. And probably to learn something, too.
But please do not understand I'm not going to try the other ones! :)
'a a ha sha sa ma!

LMWDP #199


#97: Post by zin1953 »

Junior wrote:I just finished a pound of Dolce . . . I just loved the shots I was getting with an updose and higher temps. However, when I asked my wife her thoughts on the same pulls, it was thumbs down . . . .
In the FWIW Dept., I have often said that Vivace "Dolce" is my #1 "go to" coffee. Lately, I've been really enjoying the "Streetlevel" blend from Verve. My wife, OTOH, has expressed her definite preference for the Vivace.

A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

User avatar

#98: Post by HB »

Espresso Paladino

Zoka Coffee is well-known in barista competition circles, but new to the roster of HB sponsors. They describe their flagship espresso blend Espresso Paladino as "having a rich, honeyed body and finishing with the subtle taste of baker's chocolate and walnuts. Flecked with caramel and cocoa flavors, this espresso blend has been poured and proven in many barista competitions."
Dan Kehn

User avatar

#99: Post by malachi »

We've tasted a number of different espressos so far - some of which are commonly described as "comfort blends." The Toscano and the Belle (for example) are regularly referred to (here and elsewhere) as such. The Zoka Paladino is another such blend - but with a twist. While it too is often described as a comfort blend (and like the Belle springs from a barista competition background) it's also a classic Pacific Northwest espresso. So what does this mean?

It seems to me that the intended goal of comfort blends is to yield espresso that is a little amped up (as compared to an Illy or the softer subtler espressos like Ecco) but at the same time is also simple and not challenging. Kind of like an entry-level IPA (Stone IPA) - where it's a little more intense and bitter than you might be used to if you drink Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but where you can enjoy it as something "more" (and thus interesting).

The issue with many of these blends is that in the process they nail the "simple" and the "a little amped up" - but end up losing the balance and the enjoyability. To get the "more" they end up including coffees that yield flavours that are not good. So instead of Stone IPA we got one of those weird IPAs from Scandinavia that taste like someone's forgot to rinse lemon-verbena dish soap out of the glass before pouring the beer.

To cut to the end conclusion... the Paladino does it right. With this coffee Zoka has created a comfort blend that works. It's bigger than your average commodity coffee. It's not challenging. But it tastes good.

For me, the Paladino is what a comfort blend should be like. Easy to work with, non-challenging to drink (but without dirty or off flavors), and good as a straight shot or in milk.

I think in many ways this works because the Paladino isn't trying to follow the formula that most of these blends follow and because it seems to have a different goal. The Paladino seems to build on the PNW espresso tradition, yielding an espresso that is cleaner, with better fruit and softer chocolate than the norm. And while the goal of many comfort blends seems to be to look backwards to Starbucks etc and say - "let's improve on this" -- the Paladino seems to look forward to the Hairbenders and Black Cats etc and say "let's get people to that."

So... what's it like and how do we get it to be like that?

Dialing in this coffee and working with this coffee is very easy and stress free. While it doesn't have a huge range, it's not finicky or tricky either.

There are two sweet spots that I found with this espresso. The difference between the two is small and subtle but worth exploring.

Sweet Spot #1 - the chocolate first profile....

With this profile we use moderate parameters all around (slight updose, normal flow throughout, right on the edge of normale extraction ratio). With my setup it looks like:
- 200f brew temp
- 18.5g to 19g dose (LM OEM ridged double)
- 25s extraction
- 1.8oz volume

This yields an espresso dominated by sweet chocolate, brown sugar, orange peel and kumquat and with a pear brandy finish. Aromatics are spicy with noticeable vanilla. The aftertaste is red wine, cashew butter and chocolate.

Sweet Spot #2 - the fruit first profile...

The weakness of these so-called comfort blends is that they are often (usually?) safe. By this I mean they tend to be lowest common denominator in flavor - less interested in being incredible than being something that no-one will dislike. This means that they can be boring - especially if you're looking for something different or intriguing.

The nice thing about this blend is that there seems to be not only a comfort sweet spot (defined earlier) but also a sweet spot for those of us who want a little more fruit and acidity - who want a little more going on in the cup.

If you start with the prior parameters and go a little cooler with the brew temp and a little tighter with the flow, and extract a little shorter volume - you get something quite nice. The chocolate moves further back in the profile (coming out mostly as foundational and in the finish) and the orange peel becomes citrus and tart berry acidity (rainier cherry, tangerine, pomegranate, bitter orange, meyer lemon, dried cranberries). The liquor / alcohol "heat" in the finish goes away. The body becomes dominated by a nice nut-butter flavor.

It this case on my rig, it looks something like:
- 199f brew temp
- 18.5g to 19g dose (LM OEM ridged double)
- 28s extraction
- 1.5oz volume

Sweetness is still there but tends to be perceived as diminished due to the increased acidity. The cup is still quite integrated in flavour (not hollow as is often the problem with this kind of profile).

The one thing I would comment on is that this coffee isn't exceptionally tolerant of big changes to dose. Low doses are problematic for this blend. At the low end of the dose range the coffee became both thin and hollow - with a sort of sweet and sour effect. The alcoholic brandy-like finish migrated forward in the profile and became dominant. I suppose that someone who likes Southern Comfort and Coke with lime might like this shot profile - but I did not. As the dose goes up, the chocolate shifts darker, some more fruit emerges, but sweetness goes down and the shots become more and more tannic and dense. At the high end the alcoholic notes are entirely hidden by bitter chocolate and a woody cedar note. Again, the sweet spot seems to be in the neutral to slight updose range - though for the kind of person who likes intense flavours (think Stone Brewing Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard for example) a more updosed prep might be desirable.

In addition, there is a hint of something a bit baggy in there. But it's pretty well hidden IMHO.

What I like here is that this coffee has flexibility. If you want a sweet chocolate shot - it gives you that. If you want a bright fruity shot - it can do that too. That's a neat trick.

Is it exciting? No.
Is it boring? Maybe to some of us.
Could I drink it as a go-to espresso in between the more experimental coffees? Absolutely.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

User avatar

#100: Post by shadowfax »

Zoka Paladino is an old favorite of mine, one of the earliest artisan espressos I ever tried: When I was first getting into coffee around 2005, JP's Java in my hometown of Austin, TX was about the only place you could get a good espresso in that town (it's flourished dramatically since then). They served Paladino in the shop and sold it whole-bean pretty fresh. So I made a habit of picking up a bag when I was in Austin visiting my parents, and I always had good luck with it. Back then, as Jim said, it was a serious chocolate bomb, no doubt helped in that regard by my kit at the time, the Super Jolly and laid-back E61.

What with all the other choices in Austin now, I rarely pick up Zoka anymore. So this review was an opportunity to try it again for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, my bag of Zoka arrived 7 days post-roast, and I wasn't in town to receive it as I was out of town over the holiday weekend. So I began trying Paladino later than the other reviewers, trying it between 10-15 days out.

From the get-go, Paladino is an almost intrinsically balanced espresso, producing very drinkable shots across a pretty wide range of doses. That said, it's can be pretty temperature-sensitive, preferring sub-200°F temperatures as Jim suggested. The best shots were pulled in the 198-199°F range, at a 19-20g dose and a brew ratio of 75-85%, pulled in 25-27s. At the age I started working with this coffee, it'd really lost a lot of its chocolate notes, favoring instead mild wood and smoke tones on the bottom. The acidity was predominantly a sweet, mild stonefruit with an edge of sparkling citrus, the body super-smooth.

I struggled to find any distinctly nutty notes in the espresso taken straight, however it jumps out vibrantly in a very small milk drink, with a strong emphasis on small. Paladino is easily lost in even a 6 oz. cappuccino; It's best in a 4.5 oz. cup or less. With the right amount of milk, this is a decadent treat: intensely sweet and creamy with hazelnut, vanilla, and a real subtle hint of citrus. It's an eminently approachable drink, and if it has one flaw it's that it's too sweet: I presented one of these to my wife, who usually can't stand coffee and she loved it.

Paladino started out at 10-11 days old as I described the straight shot above. While still drinkable as it aged, it certainly lost a lot of nuance and became even more mild as it aged. At 13-15 days (ran out at 15 days), it's best by far as a little cappuccino.

This espresso is anything but daring or challenging. It is, as Chris said, comfort food espresso with a nice twist. While it's not an espresso I would want to drink every day, after toying around with SOs and the much brighter espressos I'm used to, this is an excellent blend to "come home to."
Nicholas Lundgaard