Favorite Espresso Blends 2011 - Page 6

Behind the scenes of the site's upcoming equipment reviews.
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HB
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Postby HB » Dec 04, 2011, 9:01 pm

Handlebar and Delirium by Compass Coffee Roasting

Although Compass Coffee Roasting wasn't in the "Favorites" nomination list, I asked Compass Coffee if he'd sponsor a review of his two espresso blends. He's a long-time member and made the transition from amateur to commercial roaster with three cafes; I thought it would be an interesting intermission between the previously announced nominees to include a relative unknown.

Handlebar is a "big latte" type blend. To balance out the heavy bass notes, latte lovers will want 8 ounces of milk or more. While that may sound like a big drink, the fact is that many U.S. cafes are serving large milk drinks—some as large as 12 to 20 (!) ounces. To counterbalance the plenitude of milk flavor, Handlebar offers light cocoa, tobacco/leather, and a lot of roast notes. These types of latte blends are rising with the popularity of high-volume drinks; they blend medium and dark roast that can "punch" through milk. When tempered with a goodly dose of milk, Handlebar's cocoa and coffee flavor are still readily apparent and a tinge of ash finish is just barely noticeable. Latte lovers who want a really forgiving blend will be all over Handlebar; those who drink straight espresso will find it undrinkable.

Delirium reminds me of the old-school blends dominated by chocolate and nuts that blanketed the market years ago in the U.S. It's low acidity, pulls evenly and easily, and exhibits beginner-friendly temperature tolerance. It's a solid bar blend that works well straight and with small to medium-ish milk drinks (3 to 4 ounces). I adhered to the recommended brew parameters and found they worked very well (~200°F, 19 grams yielding 26 gram beverage in approx. 27 seconds).

Below are the official descriptions from the Compass Coffee Roasting website:

Handlebar Espresso Blend wrote:A bold, thick bodied attack up front gives way to a creamy spiced cocoa and dark berry finish.

Delirium Espresso Blend wrote:A dynamic cup; both deep and pleasantly bright. Smooth cream balanced with chocolate and complex fruit, with just a touch of spice and citrus. Crafted from the major coffee growing regions, each element is roasted individually, then blended together after roasting. This method allows each bean to showcase its unique qualities without sacrificing another's. Built for espresso, but great non-espresso brewed as well.
Dan Kehn

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another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Dec 04, 2011, 11:52 pm

DELIRIUM ESPRESSO BLEND

INTRODUCTION
Mike McGuiness is long time coffee hobbyist, one of the original members of the on-line coffee community that formed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He is the administrator of the Sweet Maria's email list, and has been roasting semi-professionally for the last five years. Compass Roasting is his entry into the full professional ranks; and with the Delirium blend, it's an auspicious one.

OVERALL TASTE
There are different visions of what a great espresso should be. I am more of the school that thinks espresso is a sort of ultra-brewed coffee, where light roasts, acidity, origin flavors, and all the fancy coffee tasting vocabulary should be used, just like in regular brews. Think of us as the espresso as wine types. But espresso can also be considered as its own genre, separate from coffee, where the whole point is luscious body and huge, primal flavors. Think it as the espresso as brandy, cigars, and Belgian chocolates crowd.

Delirium is firmly in the latter school. If you brew it when it's fresh; all you'll get is vague flavors of dried fruit and smoke. Let it sit a week, and do it as espresso, and what you get is almonds and marzipan, chocolate and candied cherries. It's one of the most enjoyable blends in this comfort food style.

SHOT MAKING INSTRUCTIONS
I would not try this coffee in the first week after roasting, but from days 7 to 14. Before that it has a soury, slightly fermented feel. This flavor morphs into a cherry-chocolate in the second week. Delirium is a low acid blend, and it should always been done at high doses; otherwise it will taste thin. I mostly preferred to keep the temperature low, below 200F, and the flow at medium levels; since this produces a very sweet shot with nougat and dried cherry flavors. Higher temperatures and slower flows will get more of a dry cocoa and salted, toasted almond flavor. This can also be nice, and may appeal to buyers on occasion.

WHO SHOULD BUY IT
If you think the whole third wave thing is a big mistake, this blend should be on your regular rotation. If you have an occasional yen for old school shots, or want a straight espresso for less hard core drinkers, this is a really good choice.
Jim Schulman

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Sherman

Postby Sherman » Dec 05, 2011, 1:12 am

Compass Coffee - Handlebar
Original Roast date: 11/18/11
Freeze date:11/26/11
Thaw date: 11/28/11
Effective roast date: 11/20/11
Test window: 11/28/11

Initial Preferences
Temperature: Low
Dose: 17g
Output: 25.9g
Ratio: 65%
Time: 30s

Upon opening the bag, a funky aroma came out. I was immediately reminded of a dark-roasted Sumatra from the Aringata cooperative. Surprising to me that it was that specific, but my first exposure to this coffee was from the 2010 HB home roasting competition, and those memories are pretty clear for now. I didn't pay attention to the label and started out with a middle of the road shot, medium dose and temperature, 66% ratio. To my surprise, the smoky and bitter components came out quite prominently. Attempting to sweeten things up, I dropped the temperature and found the smokiness lowered with a dutched cocoa finish that was more pleasing. The bitterness subsided, and I was encouraged to attempt further exploration to see if I could amp up the flavors without bringing bitter along for the ride. After a few wrong turns with a lower dose and ratio (14g, 55% - too bitter and thin) and higher dose and ratio (17g, 75% - smoky, musty and return of bitterness), I settled on a happy medium of high dose, low temp, medium ratio (17g/65%). This coaxed a pleasing blend of dutch cocoa and smokiness without any ashiness.


Exploration
Returning to 14g and running a tighter grind to encourage a higher ratio proved fruitless, figuratively and literally. The dutched cocoa was backgrounded and dull, almost overwhelmed by smokiness. Any wandering into higher temperatures were met with a bitter edge. The sweet spot seemed to be quite narrow.

I wondered how this profile would react to a milk drink. A cappuccino pulled with whole milk helped to integrate the smokiness and cocoa components, with the sweetness of the milk adding balance. This blend gets marked as "latte-preferred".

Leverage
Considering the rather narrow range that I could find on the pump machine, I tried a low-temp medium dose & ratio (15g/51%) lever shot, hoping to coax out more of the cocoa. Unfortunately, I was greeted with a thin, low bodied shot. Nothing offensive, but much quieter overall than the Maxi. Upping the dose was helpful, resulting in a roasted chocolate-covered tree nut shot at high dose (17g/70%/30sec), but the flavors needed to be more integrated.

And in this corner...
The Maxi stood out in this contest, winning me over with a smoky, dutch chocolate latte. I'd put this on the shelf at my next get-together for anyone who wants a milk drink that is slightly more interesting than comfort-food. The lever didn't fare so well, as my attempts at elevating certain flavors came with some unintended baggage. Operator error is quite possible here, but I couldn't get the cocoa without bitterness.

Conclusions
Handlebar is a darker, traditional blend that would be right at home in a big milk drink. Dose high, drop the temperature, and get your steaming pitchers ready. Lever machines may find that the vaunted "flavor separation" that is associated with home levers is more hindrance than help. Consider using whole milk here. 2% doesn't have enough fat to temper the smokiness.
Your dog wants espresso.
LMWDP #288

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Sherman

Postby Sherman » Dec 05, 2011, 1:13 am

Compass Coffee - Delirium
Original Roast date: 11/18/11
Freeze date:11/26/11
Thaw date: 11/28/11
Effective roast date: 11/20/11
Test window: 11/28/11

Initial Preferences
Out of the box, this offering piqued my interest. The whole bean smell offered a promising ripe stone fruit with a hint of anise that intensified out of the grinder. The label recommends a higher (18g) dose with a ristretto-ish (69%) ratio pulled around 26 seconds. Why not listen to the recommendations? I started with an according-to-Hoyle shot (17g/medium temp/67%/31sec) and was rewarded with a Hershey's Milk Chocolate Almond bar that lingered on for a few seconds. Not a bad way to start, to be sure. I was curious to see if this held up, and pulled another shot. Second time, same as the first, a little bit louder, a little bit worse just as good.

Temperature: Medium
Dose: 17g
Output: 25.1g
Ratio: 67%
Time: 31s


Exploration
Given the ease with which the first (and second) shots flowed, I was encouraged to start exploring. Taking the dose down made a smooth shot even smoother. The almond and milk chocolate was wrapped in a Snuggie with a ripe cherry kid-glove finish. Dropping the dose further didn't bring any additional joy, and neither did raising the temperature. The lowered dose at a medium temperature held some of the almond notes, but intensity wasn't there. A higher temp at low dose turned the almond bitter, but did nothing for the chocolate. At a medium dose, the higher temp brought out an unpleasant note in both the almond and chocolate.

Temperature: Medium
Dose: 15.5g
Output: 29.1g
Ratio: 53%
Time: 26s

In milk, my mind wandered to an old SNL bit - "Hi, my name is Velvet Jones". There was no harsh edge that needed tempering, only an added punch of sweetness from the milk that was pure comfort from start to finish. Not wanting to let the party end, I tried a shorter milk drink, and was just as happy in a macchiato. This blend is versatile enough to cover small and large milk drinks, but might get lost in big-gulp lattes. Be sure to use whole milk for full impact. Similar to Handlebar, lowfat milk just doesn't carry the flavors and doesn't bring enough sweetness to round out the experience.


Leverage
Figuring that the program might be worth sticking to, I started with a medium dose (15.5g) and found that it flowed a bit fast (48% in 25s), leaving a mildly interesting but ultimately unfulfilling shot. After tightening the grind and pulling another shot, the flavors started to pop: big chocolate. almond. hints of anise and cardamom. gentle finish. Wondering about the blend's flexibility, a higher dose was more intense chocolate, but at the cost of interesting spice notes. A nice shot, but better at the lower dose. Quicker preinfusion was also interesting, but ultimately lacking in the complexity of the 10 second preinfusion.

Temperature: Medium
Preinfusion: 10s
Dose: 15.5g
Output: 25.7g
Ratio: 60%
Time: 29s

And in this corner...
No clear cut winner in this case. The smoothness of the pump shots was easy to like, and interesting spice notes came out with the lever. Low acidity and gentle finish in both cases. Thanks to the sharper definition, the Cremina wins this battle if only by a hair.

Conclusions
Delirium has broad appeal - it performs well in milk drinks and offers some interesting flavors in a straight shot. Chocolate and spice showed up to the party and hovered at the keg, leaving stone fruit to hold an empty red Solo cup. Following the recommendations (high dose, 70% in 26s) produces a beginner-friendly shot, but there are nooks and crannies that offer a rewarding experience if you're in the mood to explore.
Your dog wants espresso.
LMWDP #288

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

Postby RapidCoffee » Dec 06, 2011, 12:21 am

Handlebar and Delirium by Compass Coffee Roasting

roast date: Nov 18 (frozen over Thanksgiving week, tested after 7 days total out of the freezer)
coffee dose: 15.0g (53mm basket, equivalent to 18g on a 58mm basket)
espresso weight: 22-23g (shot volume ~40ml)
brew ratio: ~67%
shot time: 25-30 sec after appearance of espresso droplets on bottom of basket
temperature range: 88C-93C (190F-200F) 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 blonding (~30sec).
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 (1-2oz) of microfoamed milk.

Tasting notes
Handlebar is typical of what many roasters strive for in an espresso blend: a dark roast, designed to cut through large amounts of milk in "big gulp" lattes. Dominated by smokiness, tobacco, and leather, such blends are not to my taste. If you are interested in a dark roast, I would recommend Gimme Leftist or Paradise Espresso Nuevo instead.

In contrast, Delirium was a pleasant surprise. This espresso roast is a northern Italian comfort blend, somewhat reminiscent of Vivace Dolce, or Counter Culture Aficionado of yore. Delirium is best brewed at moderate brew ratios (2:3) and lower brew temps (89C on my Spaz), yielding a mild and balanced straight shot of espresso. Some bitterness emerges at higher brew temperatures, but it's quite drinkable up to 93C. Delirium holds up well to reasonable amounts of milk (cappuccinos, not lattes). The flavor profile includes brown sugar, stone fruit, hazelnut, liquor aromatics, spice, and cocoa. Sound good? It is. As an added bonus, naked pours are visually beautiful.

Image
Delirium

Conclusions
Delirium is a welcome addition to the ranks of classic espresso blends. Recommended.
John

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shadowfax

Postby shadowfax » Dec 13, 2011, 11:19 pm

Compass Coffee Handlebar and Delirium Espresso

I'm a bit of a sucker for high-acid coffees, particularly in the last few years. As such, I'm used to using fairly light roasts for all my coffee preparation. One upshot of this preference is that my coffees tend to be old enough to shine after 3-5 days of rest, and I generally avoid having coffee older than this laying out—I keep what I won't use within such a timeframe in the freezer.

This would be a terrible mistake for either Handlebar or Delirium: these coffees both need a week or more of rest. Prior to this, while it's easy to get some of the most picture-perfect naked espresso pulls imaginable, it's seemingly impossible to pull a well-balanced shot: Handlebar is either unpalatably ashy or funkily sourish. Delirium is woody, nondescript, and vaguely sour. While Handlebar might make a passable latté during the first week, it's mandatory for both coffees that you give them 7-8 days of rest. With ample rest, both coffees open up and give a nostalgic, well-rendered tribute to some old-school espresso styles.

Handlebar is a dark-roasted, zero-acid blend seemingly focused on coffee drinkers looking to taste a doppio in a significant amount of milk. As such, it is an espresso that is a little heavy-handed and intense to enjoy as a straight shot. That said, I recommend sampling it straight to dial in for a milk drink. This coffee worked best for me with a low temperature (198°F), medium dose (~17g), and vaguely ristretto brew ratio (60-70%). For my palate, this is a coffee that punishes over-extraction harshly with strong ashy notes. I had a lot of difficulty getting it "right" with a VST basket. Switching to my Synesso ridgeless double basket required a coarser grind and yielded improved results: A sweeter, more chocolaty espresso with hints of pecan or walnuts. Handlebar also responded favorably to a declining brew pressure profile and a lower average brew pressure—both took even more of the edge off. While I didn't personally enjoy even my best shots of Handlebar straight, it produces a simple, comforting cocoa-laced single cappuccino.

Delirium, in contrast, is a lighter-roasted blend with a broader, more interesting palate. In particular, Delirium has a nice balancing acidity and a more complex mid-section of caramel flavors. Dose rather high (19-20g) and pull with a medium temperature (199-200°F) to a 65-80% brew ratio. This yields a mild espresso with sweet dark chocolate, cherries and almonds. This works nicely in modest amounts of milk, but fades out very quickly if you go too far. Delirium reminds me a little of Stumptown Hairbender or Metropolis Red Line. This is a classic "Pacific Northwest Espresso" executed nicely.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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HB
Admin

Postby HB » Dec 15, 2011, 9:00 pm

This concludes the formal review; the thread is open for public comments/questions.
Dan Kehn

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Ozark_61

Postby Ozark_61 » Jan 17, 2012, 7:36 pm

RapidCoffee wrote:Shot time: 25-30 sec after appearance of espresso droplets on bottom of basket


Is this fairly standard when writing about timing shots? I seem to remember folks saying to time from the time you pull the lever, but as another one of the original reviewers mentioned that the e61 has some preinfusion, and on my machine it may take 5-8 seconds or so until drops form - which would be significant out of a 25 sec pull!
LMWDP #570

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

Postby RapidCoffee » Jan 17, 2012, 9:04 pm

Re shot timing:
1) I'm running a rotary pump Spaz S1 with no preinfusion. Dwell time (appearance of first drops) is typically within 3 seconds, so when you start timing the shot is relatively insignificant.
2) I'm doing most of this testing at 2:3 brew ratios. According to Al's Rule, ristrettos should extract a bit longer than normales.
3) The 53mm double basket has the geometry of a small triple. Others have noted that longer extractions work well with triple ristrettos.

Of course, the above is mere rationalization. The truth is, I prefer slightly longer extractions on the S1.
John