When writing these Home-Barista espresso reviews I am not averse to trying my best in a blind review, then looking at others' results and adjusting my technique to see if I can replicate their findings. As usual I did my first run-through blind. Then I looked up the coffee and the roaster's guidelines, and found the flavors very different than what I'd guessed. These different attempts accidentally revealed not one but two brew parameters that I believe worth sharing. There was a low temperature version that was best at 201-202°F, 18 gm in, 45 - 50 gm out, 40 second pull on my Conti Prestina commercial lever. A higher temperature version was best at 209°F brew temperature with similar shot timing and yield. This was about 11 days post roast and confirmed the expected flavors except for the floral notes that are usually most apparent earlier in a coffee's shelf life. Who would have thought that a coffee brewed at 201°F would be its toddy version? Blind Attempt
12/5: Beans are medium small, City roast level. Aroma of dry grounds is tannic leathery, earthy, fairly strong. According to Tom this is barely 5 days post roast and ready to use. I initially brewed this coffee at 204°F, using a Bonavita PID kettle, a Bunn LPG grinder fitted with Ditting burrs, and a Driver metal filter. Brew ratio was 5.4%, which is typically recommended for drip.
I noted a coffee with medium acidity, some stone fruit, and grapefruit rind bitter top end that dominated the aftertaste. Mouthfeel was silky. As it cooled to room temperature I noted toffee, peanut/hazelnut and bitters, then an aftertaste of milk chocolate with nuts, almost like a peanut butter cup. Stone fruit flavors began to open up and show a hint of floral. Bitterness opened to dark chocolate and softened with cooling. The aftertaste started to show some vanilla and a sugar syrup sweetness. When very cool the long aftertaste opened to abundant florals and the stone fruit flavors moved toward strawberry/blackberry but the main flavor note was a toasty nutty chocolate/vanilla. At room temperature the sweet vanilla became more prominent. Peanutty chocolate started to merge with raspberry in the aftertaste.
Brewed as espresso I didn't like the bitter note and thought this was because I was brewing it too hot when I may have been brewing too cool. At 204°F I couldn't get past a bitter top end. I dialed it down to 201°F, which reduced the bitterness. But a slower flow rate (50 sec shot plus 20 sec preinfusion) changed the bitterness to chalkiness. Increasing that flow rate with the same yield fragmented what had been a dominant bitterness into almond and walnut with far less intensity, so it was now pleasing. An apricot-like acidity came forward with some sweetness. These shots were smooth but not very complex and had an unsweetened chocolate note dominating the aftertaste. I was unable to get the level of sweetness I wanted, but overall I liked this version enough to recommend it. I found this version best at 201-202°F, 18 gm in, 45 - 50 gm out, 40 second pull. It was chocolate and nuts in a small milk drink but not intense enough for a latte.
The low temperature brewed version was like this on Day 9. At 201°F I found it juicy, moderately sweet, with a hint of wooden bitterness at the top. The juiciness and sweetness dominated. I wasn't getting florals anymore. I wondered about those florals and took a peek at others' reviews, including Team HB, Dustin Demers, the roaster Dustin Demers, who recommends trying it on a lever, and Coffee Review
. Florals should be prominent. Hmmm. By now the coffee was getting late in its shelf life and there wasn't much left. Tutored Attempt
Since it doesn't provide a high pressure start, I bumped the temperature way up on my Prestina, where the PID that measures boiler water is offset to reflect brew temperature. 211°F revealed blood orange and strawberry-like fruit acidity with very little bitterness. It didn't have the sweetness I wanted. My best pull on Day 10 was at 209°F, 18 gm in, 45 gm out, 45 second pull after 20 second preinfusion. The flavor was dominated by strawberry sweet tartness, but I didn't taste florals. At this temperature it had plenty of sweetness. This seemed like the way this coffee is best prepared as espresso. Similar to the lower temperature version, it's tasty in a small milk drink but doesn't have the intensity needed for a latte. On Day 12 I tried the little remaining coffee in my Olympia Express Coffex HX pump machine, pulled without a cooling flush. I didn't have enough left to dial in the flow rate but tasted a touch of florals in one of the two shots remaining. Perhaps the higher pressure of the Coffex can emphasize florals, but I leave it to others' reviews to see what they achieved with their gear with fresher coffee.Lessons Learned
1. Next time I blindly review a coffee that's light roasted my temperature exploration won't be stopped by bitterness that can come from brewing it too cool.
2. A fairly acidic light roast may have a pleasing version when brewed cooler. This can allow one to take a break from the acidity without changing coffees. And it's a reminder that extracted flavors display themselves in a spectrum at different temperatures.Recommended? Yes!
But I took a winding path to get there!
I also want to congratulate Dustin Demers and wish him well in his new business. I'm excited by the high scores he's achieving on Coffee Review. I met him when living in the Bay Area and we would get together several times a year. He was always meticulously dedicated to roasting and coffee preparation, a dedication that continues to this day.