Velton's Bonsai Blend
I like this coffee. Taking it through its paces yields some constants. Foremost of these are juiciness that combines sour and sweet and a tea-like mouthfeel, and a mildly roasty finish. This isn't a dense, sticky espresso and doesn't do well as a ristretto. The juiciness stands out from anything I've tasted. It makes a nice milk drink if you brew it to bring the sourness forward without going too hot, where the latter creates bitterness. The best shots also have some jammy sweetness and mild Baker's chocolate, with dark dried fruit and hints of Middle Eastern spices in the finish.
The main challenge dialing in was taming the moderate sourness. Sourness and sweetness were well balanced with temperatures of 196 - 198°F or 201°F - 203°F. Sour peaks were at 199 - 200°F and 205°F and above, when it became increasingly bitter and astringent. I found 205°F best for milk drinks because it sufficiently emphasized the sourness to create a Meyer lemon cappuccino. I liked this coffee best as a pourover when I first tasted it 5 days post-roast. I tried it as espresso on days 5 - 8, freezing it at peak at the end of Day 8 to try different brew ratios and temperatures. Pourover brewing at day 8 found the flavors muted and less interesting.
The roaster's recommended parameters for espresso were 201°F, 18 gm in, 45 - 50 gm out, 28 - 32 second pull.
Equipment notes: My Conti Prestina commercial lever has a gentle spring action and approximates pump machine parameters by adding about 20 seconds to the pull after a boiler pressure preinfusion of at least 15 seconds. My espresso temperatures are a 52°F estimated offset from PID (computer) temperature control in the boiler. My espresso grinder is a Fiorenzato Doge Conico 68 mm with manual doser. My pourover brew equipment is a Bonavita PID kettle, a Driver metal filter, and a Bunn LPG grinder retrofitted with Ditting 802 flat burrs.
I first inspected the coffee on Day 5. Beans were of mixed size and a City Roast, where the coffee has been taken through first crack. The dry aroma revealed mild acidity.
On Day 5 I tried a pourover at 201°F. This coffee brewed with a refreshing, almost mint-like character, layering nuts over Middle Eastern spices like cinnamon and cardamom with a mild background of Dutch cocoa. As it cooled, there was just enough clean acidity to be refreshing. Further cooling resolved to an aftertaste of walnuts and spice. The initial taste was slightly grassy, but in a pleasant, cooling way. Another way to describe this was "juicy." Mouthfeel was like a rich tea. As it cooled to room temperature, a plum-like acidity increased and the Middle Eastern spices hovered over a gentle and balancing raspberry sweetness. The cinnamon and cardamom notes left me wondering whether there was some Yemen in this blend.
My best shot was an unusually slow one on Day 8. Temperature was 198°F with 20 gm in, 45 gm out, a 30 sec preinfusion, and a 1:27 lever pull. This unusual technique can produce great shots for some coffees on my Conti Prestina, which minimizes overextraction with its relatively soft spring and a large intra-shot temperature drop.
Trying a coffee as it opens up is a moving target, so here's a summary of what that was like.
Day 6: Since this was pre-peak, I was concentrating on dialing in, starting close to the roaster's recommended parameters. The first shot wasn't timed. Otherwise it was 19.4 gm in, 42.6 gm out, 201°F, 15 sec preinfusion. This was too sour up front with a lower range of dry cocoa powder. The Middle Eastern spiciness only appeared in the long finish. Another shot at 19.7 gm in, 55 gm out, 196°F, 15 sec preinfusion, 60 sec pull tamed the sourness, brought more sweetness and dark chocolate with a walnut aftertaste and some spice in the finish. The spice was stronger in the long finish, with a slight hickory smokiness.
Day 7: 196°F, 18.1 gm in, 53.3 gm out, 30 sec preinfusion, 45 sec pull. This had a compelling cider-like juiciness with a mildly bitter bottom note. It was a bit hollow, lacking sweetness or fruit pungency in the mid-range. In the aftertaste the bitterness resolved to almond and the sourness came forward. The long aftertaste was roasty/toasty, with Baker's chocolate. Another shot at 18 gm in, 40 gm out, 198°F, 30 second preinfusion, 37 sec pull reduced bitterness but increased sourness and intensity in ways I didn't like.
Day 8: 18 gm in, 37 gm out, 30 sec preinfusion, 28 sec pull, 197°F. This was an improvement over the previous day, perhaps because it had reached peak, because it was more dialed in, or both. At first it was sweet, moderately juicy, with a hint of bitters and medium mouthfeel. It became more juicy as it cooled with just a hint of roasty, smoke flavor. The sweetness had an intensity like blackberry or strawberry jam, without the distinctive floral aromas of those fruits. Bitter merged into mild orange-like sourness, also without the floral flavor. As it cooled this was so juicy it was refreshing. The last sip had a dark floral note and the finish was Baker's chocolate tinged with sweetness. The aftertaste was dark toast, almond, Baker's chocolate, with a slight edge of grapefruit tartness. The long aftertaste was tobacco.
As noted above, the best shot this day and overall was 198°F, 20 gm in, 45 gm out, 30 sec preinfusion, 1:27 pull. The long, slow pull with the declining pressure and temperature profile of the Prestina created a refined, juicy espresso where the flavors were integrated and a sweet almost floral fruitiness came forward. This shot toned down the Baker's chocolate/tobacco note that resolved to mild bitter almond. The aftertaste was a mild blend of roast, raisin, almond, and a mouth-drying powdered chocolate that stopped short of being astringent. In the long finish the chocolate took on a hint of cumin.