This past Friday, Counter Culture Coffee once again hosted a group taste test.
Blind taste testing can be a humbling experience as it sometimes reveals confirmation bias, sometimes it just shows that teasing out tiny differences in top-end equipment is difficult. For this installment, Penelope and I arrived early to dial in the Apollo single origin espresso
, an Ethiopian coffee described as "always clean and bright". We settled on Apollo as it's not too difficult (and not too easy) to dial in; we also agreed on a basic recipe of 17 grams in, 34 grams out. Since the La Marzocco Swift Mini uses specialized matte-finished baskets, we standardized on them.
The Linea PB has a nifty built-in scale and auto-timing, which really simplifies the process. It didn't take many test shots before we were ready:
Espresso pour from La Marzocco Swift Mini on Linea PB
Local regulars Bob and Ian couldn't make it, but Counter Culture employees showed up in force and were enthusiastic about the test. The setup is simple: Cups are marked on the bottom with an "S" (Swift Mini) or "P" (Mahlkonig Peak). Penelope and I prepared two espressos (split double), randomized them, then handed them to the participant.
Snap of some of the participants who came and went during the test
They were instructed to mark their preferred cup with their initials and set it down on the counter, the "winner" on one side of the divider, the "loser" on the other. As an interesting aside, I realized that the speed advantage of the La Marzocco Swift Mini was significant, as I needed to wait on Penelope to be in the final steps of her preparation before starting, otherwise my doubles would sit cooling while hers would still be pouring.
Dan paying attention to the shot time/weight for the Swift Mini espressos
I'll put this observation to the test this week when I bring it on the road, serving a large group of my colleagues at my real job.
After 10 pairings, we dumped the dregs of the cups and then counted the win/losses:
And the winner is... neither
What, a tie?!?
We've had other really close shootouts, but I don't recall any exact
ties. As we puzzled over this unexpected result, a couple other Counter Culture employees filtered in. Since it was still early, we pulled 2 pairs as a "bonus round" tie-breaker. And yet the result was the same: An exact tie.
While the participants' thoughts were fresh, I asked for a short recap of why they picked one over the other:
- Adrian: I preferred the slightly mellowed Swift Mini espressos; the others had a bit more "bite".
- Brian: I tried several rounds; to my taste, the Peak was notably sweeter.
- Penelope: The Peak espressos were slightly more complex, more sweet and higher acidity.
- Dan: I preferred the balance of the Swift Mini, though I thought I was picking the Peak espressos. Go figure.
- Brett: I don't even like coffee (*).
So there you go! Another blinded taste test and again unexpected (?) results. Huge thanks to Counter Culture Coffee for sponsoring the test, Penelope for her barista skills, and all the participants for their comments. Next up, I'll pair the Swift Mini with two popular espresso grinders, the Compak K10 and Monolith Flat, for another side-by-side comparison. Once that's complete, the Swift Mini will go on the road to one of the Team HB moderators.
(*) It's an inside joke... Brett Smith is the CCC co-founder.
Penelope Hearne, the bright smiling barista working with the Mahlkonig Peak