HB Home Roasting Competition Results - Espresso

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
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another_jim
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#1: Post by another_jim »

It's my third day of tasting the 20 espresso entries, and I'm finally done.

Actually there were 19 entries intended entries. Rama Roberts included elaborate aging instructions on his brew entry, so I mistakenly put it into the espresso group. The mistake worked out for him, since his was one of the livelier finalists.

The seven finalists were coffees that beat the reference coffee I roasted in head to head competition. This was a Brasil heavy blend designed to taste smooth, balanced, but generic -- like a good shot at an Italian bar.

Of the seven finalists, five are medium roast Sidamos or blends that worked best at lower doses. John Despres qualified with the Aceh medium roasted; and Ralph Meyer with a darker roast; and both these worked best at high doses. It's a strong group, with bold and varied flavors. Abe will have an enjoyable day on Friday trying them out.

Four other entries were good, solid shots, equaling my effort, but did not quite make the cut.

The other nine had problems. In three of these, a promising blend was spoiled by an ashy finish, probably because the Brazil was roasted too hot or dark. The other six were just too timid. Flavor in a tasting competition is like speed in a car race -- you can never have enough.

I am not including detailed scores at this point. I tried the blends before they were completely settled, and the scores would be deceptive. I'll communicate with those who did not make the cut next week; the finalists will have detailed comments posted in the winner announcement.

All in all, the entries were a strong group. The major problem was less roasting or blending ability and more competition strategy. Once people understand that in a competition, they are in a crowd of coffees, trying to get noticed by an over-caffeinated taster, they will make the required adjustments. In other words, they will
go loud
Jim Schulman

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Arpi
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#2: Post by Arpi »

Congrats to the finalists and everybody else!

I am glad to hear the good words from Jim about the quality of roasts. I think everybody wins with the notes and comments that are coming out. If the level is this good now, what's going to happen then next year? I mean the level can only go higher.

Cheers

John Despres
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#3: Post by John Despres »

Wow! Congratulations, everyone and best of luck in the next few days!

And, thanks, Jim

John

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rama
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#4: Post by rama »

another_jim wrote: Actually there were 19 entries intended entries. Rama Roberts included elaborate aging instructions on his brew entry, so I mistakenly put it into the espresso group. The mistake worked out for him, since his was one of the livelier finalists.
Serendipitous! Perhaps this is the universe telling me to invest in a Versalab M3 and something with a E61 grouphead. :D

I guess all of the tasting I did for my entry was really just filtered cupping sessions in the end. This has me thinking: would a SO or blend intended for espresso be easier to diagnose as brewed coffee, I mean beyond just cupping? I've heard folks say espresso accentuates flaws, but its also so concentrated perhaps it takes a trained palate to cut through the strong flavors and detect them?

Either that or my for-coffee entry was roasted so much lighter than the competition it just stands out, good or bad...

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Arpi
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#5: Post by Arpi »

I'll tell what I did to not make it to the top jeje. Maybe someone can learn something.

I did not cup the coffee. Instead, I went straight to the espresso machine next day and try the beans jeje.

I judged the beans by biting on them.

At the end of the roast, I bite only one bean to tell if it was OK. But one bean can be OK and all others bad. So cupping the coffee would have help identifying/correcting errors.

I pushed the limits of the temperatures. I was roasting at 10F less than known char territory (Sidamo). I think I should have made a more 'relaxed' friendly roast.

I experimented in the last moment and sent the results. I should have stayed within known results based on experience.

Blending can be misleading if using day-before fresh roasted beans and the espresso machine as final authority.

I changed beans quantities in the final blend many times. So I wasn't sure about percentages jeje.

Hopefully I'll come back reading this next year :)

Cheers

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another_jim (original poster)
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#6: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

The finals standard is high -- I was hoping the Italian style, Brasil heavy blend I put together would be the par coffee for the finals; but instead it was the doormat, and all the finalists are distinctly better. The test roasts I did used smaller loads on the Brazil and went two minutes faster. The result of roasting with too many beans? My coffee was too flat tasting, and would not have made the cut.

Ironic, since I posted a warning to avoid doing this.
Jim Schulman

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farmroast
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#7: Post by farmroast »

I was one with an "ashy" espresso roast that didn't make the cut. Basically from the opposite happening from what Jim just mentioned. We had a wicked cold spell with Chicago style winds and my winter roasting room was really cold. After I did my test roasts decided I better add some insulation around my roast pot. This increased my roasters heat transfer abilities. The room temp. moderated so when I roasted my tree dried Brazil I didn't compensate quite enough and my final ET ended a little higher than it needed to be. On first inspection of the beans you would not see any tipping or obvious scorching or divots or a roast too dark. Upon closer inspection I noticed the bits of mucilage on the crack skin was darker than I would expect. The mucilage coating on the beans was overheated and with the high convection of my homebuilt design yielded the ashiness that wrecked my espresso roast blend. We all did great and we all can improve and the discussion we will get into next week after all the feedback from the judges is in will be extremely valuable and fun.
Just shows there's a fine line between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

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another_jim (original poster)
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#8: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

Congratulations to the winners Ralph Meyer and Sherman Chong, and to all the other competitors. Abe and I have judged in Barista competitions both locally and nationally, and the standard here was as high or higher. Of the seven finalist, five were standouts, while two had good blends that somehow had a bad day today. John Despres gets a shout out for (in Olympic parlance), a high degree of difficulty roast - a light roasted Sumatra for SO espresso. He didn't win, but he pulled it off. Henry Chang gaves us a flat out fruit bomb and Marvin Rabinowitz, a smooth milk chocolate truffle, both of which put a smile on our faces.

Our thanks to all these really enjoyable blends. Any pro roaster in the country would be proud to put their name on something as good as these.

If you want to do an espresso taste, two technical notes jump out for doing these comparison:

1. It is incredibly easy to pull consistent shots if one dials in, records the shot weight and grind setting, and repeats these for the competition. Even where the blends went south in the two day wait from preliminaries to finals, changing the dose and grind made things worse, not better.

2. Italian espresso machines prefer making a shot every minute, balancing on the run, like a bicycle. Use the grinder waste to pull a single, wait out the minute, cleaning the group with tiny flushes during the wait, then pull the money shot.

This may not be something you want to do all the time. But if you are doing an important set of shots, it's worth considering these extra wrinkles.

Finally. If you need to grade a lot of shots, take a few tiny sips of each and chew. This "finish" will tell the story -- the great ones are clean, lively and interesting.

Here's some of Abe's photos:

Competitors 2 through 7, while 1 was being pulled:


The shot basket and the preliminary single basket


Shot number 1 pouring


And here's the result, ready to judge:
Jim Schulman

chang00
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#9: Post by chang00 »

Congratulations Ralph and Sherman!

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farmroast
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#10: Post by farmroast »

Absolutely superb results!!!! Congratulations all!!! Thanks Abe and Jim.
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"