What coffees do you roast for espresso?

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
User avatar
drgary
Team HB

#1: Post by drgary »

People's tastes for espresso have broadened in recent years, so I thought you might enjoy discussing what coffees you roast for espresso and whether we're still constrained by some types of roasts being more suitable for other brew methods. This conversation was set in motion by Matt Grayson's post in a thread about roasting a special lot of Yemeni Coffee. Here's the thread and some of his post.

New Yemen Haraaz
mgrayson wrote:I have not roasted in a decade and am considering another try. The roasted coffees I buy work well for what I make - mostly espresso and milk drinks, but the possibilities get vaster with roasting one's own.

Let's start with some green coffee (The Yemen in this thread, for instance). We could end up with, say, drip, espresso, or a milk drink. In between, there is a roasting process, and a brewing process. Of the three final drinks, is this coffee vastly better for one than the others? Or a complete waste of time for one, but good on the other two? Assuming the roast is chosen to best target a particular drink. This is partially addressed in the FAQ's, but is there a reasonable rule of thumb like "don't waste your money on coffee X greens if you plan to make espresso" or "coffee Y will make good lattes, but you have to roast it like this.." or "learn to use a pour-over, n00b" :D

Thank you, oh experienced roasters,

Matt
olutheros replied:
olutheros wrote:At this point I think people routinely make espresso out of literally the most expensive coffees in the world (especially when they have grinders like the one in your profile). Pretty much all good quality coffee has the potential to be whatever you want it to be, though you can influence its characteristics and taste through your roast profile.

Common sense exceptions apply, of course -- you may not want to drop your very acidic, nordic-roasted kenyan in a steamed cup of milk. But something like this particular coffee can work for anything you want it to.
I believe this is worth a discussion in its own right. Choice of coffee, roasting style, equipment, brew methods and taste all contribute to what's possible as well as how much you're willing to spend on gear that extends the envelope. I look forward to this conversation and hope to learn from it too.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

Rickpatbrown

#2: Post by Rickpatbrown »

I think Olutheros said it pretty well. I have not really encountered a good coffee that I couldnt make into a good/interesting espresso. Certainly, there are some that were better than others.

In general, I like lighter roasted, 3rd wave style, so long as it's not too sour. I find that adjusting the water temperature does a lot to help get the most out of differnet roast levels (hotter water for lighter roasts). I acquired a La Pavoni Europiccola a few months go and a BPlus Appollo grinder. I was blown away at how good my "pour over" beans were in this. You get full control over pressure/flow, preinfusion, water temp on the Europiccola.

That being said, these lighter roasts seem to have a narrower margin of error. My main espresso workhorse (regular fills my Mazzer Mini hopper) has been a Brazil natural Royal Crown Jewel. It's easy to extract and has a middle of the road profile (good body, sweet, smooth).

99% of my espresso consumption is straight up. No milk.

mgrayson
Supporter ♡

#3: Post by mgrayson » replying to Rickpatbrown »

I intend to roast, and roast for espresso. I basically don't want to go initially down a path (expensive greens) that will disappoint until I have mastered a different brewing method.

That being said, I am not looking to shoehorn every coffee into espresso. If some beans really shine when roasted and prepared in a different way, I'd love to know. After all, sometimes one wants a cup of hot liquid that isn't largely steamed milk. :D I make Aeropress for my daughter who wants to add her own ... additives, but I use my espresso beans and she hasn't complained.

Rickpatbrown

#4: Post by Rickpatbrown » replying to mgrayson »

I think the question is less about espresso vs other method, but more about what level of roast you prefer. The perfect roast level is more of a bean thing than the brewing method, IMO. Some beans, should not be roasted dark (fruity Ethiopian natural or delicate Gesha). Some beans can handle darker roasts and still retain some of their origin character (like good Kenyan). Yemen coffee is kind of an outlier to me. It can handle and seems to prefer darker roasts. But I also get wildly different results from lot to lot.

Most people prefer a certain roast level regardless of brew method. Do you like, caramel, smooth, spicy dark coffee? Than roast dark and master espresso extraction of dark roasts. Do you like bright, fruity light coffee? Master espresso extraction of light roasts. If your trying to get calibrated and then branch out, I'd start with washed Centrals (Guatemala/ Colombia etc). These are pretty middle of the road and can be roasted light - dark.

Btw ... everyone like sweet coffee. This seems especially important for espresso. I think the Sweet Maria's "good for espresso" descriptor is based on sweetness and body. Usually people want both in espresso. I have had lots of really tasty shots from beans not labeled good for espresso, though.

This is all my opinion, of course. The grain of salt ... I'm not a super taster and I like a really wide variety of things. Even if it's not "good", I might appreciate it if it's "interesting".

User avatar
drgary (original poster)
Team HB

#5: Post by drgary (original poster) »

I like the idea of being able to experiment with roast levels and with emphasizing different flavor characteristics of some greens. Although I don't own either piece of gear, it seems like Decent espresso machines and Ikawa roasters have a shorter learning curve to "very good" with their availability of a library of tested profiles. At the next level, there are roasters and espresso machines with sufficient consistency and versatility that you can find workable parameters faster.

Having the new generation of a high quality, programmable sample roaster or machine would make this journey more rewarding and less painful. I like the ability to adjust the roasting profile rather than rely too much on something that's pre-set because it allows you to take a coffee from a vendor that posts a profile for a high quality coffee they sell. An example would be Royal Coffee's Crown Jewels program.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

User avatar
Brewzologist
Supporter ♡

#6: Post by Brewzologist »

Interesting topic. Thanks for starting it.

I drink both pour-over and espresso and I roast what is fashionably called an "omni-roast" so I can use the same roast for both. Can't say what the heck an 'omni-roast' really is, but for me it's roasting a bean to its optimum result as Rick described, erring on the light-medium side as that is my personal preference. I find that coffees which are usually roasted dark can still be quite nice roasted a little lighter. Especially if they are high quality coffees as olutheros described.

I usually keep 4 coffees on-hand to use for both pour-over and espresso. For pour-over I tend to drink more single-origin, but also do blends of 2 coffees sometimes. For espresso I tend toward a post-roast blend of 2-3 coffees, and favor what JeffK calls "third-wave orange juice" (TWOJ). 8) (e.g. striving for more clarity and separation perhaps at the expense of body and integrated taste, but NOT sour). And I always drink it straight up with no milk. I've had a DE1 now for close to 4 months and while it's been a steep learning curve, I can now reliably crank out a nice TWOJ shot using some of the 'turbo' profiles and a flat burr grinder.

EDIT: regarding the Ikawa and other cool integrated small batch roasters, one thing that concerns me is the 'home' versions may hobble the roaster a bit in terms of sensors and/or software. If you're trying to roast really great beans, it would be shame to be limited in quality by the roasting hardware. I had enough of that with the Behmor, which arguably is in a much lower league than the Ikawa. But I defer to those with the Ikawa to correct errant assumptions on my part regarding the home model.

EDIT2: To (finally) answer the original question, my freezer contains Brazilians, Sumatrans, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Aida Batlle, Panama Elida, and Yemeni coffees that I mix/match for PO and espresso.

User avatar
TigerStripes

#7: Post by TigerStripes »

I've become somewhat obsessed with Kenya Kirinyaga and Nyeri regions for espresso. Any sl-28 / sl-34 from that area that has sweet black currant, fig, grape flavors with a hint of acidity... that's what I'm chasing every morning and afternoon
LMWDP #715

mgrayson
Supporter ♡

#8: Post by mgrayson »

Brewzologist wrote: EDIT: regarding the Ikawa and other cool integrated small batch roasters, one thing that concerns me is the 'home' versions may hobble the roaster a bit in terms of sensors and/or software. If you're trying to roast really great beans, it would be shame to be limited in quality by the roasting hardware. I had enough of that with the Behmor, which arguably is in a much lower league than the Ikawa. But I defer to those with the Ikawa to correct errant assumptions on my part regarding the home model.
The Home vs. Pro decision is a difficult one. Start with too basic a unit and be forever unsatisfied. Start with too capable a unit and be confused and (expensively) frustrated. My hope is this: Say coffee X has a great Pro roast profile Y. But profile Y doesn't exist in the space of Home profiles. Along comes Good Roaster Person. GRP says "I wonder what Home profile Z will get me closest to the results of Y." Being inexplicably altruistic, GRP produces profile Z. The two questions are 1) Is Z good enough? and 2) Will a Home user learn anything from Z and the contortions required to make it? A "No" answer to either would be a compelling reason to upgrade. I'm betting on "Yes", but accept that I may be dead wrong.

The relevance to this discussion is that, while I see many interesting roasted beans from good vendors, I have no idea how they were roasted, and I would be unable to experiment. Home roasting is a way to expand into new varieties.

And to Good Roaster Person, whoever you are, many thanks in advance!

Matt

Bluenoser
Supporter ♡

#9: Post by Bluenoser »

I drink a lot of milk based stuff in the morning and I like blends for that; and often my 'base' is a Brazilian variety with some high altitude bean giving me some fruit notes. That is pretty standard (maybe boring) stuff. I think a home machine is a great way to learn characteristics of beans better, but you need to spend some time experimenting with it or everything tastes a little earthy.. Likely the IKAWA is the best quality for small batches.. but pretty pricey. I have a FR800 and I agree that it is hard with these cheaper models to duplicate or control roasts because there is not enough sensing equipment or fine control in the heat. Also air roasters need to be outside and in a Canadian climate you need some type of outside vented area.

User avatar
drgary (original poster)
Team HB

#10: Post by drgary (original poster) »

mgrayson wrote:The Home vs. Pro decision is a difficult one. Start with too basic a unit and be forever unsatisfied. Start with too capable a unit and be confused and (expensively) frustrated. My hope is this: Say coffee X has a great Pro roast profile Y. But profile Y doesn't exist in the space of Home profiles. Along comes Good Roaster Person. GRP says "I wonder what Home profile Z will get me closest to the results of Y." Being inexplicably altruistic, GRP produces profile Z. The two questions are 1) Is Z good enough? and 2) Will a Home user learn anything from Z and the contortions required to make it? A "No" answer to either would be a compelling reason to upgrade. I'm betting on "Yes", but accept that I may be dead wrong.

Matt
Matt: My thinking might go toward getting the Home version and seeing if you're satisfied. If not, you can sell it in Buy/Sell and upgrade to a Pro, already being familiar with an Ikawa. It also highlights that home roasting to anything close to consistent, professional results is a journey that may take some time and expense, just like our coffee hobby overall. You experiment, and the less than stellar results go into milk drinks. And, you can choose to experiment with something like a Cormorant that won't be automated but you take your time and know that it isn't the gear that's holding you back while you improve your chops.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!