Best technique for finding best flavor

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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Arpi

#1: Post by Arpi »

Hi folks

Many times people recommend a blend at a certain temperature but forget to mention the amount of coffee used. During my short learning experience I've found that amount of coffee plays as much as important role as as temperature. Anyway, I think this is basic but I'll write the way I do things now, and hope people will chime with their own method so that I can improve my technique.

When I get a new blend or SO I start with single basket at 10 grams at 198F. Double baskets are usually too strong for my liking. I estimate the grind setting based on freshness and aim at a shot of 27". Some blends benefit from fast extractions like 20" while others benefit from long extractions like +30". Experience is what determines the extraction time for me. I keep my weight constant at 10grams and boost the temp with 2F intervals. Doing this, from 198F to 206F there are only 5 possible flavors. This 'scan' of flavors costs only 50 grams but will guide you through selecting the best tasting flavor according with your machinery. Once I find the best temp I can fine tune in the 1F range but now enjoying a good flavors.

What is your method?

Thanks

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another_jim
Team HB

#2: Post by another_jim »

It's always good to hear newbies share their discoveries.

Dose, temperature, pressure, and flow rate all affect the way the the coffee is extracted. Varying these has only a slight effect on the aromatics, but a large effect on mouthfeel, and the taste balance, that is, the balance of bitter, sour, and sweet flavors.

There is a good deal of overlap to the effect of changing some of these variables. For instance, both more lungo extractions and cooler temperatures tend towards acidity, while both more ristretto extractions and higher temperatures tend towards bitterness. Every barista must develop his or her own competence in diagnosing the taste imbalances of a shot and changing the shot variables to correct them. Depending on machine and grinder, they'll pick one or two "go to" variables from the quartet of the dose, flow, temperature, and pressure.

Currently I use dose and flow, and leave temperature and pressure be. You can use another set of variables, but my advice is to focus on these two first, since they are 'Mano" variable, available on any machine, whereas temperature and pressure may only be adjustable on some machines.

Temperature and pressure are certainly not adjustable on any machine you don't own. For instance, in barista competition, competitors are encouraged to fine tune dose and flow, but would be disqualified if they tried to adjust the pressure or temperature.
Jim Schulman

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Arpi

#3: Post by Arpi »

Tx Jim. Looks very interesting I'll give it a read :)

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John P

#4: Post by John P »

I always found Malachi's methodology to be very sound when exploring espresso.

How do you explore the extraction space?
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT
caffedbolla.com

Gus

#5: Post by Gus »

Thanks Jim for the great information! I have not had time to read the whole thing and I probably don't have the depth of knowledge yet to fully comprehend it all, but wow! That truly is useful advice for dialing in the taste balance.

I have been sticking to the same dose for the past 2 weeks. I was trying to address donut extractions and was not focusing on best taste as much as consistent taste. Now that the extractions have gotten more even and consistent, it was time to address the missing sweetness. I was not sure what direction to go. After reading about the fast dissolving and slow dissolving compounds, I determined that I was too heavy on caramels and dry distillates (over extracted). In order to achieve what I wanted for balance I upped the dosage 1 gram while keeping the flow the same and got a much sweeter balanced result. The fruit flavors came through while the chocolates remained very balanced and the ashen taste disappeared. The next two shots at the new dose confirmed I had made the right decision. This is a "light switch on" moment for me.

Armed with this information and considerably more time and practice, I think I will certainly be able to begin to truly explore coffee, predicting results rather than scratching my head at them.

Thank you for taking the time to put all of that together and for sharing it.


Gus
Gus

Insert catchy phrase of choice here

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AndyS

#6: Post by AndyS »

another_jim wrote: ...both more lungo extractions and cooler temperatures tend towards acidity, while both more ristretto extractions and higher temperatures tend towards bitterness.
...Depending on machine and grinder, they'll pick one or two "go to" variables from the quartet of the dose, flow, temperature, and pressure.
I'm puzzled why you specify a "quartet" of variables in the second sentence above, yet in the first sentence you've introduced a fifth variable: shot volume, along the ristretto-lungo continuum.

Seems to me it's really a quintet.
-AndyS
VST refractometer/filter basket beta tester, no financial interest in the company

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another_jim
Team HB

#7: Post by another_jim »

Volume is just the integral of flow, one variable, not two. On the other hand, how blonde one goes is a fifth variable
Jim Schulman

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AndyS

#8: Post by AndyS »

another_jim wrote:Volume is just the integral of flow, one variable, not two.


Well, of course volume is the integral of flow. But that doesn't imply that a 23 sec shot pulled to a certain volume is the same as a 28 sec shot pulled to the same volume.
another_jim wrote:how blonde one goes is a fifth variable
Agreed.

Jim, I admire your effort to organize the shot-tuning process into a few easily understood variables. But as Einstein purportedly said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." :wink:
-AndyS
VST refractometer/filter basket beta tester, no financial interest in the company

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another_jim
Team HB

#9: Post by another_jim »

OK, conceded.

There's six independent variables in the short run: coffee, dose, grind, temperature profile, pressure profile, and either shot time, volume, or blonding (any one determines the others, given that the prior variables are set). Finally, for some old school baristas, there may be a seventh, if they sometimes choose to let the first few drops go into the drip tray.

But before making an unnecessarily huge production out of these, lets have a quick look at what else is out there.

First off, in the long run, the details of the grinder's burr and machine's group design are also variables. Reducing these to a set of manipulable measures is a long ways off, at least as far as I know. I spent big bucks on a grinder without frills, and a machine without proper temperature or pressure controls, since I think they have among the best burrs and group available. I have no proof or theory to offer on why this is except what is in the cup.

And that brings us to the far more interesting topic of dependent variables, the taste of the shot, and they relate to the independent ones.
  • The aromatics and olfactory aspects of the taste are determined by the coffee, and nothing else - whirly blade and WBC shots will smell about the same, if the coffee is the same.
  • The tongue taste balance has two variables true of all brewing, the coffee/water ratio or the coffees strength, and the degree of solubles extraction or roughly the balance of sours (underextracted) to bitters (overextracted). You don't need five different extraction variables (dose, grind, temperature, pressure and shot time) to manipulate these.
  • Finally, in espresso shots, it is possible to bias of the balance of the sweet comfort food flavors (sugar, honey, caramel, chocolate, etc) versus sours and bitters combined, even at the same solubles extraction and cup strength. This is either because the relative extraction levels can be altered, or because the flavors can be differentially biased by the crema and extracted oils.
To my mind, the years of honing technique and the thousands spent on equipment deal mostly with this last single aspect of the shot. A cynic would say that it's a huge amount of time, effort, and expense just to save on a teaspoon of sugar :wink:
Jim Schulman

zin1953

#10: Post by zin1953 »

. . . which, after all, helps the medicine go down. :mrgreen:
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.