Best tips for "exceptional espresso" - Page 6

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
njtnjt

#51: Post by njtnjt » May 13, 2019, 9:14 pm

Fisher wrote:I do appreciate your input. Thank you! I hope other "traditionalists" will share as well... although I think I am in the minority amongst so many of the more modern third-wavers. :wink:
You're not alone. I am a "traditionalist" too. A couple weeks ago I had the best espresso of my life. It tasted like a dollop of butter was put on top of the crema. Incredible mouthfeel. The grinder? A conical...... Mazzer Kold.
Cheers!
-Nicholas

LMWDP #414 njtnjt

Yum

#52: Post by Yum » May 14, 2019, 12:29 pm

[quoc
te="Radio.YYZ"]I am solely going by flavour on what i like and one of my friend who is NOT a coffee drinker and he enjoys my espressos and eagerly awaits his drinks. I have a no sugar policy, if people do not like pure espresso i am happy to make them a cortado or a flat white.

I do stick to a variable change for atleast a few dozen drinks and note the results. My primary goal is flavour and secondary is fulfiling the desire to have newer better gear, a healthy 70/30 ratio... ok maybe more like 60/40 ratio!

Double guessing is something i have done a lot, so many variables and sometimes they are counter productive to change. The single most important change i have made is sticking to my water recipe that gives a clean clear palete for the espresso.

I am very eager to try the cold cup 2-4min wait espresso shot![/quote]

Fisher

#53: Post by Fisher » Jun 09, 2019, 7:01 pm

Does either a longer or a shorter preinfusion time affect the viscosity of the shot, and if so what is the relationship there?

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C-Antonio

#54: Post by C-Antonio » Jul 08, 2019, 2:38 pm

Fisher wrote:I do appreciate your input. Thank you! I hope other "traditionalists" will share as well... although I think I am in the minority amongst so many of the more modern third-wavers. :wink:
As italian, having had espresso for decades, I can call myself a "traditionalist" for sure.
Personally I dont even think that every coffee that comes from an espresso machine should be called an espresso just because it follows the same idea. For example gelato is gelato, all the rest might even be close but they end just being a "frozen dessert" or "italian style" something.
The bad thing of the 3rd wave is that they try to force something into what its not, the good thing of the 3rd wave is that they pointed out some faults that came to happen because of carelessness or market reason.
My best tip is to know your equipment and try espresso in a lot of places, paying attention to what and how its done so you can pick up the good and steer away from the bad, there is nothing wrong for a coffee drinker to walk in a place and order something else just to see how the barista uses the espresso machine and then order a coffee...
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

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AssafL

#55: Post by AssafL » Jul 09, 2019, 4:12 am

C-Antonio wrote:As italian, having had espresso for decades, I can call myself a "traditionalist" for sure.
Personally I dont even think that every coffee that comes from an espresso machine should be called an espresso just because it follows the same idea. For example gelato is gelato, all the rest might even be close but they end just being a "frozen dessert" or "italian style" something.
The bad thing of the 3rd wave is that they try to force something into what its not, the good thing of the 3rd wave is that they pointed out some faults that came to happen because of carelessness or market reason....
Well - by defining a timed "point of reference" you run a certain risk. For example, being a "traditionalist" of sorts requires a frame of reference.

A true "traditionalist" may come from the early days of espresso - and would absolutely abhor all the Gaggia lever crap that came out balanced and unburnt (I am referring to the old boiler type machines and making an unbased assumption that their coffee was probably different and burnt - driving Achilles Gaggia to do his thing).

How about having a temp sensor? or a dual boiler (a-la 70's)? Is that also within "tradition"?

In cookery the word "tradition" is often used when the world "nostalgy" would be far more apt. Where tradition implies some historical truth (or at least of some anthropological interest) - nostalgy would imply a subjective assessment based on your own personal history and surrounding.

As a kid I watched "Once upon a time..." and it struck me as odd (back then) that in the development of Man episode Albert Barille made a point that while many liked the "flame roasted" meat (in a bon-fire) at least one preferred the "traditional" (nostalgy) way of eating meat - that is raw. So people against sous-vide (of which there are many) are they also against a fire? an oven? a pan? a grill? a barbecue? a spit? against a knife (steak tartare - yummie)?
Scraping away (slowly) at the tyranny of biases and dogma.

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C-Antonio

#56: Post by C-Antonio » replying to AssafL » Jul 09, 2019, 12:52 pm

I dont think that at this point in time there are many that had the early "steam" coffees and had them for long enough to get used to that and survived to this day fighting the espresso, its true that in Italy we start from kids with caffelatte but they would have to be above 100years old by now. You can even go so far to say that the real "tradition" is the Ethipian way of consuming coffee, might be right in an absolute sense but that is not my tradition, Im not from there, it doesnt belong to me like "espresso" isnt a tradition that belongs to them.
So, in Italy there are things that we can call a tradition without any risk at all: the moka, the napoletana (which still exist and still goes strong even if in more of a local way) and the espresso are examples of that...they are all relatively modern traditions and many of us are old enough to have lived some of its best years. I also had the pleasure to have some coffee from one of the early "pre- WW2" machines (not that I'm that old, one of the bars in my town used to have one and the, already old at the time, owner liked to use it every once in awhile...) and it seemed to me closer to something you get from some other brewing method rather than an espresso. It wasnt burned or unbalanced, that I can tell you, and sometimes I wonder how much truth there is in just assuming that it was like that back in the day or that it was always just cut with chicory.
Thats to say: do I call that a traditional espresso? not really, it was a coffee from a machine that was trying to fill the same need of a fast coffee that ended being better served by the espresso machine, it wasnt quite a proper espresso. Think horse and buggy and the car, born from the same need, one served it better than the other and they are in different categories.
I would say that today the "traditional Italian espresso", as type of coffee, is rather well defined. The Instituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano went as far as defining sensory standards with even actual certification for the final product. Leaving aside all the business and monetary reasons behind it, you still end with very clear parameters of what is a "traditional italian espresso".
Which, btw, doesnt mean beans burned to coals, tire rubber grade Robusta (heck there should be Robusta, just not the low quality stuff), stale coffee and other nonsense that some people abroad think an Italian espresso is.
The INEI goes as far as certifying equipment, and obviously there are all the modern machines. Does the product fit the "traditional" espresso? if yes then fine.
But not all the modern thingamajigs with capsules and electronics can give you even a good beverage in the general sense, go figure a "traditional espresso" the coffee isnt bad because its missing the guy pulling the lever, its the system that is not capable so nothing fits tradition there. Its not strictly the equipment used that defines a traditionalist, its what that equipment has been created and used for. I love levers, manual grinders, using hand tools for woodworking, I drive standard, hate that I need an app to do everything, design still with paper and pencil when I want, use a film camera and develop my own film but its foolish to think that being a "traditionalist" means being blind to progress and so I use CAD when needed, tablesaw and routers, digital cameras and write some app here and there, because it serves my needs and I havent forgotten the old ways, in a sense respect them in the results.
If a dual boiler helps you to get the traditional product go for it... add a temp sensor, a raspberryPi and whatever else if that helps you get there but you will naturally reach the point where modern equipment becomes too modern to get you where you want. (I dont know if I explained myself well there but look at all the modern machines trying to be capable to profile pressure and temperature etc etc... you can do that with an old open boiler lever, sometimes easier and better because a computer isnt a great chef)

What I attach to the nostalgia is the "ceremony" that surrounds something, for everything, be it coffee or wine, the aperitivo, or the grappa in piazza from my neck of the woods etc. The atmosphere has as much importance as the product itself, to the point that one can prefer a worse product (to a point) than a better one just because the former satisfies them more if the atmosphere is there.
The ordering while paying, chugging and running away is not "tradition", rather is the tradition falling in disrepair, being neglected together with the quality and the attention of preparing and serving the coffee, old habits like the pending coffee becoming unknown, people growing more and more ignorant about what the "italian espresso" should be, too occupied to follow trends and convenience. If third-wavers are able to bring back a little respect for the product then its still an huge benefit, sour coffee or not.

At the end of the day you can take a risotto and decide to make it with basmati rice instead of arborio, you can say its evolution and say that the original way to make it is nostalgia but you still wont end with risotto, it simply cant come out right. Would it be disgusting? maybe not, maybe its a delicious dish in itself that could delight anyone eating it if presented as "newricedishname", but would certainly put off someone that wanted, asked for and expected "proper traditional risotto" in their plate.

PS: the problem of "tips for an exceptional espresso" is that you must first define, know and understand what is intended for espresso and then define when is exceptional because everyone seem to have different ideas about it
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

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AssafL

#57: Post by AssafL » Jul 09, 2019, 2:01 pm

Well, the traditionalist would use Arborio rice. While the 3rd waver would use Carnaroli (a higher Amylose rice variant). Both can make great risotto (I use both).
C-Antonio wrote:PS: the problem of "tips for an exceptional espresso" is that you must first define, know and understand what is intended for espresso and then define when is exceptional because everyone seem to have different ideas about it
Not really - you read, you try, you like/dislike. For me it takes a month to decide like/dislike (to weed out early mistakes, weed out pre-conceptions on "what's good" etc.).

If I sold coffee I would need a conviction of what's good (read some pros here - they need to be convinced in order to sell). But if I roast and extract my own for myself and friends - why not play around?
Scraping away (slowly) at the tyranny of biases and dogma.

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another_jim
Team HB

#58: Post by another_jim » Jul 09, 2019, 2:59 pm

C-Antonio wrote:PS: the problem of "tips for an exceptional espresso" is that you must first define, know and understand what is intended for espresso and then define when is exceptional because everyone seem to have different ideas about it
I know of three separate genres of espresso, each with its own standards and methods. There are probably more:

-- Italian lever and pump machines: Use a low dose and lots of head space in the basket to create preinfusion. Use medium to fine grind to match the extraction to the roast level, which can vary from very dark to very light. Aim for a soft, well balanced, and accessible flavor. This is, hands down, the most flexible and worked out tradition for making shots

-- Seattle Style: Use a high dose and no head space to create almost instant flow. Use a coarse grind to under-extract darker or take forever roasts. Set up he machine just right to get massive crema and espresso porn flow. Use just the right combo of Sumatra, Harar, and Guats to get chocolate flavors. Aim for a "punch in the mouth" volume flavor -- this works in endless milk and can be sold as ultra-macho or ultra-afficionado depending on whether the cafe is in a red or blue state. I'm making fun of it, but this is the tradition most internet coffee enthusiasts started up in.

-- Third Wave Style: Use a high dose and no head space, because that is how you were trained. But now you are using a very light roast, that can come out ultra grassy and acidic, and you are trying to get enough sweetness and mouthfeel to compensate. Mostly the flavor is still ultra-macho or ultra-afficionado, "but hey, we're working on it." The "working on it" consists of trick baskets that can be overstuffed with very fine grinds and not choke, machines that have variable pump or pressure arrangements for very long preinfusions and flow control, grinders that can do near Turkish grinds without the fines that can choke the flow. Despite the frantic and pompous absurdity of all this reinvention; the result is more espresso innovation in a decade than we've had in the fifty years previously. My guess is that the experimentation with steam powered coffee machines between 1900 and 1910, that started it all, was equally frantic and pompous.
Jim Schulman

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C-Antonio

#59: Post by C-Antonio » Jul 09, 2019, 3:20 pm

AssafL wrote:Well, the traditionalist would use Arborio rice. While the 3rd waver would use Carnaroli (a higher Amylose rice variant). Both can make great risotto (I use both).
Actually to be nitpicky Carnaroli is also one of the few varietes traditionally used for risotto. It depends on region and what will be the base for the risotto as you need to fit the cooking time of both the base and the rice, a risotto that has a vegetable base can benefit of a faster cooking rice like Vialone Nano (its also used mostly in my region of Italy because "traditionally" comes from there), if there is a sauce then Baldo ties to it better, Arborio is for risotto that has a drier meatier base because it ends creamier but its finicky in cooking times and Carnaroli instead works as well with a meat base or a fish base because it doesnt overcook that easy and holds well (thats why goes even for rice salads).
So a 3rd waver wouldnt use carnaroli... we need a trendy rice for them.. :mrgreen:
AssafL wrote:Not really - you read, you try, you like/dislike. For me it takes a month to decide like/dislike (to weed out early mistakes, weed out pre-conceptions on "what's good" etc.).

If I sold coffee I would need a conviction of what's good (read some pros here - they need to be convinced in order to sell). But if I roast and extract my own for myself and friends - why not play around?
Its a forum, from people all over the world i would say, each with a different coffee culture, different coffee habits, different tastes for food and drinks.
Its like asking for a "better red", sure we all know what the color red is (well, there is also the person that never saw red in their life that comes and asks and for what we know what they have been served as red until now was actually purple) but there are plenty of shades of red and everyone is looking at it under a different light and using different types of paint so its hard to relate one experience to another.
And you can define a red as "Ferrari Red" but still you cant use that name for a dark orange just because you painted a Ferrari with it and it looks close enough.
Playing around is a good thing but with others it gets harder if noone is using the same measure
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”

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C-Antonio

#60: Post by C-Antonio » Jul 09, 2019, 3:55 pm

another_jim wrote:I know of three separate genres of espresso, each with its own standards and methods. There are probably more:

-- Italian lever and pump machines: Use a low dose and lots of head space in the basket to create preinfusion. Use medium to fine grind to match the extraction to the roast level, which can vary from very dark to very light. Aim for a soft, well balanced, and accessible flavor. This is, hands down, the most flexible and worked out tradition for making shots

-- Seattle Style: Use a high dose and no head space to create almost instant flow. Use a coarse grind to under-extract darker or take forever roasts. Set up he machine just right to get massive crema and espresso porn flow. Use just the right combo of Sumatra, Harar, and Guats to get chocolate flavors. Aim for a "punch in the mouth" volume flavor -- this works in endless milk and can be sold as ultra-macho or ultra-afficionado depending on whether the cafe is in a red or blue state. I'm making fun of it, but this is the tradition most internet coffee enthusiasts started up in.

-- Third Wave Style: Use a high dose and no head space, because that is how you were trained. But now you are using a very light roast, that can come out ultra grassy and acidic, and you are trying to get enough sweetness and mouthfeel to compensate. Mostly the flavor is still ultra-macho or ultra-afficionado, "but hey, we're working on it." The "working on it" consists of trick baskets that can be overstuffed with very fine grinds and not choke, machines that have variable pump or pressure arrangements for very long preinfusions and flow control, grinders that can do near Turkish grinds without the fines that can choke the flow. Despite the frantic and pompous absurdity of all this reinvention; the result is more espresso innovation in a decade than we've had in the fifty years previously. My guess is that the experimentation with steam powered coffee machines between 1900 and 1910, that started it all, was equally frantic and pompous.
If I can make an analogy with pizza which more or less we all know:
you can have the italian pizza, which abroad is often limited to the neapolitan pizza but in Italy you find it changes from region to region with different traditional ingredients, different dough thickness and cooking style.
You can have the Chicago style deep dish pizza
there might be who knows what kind of 3rd wave pizza, whatever they come out with as novelty or taste pairing.

But if I just say pizza how the others in the forum know what Im talking about? which one? and what are my tastes in pizza? I even know people that all they had their whole life is carboardy pizza with rubbery cheese, and a few cases that liked (oh the heresy) ketchup as tomato sauce on their pizza.

Its not refusing innovation, I like to try different kind of coffee, its the same for food, wines, etc I travel a lot too and to me its a way to explore as much as sightseeing.
But how can we all relate to eachother when we dont have the same measuring unit to go with?
In speaking with friends in Canada that dont have my same experiences I tend to gauge things using their tastes in other foods, or liquors, dark or milk chocolate... is there a sort of "calibration" that can be done in a forum? how can I receive help if my espresso is not your espresso, since we are calling everything just espresso?
Im not sure if Im explaining it...

Edit: to be clear when I said "understanding what is intended for espresso" I wasnt saying "you guys dont get what espresso is", what I meant was that for the most part an OP says "espresso", everyone seems to accept it that way asking nothing more, when I read I have no clue what "style" they are referring to, if its in Italy talking with other Italians we know what we are referring to, but abroad or in a forum like this its way different

Edit edit: yes to experimentation, yes to innovation but... we are talking about a product that its defined by its name, you can tweak something but there is a tipping point where you changed it so much you cant call it by that name anymore and you are just (innocently) misrepresenting a product (for example the Rao's coffee with a very low pressure and paper filters etc). To me some 3rd wave espresso is as different from a traditional italian espresso as bourbon from scotch, and there is so much difference within 3rd wave Im not even sure its right to group them all together like that .
Italians are often pointed out as being picky and snobbish when it comes to types of food etc when they complain about it abroad, but you guys pick any typical product of your own area and see it approached by others with a different background, there will be things you will accept, even like, as tweaks and some other things that just make you say "thats not it". Its not just Italians, I was talking with a Japanese friend that feels the same about sushi.
Emigrants move, bring with them their traditions, which inevitably get somewhat bastardized either by necessity of making do or by blending in a different culture, however things end being identified differently with their own name and they become a different product in its own right.
The change in the whole coffee scene of the 1910s and up did not just tweak a coffee, they were a switch to a whole new brewing method with a substantially different end product. An Espresso is an Espresso period, you cant change it radically just because people taste has changed, then maybe they just like better something that is not an Espresso.

(and I am in any way suggesting one bad other good, everyone can like what they prefer)
“Eh sì sì sì…sembra facile (fare un buon caffè)!”