Mano Lite: A Short Guide to Dialing in Espresso SOs and Blends - Page 3

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.

#21: Post by Aaron »

That sounds a little more complicated than I was expecting :) Do you know of a link or a list of the description of the different types of processing and how they are performed? I was under the assumption that the coffee beans were all treated in the same manner and the only difference was growing region and roasting, but apparently I was very wrong.
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another_jim (original poster)
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#22: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

IMO, the best on-line coffee encyclopedia. Click on agriculture or harvesting.
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#23: Post by malachi »

Wikipedia has a decent write-up on coffee processing as well.

It's quite a bit more complicated actually. You've got the various varietals themselves (a tiny subset example here but realize that there are something like a thousand varietals - in Ethiopia alone). You get the specific micro conditions of each specific area (not country, not region, not even farm but in fact lot within farm). These are different each year so you get seasonality on top of the two previous. You get harvesting / picking (not only how the beans are picked - mechanical, human) but also how well (only ripe, etc) and how often (once per harvest, two different days, three different days, etc). Then handling (how well, are beans mixed or kept separate). Then processing (methodology, ability, specific details of the methodology). Then sorting (to what degree, how well). Then handling, packaging and shipping (jute, grainpro, mylar, boat, airfreight, etc). Then storage (conditions, etc). Then age.

And that's before you even get to roasting.
And I've probably left some steps out.
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#24: Post by nbarth »

Thanks for the kind words Jim, and for clarifying & following up re: paper!

(You may wish to add a brief caveat / head note to the paper itself so future readers are suitably cautious.)
malachi wrote:Actually.... pressure has a wide range as well and in addition both temp and pressure can either be static or variable.
Thanks Chris! (and good point on temperature / pressure curves)

To clarify: I was summarizing Jim, not stating my own views (re: pressure and temperature he comments at Apr 16, 2010 9:41 pm).
malachi wrote: And - of course - the primary variable (unmentioned in your summary) is the coffee (with its own set of variables including age, roast, cultivar, processing method, etc).
Actually, both Jim and I mentioned it - Jim at:
another_jim wrote: Exact flavors, for instance, cherry or chocolate, are an aspect of the coffee itself, and cannot be altered.
and I, summarizing and adding briefly, at:
nbarth wrote:
  • ultimately, you are limited by the beans in what flavors exist and what proportions of flavors can be expressed (esp. due to different flavors that extract similarly).
However, you're right, beans are the primary variable and of central interest; this is just about mano.


#25: Post by DavidMLewis »

Peppersass wrote:For example, I've seen references to increasing temperature to bring out the sweetness of two big blends, Vivace Dolce and Counter Culture Aficionado. Is this typical of big blends or very specific to those two particular blends?
I don't know about Aficionado, but Vivace uses monsooned coffees as the base. Those coffees in particular respond well to much higher temperatures than you would usually use for a coffee roasted to that level, providing very nice forest floor notes without getting overwhelmingly bitter, which would usually happen.

And Jim, I would like to echo Andy's gratitude to you for doing and publishing this. It's not only useful, it's a pleasure to get to see your thought processes.


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#26: Post by BradyButler »

another_jim wrote: ...This may be why such guides are absent among pros. Obviously, there are lots of "PBTC pros" who could use guidance; but it would be rude to address them to the professional community in general. I assume SCAA training courses have information like this.
One of the reasons that I've joined this community is the work that's being done by you guys on stuff like this. Several times in the past couple of weeks when I've gone looking for answers to espresso-related questions, the best answer has been from a member of this community. So kudos, guys.

Frankly, I was pretty floored to find this just now. Stuff like this has been discussed a bit over on bX (where I'm most active), but never quite as thoroughly. It very concisely captures some rather loose ideas. Thanks, Jim, for a very well-written piece.

BTW, you'd be wrong to assume that this stuff is present in SCAA classes. The Level 2 and 3 barista certification courses are in development by our friends at the BGA, and may well cover stuff like this, but nothing even close in the Level 1 material.

If you don't mind, I'm going to post a link to this over on bX. I'll bet there are some "pro's" over there that'll be as blown away as I was by this.
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#27: Post by Abe Carmeli »

Thanks for that great insight Jim. Thinking about it, theoretically, an updosed ristretto would be a challenge to pull off. A ristretto is balanced towards the bitters, which adds to the extra bitters coming from updosing. Granted, not all bitters taste the same but you will need a custom crafted coffee to pull that off. I'm wondering if this is what accounts for the high rate of bitter shots I get in most artisan shops. They are almost universally updosed ristretto. (I'm excluding those shots that clearly present roasting flaws).
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#28: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

Thanks, Brady. I wrote documentation in my work; the experience helps when trying to put skills into words.

Abe, mostly I'm not big updosing fan, but I think there are exceptions. The classic updosed ristretto is Vivace's Dolce, which does presents as a very intense flavor, balanced towards bitter. But it is not a dull bitterness, but more a woody and cleanly astringent one. This is not to my taste, but it is a legitimate drink. It could be this style of shot has become a little cliche, since so many cafes imitate it.

Comfort food shots with a lot of slow roasted, medium dark Brasil may need to be updosed, since they can be papery at regular doses.

Finally, in the last few years, Black Cat has been emphasizing Central American Bourbons. Two years ago, it struck me as much too bitter updosed, but I like the recent ones done this way. The Coffee Studio pulls it as a ristretto, and to me it tastes more balanced than at the Broadway Intelly, where they pull it longer and more acidic. But either way, it simply tastes thin at low doses. Chris has often posted that this is common with blends that have a high proportion of Centrals.
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#29: Post by Peppersass »

another_jim wrote:Abe, mostly I'm not big updosing fan, but I think there are exceptions. The classic updosed ristretto is Vivace's Dolce, which does presents as a very intense flavor, balanced towards bitter. But it is not a dull bitterness, but more a woody and cleanly astringent one. This is not to my taste, but it is a legitimate drink. It could be this style of shot has become a little cliche, since so many cafes imitate it.
This thread continues to be enlightening, and has sort of cleared up a mystery for me.

Back when I first started with home espresso, I got some Vivace Dolce and loved it. Sweet and rich, with big flavor, one of the few blends I really liked (I'm a 13g-14g SO guy for the most part.)

Not knowing any better, I dosed the Dolce at 16g and pulled 1.75-2 oz. Since then, I've ordered it several times and have never been able to reproduce that first experience. Mostly, the cup has been too acid. Following malachi's recommendation, I increased the dose to 17g-18g and the temperature to 203 degrees, but still no joy. Then after reading this thread, and especially the post from Jim quoted above, I realized that I was still trying to pull something between a Standard and Normale, usually more towards the latter. I never pull ristrettos with my SOs and don't have a lot of experience with them.

This morning I set the grind finer and pulled a 17g ristretto according to Jim's guidlines (30-35 seconds, 1 oz liquid, .5 oz weight). Sure enough, the resulting flavor profile was exactly as Jim describes above: intense flavor but balanced toward the bitter. Very good, especially in a milk drink, but not really to my taste as straight espresso.

This doesn't necessarily explain why my first experiences with Dolce were so positive, and why the cup seemed to be more balanced to the caramels. However, it's quite possible that I downdosed even further than I remember, possibly down to 14g-15g. Or, it may have been a brief blending or roasting anamoly or some sort of accident that resulted from my noobie technique at the time. Or maybe I've just gotten conditioned to the taste of lower dosed SOs.

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#30: Post by mitch236 »

I'd like to resurrect this thread. I have been experimenting with acid/bitter balance and wonder what the golden tongues here have found.

If I slow the shot towards ristretto the balance changes towards bitters. Then if I reduce the temp the balance goes towards acids. In theory I could take a well balanced shot and grind finer and reduce the temp and not change the balance. My question is when dialing in a shot, what makes you decide which variable to change first?