Milk Drinks & Espresso Quality

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
Sparg93

#1: Post by Sparg93 »

I've been reading posts on this forum for months and have learned a ton in my new "hobby" :) Can't thank you enough for some of the detailed posts you have all created!! I still have a lot to learn as the newbie around here.

I've seen this discussed in spots here and there, but I couldn't find a dedicated thread were opinions and thoughts were consolidated around the question of...how important is shot quality in milk drinks. Essentially, at what point does fine tuning the espresso shot give way to the milk and the variables that come along with steaming it.

I started a few months back with a Breville 870xl and I thought the results were pretty good. We mainly drink Flat Whites (me) and Lattes (wife), with the fairly rare straight espresso. I've dialed in the 870xl based on what I've read here, and use a dual headed distribution and tamping tool for the puck. I realize "dialed in" is also somewhat subjective, but as I play with different roasts, shot time/ratios/etc are in-line within the ranges I keep reading about and what I think tastes pretty good.

Recently I grabbed a BDB and Eureka Mignon Silenzio grinder. Went through the process of dialing it in and really thought I'd taste a big difference due to the grinder. I actually found the clumping from the Mignon to be a bit worse then the internal 870xl grinder...but there was a small difference in flavor that I appreciated from the Mignon. I realize saying that may bring on pitch forks and is likely due to more to inexperience then anything else, but its my observation nonetheless.

With that in mind and my recent purchase, I started to question what my expectations should be regarding the improvement in taste on this new setup vs my 870xl. No question the BDB is leagues ahead of the 870xl in abilities (tweaking profiles, temp, steam power, etc) and in a social gathering would be much faster.

But for Flat Whites and Lattes, should I have expected "more" (i.e improved flavor) from my new setup vs the 870xl?

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spressomon

#2: Post by spressomon »

Welcome to HB!

Haven't used a BDB but have read about it from other's here and from what I've read it is a very capable machine especially with the Slayer mod. Ditto your grinder: No experience. But, I suspect you're going to want/need to get a better grinder to allow more flavors to come through. FWIW, although there are grinders that provide "different" results, I have zero impetus for changing from my 5 year old Monolith Flat grinder; it just keeps on bringing the smiles (and flavor).

As you surely know: The bigger the milk to espresso ratio...the lesser the importance of a completely dialed in shot.

FWIW, I drink 160-190ml cappas each morning typically using a 30-42g shot of espresso (depending upon the bean type, blend, roast level, etc.) and can easily discern the quality or lack of :? for the espresso portion. Once you get proficient at making top shelf espresso, your milk quantity/ratio will typically come down :wink:
No Espresso = Depresso

emradguy
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#3: Post by emradguy »

To me, having the best quality espresso shot in your milk drink makes a difference. Think of it as..."garbage in, garbage out". It's true some if the subtlety nuanced flavors might get lost, but I think they still contribute to the overall end product. Also, consider the fact that for those times you do drink a straight shot, you would still want that to be the best you are capable of. If you haven't dialed in as such, you won't be able to drink that when you want to.

As for your equipment. I'm sure the upgrade in both machine and grinder is contributing to your perceived improvement in the cup.

You can take clumping by trying the RDT method (quick spraying while beans as you dose the grinder), and break up any clumps in your basket by employing WDT (stirring the grounds with a needle).

K7

#4: Post by K7 »

Adding milk attenuates most espresso flaws and makes everything taste good, so no surprise you are not seeing much difference. In fact, I found slightly bitter shots often make better cappa. :lol:

But I do think you made a right choice to upgrade from the BBE (870xl) which is terribly slow if you need to steam often, not to mention BDB is a much better espresso brewer. Based on what I've seen, the Silenzio also should be perfectly capable. Not sure what's up with clumping...you might want to create a separate thread on this with pictures in the grinder forum because it should be the other way around with the BBE being clumpier.

coffeechan

#5: Post by coffeechan »

I would consider tailoring the coffee/beans/shot to your preferred drink. For instance, a fair proportion of folks who like milk drinks prefer the caramels, chocolates, bitters to offset the sweetness of the milk. This would mean you pull a medium to medium dark blend (which already are easier to extract) ristretto or normale 1:1.5 to 1:2 to get the right mouthfeel and flavors to combine with the milk. It is even more so like that for large milk drinks about 6+ oz. I prefer this type of flavor profile or shot for my daily milk drinks which is about a double shot into 6-7oz of milk. This is not to say you could not use a medium or or light roast as the base for a milk drink. Not so long ago I used Verve Sermon (medium to slightly medium dark) which has a fruity blueberry component to it. If you pulled it correctly, it still showed up as a pleasant element in a milk drink. If you want to highlight that component even more, make a drink smaller towards a flat white or piccolo latte to find the balance you want. Some will not like fruit or acid in their drink, but that is why you learn to seek out the right blends and how to manipulate a shot get what you want out of it.

klee11mtl

#6: Post by klee11mtl »

"at what point does fine tuning the espresso shot give way to the milk"
Much will depend on the intensity of each ingredient. As extreme examples, an 8 oz Americano with well filtered water will feature the espresso shot at 1:3. A 4 oz cortado using almost spoiled milk at 1:1 and I'm fairly confident you won't taste that shot. The point being not all milk tastes the same so both the espresso/milk ratio and flavor profile of the milk are factors. If you aren't already, you may want to be consistent about using the same milk type and brand at least while you're troubleshooting.

"should I have expected "more" (i.e improved flavor) from my new setup"
There's a lot of variables here. I have a similar BES878 and started with the built-in conical grinder and now use a Mignon Notte flat-burr which I believe is the same mechanically as the Silenzio minus the noise reduction and timed dosing features. We drink flat whites at about 1:4 and the taste difference was noticeable with the grinder switch.

Since you also are using a different brewer, I would think it's difficult to separate both variables. If you still have the 870 around, you can try using its grinder and the Silenzio and try all 4 combinations to see if that gives you any meaningful information.

As for the Eureka, I will say the retention on mine was more than expected so if you are using it without any mods, you may be having some mix of fresh and old grinds. I ended up removing the internal anti-clump fork and instead shake and WDT which has reduced both retention and clumping.