Rethinking espresso technique

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
drH
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#1: Post by drH »

I had an experience last week that has changed my views of lighter roasts.

Typically I drink medium to dark coffees and prefer the classic chocolate/caramel profiles. Lighter espressos always strike me as too acidic and harsh. On my Cremina I have experimented lately with fine grinds and long preinfusions to get a better extraction, but usually I don't reach anything I truly love as an espresso, so I'll turn these into Americanos or other drinks.

But last week I went to Aero Coffee Roasters in Massachusetts, and they were pulling their espresso blend on a brand new La Marzocco Strada. The shot I tasted did have an initial high acidity but it was also "softer" if that makes sense (?). When I have tried at home to tame acidity with preinfusion or higher temperature, I find that I tend to dull it away... leaving me something drinkable but unremarkable... but on the Strada the acid was front and center and quite pleasantly fruity with a creamy cocoa background. They didn't have a 25 second preinfusion. Is this just a function of the incredibly good equipment and a super fresh roast? Is this even achievable at home or do you need a very repeatable pressure/flow/temperature profile that demands something like a Strada or a Decent? What are your best practices for dialing in a lighter roast?

EthanL

#2: Post by EthanL »

I heard lever machines are great for medium-dark roasts, and not as such for light roasts. I would try the same coffee on a reliable pump machine at least before any conclusion.

Jeff

#3: Post by Jeff »

Can you help us with what "lighter" means?

Depending on your perspective, the "comfort" blends recently reviewed might be considered lighter by someone used to classic, Italian-style espresso. Some roasts popular here are labeled "light" (The Leam Hammer, as one example) but are far darker than a George Howell light, or Passenger, La Cabra, Tim Wendelboe, or the like. If the latter roasters are your point of reference, those comfort blends probably fall into your medium or medium-dark range (where I would put them).

I took a look at the Aero website and their lightest espresso they describe as a "full-medium roast" (and no varietal information) and that they use it for straight shots and short milk drinks.

drH
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#4: Post by drH » replying to Jeff »

Yes you're right. For me that "full medium" is probably as light as I'd ever go, so that's a light roast in my universe. Although this is probably because I've never tasted a true light roast properly extracted? My usual stuff like Illy or darker.

drH
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#5: Post by drH »

EthanL wrote:I heard lever machines are great for medium-dark roasts, and not as such for light roasts. I would try the same coffee on a reliable pump machine at least before any conclusion.
I think that depends on the machine. Londinium is reputed to be great with light roasts. I think many have good success with the cremina too because achieving high temperature and long preinfusion is easy. That said, I have a Maximatic here and maybe I'll give it a try.

bangjampang

#6: Post by bangjampang »

aside from the machines, technique and recipe.
another variable you might want to check also is the water.
as higher pH might help soften the acidity.
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