Where to Go Next, for Better Decaf Shots/Drinks?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by JHCCoffee »

Aside from using beans that produce coffee with greater body and/or reducing the brew ratio, John (of Decent) voiced the following ideas in one of his videos. Any comments on the voracity of these techniques? Upsides? Downsides? Especially in decaf.

According to John, to produce greater body:

- Use higher pre-infusion flow rates. Ie 6 or even 8 ml/sec, not 4 ml/sec.

- Reduce headspace over the puck (less headspace = more body). Cavaet: More headspace is good for extracting light roasts.

- Narrower diameter but deeper baskets produce more body, due to a thicker puck.

- These types of baskets (typically found in lever machines) produce coffee that tastes better when brewed at lower (ristretto) ratios.

- Too high temperatures cause problems in smaller dose shots.

- The Decent Waisted basket is designed to improve puck integrity with smaller doses.

- The Decent "Espresso in the 80's" profile is ideal for the 14g Decent Waisted basket.

- An overdosed 20 gram basket can produce similar improvements in body, due to a thicker puck.

Assuming the above is correct, I can apparently get the body I want by using the above techniques, and at the same time extract more flavour by using longer brew ratios than I otherwise would have (but for the above techniques, which apparently produce the body I crave).

Does any of the above make sense? What is your experience? How do you get the best of both worlds (body and flavour extraction)?

PS An experienced barista that I have been chatting with says a pox on all that; just increase the contact time (presumably by slowing the flow).

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#2: Post by Cranked »

I am curious what others say about pre infusion rates.

My decaf is definitely better as ristretto, or at least when I cut the shot short. I am usually brewing 16g in 20 to 21 out.

The usual issue for me is the shot is harsh/chemical/medicinal. It's not quite bitter. But when I separate the shot into thirds, the last 10g contains all the nasties. Hence stopping the shot at 20g. These are things I associate with over extraction, which is why I am scratching my head about PI.

This is usually med-dark roast used in Capps/cortados

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#3: Post by JHCCoffee (original poster) »

I've owned my Decent since early September. I'm beginning to know my way around the profiles and how to adjust pressure vs flow vs advanced profiles. I've tried many recipes and profiles. I'm getting sometimes ok tasting shots, sometimes not. I'd like to get shots that are full bodied, full strength, well balanced and with good separation of the flavour of the bean. I drink only decaf for health reasons, and like both straight shots and milk drinks (such as cappuccino). If you have a moment, please read the following brief notes of some of my better shots, which as mentioned are still not quite where I want them to be, from a taste perspective. Any suggestions are welcome. FYI, I just read that I should be resting my decaf for no more than I week (and I have been resting my decaf beans for 2 weeks), so this may have been a contributing factor. Here are the shot recipes/profiles:

- Adaptive Profile, with a Vienna decaf blend. 16 in, 32 out in an 18g Decent basket. Niche Zero at 11.0. A 7 of 10 taste score. No Visualizer profile (hadn't subscribed to Visualizer at that point).

- D-Flow - 17.0 in, 34.0 out with the above blend. Niche at 7.0. Temperature at 87C. Thin puck screen. IMS basket. Passable taste; say 6 of 10 taste score. No Visualizer profile.

- Uncertain Profile, Possibly Default. Goldstar Decaf Kona blended with Goldstar Decaf Espresso Blend. City+ roast. 19.0 in, intended to have 38 out, but only flowed to 25g before timing out. Not sure about the pre-infusion pressure. Might have been 2 BAR, possibly 4 BAR. Then 2 BAR for all other steps. 17.0 grind on the Niche Zero. Ran 66 seconds before timing out. Taste score was 8 of 10! Best yet. No Visualizer profile. Tried to replicate twice, without success and then moved on.

- For example, tried 19.0 in, 38 out at 17.0 grind, at 4 pre-infusion declining to 3 BAR. I believe it was the Default profile. A 7 of 10 taste score. No Visualizer profile yet.

- 1/2 caf blend using LRV2. 18.0 in, 36.0 out at 17.0 Niche Zero grind. 7 of 10, but I can't tolerate the caffeine.

- Vienna Roast Decaf - Default Profile - Set at 40 seconds pre-inf. 18.0 in, 36.0 out. Niche Zero at 15.0 grind. Lots of flow during pre-infusion. Shot ran 20 seconds, including a much shorter pre-infusion then I set in seconds. Ample strength, good body, some flavour nuances emerging, but would like the shot to have more body. Say a 7 of 10 score. Visualizer profile available.

- 80's Espresso Profile for a Decaf Kona/Decaf Espresso Blend. 18.0 in, 36.0 out at 10.0 grind on the Niche Zero. Too strong; no flavour nuances. But atleast we are getting strength.

- EasyBlooming Espresso - Same coffee. Using a 20g basket. 20 in, 35 out (1:1.75). Result was 6 seconds of pre-infusion, 21 seconds of pour, 27 seconds total. The shot ran at about 6 BAR and 87C. The shot had good balance, strength and body. In a milk drink (cappuccino) it had acceptable strength and body, with some flavour nuances that are typical of this bean. But a tad astringent. A 7 of 10. Getting there.

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#4: Post by Jeff »

Despite what seems like never ending marketing to the contrary, the DE1 is not known for producing rich, full-bodied shots. I would suggest the following:

Buy one or both of the EPNW HQ 14 baskets. They tend to produce good shots for those looking for the traditional in-cup profile from medium and darker roasts. Don't buy DE baskets as they are overpriced for what they are.

You're bouncing across profiles and beans so fast I can't imagine you're able to draw any reasonable correlation between underlying variables and the result in the cup.

I would skip any "adaptive" profile that John wrote or any of the "emulates" profiles and go with something proven by the community. One that you can adjust the parameters means that you can make reasonable changes and observe the result. For medium and darker, I'd go with Damian's LRv2 as a solid, base template than can be modified to cover a range of extraction profiles. I don't know how his DFlow extension works, so I can't comment on that.

Try adjusting some of the main parameters to see what works for you and your coffees. Main ones might include:

* Length of soak
* Basket-fill rate
* Peak pressure during extraction
* Decay rate of pressure during extraction
* Temperature drop or not

Adjusting the decay rate is messy with John's UX, which is common to all the Tcl-based interfaces. You need to set the extraction start and end pressures and the duration. For example, a 6-bar start and a 1-bar end over a 50 second frame drops one bar every 10 seconds.

Stick with one bean, vary parameters with intention, take good notes. Use Visualizer to compare shots. First confirm that you can repeat the same shot time after time, not just time and yield. If not, your prep needs work. Then start working through parameters and observing the changes.

A guess is that decaf will benefit from a faster rate of decline than is typical for conventionally processed beans if you're looking for more body.

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#5: Post by JHCCoffee (original poster) »

Thank-you kindly for the sage advice Jeff. It's appreciated!

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#6: Post by njtnjt »

And buy the best beans you can. I've had great results with Black and White roasters Sugarcane Decaf or George Howells Le Jardin. The B&W bean has a strong cherry note in it while the GH bean is much more "traditional" tasting. I like both for different reasons. Best wishes.

God wants us to walk but the devil sends a limo.

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#7: Post by daveR1 replying to njtnjt »

I agree, those two are some of my favorites decaf beans. I would add Revel Coffee's decaf Revel blend.

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#8: Post by realdoctor »

I will give beans a third vote. I have been struggling with decafs for 25 years, and it is very, very difficult to produce a shot with a flavor anything like a caffeinated coffee. Decafs normally produce much more acid shots, which is a major reason they are often roasted quite dark. I know that decafs look darker at the same roast level, but many roasters do take them further in order to reduce acidity.

If there is any single thing that matters about decaf, it is freshly roasted beans. Decafs go stale extremely quickly. I used to freeze my home roast decafs straight out of the roaster and let them degass when I needed to use them. The degassing period is shorter for decaf too. If you buy roasted decaf beans and let them sit at room temperature for a week (regardless of the container), you probably should just throw them away.

All other things equal, I deliberately go for a slightly weak shot to reduce the sourness. The major exception is with a strong Neapolitan decaf like Barbera Sencaf. I pull that just like a normal Neapolitan dark roast and serve it with some sugar.

Decaf is the best argument for home roasting.