"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chapter 361/26/01 - Tried a straight espresso from my dark-roasted Malabar Gold blend from Sweet Maria's this morning. If you know what happened here, please let me know. I usually grind at around 5 or 6 with Rocky (it's "0" point is at around 1.5). I started at "6" and the pull was over two ounces in ten seconds. I scratched my head and tried again. I ground at around "3" on Rocky and I got about four ounces including some really fluffy crema/foam in about 15 seconds.
More Roasting and Steaming
I tossed the first one and consumed the second one. It was a bit harsh in the finish but the taste was pretty decent and I think it would have made a very decent cappa. It does seem to be higher in Robusta beans as the double gave me quite a caffeine buzz which I haven't experienced with the other blends I have been using.
2/03/01 - As you remember from chapter 24, I was working with some dark roasts. These worked out to around 12:20-13:30 minutes on the HWP. For the most part, these resulted in a roast that I would characterize as just past full city, on the light side of an "espresso" roast. Overall, the dark roast taste dominated these roasts regardless of the blend. They weren't bad and didn't have the burnt taste that accompanies some of the more "famous" commercial dark roasts, but they were just a bit too dark for either of our taste preferences.
For a bit of background, particularly for those who don't home roast, once a batch of beans is into the darker roasts they tend to lose some of their flavors- what are called varietal differences. Some beans, when roasted carefully, can have accompanying tastes like chocolate, earthy, flowery, and the like. These tastes do not come through like the chemically-flavored coffees, but are nuances that are part of the overall coffee taste. Once full city is surpassed, these tastes have been baked out for the most part and the coffee just tastes like coffee. Once the espresso roast is passed and the French or Spanish roast is reached, then all you taste is dark roasted coffee or burnt coffee. Some folks like this taste but to me it doesn't make very good espresso.
Based on the above, I re-roasted a number of different pre-blends today. I concentrated on a lighter roast, concluding in the middle or end of the late second crack. With my HWP roaster set to "10" I stopped the roasts as follows:
Donkey - 10:30 (the previous roasts of 12:00 and 11:15 were too dark)
One thing I can say is that Malabar Gold blend roasts unevenly. There are beans that stay very light when the darker beans are at full city, and when the lighter beans are taken to a full city, the darker beans get very dark, and for my tastes, are over-roasted. Still, having only roasted two batches in the HWP I have the best part of a pound left to play with.
I noticed something playing with Rocky today after blowing it out with the air compressor. If you pull up or push down on the hopper (which is connected to the top, adjustable burr), it changes the grind setting. This is what I believe has prompted some folks to say that you shouldn't change the Rocky a lot for different grinds (like French press, vac pot, drip, espresso, etc.). I think that if you lightly press down on the hopper when making all adjustments (with about 5 pounds of pressure), including when you search for your "0" point, then all subsequent adjustments will be consistent (that is, a "35" will always be a "35" once Rocky is broken in).
2/4/01 - The other day I was playing around with E-Bay and much to my surprise I won another vac pot. This one is one of the "rubberless" Cory's. These were with a ground glass surface where the two pots meet so that a tight seal could be accomplished without the rubber gasket that makes separating the upper and lower halves so difficult when the pots are hot. Man, I just got to stay away from E-Bay from now on!
My Silvia seems to just get better with age. I don't really think it is me. Overall, it's steaming ability has increased a bit and so now just about every batch of soymilk comes out richer and thicker than I was ever able to accomplish early on.
I have adjusted my steaming technique a bit to match Silvia's maturity. I open the steam valve to be sure that there is not any water in the wand (after bleeding the boiler dry, of course), crack the steam valve open just a bit, insert the wand into the milk, and then slightly open the valve. For the first five seconds or so I keep the pressure low and I tip the pitcher over to increase the depth of the milk by "piling" the milk against one side. If I try to open it fully too soon it tends to spray milk and inject a lot of air which makes big bubbles. Once the milk starts to expand, I open the valve more fully (it never has to be open all the way). I keep the tip of the steam wand positioned in the center of the pitcher, pointed straight down, about 1 to 2 mm below the surface of the milk and lower the pitcher as the milk expands throughout the entire process. Just before the end I position the pitcher to get the milk to swirl a bit. Once done, a few sharp raps on the counter top with the bottom of the pitcher interspersed with some strong swirling of the pitcher brings up any large bubbles and breaks them up. The result is some very rich feeling soymilk that comes out of the pitcher with a cream-like consistency and color.
I find that with the soymilk that I have to inject a little air artificially by raising the steam wand to get it to hiss a few times for about a few tenths of a second two or three times early on in the process. If I don't do this then all I get is mostly hot soymilk.
2/5/01 - I have been playing with a tamp at around 25 to 40 pounds and am quite happy with it. It seems to slow down the extraction more effectively than grinding finer (I am already down around +3.5 or 4.5 on Rocky). Between my improved steaming and my recent pulls, I am getting cappas superior to any that I have had at coffee shops.