"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It Can Always Get Better
About a week ago I dropped by my local commercial roaster (the same one to whom I have referred to so many times here). He pulled a shot with a single group, home machine (it has a commercial-size group, pre-infusion, single boiler heat exchanger, pressure gauge on the pump, and vibratory pump). It was remarkable. No bitterness, no acidity, and a smooth, delicious follow. Overall, a perfect espresso. For the rest of that week it haunted me.
I dropped back in a few days later as I needed to purchase some green. Of course, I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to learn how it was done. I brought with a sample from Rocky and he examined it and agreed that it was the product of a quality grinder.
I got him to pull a few more shots from the same machine (it didn't take much effort on my part to get hm to do so other than to ask) and watched as he ground, tamped, and pulled, and we both tasted. He ended up pulling about five or six shots as we tasted and then tasted again. Although we did not quite get to the level of shot I experienced that first day, it was still quite nice. I wrote that off to "differences of palate" and was still sure that this espresso was better then mine. I let Wifee taste and she scrunched up her face as she always does when she tastes a straight espresso- I suppose straight espresso is an acquired taste, after all. He also pulled a shot from the ground I had brought with me, and although the roast was too light (the results of an experiment) the pull was decent enough to assure both of us that my grinder was fine. One more variable minimized.
He graciously shared with me a number of factors which helped make his shots so good including the various varieties of beans he actually uses in the blend (although not the actual proportions of each). I won't divulge the blend, but can say that there is nothing remarkable about it- nothing exotic or dramatic is included, and all the beans are from the Americas. I did make sure that I came home with a roasted sample of his blend so that I could test it in my machine.
The next morning I spent some time with a jar of his roasted blend, pulling numerous shots. Consumed straight, they were better than my straight espresso and all had less bitterness than my espresso. The blend helped that, but also the fact that he roasts this a bit lighter than I roast. Mainly because, as you know, I blend and roast for cappuccino so I look for a darker and heavier taste that cuts through the milk better. His espresso blend is roasted to just into second crack and I have been taking mine into active second.
I am typing with a pretty serious buzz from my tasting of about half-a-dozen shots this morning. They were all smoother than my espresso, but not as deep in taste. I didn't hit that G- - shot that I experienced that first day at his shop, but could taste the difference. I made a couple of double- shot cappas with his blend and the milk definitely overwhelmed the espresso. If nothing else, I have proved to myself that the same blend that makes a nice straight espresso is not necessarily the best for cappuccinos. That doesn't mean that it won't work, and it certainly is a matter of personal taste and preferences, but if you like a 'stronger' cappa (I do), then you need a stronger espresso.
We discussed the quality of the espresso we were tasting and agreed that, to the best of our
knowledge, there was not a coffee shop or commercial establishment in our county where
espresso of this quality could be had, and that neither of us were brave enough to order straight
espresso anywhere in the area.