Sampling a Commercial Roaster's Espresso Beans
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Keep the quill pen in the desk, Scribe, as no entry need be made into my "Coffee Book of Revelations" that I roast my own coffee, and it is a rare event when I use any commercially roasted beans. Today was one of those rare occasions. I recently did a quick job for a commercial client and in payment I requested a sample of their espresso whole bean coffee. They describe it as a dark roast which has a smooth texture, bittersweet flavor, and exquisite aroma. There is no information as to the blend.
The coffee arrived in the mail a day after I had roasted a batch of my own house blend and since one of my batches lasts about a week I suddenly had more coffee than I could use before it would stale, so I played with the client's espresso beans this morning. We started with a game of kickball... OK, let's be serious...
The beans arrived yesterday in a mylar coffee bag with one a way valve. I opened the bag upon its arrival and poured them into a quart jar and it filled the jar to capacity. It was clear from the aroma and color that these beans were roasted much darker than any I have done for myself on purpose. Much darker. My one batch that was this dark was an accident and went from cooling tray to dust bin. The beans I received by post were fully wet with oil, but not dripping. The aroma was mostly of the roast.
Because of the amount of roasted coffee I now had on hand there was little reason to "spare the coffee" so I didn't bother weighing the doses. The first pull started with my grinder at the same setting I had been using for my roast. I gushed almost immediatly and "sprited" my counter top. For each subsequent pull I set the grind at least two marks finer, and did that over and over until I finally got an extraction that flowed as I would like. This was approximately ten marks finer than when I started. Finer than I have ever previously ground by approximately eight marks.
The aroma of the espresso had the telltale aroma of Robusta, and an examination of the beans also revealed some large beans which could also be an indication that Robusta was present [I was later informed that they use no Robusta.]. The head rush I am still experiencing from just one extra shot than I am accustomed to fits the diagnoses as well.
On the left is my home espresso roast and blend from about two days ago. On the right the commercial roast discussed here.
I had specifically requested they send me the coffee fresh from their next roast, so this is no more than about three or four days old.
I have little experience with roasts of this degree, so I can only compare it to that with which I am accustomed. I didn't like it. It certainly cut through the four ounces of stretched soy milk, and that was not necessarily a good thing according to my wife, and I had to agree. The straight espresso lacked any sort of varietal flavors, and the flavor that did come through in the cappuccino was not to my liking.
As they use to say on Southpark, "I learned something here today." But it relates to my espresso machine and not the coffee so much. It was remarkable how consistent the Vibiemme Double Domobar is. I pulled at least six doubles in fairly quick succession and the taste was quite, as I would expect, consistent. Sure, there was little left of any varietal taste in these beans because of the very dark roast; at least very dark compared to what I like. Because of that I would not use this session as any sort of benchmark as to the prowess of this machine, but I watched the extraction temperature and pressure as I went through the extractions, and it was plain to see that I did not have to worry much about what DD was doing. A flush to temperature to start the session, and then just pull doubles as quickly as I liked and DD took care of the rest.
When I worked retail sales, my manager taught me that when a customer walks in and says, "I want that bicycle," all I need to do was ask, "What color would you like, and when would you like it delivered?" With commercial roasters it is much the same. It is merely a matter of serving your customers' needs. If they say that they want a dark roast that makes lots of crema, that's what they get. If they say they want black, bry beans that are on the edge of death, all you do is ask their preferred delivery date and time. so in this case I would describe this coffee as a dark, oily bean with Robusta in thr blend that any average (or under-average) machine and average (or under-average) barista (or PBTC) can use to pull a thick, gloppy espresso. The average customer is no better. If the beans aren't dark and oily, how can they make espresso? Just ask them!
Well, you know, I know, my wife knows, and my Vibiemme Double Domobar and Kony all know the truth. Start with great beans, roast them properly retaining all that they possess, and carefully grind and extract to put into the cup all they have to offer. The rewards are great.
There are plenty of folks who have become accustomed to the dark roast, midnight roast, espresso roast, or whatever they like to call it, and the taste that these roasts have to offer, and I have no problem with that. I have purposely not identified the roaster here because my point was not to single them out but to show how one sets personal standards and those are certainly, by definition, subjective. There are roasteries and coffee shops which have created a clientele with their dark roasts. Coffee roasted this dark is just not for me.