"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2111/13/00- the Morning: Had a double espresso this morning from my Monkey beans roasted at 5¾. Before I started grinding I examined the beans carefully and they showed a hint of oilyness- They are a shiny, a beautiful medium to dark brown, and have little spots of oil on the surface. Yesterday's acidic batch didn't show any signs of surface oil.
Closer and Closer
This morning's first grind was a bit fine and it took about 35 seconds to pull two ounces. I immediately tossed that down the sink (cheers, garbage disposal!), and tried again with a grind set two clicks coarser on the Rocky. This pulled in about 22 seconds or so (time counted in my head this AM), it had crema that filled about 3/4 of the shots in the beginning, the crema separated in a beautiful upwards cascade of color and dynamic action, and the double was delicious. This straight espresso had just a hint of bitterness. The nasty acidic taste from yesterday's under-roast was gone showing that I had roasted past the acidic stage with this batch. Each sip gave me a mouthful of wonderful taste sensations telling me that I had roasted to a point that the flavors were released.
In a few sips it was all gone, and while the wonderful taste was still lingering on my tongue, I was already wishing that I had a higher tolerance to caffeine so that I could enjoy another.
11/13/00- The Evening: We decided to have a cappa before retiring so around 8:00 this evening. I brewed up some Donkey blend as neither of us would be able to sleep with caffeine in our systems that late in the evening. This was the batch that was roasted to 4½. The first grind pulled at around 15 seconds and was acidic. I kept trying, and although I was able to get around a 22 second pull with bountiful and beautiful crema, the taste was very acidic still. It was a good thing I was standing over the sink when I tasted this because the motivation to spit it out was great and I succumbed to that motivation. I went back over to Rocky and dispensed some grounds into the portafilter and I smelled those grounds. They smelled exactly like the coffee tasted- acidic. It was quite unpleasant.
Personally, I can handle the bitter taste of espresso when it is a part of the taste sensations of a decent (or at least reasonably decent) espresso, but I do not at all like the acidic taste of under-roasted beans. I suppose there are all sorts of tastes out there left for me to acquire, but this is not one I care to spend any time pursuing. I want to learn the smell of acidic so I can discern it without using my mouth. It's a taste memory most unpleasant.
As I write this I am roasting three batches of Donkey- one at 5 and the second at 5½ and the third to 6 (the bitter batch was distinctly under-roasted at 4½). Hopefully these will be an improvement over what I have just experienced. It would be hard to imagine that they could be worse.
I find myself developing a 'system' that is making it faster to brew and easier to brew and clean up. It's a matter of learning where to put everything, warming up the cups, pre-heating the machine and glasses, and all the other little things that make you feel at home around your machine. I know that I don't like anyone in the kitchen when I am brewing. I am still learning and any distraction takes my mind off the task at hand and frustrates me. Either that, or I am just beginning to get crotchety in practice for my approaching old age.
Today's lessons learned (or re-learned) included:
* I definitely need more kitchen towels- preferably brown in color.
* The presence of crema does not mean the espresso will be good or even drinkable.
* Don't hesitate to spit out bad espresso even if it has to be on the floor. Cleaning the floor will take a few seconds- the nasty taste on the palate will linger for an hour.
* Roasting coffee does not smell like roasted coffee. Roasted, gassing coffee smells good. Ground coffee does not necessarily smell like the roasted beans before they were ground. Bad smelling grounds make bad coffee.
* Good coffee is delicious and a treat to be savored. Bad coffee is putrid and torture to drink.