HomeRoast Digest


Topic: The need for more espresso standards (3 msgs / 572 lines)
1) From: rev mark gilstrap
I have participated in the analysis of standard 
reference materials for the US Geological 
Survey, the Indiana Geological Survey, and 
in my current secular employment,  for the 
automotive catalysts industry.   
Reference materials are indispensible in a 
world where different labs are using different 
methods and everyone needs to know what 
the results mean and how they compare to
other methods. Without further explanation, 
I hope the relevance of  this will become evident 
below.   
First some background.
After 30 years of coffee-shop consumption
during which no espresso set before me was
exciting,  I finally entered the exciting world of 
home-roasted espresso by purchasing a 
reconditioned Krups Gusto last year at 
Overstock.com for about $40.  I tried to be 
happy with it, but finally gave up.  Last summer,
as my wife and kids will attest, our vacation
across 11 states had an aspect of being the 
search for great espresso - with a reasonable 
amount of  success.   This only deepened my 
longing for great espresso at home.
Upon receipt of the information provided by
some kind soul on this list a few weeks ago,
I went to the SmartBargains site and purchased
a closeout Krups 2300 Plus Heat Exchanger / 
Pump machine for $99 ($106 with shipping).
The list price on this (discontinued?) machine is 
$250, but like the Gusto, it is available now and
again for considerably less.   Local retailers used 
to sell it for $199 and many on the web still do.  
Whole Latte Love still charges $229,  and no
additional comments about that data point seem 
necessary.   But the good news is that several 
places are down to $169 and just this morning I 
found it for $139.   These are new, not reconditioned 
units.   While none of these are as good as the 
$99 price from SmartBargains,  who knows when 
that price will be seen again?  
I am very glad I got one while they were still in 
stock at $99, but I am writing, in part, to suggest 
to you all that even at $139 this machine is still 
a very big bargain.   You can read reviews about 
this machine at the usual places, so I won't trumpet 
its features.  I wanted to wait until I had given it 
my acid test before I shared my report.
My acid test is Vivace Vita.  I was immediately
spoiled by this upon first tasting this Fall in Kansas 
City at Bar Stephano at 71st and Wornell.   The 
owner of this shop uses a Schomer-tweaked LM 
machine, was trained by Schomer and serves only 
Schomer's Vita in his espresso offerings -- in a class 
well beyond anything I have had elsewhere.   I 
thought all this Seattle stuff was hype until I tasted 
properly extracted Vita.  Also,  my wife's Latte 
looked just like the art everyone raves about, and 
my shots were intoxicating - I love the taste of treacle 
but I have never had anything like this taste,  short of 
some good British treacle caramel - and never 
before in a complex espresso.   
Of course,  just like at Riley's,  I couldn't pay for 
anything, which only meant the tip was huge - I just 
had to pay for the value of such treats with more 
than compliments!
Anyway, the next thing I did was go back to Bar 
Stephano that afternoon when the new shipment 
from Seattle arrived and buy a 1/2 pound of beans, 
drive home and try to come close to re-exper-
iencing the flavor using my Krups Gusto.  I came 
close enough, at least a couple of times,  to justify 
buying another 1/2 pound directly from Seattle - 
which arrived here in Tulsa two days after I 
ordered  (roasted and shipped the same day I 
ordered - but at a price - $10.05 for a single 
half pound, including premium shipping).   But 
it wasn't good enough.
Let me digress some more to finally get to my point:
Shortly after I first acquired my reconditioned Gusto 
I took Tom's advice and ordered a couple of cans 
of illy from SM to see what I was doing wrong.   
That preground taught me what was wrong with 
my grinder and what was wrong with my tamp.  It 
also clearly showed the limitations of my particular 
Gusto unit (which may not be typical of the design - 
remember mine was reconditioned - it is too loud, 
and does not have as much pressure as I now know 
it should have for "15 bar".  It is too easily choked - 
esp by illy's grind.) 
But it was the Vivace Vita and the standard set 
by Bar Stephano that showed me what was really 
wrong with my Gusto.   It isn't just the choking.  
The Vita is not dark roasted (only SW4 or so. 
2 out of three batches were cinnamon, but the 
latest was darker with a hint of sheen) and not 
oily therefore reasonable tamp and grind does not 
choke the Gusto, but still the flavor profile was 
way off.   All my reading on this list and alt.coffee 
finally sunk in - it had to be the temperature. (and
probably the pressure a bit too)
  
I quit surfing to max temp and went completely 
in the opposite direction.  I began to pull cold 
water in to temper the boiler almost to the point
of activating the heater before I pulled shots.  
Things got better - sometimes much better - but 
my Gusto's thermostat simply just runs too hot 
and kicks in too soon for me to get down to the 
temperature that consistently gives me the flavor 
of treacle out of the Vita.  I could turn off the unit 
to keep the heater off and then turn it back on 
with the pump running after some additional cooling, 
but what a pain!
Until the Novo arrived...  Tonight (Wednesday) I 
re-experienced the taste I had been longing for.  
The order of Vita I placed Monday arrived and I 
put the new machine to my ultimate test.   Bravo!!!  
er,  Novo!!   I don't need no stinkin' Schomer-
tweaked 3 group LM unit (not yet).
And what does this all have to do with HomeRoast?  
Well,  along this path I discovered that the currently 
available Brazil Mogiani gives me some of that treacle 
flavor.   Neither the Brazil Cooxupe nor anything else 
I have found so far comes close (I still have a little of 
my favorite Blue de Brazil left to try).  Any suggestions?
Tuesday morning I  blended mostly Mogiana with some 
Oaxaca, some decaf Ghimbi or Mokha Raimi and some 
Panama Mama Cata (in that order - no exact percentages - 
sorry I blend by zen)   My memory - while tainted by 
the current Vita treacle flavor in my mouth - is that the 
treacle aspect is similar.    Vita has more going on though - 
perhaps more Ethiopian.   
But the really great news is that a $99 clearance unit is 
giving me consistently good to great espresso at home.
It has eliminated most of the variables that were 
confounding my previous experiments using the Gusto.
I would not have believed it unless I had a standard by 
which to compare - and Vita pulled by Bar Stephano 
is my standard for the flavor I go ga-ga about.   
All this made me recall how important Barry's Mystery 
Cup Challenge was in training my palate before I got
into espresso.   Maybe his concept -- many people 
tasting and comparing the same thing -- can be extended 
without all the effort (by Barry) and angst (by participants) 
required for the Mystery Cup Challenge    I would also 
like to zero in on espresso needs.
I suggest that Vita is also a great training tool (but like 
a good college, that tuition is high).    Is Intellegentsia's 
Black Cat also as consistent and therefore useful for 
acting as a standard for on-line descriptions?   I never 
thought I would be suggesting pre-roasted blends,  but 
a roaster like Riley's or Vivace or Intellegentsia can 
apparently provide a consistent standard - and we 
need that to compare to now and again, so that we 
can all come closer to being on the same page.  Of 
course this works best if you have tasted these standards 
done right - like at Bar Stephano.   But even without 
that there is a huge learning opportunity here.
I propose  - if someone with a large drum roaster 
could be convinced  (Barry?) - that periodically a 
special batch of readily available beans be roasted 
for distribution along with some of the greens - maybe 
eventually on a subscription basis - so that all who 
participate can have a common basis for comparison.  
I have used illy to check grind and tamp,  Vita to 
check temperature/flavor,  Dan's Sherwin Williams 
chips to compare color, and now I could use some 
samples to run through my new in-control extraction 
system in order to compare my own roasting techniques 
to a good drum roast and to others' experience on 
the same readily available beans.  (Can you tell that 
I bought both the roasted and  the green Mystery 
Cup samples?)  I would suggest Vivace Dolce (available 
green and roasted) but I don't think I like that stuff.   
I still have one Fresh-Roast's load of each of Barry's 
Mystery Cup samples, but of course no Riley's roasted 
versions,  and all my previous experience on those was 
as a cupping experiment, not as espresso.
Since SM no longer has a roaster and isn't in the 
business of selling roasted versions of their beans,
I guess what this entire post really boils down to 
is a request to Barry to consider offering a standard
espresso comparison package periodically.  We 
would arrange payment up front and you could 
roast and ship when you have the time - no pressure 
that way.    Maybe begining after the X-mas rush.
The package I propose would consist of a half pound 
of expertly roasted blend or single beans shipped with 
a 1/2 pound of the green beans which were roasted.  
This would be a great boon to those of us still trying 
to develop roasting technique and palates along with
grind, tamp and extraction technique.   Of course 
we can aleady do this with Barry's extant blends, but I 
am talking about branching out a bit on a small scale.   
I can't even order on-line only a 1/2 pound of green 
Decatur Street Blend.    A pound of this green plus 
1/2 pound roasted plus shipping totals about $17.  I 
am not complaining - $17 is not a bad price comparatively, 
but I am hoping the cost  could be lowered by 
subscribing to a program of periodic delivery of a 
small quantity of green and roasted  beans/blends. 
 
I paid $14.10 to get a half pound of roasted and a 
half pound of green from Vivace shipped via their 
preference of USPS Priority with delivery confirmation.  
Making something similar available for anything  less 
than that would fulfill my desire.
I don't think anyone expects Barry or anyone else 
to again offer the extreme bargain  which was the 
Mystery Cup Challenge.  I am suggesting a profitable 
enterprise of benefit to all.    Since Barry is roasting 
anyway, and sells green beans anyway, how about 
a program of providing "standards" for us to use in 
our home equipment comparisons and development?
Anyone else like this idea?
pr Mark Gilstrap
homeroast mailing listhttp://lists.sweetmarias.com/mailman/listinfo/homeroast

2) From: John Abbott
Wouldn't the roast exchanges that have been going on for some time now more
or less fill the bill here? And wouldn't proposing buying green beans from
an alternate source violate the rules of this list?
More to the point: Isn't the satisfaction of home roasting, the ability to
learn to develop and control the flavor of the finished cup? I am working at
matching what my pallet tells me about each roast with what I believe would
be a better cup.  Something in me just will not settle for buying roasted
beans when I've got all the equipment right here.
John - enjoying a really profound Blue Sky pea berry as I read and write

3) From: Jim Schulman
Hi Mark,
I doubt Barry or Doug will be persuaded to repeat the MCC any time soon; ap=
parently it was a lot of work.
My guess is that the caramel taste in Vita is due to a Sulawesi, or maybe a=
 Sulawesi/Columbian combo. These always work for caramel in my blends. Br=
azils don't really have caramel roast flavors; they're merely for sweetne=
ss, body, and a mellowing of the other blend ingredients.
One problem with doing espresso tastings is that the results are very machi=
ne/grinder dependent. Black Cat, and probably any other blend which relie=
s heavily on origin as opposed to roast flavors, is especially prone to v=
ariability on this account. 
The Italian Coffee Tasters Institute recently published their espresso cert=
ification standards; and these are mainly objective -- brewing time, temp=
erature, pressure, volume, and the total dissolved solids of the espresso=
, crema that lasts 5 minutes before breaking in the center, and coats the=
 cup -- with only a vague insistance on mouthfeel, sweetness, and lingeri=
ng aftertaste as the taste standards. Since they've been working on this =
certification for 15 years or so; I'm guessing that taste standards are v=
ery hard to verify
Jim


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