All Things Espresso Stories and commentary on Espresso
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the SHOT!!!

Swaslu thinks, with its Permian mind, that espresso ain't all that complicated. It is all about an attention to rigorous detail that Swaslu nails, but mere mortal baristas cannot hope match at volume. 

And, armed with what baristas cannot match, we are hitting the road to sample a panoply of STEALTH ROASTS from roasters nationwide all to spread the Americano love and  do unbiased market research for the roasters. 

First off, SwaSlu lets the roasters roast an build relationships with the growers.  The art of roasting and the effort to effectively interact with the growers is an important art best left to those who focus on that art, and is, really, the core foundation for great shots.

Second, SwaSlu digs into what espresso is as opposed to brewing.  That is on the science end of the spectrum, an end with which Swaslu is entirely familiar.

Espresso commands the taste from the grinds, whereas brewing coaxes out whatever flavor will willingly be coaxed.

Swaslu saves vital taste characteristics of the STEALTH ROASTS at our espresso workshop for sampling far from the normal machinery and preconceptions of espresso enabling our pop-up  roadshow. 

Americanos will come to rule the playing field, much as we did with infinite evolutional varieties over millions of years.


The PUCK

An espresso puck is the solid leftovers of the espresso extraction.

It should be wet and the top a bit mushy, but MUST NOT BE SOUPY.

If it is soupy, you are just mixing an intermingling of some brewing and some espresso with unpredictable results.  Not saying it can't be tasty on occasion, but predictable and worthy of serving the general public, NO!

  • Think about it with your mammalian brains....
  • --Packed grinds exposed to water pressure.
  • --If the grinds have no place to go, they stay put and the inescapable hot water does its job.
  • --If the grinds stay put (not soupy) the pressure from the water either pushed water around the granules doing a bad brewing attempt (channelling) or the water was forced THROUGH the coffee and whatever comes out the other side is ... ESPRESSO!



Channeling

Channeling is pockets or full on stream impressions in the puck.

What it means is that the water has bypassed the coffee to some extent and you don't get espresso and you don't get some form of brew.

You get watered down something, and that something is not tasty.

You can get channeling from either not packing down to the 'right' spot in the portafilter or from not packing the portafilter down enough at all.

OCCASIONALLY, a channeled shot won't completely suck with enough milk.



Particulate size

Blade grinders produce a plethora of particulate (grind) sizes.

Conical burr grinders produce a distribution mostly of two sizes of grind.

Flat burr grinders create a mostly one size grind.

Who cares?  Everyone should because different grain sizes react differently to the given method and given parameters.

The more uniform the grind size, the more uniform the results.

If you have ten different grind sizes (blade grinder), you have ten different coffee results mixed in one output, BAD BAD BAD, and almost impossible to control.

If you have conical burr grinder (most home grinders), you get mostly two sizes of grind and it becomes a devil in the details problem altering the parameters to the ration you have at the moment.  Absolute attention to detail is required to keep that espresso production ship afloat.

If you have a flat burr grinder (we use a Super Jolly Doser), you get mostly one size.  With that mostly one size, you have the best shots, one size grind means one interaction of water and grind.  Nail it and the results are sublime.


Temperature

Surprisingly, this is one thing that is not an absolute.

You get to test the results of grind size and puck packing to eliminate channeling and then see if a particular roast tastes better with a few more or few less degrees.

It is where you just have to accept, that for a given bag, this may be adjusted to deal vagaries of output.

This is blasphemy from an espresso machine point of view.  They don't have the ability to adjust the temperature from bag to bag or from shot to shot.

That may be possible from day to day.  This is a significant failing of espresso machine, holding temperature constant when that is what is mucking up the shot.

That is one of the reasons why most shops only have one espresso available, they have tuned the machine to that roast and that grind.  Now, coffee being coffee, you can see that it is highly unlikely that the settings of the grind and the espresso machine will almost never be the same from espresso roast to roast or even  from regular to decaf.


Pressure

Adjustable pressure machines are making a comeback.

Pricey ($1,600-$10,000).

Some pretend to give variable pressure, but few get out of your way so you can do it.

The manual ROK and Flair and Espresso Forge and UniTerra Nomad ... get downright paleo about it.

After pulling a couple of thousand shots, we like the ROK as our go to production machine.



Time

Time is pretty much open to modification on all machines.

Push a button, release (or keep holding) the lever.

The trick is adjusting hour to hour (changes in humidity and ambient temperature) and shot to shot (different roast, decaf, etc.).

A shop needs to focus a barista on just pulling shots or, in all likelihood, the shots will be all over the map.


Stale Shots?

Urban legend analysis ....

Most sources state that letting a shot cool alters (some say destroys) taste characteristics.

Here we have a correlation is not causation debate.

There could be, and are, other factors that are the real problem.

We haven't yet seen, and are plotting one of our own, an experiment where a shot is done 4 ways:

HotFull Oxygen contact

Limited oxygen contact
Slowly CooledFull Oxygen contact

Limited oxygen contact
Quickly CooledFull Oxygen contact

Limited oxygen contact

Based on our non-scientific research, Oxygen is the culprit far more than temperature or temperature change.

Just as oxygen reacts with bread quickly to render the bread stale and unappealing, so does Oxygen interaction with an espresso shot.


Freezing=Blasphemy?

Whatever the flavor profile you get out of a hot shot, alone or in a latte or cappuccino, cannot be preserved over time.

Or so is the conventional wisdom.

What Swaslu has found is that better Americanos and Lattes than most baristas can muster, can be had from a quick cooled shot, albeit a shot done in violation of a few conventions.

Swaslu is setting up a roadshow to highlight, and prove this point, great taste from frozen shots is part of the future.

Throw your Roaster hat in the ring anonymously and reap the windfall of knowledge (and, possibly, sales)!