Friday, August 20, 2010

Difference between Cupping and Espresso

Seems like I have almost forgotten about my blog-spot, last update was in October 2009. Anyway, almost another year has gone by, time really flies! During that time a lot has happened, still working for Toby's Estate Roastery in Chippendale, and still working as a Barista at Fox Studio Market.

I really wanted to talk about the difference between Cupping a coffee and using that same coffee for espresso. I usually find 1 or 2 good coffees on the cupping table, but the sad thing is most of the time we can't transfer that same flavour into espresso. So I wondered why?! Then at a recent event listening to Scottie Callaghan regarding light roast for espresso really opened up my eyes, and I have tried this for myself and succeeded. Most people will tell you light roast will not suit an espresso, and there are 2 major reasons, 1st the espresso will be way too acidic leaning towards Sour and Raw. 2nd there won't be much body in the espresso especially with higher altitude grown coffees. And I have manage to overcome these 2 major criticism for light espresso roast, you ask how? It's to do with the roast profile. Most roasters when doing a light roast uses the same profile as their dark roast, they simply drop the beans earlier; This means the whole roast profile has been cut short which contribute to the Rawness in the center. To do a light espresso roast, the initial heat at "Drying Stage" has be very gentle to draw out all that moisture in the center, then from the browning stage to First Crack has to be taken care of as well in order for the body to fully develop. Most roasters will have a First Crack time of Between 10-11 mins for a darkish Espresso Roast, But for a light roast I would have to take that to 13-14mins, sometimes 15-16mins depend on the acidity of the bean. And then dumping the bean 3-5 mins after FC depending on the Varietal, Before any 2nd crack sets in (There are a few beans I would take to 2nd crack like Sumatra, Java or Colombian to fully enhance the body). So the total roast time for a light espresso roast is in fact longer than the darker espresso roast, and the longer roast time really neutralizes that aggressive acidity, espresso will end up tasting sweeter, less bitter, more balanced and most importantly kept most of that flavour from the cupping table. But of course after tasting the first roast, you may need to make the necessary adjustment for the 2nd roast; If the espresso still tasting too bright, then you'll need to stretch out that FC time even further. If the esrepsso starting to taste flat, then more heat is needed hence shortening that FC time.

The Aim is Simple, trying to keep as much of that Varietal flavour as possible. But the hard part is to find the balance between Acidity, Body and Sweetness. And this is really interesting for me, it shows me the true complexity of coffee and how much we still haven't discovered!

Oh, by the way, the light espresso roast will only work for Specialty Grade Coffee which is really clean and not much cup faults. Hence please don't try it on commodity grade Robusta!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just an update

Haven't blogged since the August competition so I just an update for the last 2 months.

I have started working Tobys Estate Roastery in Chippendale, just as a part time at the moment. Quite a lot of fun being surrounded by coffee beans all day. Looking,Inhaling and of course tasting. All Tobys coffees are roasted for espresso, but having no proper espresso machines in the Roastery we are make to use plunger and Siphon coffee with fairly dark roasted coffee, works for some but not most. But anyway, it's all good fun.

I did the NSW cup tasting Competition and came away 3rd, nothing to shout about but not bad considering I was competing with professional roasters who's been in the industry for a while. I will keep on competing next year and hopefully I will be more complete next year, fingers crossed!

I did a temporary barista position for Blue Duck Cafe in St. Leonards, was just filling it for their full time barista who was on holiday for 2 weeks. They were using Jack Hanna's coffee so I also had the pleasure to meet Jack, saw his latte art work which was quite amazing.

I think overall my palate is now more developed now compare to say the same time last year, so hopefully this will play into my advantage when tasting coffees, Just ordered a big bunch of coffees from Ministry Grounds which included 2 lots of Cup of Excellence coffee, 1 from El Salvador and another from Colombia. So when that arrives I will fire up the little roaster and start tasting some delicious coffee... more Blog then.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Problems with Barista Competitions

I have recently competed in the GBC (short of Grand Barista Championship) which was hosted by Danes coffee. Having went through the heats and did not get into the finals or even top 10, but I did go away with some thoughts on the competition both Positive and Negative.

First let's talk about the Negative, I think too little is concentrated on the final cup and too much is emphasised on the presentation, imagine you are a customer getting a coffee from your favourite coffee shop, what matters to you the most is how your coffee taste and whether you can get that consistent coffee everytime. Personally I can't give a rat about what brand of Jeans the barista is wearing or whehter he speaks like your local radio station DJ... that's why you waiter/waitress! It's their job to do a professional presentation, for the coffee maker (don't like to use the word Barista for some reason) it's our job to concentration everything into the cup, let the Coffee speak for itself and for whoever that's making it. I am a big fan of the Japanese Cooking Show "the Iron Chef", and it's great to see chefs putting all of their heart of soul into whatever dish they are making, and it's only scored on the final products. I think Coffee Competition shoud learn something from it, maybe someone should start a competition called "the Iron Coffee Geeks"...LOL..
Another problem is the Espresso machine settings which was set to a Static 92c and 9Bars of pressure, so basically I had to design my coffee to work around this setting, which I think is kind of crap. Imagine you just came across a fanstic coffee and would like to share this with the Judges, but the coffee requires a high temperature and a low pressure which means you cannot use it for competition because of this constraint. I think the competition machine should work around whichever bean the competitor is using, Competition should get machines with easily adjusted brew temperature and pressure and the competitor can submit their desired temperature/pressure before the competition, the machine can be easily set to the target values before the presentation.
OK, enough on the negatives... more for later. Now the positives on Competitions.

I think compeitions are great in getting everyone involved, both customers and people in the industry, it promotes coffees in both quantity and quality which is great for the coffee farmers. It inspires Coffee Makers to reach new heights, it inspires roasters to try harder.

So for sure competition is a good thing for everyone, just that it needs constant evolving to get to what it really stand for..... Quality of the cup!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Espresso Shots

Ever heard of the industry standard espresso shot volume and time? 25-30ml in 25-30sec.
I guess they have that standard there so even idiots can pull shots, I am not saying that standard is wrong as in most cases it can probably achieve a reasonable tasting espressos. But this standard does not factor in a lot of variables, for example if the beans are fresh it will achieve that volume in a much shorter time as there are a lot more crema than liquid and vice verse if you have stale beans, Temperature of your brewing water, brew pressure, type of beans and the roast degree. I have seen truly amazing shots that's pulled in near the 1 minute mark. So what's the irony here? As a Barista it's our duties to experiment with different types of method to achieve the best possible outcome for the particular type of beans we are using. And most importantly, taste,taste and taste....

Below are a few images from the shots I pulled using the Aroma Felice Blend, shots didn't taste too bad actually.

Initial stage of the shot, should look like honey being poured, broken but not quite broken stream. If the first few drops looks watery it may indicate a channeling in the coffee cookie,
chuck it out and redo! LOL...

Middle stage of the shot, stream becoing more steady and even and only broken near the bottom
before it hits the cup.

Towards the end of the shot, now 2 constant running stream with no broken bits, colour starting
to get lighter but still has viscosity as not mouse tailing. Most of the flavours would have been
extracted at this point.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Texture vs. Varietal Flavour for Espresso

There's a big debate going on at the moment in term of roasting degree for espresso, the new trend seem to be going light on everything to preserve the Varietal flavour of the bean. But for me I think in the search for those "extra flavours" we have some how forgotten how an espresso should be like, I treat espresso as a "Hit", in other word it's how it makes feel rather than what I can taste in it. Texture for me is a lot more important in an espresso than Varietal Flavour, things like Syrupy, Velvety, Smooth and of course a nice strong Body to finish it off. Origin flavour is important for me... but not at the cost of Texture. A lot of the younger generation roaster seem to be scared of the second Crack in coffee roasting, fearing the change in wood structure in coffee may damage the flavour, but I actually think second crack increases the complexity for lots of coffees provided you don't go past rolling 2Nd crack (Vienna Stage), a lot of that chocolate flavour happens at this stage which I like very much. Which origin I don't like for Espressos? Mostly central American, they are flavourful and acidic, but most of them just doesn't seem to have that Texture I am after and the flavour is lost in milk anyway, they make a nice Plunger/Syphon coffee but not really for espressos or at least single origin espressos.

To compare espresso to Plunger/syphon is like comparing a shot of Tequila to a nice Chardonnay, Tequila will give you that "wow" factor like a punch in the face, while the Chardonnay is delicate and flavourful. Different drinks so we should also roast them differently. I like drinking Plunger coffee but I am an espresso man as I don't like to think too hard for flavours, if a drink is delicious it's delicious, end of the question!

Monday, June 29, 2009

F**K the Fancy Labels

I am starting to get pissed off at the amount of Fancy Labels that's starting to come out relating to coffees. Fairtrade this and Organic Certified that, I heard to be Organic Certified the farmers had to pay the organization a large sum of money and wait 2-3 years before they can be certified, and how many farmers in the 3rd world country can afford this crap? Most coffee beans are Organic anyway, as those farmers won't be able to afford Chemical pesticides and Fertilizer, just because it's not "Organic Certified" doesn't mean it's not "Organic".

A lot of Coffee Company has adopted this new trend of "Fancy Labels" thinking it will aid their sales, the company I work for is a big sucker for those labels although I won't mention their names. And a lot of the times those Organisation has such a large overhead in staff salary and expenses, the amount that's left to go to the farmers are only a small percentage in that bag of cash.

I believe the only way of doing this is to deal with the Farmers direct, Pay the fair price for a good product, this way all (or most) of the money is going directly to the farmers and we end up getting a higher quality BEAN as well.

Why the bad Wraps on Robusta Beans

A lot of people seem to be scared of the word "Robusta", it's like the black sheep in the Coffee Varietal world. OK most Robusta beans drank on its own could taste a bit rubbery and the Aroma isn't the most attractive, but I tend to treat Robusta as a spice, with the correct percentage in an espresso blend it can be fantastic. Dark Chocolate, Bitey and it also add an extra dimension to the flavour profile... Flavour you cannot obtain from Arabica beans. It's like cooking, treat Robusta like Chilli or Saffron, you wouldn't eat them straight right? Although I am hearing there are some specially selected Robusta beans that's nice enough to be drank on its own, but until I have tried it myself I cannot comment on that one.

To prove what I believe, I am entering the Danes Grand Barista Championship with a blend that contains the Indian Monsoon Robusta bean, it's got all the nice Robusta properties minus some of the offensive bits and the rough edges, and it should aid the mouthfeel in my espressos and will work a treat in Milk.

So is Robusta Bad? It depend whether you believe what a lot of people tell you or believe your own taste bud? If it's the latter, go out and try a Blend with Robusta and see whether you prefer it over the trendy "100% Arabica" beans. Remember McCafe also uses "100% Arabica" and also "100% Rain Forest Alliance", but have you tried one? enough said...