I am continuing in my ceaseless experimentation.
I've been working on trying to correlate differences in brew pressure to differences in taste. It's a bit frustrating, partially due to the incredibly inaccurate and very mechanical methodology for pressure adjustment on espresso machines. But it's also frustrating as there seem to be very few commonalities between beans when it comes to these effects. Yes, lower pressure seems to result in a softer and less viscous mouthfeel and higher pressure seems to result in an espresso with more "attack." But beyond that... it's all bean to bean.
I tasted a whole stack of wonderful beans sent to me by Andrew Barnett of Ecco Caffe. I'm going to cup them later, and it will be interesting to compare notes.
El Salvador Pulped Natural (Royal Coffee): This was a very challenging espresso to say the least. It took me a huge amount of work to find the sweet spot and shots outside of the sweet spot were pretty awful. Once there, however, it was quite nice indeed. Light bodied with a lovely buttery mouthfeel, it's a very sweet shot. It has a ton of acidity which, when outside the sweet spot, becomes tremendously lemony and sharp. But in the sweet spot, it ends up almost balancing with the sweetness. Caramel, apricot, maybe a touch of peanut butter. Might be better as a blender than an origin shot, but still quite nice. I ended up having to go with a very high brew temp, a triple basket, slight down-dose and a short extraction volume and time (1.5oz in 24 seconds).
El Salvador Pulped Natural Cerro Los Ravios: In my humble opinion, this is not suitable for use as an origin espresso. It might be good as a small percentage of a blend, especially at a darker roast, but as it is right now it is simply far too bright to be enjoyable. I tried all my tricks and could not get it to taste balanced. Tons of fresh cherry and tangerine, a little vanilla, lots of bright aromatics. Very sharp and on the front of the tongue. Will be interesting to cup this coffee - my guess is that it's going to cup out wonderfully and that it's going to be fabulous in a Vac Pot.
Panama Finca Hartmann: Another coffee that is almost certainly wonderful and lovely, but is not suited to use as espresso. Incredibly delicate and light in the cup, but as espresso there is a ton of acidity and little if any sweetness or body to balance. Plus, there is a "woody" note that comes across as tannin. I cannot wait to cup this one. My guess is that it's going to be truly mindblowing in the cup and as a French Press.
Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira Pulped Natural (Mercanta): Wow. I mean... Wow! This is a complete espresso. First - parameters... LM ridged double basket, up-dosed to about 18.5 grams, 200F brew temp, 2oz double in 28 seconds. Really lovely. Thick and rich on the palate. Incredibly coating mouthfeel. It's got lovely fruit and some nearly hidden pipe tobacco, a whole bunch of chocolate and spice and this incredible candy note. I cannot place the candy, but it's something very familiar. Not root beer barrels, but something like that. This is truly lovely. Incredible colour and crema. Wonderful as an origin espresso - you could also use it as your base for an espresso and with the addition of two (or even just one) accent coffee you could create a truly stellar blend.
Oh... on a personal note, the leg appears to not being getting better. I had MRIs recently and they discovered a lot of damage to the cartilage in the ankle. I'll know more in the next couple days, but it looks like I might have to have the ankle operated on after all. Rather depressing news really.