So in the last week I've pulled shots of something like 10 different commercial espresso blends and another probably 15 single origin shots on top of that. In addition, I've cupped a dozen or so coffees. I'm trying to draw these all together into some sort of conclusive thought but it's daunting.
I guess the first conclusion is that there are some coffees out there that really are well suited to home machines. And if the home machine in question is a very nice and expensive one... then your options get wider.
Everyone who was around over the holiday period (Bronwen, Stephen, Kyle, Valerie, Alex, etc. etc.) seemed really impressed by the Briccoletta. In people's minds the real standout blends we checked out included the Hairbender (though we all agree that it's gonna be a tough nut for many home machines and baristas) and the Doma Vito's Blend. Not shockingly, the current standard-bearer for home espressos is the Black Cat and it continued to impress with its consistency and ease of use. On the other hand, the single best espresso of the weekend was made from the Vivace Vita - a notoriously not user-friendly blend. I figure it was largely luck, but...
We all continued to be amazed by how good single origin espressos taste on home machines. When comparing shots from a top commercial machine (a Mistral or a temp-stabilized Linea or a Synesso) to these home machines, there is a noticable gap in quality when it comes to all the blends. But the gap is either quite small or in some cases non-existent when it comes to the single origin espressos. This... I don't get.
Oh... we had a wonderful day cupping a ton of samples that Andrew Barnett sent up to us. We cupped a whole stack of the E lot Ethiopians including a wonderful Yirgacheffe from the Hama co-op and an incredible natural Sidamo. I have pulled shots of all these coffees as well and, while three or maybe four of them would make great components in blends, none of them are great single origin espressos (sadly).
Finally... we both cupped and pulled shots of the mighty Panama Esmerelda (thanks Bronwen). It's an astounding coffee. But... it was interesting to cup it on a table of Ethiopians. I've only cupped it alongside other latin coffees - where it really stood out. When on the table with a whole bunch of top Ethiopians, it really didn't stand out to the same degree. It was still my favorite coffee on the table - but it didn't outright dominate the other coffees as it usually does.