Holy Mother w/ Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti

“Holy Mother” was written many years ago when Clapton was having a very dark time. I hadn’t heard it until recently. There is another video of the song on YouTube without Pavarotti. It’s good but the one (if the link doesn’t work, search on the title of this post) with Pavarotti is outstanding. Pavarotti has done many concerts with rock/pop stars. All others he is singing in Italian, which I don’t speak. This concert he sang in English. Much more powerful. And it is a very nice arrangement. The East London Gospel Choir is the background singers. And there is a small classical orchestra.

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Tough Beans

I have a hand grinder so I am aware of the effort needed to grind various beans. There is quite a bit of variation. Starbucks Espresso Roast (medium dark) and Italian Roast (more dark) are the easiest. Allegro Espresso Sierra (medium dark) is slightly more effort. The Stumptown Hair Bender, Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso, Illy Classico, and Bongo Mystic Dark (all medium roasts, i.e., lighter color and no oil sheen) all require noticeably more effort to grind. They also all have a vegetal note in lattes and drip coffee.

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Espresso: the pros vs. the home team

As I improve my espresso skills, I’ve learned that shortcomings are more obvious is straight espresso. Adding milk (including non-dairy milks and creamers) masks a lot. Every espresso I’ve tried, mine or baristas’, is bitter forward. In many that is all I can taste. At each new coffee house I’m now getting a single shot of espresso along with a latte. At the nearest Starbucks, bitter is all I taste. With Starbucks Espresso Roast at home now, there a bit of depth behind it. Before I started tamping hard, it was just bitter, i.e. under-extracted. At District Coffee here in Nashville, the straight shot had much more depth, other flavors, and a bit of acid. If I understand right, the barista over-extracted slightly. The beans, possibly the grind, and maybe the shot pull time are better than my attempts, but improvement is possible. So I’m doing better than that particular Starbucks barista and improvement is possible, but not as good as the District Coffee barista.

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Unobtainium Espresso

We had some very nice lattes today at District Coffee in the design district of Nashville. Their brewed coffee comes from 8th and Roast. I’ve passed the store and seen bags in local supermarkets. Their espresso drinks are made with coffee from The Proverbial Cup in Nolensville, a small town 20 miles south of Nashville. Since I’m trying out coffee from various roasters, I was interested in buying a bag. Their Website lists three cafes that serve their espresso. Google Maps finds a fourth site inside one of the hospitals. The Proverbial Cup Website says they will cater your event, but no way to buy their beans. District Coffee does not appear to sell their coffee. So no way to serve it at home.

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Illy: Classico

This is our favorite espresso so far. Beyond the usual espresso taste, it has a vegetal undertone, like green bell peppers. It is decent as drip coffee. My only complaint is that it on the weak side. I add 8 beans, about all that will fit, to the grinder for a double shot. Same for drip coffee, though the standard 2 fl. oz. coffee scoop is bigger than the scoop that comes with the DeLonghi espresso machine. It is very smooth and sweet in a latte. My wife usually adds a 1/4 teaspoon light brown sugar to her lattes and drip coffee. With these beans she adds none.

These beans came in a 250mg can (8.8 ounces). I paid $11.99, $1.36 per ounce. Illy also makes K-cups. For comparison, Starbucks Espresso Roast whole beans are $12.99 for a one pound bag, $0.81 per ounce.

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In Defense of Fresh & Clean

Texas Poetry Assignment published my poem In Defense of Fresh & Clean. The purpose of the assignment was to ask writers to submit new work that defends in the special art and language of poetry a belief, person, time, place, thing, or activity. My poem centered around brewing good coffee.

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Dark and Darker

It was a invention born out of necessity and/or accident. I ran out of the darker roast and added the dark roast to make a double shot for a latte with half Starbucks Espresso Roast (dark) and half Starbucks Italian Roast (darker). I find I prefer it over either alone. I may soon try making brewed coffee with the same blend.

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Intelligentsia: Black Cat Espresso – Resolved

The Sip Coffeehouse article on Sour Espresso gets specific: suggests 2 grams less coffee for lighter roasts (no scale so I used scant scoops) and 20-30 seconds to pull a double shot. Intelligentsia shows a picture (on right) of the ground coffee. It looks about as coarse as I use for brewed coffee. That didn’t work well, pull done in 11 seconds (6th try). I went back to my usual setting.

Somewhere way back I remember someone saying to put the portafilter on a scale and press 20 pounds with the tamper. That seemed a bit much. I have been tamping just enough to press all the grounds into the portafilter. 20 pounds is a little more than 2 gallons of water in plastic jugs. I carry that frequently. So I leaned into the tamping. Definitely better and hit 20 seconds on pulling a double shot. Good taste (7th) try. I prefer my lattes a little more coffee forward. This morning I used level scoops of coffee, usual grind, 3 seconds of pre-infusion, and 30 second wait before pulling the rest of the double shot. Good balance between coffee taste and bitterness, no sour taste.

I use the scoop that came with the espresso machine. It is maybe 15% smaller than the standard 2oz/60ml coffee scoop I use for brewed coffee.

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Espresso Cups aren’t Uniform

DeLonghi Espresso Cups

As the picture above shows, not all espresso cups are the same size. Each has a double shot (2oz/60ml) of water in it.

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Intelligentsia: Black Cat Espresso – 5th Try

This morning I tried the advice given in How To Avoid Making Sour Espresso. To simplify the process, I made 2 double shots and upped the amount of non-dairy milk to 3/4 cup. The first double shot was made with 2 scant scoops of beans ground a 1/2 step finer. This was too fine. The espresso machine initially clogged, than pumped out espresso intermittently. The resulting double shot wasn’t sour. The second double shot was 2 scant scoops of beans ground at my usual setting for espresso. I timed the double shot at 40 seconds. The article recommends 20-30 seconds. I am unclear if this is for 1 shot or two. It tasted bitter, thin, and over-extracted. The two double shots combined in the larger amount of milk was decent. Better, but not what I expected from such a highly touted coffee.

About all I can think of at this point is measuring the espresso cups to find where 1oz/30ml and 2oz/60ml come to and clarify the pull timing.

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