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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m cheap and this coffee is not, $16.99 for 12oz. This morning I made 4 shots and put 3 of them in a latte with 4oz of non-dairy milk. Better and less hassle than making a double shot and a single shot, switching portafilter strainers in between. Having the shot of straight espresso left over, I sipped. Very different. I expect straight espresso to be a bit bitter. This was sour. Sour espresso indicates under-extraction. This article on the Sip Coffee blog goes into why espresso can be sour and how to fix. It also covers the opposite problem, over-extraction, with causes bitter espresso. I will try the various fixes in the next few days and tell you what I find.
Today I tried these beans as brewed coffee with a Clever Coffee Dripper. 2 1/2 scoops (2 Tbsp coffee scoop, not the scoop that came with the espresso machine) with 8oz of hot water, 5 minute brew time. Better. Roasts this light are not to my liking, too much raw bean taste. Medium dark Kenyan beans used to be my favorite for brewed coffee. Now all the Kenyan beans I can find are light roast.
I found these beans to be on the weak side when I made a double latte with it. On the next day, I tried again, same recipe but with 3 shots. My espresso machine can make a single or a double shot with a change of the inner pieces of the portafilter. This was a much better latte, though maybe a little too strong with a harsh undercurrent of raw molasses. My wife didn’t care for it. I drank it and felt it could be improved. I’ll try something different tomorrow.
This is my next pick on Coffee Chronicler‘s list of the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso. A pattern is starting to emerge. This is a medium roast, though that post calls it a dark roast. There is no oil on the beans, it is light in color, and grinding it in my hand grinder takes a bit of muscle. All of this is like my previous pick, Stumptown Hair Bender, from his list. It is also like my planned next pick, Illy Classico (based on what I can find in local stores) according to this review. I had been expecting something darker and a bit more bitter tasting like Starbucks Espresso Roast but better tasting. My wife is more of a traditionalist and probably will not have the Black Cat again. Based on the descriptions on the bag, she was looking forward to it.
Black Cat Espresso is earthy tasting, like many of the Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal teas that are not too bitter. It is lighter roast than the Hair Bender. More of the bean taste is present and less of the bite or boldness of darker roasts. It is also not as strong a taste, a double shot with a half cup of dairy free half and half (3 ounces of almond milk with an ounce of soy creamer) tastes weak. Making a double shot and a single shot is too much work first thing in the morning. I may try that some afternoon. Making a cup of brewed coffee (Clever Coffee Dripper, review coming) with more beans is another way to try to improve the taste. Or simply cut the amount of almond milk.