Craft Coffee - July 2014

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I’m doing things a little differently this month. I’ve only been using my new Rancilio Silvia for less than a week, and I’m still trying to learn how to use it properly and consistently. With my old Mr. Coffee espresso machine, I would rotate through the beans one latte at a time.

The pressurized portafilter on the Mr. Coffee machine was very forgiving. I’ve heard it said that machines with pressurized portafilters pull a consistently mediocre shot of espresso every time, and I am inclined to believe that. Miss Silvia is much less forgiving, but she’s a much more capable machine in the right hands. Those hands aren’t yet mine, though.

The first shot I pulled with my fresh beans from Craft Coffee was a complete failure. My grind was just too fine—it almost completely blocked the machine. Things went much better after that but not perfectly.

This month, I am going to use up each pouch of coffee before starting the next. I am going to write about (and post!) my thoughts as I finish each bag. I am going to wait until all the coffee is gone before I send this post to my most excellent editor for proofreading, so please excuse any grammatical errors in the mean-time!

Caffe Vita, Seattle, WA
Producer SOPACDI
Origin South Kivu, DR Congo
Variety Typica
Elevation 1,460-2,000 Meters
Process Washed
A robust, vegetal bouquet complements full flavors of caramel and dark chocolate with a slightly smoky finish resembling cavendish tobacco and leather.

I have had a lot of trouble with this coffee, and I don’t know if it is my fault or the beans. There are a lot of words in the description that my taste buds won’t be happy about: “vegetal bouquet,” “dark chocolate,” and “tobacco.”

The coffee from Caffe Vita has a strange aftertaste. Some of the lattes I made seem a bit sour at the end, while others seem bitter. I’m drinking the last one right now, and I can’t decide which it is. Whatever this aftertaste is, it is definitely bringing tobacco to mind.

The third or fourth shot I pulled seemed like it was going technically perfect. I got right around 2 ounces of espresso in just shy of 30 seconds. It was quite bitter and far from perfect. I clicked the grinder up one notch, but that double shot only took about 10 seconds. I made a latte out of that shot anyway, and it tasted surprisingly good. Not very flavorful, but there were no offensive sour or bitter tastes.

I split the difference for this final shot—I dialed the Baratza Preciso back to where it was and moved the micro-adjustment lever to the half-way mark. This is probably the best latte I’ve made with the beans from Caffe Vita, but it still has a strange aftertaste. I’m not ready to blame it on the beans, though!

Metropolis Coffee Company, Chicago, IL
Producer Grupo Asociativo Cafe Andino
Origin Bruselas, Huila, Columbia
Variety Caturra, Columbi
Elevation 1,500-1,900 Meters
Process Washed
Leading off with aromas of nougat, honey, and tobacco, this silky brew offers flavors of roasted almonds and candied yams and finishes with butter notes of caramel and milk chocolate.

The coffee from Metropolis was similar to, but seemed smoother than the coffee from Caffe Vita. The description on the Metropolis pouch also mentions tobacco, but only in relation to the aroma. I don’t know if my nostrils are just tricking my taste buds, but it sure seemed like it had the same sort of tobacco-like finish as the Caffe Vita coffee—it just wasn’t as strong.

It is entirely possible that the aftertaste in both coffees is related to my lack of skill and experience with my new espresso machine. Some of the lattes I made using the Metropolis beans were the best that I’ve managed to make with the Rancilio Silvia.

This will probably be the norm for quite a while. I won’t be surprised if every pouch of coffee tastes better than the last as my barista skills improve.

Forty Weight Coffee Roasters, Ithica, NY
Producer Girma Mill
Origin Sidama, Ethiopia
Variety Heirloom
Elevation 1,800-1,900 Meters
Process Natural
Tangy aromas of raspberry and pineapple lead into flavors of a summer afternoon in the park–peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, strawberry limeade, and chocolate malted milk balls.

I saved this one for last, and I’ve been looking forward to trying it. I’ve really enjoyed all the Ethiopian coffees that I received, and I thought it would be best to get more practice with my new espresso machine before trying the beans from Forty Weight.

I goobered up more shots of this coffee than any of the others. It is a much lighter roast than the other two, and I ended up having to move the setting on the grinder up by more than two full clicks, and I’ve been making micro adjustments the entire time.

I also used my 3D printer to print a proper 58 mm tamper while I was half-way through these beans. It sure looks like I’ll be able to be much more consistent in my tamping now, but this also lead to me wasting two more double shots of the Forty Weight coffee.

I did manage to make one or two pretty good lattes, though, and this is definitely my favorite coffee of the three. It doesn’t have that strange tobacco-like finish, and I can pick out most of the flavors I have come to expect from Ethiopian coffees.

No more sample pouches for me!

I changed my Craft Coffee subscription so that they will send me a single 12-oz bag of coffee each month. I’ve completely wasted at least one quarter of each sample-size pouch just trying to tune in a reasonable shot of espresso, and I haven’t gotten things tasting good until just about the last shot in each pouch.

This should mean that I’ll still have at least a half pound of coffee left after I’ve gotten things tuned in, but it also means that my little coffee review posts will be much shorter. We’ll see how it goes next month!

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!