Friday, April 25, 2008

Filtering the Crema

All this week I’ve been playing around with crema, lots of different experiments and a lot of failed results. I did however find something interesting and definitely worth mentioning. So in regards to my previous post I am still trying to eliminate crema without physically removing it with a spoon.

I’ve been trying to filter out the crema during the extraction using various filtration methods. All but one, have failed. I have found that filtering through filter paper will give a very unpleasant cardboard taste in the cup. The best filter turned out to be a single (9 gram) filter basket. Let me break it down a little bit. The espresso runs straight into the filter basket sifting through but the crema stays on top and filters out almost completely. The end result gives you the espresso liquid with slightly thin pale layer of crema (resemblant to that of aeropress). I guess the advantage of removing the crema this way is that it doesn’t mix in the cup during the initial stages of extraction.

After filtering out the crema I then compared both filtered and unfiltered espresso. This is what I found:

I am using a very sweet espresso blend rich and full of body with distinct dark chocolate notes.

Regular espresso (crema mixed in with a spoon thoroughly)
The smell carried out a subtle hint of berry and chocolate notes. The espresso was well balanced with smooth rich mouthfeel, slight bitterness and a distinct chocolate note.

Filtered Espresso
A very sharp oaky smell with hints of chocolate. Espresso was very sharp and clean with absolutely no body. Distinct taste of chocolate remained.

The conclusion that I have established indicated that the main characters of espresso (with crema) will carry out through filtration. In this instant the distinct chocolate note was very much present although the overall espresso lacked body. I personally prefer the espresso for what it is today a smooth, creamy, well balanced drink and all those aspects are tied in by ONE essential ingredient, crema. I also found that filtered espresso is good for picking out the main flavours and raw (bold) character out of the bean to more accurately describe its main taste.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Espresso without crema

Recently the coffee collective documented their experiments, they removed the crema from top of the espresso and found that the coffee is much smoother and cleaner in taste. I have been debating this issue for a long time but never had the courage to blog about it with fear of criticism. I guess this post is in eye opener for myself to push through with my controversial espresso experiments further and further. I have yet again proven to myself that there is no right or wrong when it comes to espresso, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE TASTE.

Imagine an espresso cup; a small tight space for espresso to fall into. Too often we see crema fill up more than half of the cup and hold for a long time? A perfect competition shot where crema seems to hold and hold. Now imagine this … a shallow and wide surface for espresso to fall into. The crema is now spread out along the surface and gradually starts to dissipate, a plate …

Today I have been extracting into a shallow plate, the results are staggering. I encourage you to try this. As the coffee falls onto a shallow surface the espresso evenly mixes and slowly spreads out on a plate. As a result you get a well-balanced, clean “plate” of coffee. This is definitely not a competition friendly way to serve coffee as the crema doesn’t hold at all but why would you want it to? I am proud to say that this was one of the better espresso shots I’ve had in a long while.

The way the coffee falls and mixes (especially in early stages of extraction) is absolutely vital, I will dedicate some time into exploring different surfaces for coffee to fall into and document my results.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Obsessive passion turned into memories

Collecting various espresso cups has always been a passion of mine. Not long ago it has come to my attention that I have over 20 different styles of cups in my household. Most of the sets are stashed in cupboards but the individual cups I like to use and drink out when I make coffee at home. As you can see I have cups from almost every country I’ve been in.

Up until recently I have always liked the tulip shaped cups such as this “CafĂ© Grumpy” cup. Its all well and good as it makes the espresso visually more in quantity. I’ve always been brought up in the school of ristretto so I guess that is the reason why I have grown to like that specific shape.

After coming back to Australia I have started to appreciate the overall balance of espresso through longer extractions. These days I prefer a rounder bottom cups. If I had to pick my absolute favourite I would have to go with these 3 cups. Denesi, Mauro and Caffe D’Arte. Denesi make there own shape and use a generic cup manufacturer; the cup is very unique as it closes in on the top allowing you to swirl the espresso in the cup, a little like wine. It is also great as the fumes come up to the rim allowing you to enjoy the fine smells.

The other two designs are also “round bottom” cups but have really thick walls. I really love the thermal aspect as well as the feel on the lips. The MAURO cups are ACF, but from what I hear they have turned their production to a much cheaper chinese manufacturer, which in a way is a real shame as they are of much lesser quality and have various defect on almost every cup. Last but not least is Caffe D’Arte cup made by Nuova Point, I use this same cup for all my barista competitions, they make them in plain white as well as brown. I love this cup for a reason that it is extremely wide and you can really swirl the espresso around to get an overall balance throughout the cup, it feels heavy in the hand and is all so pleasant to drink out of.

I believe that the right cup is an essential for serious espresso drinking. I’ve been playing around with all these cups to see if the way coffee falls into the cup and the way it mixes in the bottom effects taste, but have yet to document my progress; at this stage it looks like the rounded bottom cups provide less obstruction and smoother fall for the first drips, opposed to cups that have a dimple in the bottom of the cup. I believe that first drops are the most important part of extraction and definitely worth further investigation.