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Using non-espresso beans for espresso


fredbram
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This was inspired by jgoulds question on another thread. I just drink espresso (or espresso and milk drinks), not brewed coffee. I read about all sorts of beans that get great reviews, but they are not roasted specifically for espresso. Do some of them make great espresso? How does one decide whether a particular bean might make great espresso (other than trial and error)? Is there a style of roasting or land of origin or taste factor described in a review that might lead me to be relatively confident that I would recognize it's great traits in a cup of espresso instead of a cup of brewed coffee?

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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I've tried to make espresso from regular coffee beans and the results have not been good, even when I've roasted them dark myself. Espresso, for me at least, comes out much better when you make it from an espresso blend.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Those are the results I've had with my roaster, with a Hearthware, and with already-roasted beans. I have yet to make a non-sucky cup of espresso from a non-espresso roast.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sweet Maria's has a short article on blending that may be of some relevance here. Among the things they say there is:

Filter coffees may be blended for complexity or for balance, but an espresso blend usually must be blended for balance or particular varietal qualities that would be favorable in a filter coffee brew might overwhelm the espresso extract.

Anyway, espresso is a drink that must be produced from a blend, and really from a blend specifically designed for espresso. A moka-java blend would be disappointing as espresso, but a single varietal would really suck. No amount of roasting is going to make a varietal that is fundamentally bright into a mellow cup of espresso. I think the deal is that there is no single bean that has all the characteristics one would like in a cup of espresso.

--

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Moka-java would absolutely blow as espresso, but that doesn't mean that Brazilian, Sumatran, or Columbian beans by themselves wouldn't make passable espresso. There are far more beans that would make bad single origin espresso than there are good ones, but the good ones certainly exist.

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You can brew any blend or roast of coffee in your espresso maker. It won't be espresso, though. Try it and see.

Venezuelans brew a very light roast of coffee as for espresso, and I enjoyed it very much there. But like I said, not espresso.

Break out of the box. Edge of the envelope. :wink:

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I have used non espresso coffee beans in my espresso machine. The result did not give me espresso but I think it gives a good coffee result for the beans that you use. I think using the espresso machine with plain coffee may be a good way to evaluate the quality of the coffee.

Another question I have been asking myself and I see in this thread is “What makes a good espresso bean?”

I have not been able to figure it out. Dark roasted coffee is not the answer. Many espresso beans are probably better to use as fuel in your habachi, to grill a steak than to make espresso. Some of the better espresso beans I have used are not particularly dark?

Obviously the coffee blends are important but I do not know what to look for.

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The Sweet Maria's article mentioned above is indeed a very good place to start. Most espresso blends include a fairly neutral base bean, most often Brazil bean. That bean often comprises about 40% of the overall content. It balances out the remaining beans - usually two to four other varieties. It's common for the other beans to include something with distinct fruit notes such as an Ethiopian Harrar and also an earthy, winey wilder tastign bean like a Yemeni Moka. The more intense flavors of these are balanced by the "base bean" and something with a mellow but big flavor profile like an Indonesian often tops it off. If the drink is toi be consumed mostly as straight espresso, a bean that delivers abundant cream is often included. Many Italian blenders and even a few Americans also include a small percentage of high quailty robusta (e.g. Ugandan Nanga Farms) as it really ups the crema quotient. The robusta adds a hint of bitterness in most cases.

Some people really like the Northern Italian dark roasted profile but roasting that dark can increase bitterness or in some cases mask the more subtle flavors. I like a medium dark roast instead as the fruity and chocolatey notes of some beans are more evident.

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Those are the results I've had with my roaster, with a Hearthware, and with already-roasted beans. I have yet to make a non-sucky cup of espresso from a non-espresso roast.

FG what kind of equipment are you using? From all that I can gather, equipment makes a huge difference in how your espresso turns out.

It is quite the investment to say the least.:smile:

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Some people really like the Northern Italian dark roasted profile but roasting that dark can increase bitterness or in some cases mask the more subtle flavors. I like a medium dark roast instead as the fruity and chocolatey notes of some beans are more evident.

I think you meant to say the "Southern Italian dark roasted profile." In the North, the roast is more or less a "full city" roast taken just a little bit further -- nicely dark, but still not all that much oil on the surface of the beans. In the South, the roast gets darker and darker.

--

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Anyway, espresso is a drink that must be produced from a blend, and really from a blend specifically designed for espresso. A moka-java blend would be disappointing as espresso, but a single varietal would really suck.

Actually, this is not 100% accurate.

There are a number of single-origin coffees that produce interesting to good espresso on their own, and a lot that can be used to make wonderful Americanos.

Just this morning I had a lovely Americano made with Indian Peaberry Pearl Mountain Estate.

fanatic...

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Moka-java would absolutely blow as espresso...

Here is a recipe for "Moka-Java" Espresso...

1 part Yemeni Moka Sanani,

1 part Uganda Bugisu,

1 part Sulawesi Toraja

(all roasted full city).

The Uganda has the chocolate richness of a Java, the Sulawesi contributes the Indonesian spice and earth and the Yemeni is, well, the Moka in the equation (wild, intense, winey).

It's actually a lovely espresso. Not a "daily drinker" but really cool and fun.

fanatic...

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The poor results you've had may have something to do with your hot-air roaster, the coffee/espresso will be much much brighter if its roasted into 2nd crack in 5 minutes rather than 20 minutes.

Different techniques can be use to mute the acidity with an air roaster which will yield excellent beans for espresso. Blending is the key to a good espresso coffee. You can get good espresso from a single variety. Espresso is a method of extraction that really gives you the heart of the bean if done correctly.

Often people think espresso is a bean or a type of roast which it is not.

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I think you meant to say the "Southern Italian dark roasted profile." In the North, the roast is more or less a "full city" roast taken just a little bit further

I stand corrected in that a Southern Italian roast is darker than a northern but in many cases I find that the Northern Italian roast is too dark for me at this point. I used to like all my drip coffee French roast style and my espresso as Northern Italian. Lately I've been drinking my espresso (which is always consumed in lattes at a ratio of 1 part espresso to 3 parts milk) at a roast level more like Full City or just a smidgen past it. I have really come to appreciate the flavor notes that emerge in the lighter roast.

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