Monthly Archives: March 2011

1 more thing about Serra do Bone @ Home

Serra do Bone Naked by Lameen
Serra do Bone Naked a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

I could easily have updated my last post but decided not to. In any case, JUST ONE MORE THING ABOUT Serra do Bone @ Home, which really applies to making coffee at home. I have to confess, all those years that I was making coffee at home I never measured the weight of my coffee before putting it through the grinder and extracting espresso. There are many reasons for this, which in a nutshell can be described as, that I just assumed that as long as I ground enough to fill the double basket and as long as I got about 25ml espresso in 22-25 seconds and there were nice tasting notes at the end, Voila ! it was right. Well ! WRONG – well ! that’s a bit harsh – not exactly true is closer to the final judgement. WHY ? Here we go…

1. Too much coffee doesn’t mean a better taste: We often assume that the more coffee you get into the porta filter the stronger the coffee and hence the taste. This isn’t true. Sure you may get more coffee and perhaps more caffeine, BUT not a better taste, because we now know that the coffee can taste better with lower weights, especially milk-based espresso, i.e. cappuccinos.

2. How much coffee should we use ? There’s a sort of standard agreement that espresso is made using 7 grammes of coffee, and so a double shot, should be 14 grammes, right ? Well ! not exactly. There are many parameters that affect the taste and now, some say between 18-22 grammes. So, initially I thought that at escape caffe, we would go for 20-22 grammes of coffee, so that all that milk would not drown out the taste of the coffee. However, after about a few weeks and consulting with my roaster, we realized that by reducing the weight to just under 20 grammes, we could get a better taste profile.

3. What’s the right grind ? Higher weights of coffee can mask/hide the right grind for the coffee you are using, HOW ? If you use a lot of coffee, you have to grind coarser to make sure it goes through the portafilter, because remember, that the finer the grind, the harder it would be to get through the portafilter when extracting espresso. Still with me ? BUT, if we use less coffee, we don’t have to grind so coarse. I noticed that when we were grinding the coffee, we had lots of clumps of coffee, which meant we were grinding lots and the heat of the grinder (which are programmed) was making the coffee clump together. So when we reduced the weight of the coffee to about 19 grammes, we didn’t see so much “clumping”.

All the above arguements have been discussed at great length on twitter by experts such as James Hoffman (aka Jim Seven blog), Mark Prince (aka Coffeegeek) and Intelligentsia from which I have learnt a lot about weight profiles. So, you’ll see that people weigh the beans before grinding, weigh the actual extraction liquid, across different temperatures and times and then get a ratio. In summary, you can get different taste profiles depending on the weight, time and temperature – Complicated ? Well ! yes it is, but who said that “real” espresso was easy.

One final thing is pre-infusion – a big word, but it really means that you run water through the group head before extracting your espresso – without portafilter of course. What does this do ? Well for my home espresso machine, which doesn’t have a PID (temperature control mechanism), it will lower the temperature and should make it ready for extraction – that’s the theory at least, but it’s been working for me at home, so complaints there.

OK ! so finally, when I made serra do bone at home, what did I do ? Apart from following the rules, I kinda measured the beans before extraction (I use my eyes because of experience at the caffe), pre-infuse for 5 seconds to lower the temperature to below 94C and extract in about 23 seconds and there’s definitely a difference in taste.

The first thing is more body in the coffee, but strangely enough a good taste profile, even though the beans were roasted over 22 days ago (we don’t serve coffee using beans roasted over 21 days ago, so I bring old beans home).

Serra do Bone @ home

Serra do bone @ home by Lameen
Serra do bone @ home a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

Serra do bone @ home… why ? It’s our number one coffee at Escape Caffe, but always wanting to test parametres, I decided to take some spare beans home to use on my Isomac espresso machine and lets say, not as expensive conical grinder at home. After all, it was at home that I honed my barista skills, studying the bean and writing about different coffees and roaster profiles. At Escape Caffe, we have a La Marzocco 3 group Linea with a built in PID set at 93.6C and we use the becoming popular Anfim Super Camiano grinders – machines way superior to what I have at home, BUT nevertheless I’m thrown back to what Mark Prince (Coffeegeek extraordinaire for those who don’t know) said about preparing espresso “if you follow the rules, you can make a really good espresso at home using a great home grinder and semi-pro espresso machine” (not exact quote but along those lines). In any case, if you follow the rules, you can make better espresso based drinks at home than the vast majority of cafes in the World. I’m not going to get dragged down into the detail of the rules, but in summary they are (i) fairly freshly roasted arabica coffee beans, i.e. within 10-20 days (ii) a decent burr grinder, costing at least US$250 (iii) a semi-pro espresso machine with E61 group head, with lots of brass and heavy metal – this will cost around US$600 (iv) ability to tamp at around 30 pounds of pressure and (v) a very good idea of how to be a home barista, so that you know for example what grind to use so that you get about 25ml of espresso in 25 seconds when you extract coffee, etc, etc.

OK ! so how was Serra do Bone at home ? Pretty nice but with different taste profiles. First up, a bit about the bean – it’s an organic arabica coffee bean, winner of the Cup of Excellence in Brazil, used by Intelligentsia as their organic espresso, displaying taste profiles such as candied apple, cocoa, raspberry, cherry with a medium body and soft acidity. Secondly, don’t be misled by all the taste notes as you are unlikely to taste everything in one cup, because different brewing techniques, as well as temperature and moisture affect the eventual taste of the coffee, but that’s another blog. So in summary, was I disappointed ? NO ! because I stuck to the hard and fast rules. So, at the caffe, we kind of pick up the cherry cocoa elements and when mixed with milk, you get a chocolate berry taste with a hint of caramel, but at home I got a sweeter cocoa caramel taste, which is still very yummy. One reason for the slight difference could be environment, a hihger brewing temperature as my Isomac doesn’t have a PID, as well as the obvious, my Isomac is no La Marzocco, BUT if we follow the “rules” the main taste parameters remain the same. I would love to run a home barista course one of these days, so that people don’t get scared by the prospect of investing in a decent espresso machine and good grinder.

So Serra do Bone at home last week got me to practice my latte art skills, as well as sample a very tasty coffee, and get a good pic of my cappuccino, YUM !

Before I go, apologises for the long delay in blogging – I promise to be more frequent in 2011 – also this is officially my 100th post, yipee !