Tag Archives: taste

Coffee Meetup During Grand Prix

The latest CGSG (Coffee Greens Singapore) gathering was held in my humble abode during the time Grand Prix was in town. As usual, the gathering was called up at the last minute. And as usual, the CGSG Gang of Four showed up.

CGSG Gang Of Four
CGSG G4: Steve, Kai Seng, Melvin, Colin (L to R)

The gathering was called up as I’ve procured a bag of quite-fresh roasted beans from Intelligentsia@Venice, CA courtesy of Sean Bonner. I met Sean on the chat session moderated by Nick Cho during this year’s WBC. We happened to be the only 2 in Singapore awake at an ungodly hour trying to catch glimpses from  a laggy stream of our favourite baristas in action. One thing led to another, and Sean, who’s a regular at Intelli Venice, bought me a bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Adado on his trip back to Singapore. On a side note, Sean also introduced me Intelli Venice’s Chris & M’lissa Owens (both of them renowned coffee greats) when they were in town for F1.

Kai Seng was the first to arrive as he had tickets to F1 finals that very day, and was in a rush to drink his fill and leave. I assured him that was not going to happen. Sure enough, the other 2 arrived late. We were all dying to try Intelli’s Yirgacheffe, which I’ve decided to save for this gathering. Steve brought his roast of Metropolis Coffee’s Green Line, which is an unroasted version of their popular Red Line. It was roasted to Full City +. Given that it’s home turf, I was the designated barista of the day and proceeded to pull shots for us all.

This CGSG gathering was unlike the previous ones we’ve been having. While CGSG was formed out of our love for coffee, we found that each of us had a common love for steaks, grills, wine, prosciutto, home baked breads, gourmet french butter, blue cheese and all these could be had at Kai Seng’s. (Un)fortunately, this Sunday gathering had none of these distractions and our discussion went back to our first love, coffee. We shared views on über coffeegeek, Mark Prince’s articles on the state of coffee and his call out to bring back spro downs instead of latte art throwdowns. Steve and I both remarked that we’ve become less anal retentive in our home barista routines. I’ve switched from using the Espro clicker tamper to a Reg Barber (which John Ting helped me get from WBC 2010 in London). Both Steve and I have stopped weighing the beans and have replaced the bottomless portafilters with La Marzocco portafilters, I’ve stopped taking infinte photos of the naked portafilter pours as well.

Specially for this Sunday gathering, I went back to using the Espro tamper as I wanted to minimise the variables in our taste tests for Steve’s Green Line and Intelligentsia’s Yirgacheffe. Since all of us were familiar with Yirgacheffe, we decided to prolong Kai Seng’s agonizing wait and pulled the Green Line first. Fortunately, the grind setting on my Compak K-6 was suitable for both coffees. The pull was started at 197.5°F on Eric’s Thermometer. The scent for Green Line espresso was tobacco, and the finish was caramel. Enjoyable indeed. The following picture has the taste notes from Metropolis Coffee.

Then came the Intelligentsia Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Adado. The pull was also at 197.5°F. And wow! The scent was floral, and upon sipping the espresso, we all felt the lemony notes. While 99% of the time on most espresso with this type of taste profile, lemony notes go into overdrive and the taste gives way to brightness and acidity. This time, it was different. Very different. It was a first for all of us. The lemony notes pulled back. We couldn’t quite put our finger on what it reminded us of. Steve mentioned lemon cheesecake. I said lemon meringue or lemon cream. It was the defining moment of a Godshot for all of us. On the bag’s taste notes, it describes the Yirgacheffe as “Jasmine atop lime candy, lemongrass and bergamot.” The 2nd shot was quite consistent with the first. Same lemony notes that never had a chance to go beyond.

While our steakouts (what I call our wining and dining at Kai Seng’s for now) are both satisfying and sinful, I do miss our home barista jam sessions. I hope we get to do one more before the end of this year as soon as Steve can get his new place in order.

Share Your Cupping Notes

One of the chief purposes of this blog was to write down my cupping notes for the coffees I’ve roasted (however somewhat limited they are to my lackluster ability and tastebuds to define the nuances of the tastes.)

And looking at my own notes, I’m always roasting the few same coffees, Ethiopian Sidamo, Yrgacheffe, Panama Gesha, and of course, who can forget the evergreen Brazil Formosa, and my favourite Sweet Maria’s Italian Espresso Blend and Espresso Vivace’s Dolce.

I hope you readers (however few – sorry about the inferiority complex, it’s a growing trend) can help me out by listing in the comments below about the coffees you’ve had the pleasure of tasting, good and bad (listing here means on this blog, not on Facebook, not on Twitter.)  No holds barred. It could be the Nespresso Ristretto you just had in the office a few hours ago, or the godshot made from your Silvia, or the great cup you’ve just had in Blue Bottle or Intelligentsia or Ritual or even at a corner of a flower market in London. Or 15th Ave Coffee & Tea. Whatever. Please state where you had it. This could be seen as a survey of what my readers drink. To help you out on your tasting notes, I’ve included a taste wheel below. Please push your senses.

Americano Sans Crema Test

While I used to dismiss the americano as a watered down drink, I’ve grown to appreciate it much more after talking to fellow coffeegeek KS. It is much easier to discern the taste profile of the coffee if one is not used to the intenseness of an espresso. Of course, this intense taste profile comes only with freshness of the bean and quality of the barista and the machine preparing it. After watching James Hoffmann’s video blog and this morning’s taste test, I’ve embarked on another taste test now involving watered down espresso. I used a Bodum Pavina for the espresso, so that the crema could be clearly delineated. Here are the details:

Brazil Moreninha Formosa
Roasted to Full City +
4 days old
Dose: 18 grams

For this 1st shot, after separating the crema, I tasted both cups before adding water. Both taste tests were the same as previous post.

1st shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 200, end at 204 Fahrenheit.

Espresso only:  Slight bitterness.

Crema only:  Good fragrance. Taste spreads thru entire tongue.

Water-espresso 2:1 ratio:  Tastes like…. coffee. Smooth, even cup, no bitterness.

Water-crema 2:1 ratio:  Tastes wonderful. Pronounced fragrance.

Water-crema-espresso:  Good body, very smooth with good fragrance.

The first thing that hit my mind after drinking the 2 different cups was that if the Aldo Coffee taste test was repeated here, the ones who chose Maxwell House will go with the water-espresso cup, while the ones who were able to distinguish the CoE Fazenda Kaquend will go for the water-crema cup. Drinking the water-crema cup brings me the same sensation as my Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda. It doesn’t taste like conventional coffee. It brings the best to the table. To get a taste profile like this, I feel I have to roast the beans to almost Full City, without ever hitting 2nd crack.

2nd shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 198, end at 202 Fahrenheit.

Espresso only:  A bit bright, lemony feel.

Crema only:  Strong fragrance, berry-like.

Water-espresso 1:1 ratio: Citrusy lemony hints. A bright and smooth cup.

Water-crema 1:1 ratio:  Aromatic, perfumed cup. Hint of blueberries. Esmeralda-like. Not like coffee.

Water-crema-espresso:  Coffee with a good aroma. Smooth. A bit lemony. Pleasant aftertaste.

After this 2nd shot, it is safe to say that crema is not rubbish. Au contraire, watered down crema is IMHO a good way for beginners to distinguish the fragrances of the particular coffee. I would reiterate as I have stated in the previous Espresso sans crema taste test, espresso is not complete without crema. If this does work across the board for all coffees, I wonder if this process of separating the crema out will redefine espresso tasting/cupping sessions.

Espresso Sans Crema Test

After reading James Hoffmann’s 1st video blog (well done, James!), I was prompted to do an espresso tasting session at 1 am, and I’ve done enough to give myself a caffeine high at this point. His last words were a shocker. I won’t give any spoilers. You have to watch the video.

The message is that he was also prompted to do a taste test, following a discussion he had at The Coffee Collective’s blog post. Without further ado, here are my findings, and I believe there are more to come.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa
Roasted to Full City +
4 days old
Dose: 18 grams

I did 2 pulls at different temperatures, each indicated by Eric’s Thermocouple.  I used a Bodum Pavina for the espresso, so that the crema could be clearly delineated. I then separated the crema into another cup. Then I tasted the espresso, followed by the crema only, and then both the espresso and crema. (Note: for this article, the espresso means the black liquid without the crema.)

1st Shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple: Start at 200, end at 204 Fahrenheit

Espresso only:  1st sensation was that it was bitter, a tobacco feel. Bitter aftertaste.

Crema only:  Sour, with a tiny hint of some sort of fragrance in the mouthfeel.

Espresso and Crema:  Bitter and sour (At this point, I was thinking, “My home barista skills have gone into the Dark Ages.”)

2nd shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 198, end at 202.5 Fahrenheit.

Espresso:  No bitterness, more body than the 1st shot, very mild aftertaste, taste is mostly congregated at the back of the mouth. A bit nutty and dark chocolate.

Crema only:  No sours at all. Lemony feel. It’s almost akin to perfume oils. There’s a pronounced fragrance but not of the floral sort. Taste goes over entire flat of the tongue.

Crema and espresso:  Perfumed lemony dark chocolate.

I Hate (with a capital “H”) to disagree with The Coffee Collective and James, but I believe that espresso is incomplete without the crema. I believe that the crema is what gives espresso the fragrance and the defining factor that lends to its character and body.  But likewise, the body is incomplete without the head (pun intended). I will definitely be staying on this topic and will include more taste tests. My next set should involve americano.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa – Full City +

I apologize for the multiple posts of Brazil Moreninha Formosa, but I just can’t seem to get enough of it. This roast was done at a lower average temperature and for a shorter period.

From Eric’s Thermometer, the pour was started at 200 degrees and ended at 203 degrees. The temperatures are a bit on the hot side as the pour had a slight bitterness. As a 4:1 water-espresso americano, hint of berry can be detected, and it is full bodied. 2 ounces in 25 seconds. I will try it at 198 tomorrow.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa

Roasted on I-Roast 2 Rec 2, stopped with 2 minutes remaining.
Full City to Full City +

2nd day: espresso, slow drip, 45 second ristretto, gorgeous naked flow. Extremely creamy, long aftertaste. Hint of spice, chocolate notes. I think taste will be more pronounced when it peaks later. Will be better tomorrow or day after. Needs more rest. Fantastic RISTRETTO roast. I’m in love! What have I been doing blending this with Zambia? This Brazil is great on its own. KS, take note, I know you have some left, don’t waste blending it.

45 Seconds of Sidamo

I pulled a 45 sec double ristretto of ecafe Shilcho Sidamo just now. It tastes so creamy I’m going for my third today. Together with the crema, it hits just under the 1 oz mark. Heavily speckled with dark chocolate bits, it had a very creamy mouthfeel. I can definitely get used to these ristretto shots. My first shot of the day was Kenya Gethumbwini, which I roasted 2 days ago, together with my batch of Sidamo. So, both batches are just 2 days old. The Kenya could use another 2 days rest. It tasted a bit grassy. But the Sidamo was super fine. My Kenya shot was a bit fast though, so I turned the Compak K6 about 3 mm finer for the Sidamo. Perfect setting for a ristretto.