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Another Look at Roasting Espresso Workshop #44: Carga Larga

Another Look at Roasting Espresso Workshop #44: Carga Larga
April 9, 2019

 

It's been a few months since my last Behmor Roast Profile blog post, or since I've even fired up my Behmor for that matter! For this edition, I take a look at roasting Espresso Workshop #44: Carga Larga on two very different roasters: the Behmor 1600 Plus and the Quest M3s. This isn't so much a comparison of the two (for one, there's about a $900 difference in price!), but rather trying to run similar roast profiles, noting the differences in roast development, and tasting how that plays out in the cup.

 

In terms of fit and finish, the Quest M3s and the Behmor 1600 Plus are very different. They both use electric coil heating elements, but that's about the extent of their similarities. The element in the Behmor 1600 Plus is a few inches from a wire grid drum along the back wall, airflow is automated (doesn't kick in until 7:30), and while it has manual heat controls, you're limited to 4 heat settings which makes fine tuning your energy input a little tricky. Cooling is a bit of a sticking point too as it happens inside the machine over the course of an 13:00 minute cooling cycle.

 

The Quest M3s on the other hand, is a fully manual machine with two stainless steel heating coils lining a steel drum with perforation at the back. Both airflow and heat inputs are manipulated using dials that allow for the very slight adjustments, and the cooling tray built into the back of the machine allows you to cool roast batches quickly, in about 3:00.

 

All that said, both are fantastic little roasters and despite any imperfections, are more than capable of producing delicious roasted coffee.

 

I chose the new Workshop Blend #44 "Carga Larga" for my coffee, partly so I could have some on hand since I've really been enjoying this blend for espresso. But I also wanted to try and  highlight some of the fruited flavors found in lighter roasts of the individual ingredients while flattening out the invariable citric bite that would come with that roast level by extending the time between 1st crack ("1C") and finish. Since both roasters have manual heat controls, I figured this shouldn't be too hard to do. But to what degree and without stalling, I really wasn't really sure.
Pulling a shot of Workshop #44 on the Flair

 

For brew tests I'm using our Flair portable espresso maker. I like using the Flair as a quick and simple way to judge espresso. There's virtually no warm up time (compared to the 30-45 minutes of my larger Andreja), and with a second portafilter on hand, I can run through a series of shots pretty efficiently. It uses a smaller basket than a commercial machine, but we've found that a good grinder and hot water go a long way and continue to be surprised by how well shots from this machine compare to some of the larger ones we offer.

 

Hopefully my roast notes below are easy enough to follow. For the Behmor roasts, I've listed out the minute-to-minute time as it's displayed on the Behmor's LED panel. If you have one, you know that the Behmor counts down from 18:00 (on P5), which is a little confusing when trying to communicate roast times. So the set of descending numbers is what you will see on your Behmor LED display, while the other number in parenthesis is the overall graduated time of that particular roast.

 

 

One of the most obvious differences between these two roasts is overall roast time. But even though the Behmor roast clocked in at 13:30 overall, it lost a lot less moisture than the Quest roast, and therefore was a little less developed. I really wasn't sure how drastic my heat reduction should be going into first crack, and I think if I were to take another crack it it in the Behmor, I'd only drop down to P3 (50%) instead of P2 (25%). Although the temp readings don't accurately represent bean temp (especially after the exhaust fan kicks in at 7:30), I'm pretty sure my roast started to stall around 10 minutes in.

 

Roast progression on the Quest roast was nice and steady all the way through, the rate of rise tapering off enough with the reduction in heat that I was able to extend the roast at least 1:30 longer than if I hadn't made any heat changes at all. I don't normally adjust my heat settings when roasting samples and in those cases it takes about 2 - 2:30 to develop a roast 25F beyond the beginning of 1C.

 

If I were to guess by looking at these charts, I'd figure the Behmor roast to be completely flat in terms of acidity, and baked in terms of sweetness. A full 5:20 passed from the beginnings of 1C to finish, which for a 200g batch is quite a spread. But this wasn't the case at all. In fact, though I personally enjoy a bright shot, I wouldn't recommend this roast level to those who don't as the Behmor roast had quite a citric bite!

 

Grinding the coffee can offer a better representation of roast development than judging the outside color alone

 

The smell of the ground coffee from my Behmor roast had a toffee/caramel sweetness like dark caramel popcorn, and I wasn't picking up on too much in the way of bittering roast smells. Pulling a shot at 15g coffee in, 23g espresso out, tart and juicy lemon flavors were butted up against intensely bittersweet roast tones. Like I said, I enjoy a tart espresso. It reminds me of the lemon rind spritz that more commonly accompanied the "bold" roasted espresso of the '90s. And lemony vibrance isn't all that's intense as there's more of the dark caramel sweetness that pulls through in the shot. A full 2 minutes after a sip and I'm surprised at the lingering bittersweet chocolate flavor that's left behind.

 

My Quest roast on the other hand, was so chocolatey and bittersweet, devoid of any trace of tartness whatsoever. It was pretty apparent from the ground coffee that this would prove to have heavier roast tone as the smells coming from the grinder were sweet smoke and chocolatey.

 

It was still "fruited", that's for sure, but I noted darker fruit tones like grape and red apple that added both juiciness and fruited sweetness to the shot. The mouthfeel is so silky, not unlike the lighter Behmor roast, which lends to flavor like high % cacao bar and anise lasting long in the aftertaste. Of the two, this is definitely the one that will pair well with milk, but I think it'd be a shame to cover up the complex fruited side of this chocolate bomb with lactic flavors.

 

In the end, both roasts sort of subverted my expectations. The long, drawn out roast of the Behmor wound up being vibrant, while the shorter but darker Quest roast was focused around deep chocolate roast tones and fruited sweetness. But perhaps more than this, I was surprised how forgiving this blend was to poor roasting on my part in the Behmor! I guess good ingredients go a long way.