Latest Posts

  1. All About Coffee Brewing

    All About Coffee Brewing

    Sign up for our coffee brewing crash course

    Read More
  2. Behmor Roast Profile: Ethiopiques 2.0

    Behmor Roast Profile: Ethiopiques 2.0

    Read More
  3. Espresso Basics & More

    Espresso Basics & More

    Sign up for our espresso basics class

    Read More
  4. All About The Clever Coffee Dripper

    All About The Clever Coffee Dripper

    Read More
  5. Choosing a Pour Over Brewer

    Choosing a Pour Over Brewer

    Three questions you should ask yourself.

    Read More
  6. Aeropress Plunger Cleaning

    Aeropress Plunger Cleaning

    If your Aeropress plunger is excreting some sticky stuff. Don't worry, it's harmless but you probably still want to know how to clean it off, right?

    Read More
  7. Video: Metal Aeropress Filters

    Video: Metal Aeropress Filters

    Have fun pushing coffee through these metal Aeropress filters.

    Read More
  8. Moka Pot Brewing (Stovetop Espresso)

    Moka Pot Brewing (Stovetop Espresso)

    These are some basic instructions that you will, undoubtedly, adapt and refine to suit your purposes...

    Read More
  9. Espresso: Choosing the Right Coffee for Espresso

    Espresso: Choosing the Right Coffee for Espresso

    Usually, an espresso blend must be blended for balance, or particular varietal qualities that would be favorable in a drip coffee might overwhelm the espresso extract.

    Read More
  10. Espresso: The Grind

    Espresso: The Grind

    It's often said that a good grinder is the most important piece of equipment for making espresso, and I tend to agree.

    Read More
  11. Espresso: Almighty Crema

    Espresso: Almighty Crema

    The presence of crema, the foam on your espresso, means you are in the ballpark ...

    Read More
  12. Cona Vacuum Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's!

    Cona Vacuum Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's!

    Cona brewing is a wonderful visual experience that just happens to result in perfect coffee.

    Read More

Espresso as excuse...

Espresso as excuse...

I was posting on a "blog" (has no better term come up yet?) about the idea of Single Origin espresso, and thought I would make my points here... The question James Hoffman posed was roughly, "Do we think less of a coffee if it does not work both as brewed and as SO espresso." Or something like that... and I don't really have any response to the original post because I think it's a miss. If a coffee doesn't work well as a SO espresso, I think nothing less of it. I also don't assume I am the only person that could make it work a espresso; if I can't maybe someone can. But if it is so difficult, why force it?

I would flip this on it's head, and I will, since I don't live in an espresso-centric universe: Is it a failure of my tasting ability to say a balanced and "restrained" coffee is only good for espresso? Am I unfair to say, "you are pretty boring, mr. coffee, but maybe as espresso ..."

Then again, if we all follow the logic of Kevin Knox, espresso was a conspiracy by Italians who had no good access to good acidic coffees to make up for the soft character of low-growns by giving them some punch in a pressurized brewing process. Espresso, in that frame of reference, is a "fix" for mediocre coffee. And to go further, imagine if you could invent a machine to make so-so coffee taste better, instead of the reality of the roast machine which can only make coffee taste worse by improper use, rather than improve the character. In my view, coffee can only be ruined in all the hundreds of processes from crop to cup. Is the espresso machine the exception?

So I guess it depends on how you frame the debate: If you believe espresso is the most pure form of coffee preparation, this point is anathema to your views. For that person, espresso must be able to fully express the outstanding character of a great green coffee, or the green coffee simply can't be good. But we know there are many great green coffees that simply do not work packed into a portafilter! In the changing landscape of coffee, how do we find a way to judge quality while moving fluidly between brewing processes, so that there are multiple types of "excellent coffee" based on how they ultimately would be tasted by the person who actually ends up running it across their palate. In that way, to be able to represent a coffee at it's best, we can't just be "espresso people" or "brewed coffee" folks.

I think I am losing my train here, but one last point that matters I think: coffee drinkers vary greatly in terms of how conservative they are. In the past, I felt the espresso drinker was the least adventurous of all, wanting consistent blends roasted consistently darker. SO espresso has changed that, but still I find many people resistant to the varied experiences of SO espresso, which can not be held to the same norms as "balanced" espresso flavor profiles of well-designed blends. I personally will accept thin espresso if the flavors and aromas are exciting and unique, for example. So aside from if it's brewed coffee or espresso preparation, the issue now hinges more on how adventurous is the palate. -Tom

PS: The original blog post is here.