This morning I found myself climbing over mountains of Ziploc bags filled with pounds and pounds of coffee, furiously grinding beans by hand, heating pots and kettles with and endless supply of water and feverishly attempting to keep the area clean from loose grinds, spills and spent paper towels. Screeching steam, unsightly slurps and crunching beans drove the dogs into the other rooms and my family seemed mildly frightened to enter the impromptu lab space. I was working.
This past week has left me incredibly caffeinated and motivated, and the fact that I came home last night with about 10 pounds of coffee under my arm was a hefty dose of fuel to keep me going for a while. I have just wrapped up my second SCA roasting class, and it has continued to show me how vast, incredible and occasionally daunting the world of coffee and coffee roasting can be. The more I continue my education in coffee the more I want to keep seeking more information, and the more I am motivated to be better and better at my craft.
So this morning I continued my efforts to taste and to create, toying with practice coffee roasted on a beautiful Loring roaster much too nice for me to. I was testing for espresso, cupping different ratios of blends and attempting to pull something resembling a decent shot with my super manual ROK espresso maker. It went okay.
Espresso, to me, is horrifying. It is an incredibly violent brewing method that exposes both everything that is right and wrong with the coffee being used. Grind consistency, dosing of coffee, tamp level and pressure, water temperature, water pressure and brew time are all things that need to be calibrated accurately to pull a proper shot of espresso. Even then, the coffee itself must be a coffee that is suited for espresso, cared for properly and roasted to a certain specification consistently in order for the resulting shot to be delicious and serviceable. If anything is off, the espresso may be mediocre, terrible or just not the right recipe for the perceived goal. this can be said for any variety of brewed coffee, but because espresso is such a potent representation of coffee that makes up a great deal of a cafe's menu's drinks, errors can make themselves more apparent to the drinker and more difficult to correct.
Because of these reasons along with productivity of workflow, espresso has been a personal white whale of mine. As a young and relatively new coffee roaster, I knew that jumping right into roasting espresso for the cafe when I first began my work at Boxwood I would be met with varying degrees of uncertainty and a lack of consistency in the final product I offered to clients and customers. But with a lot of learning, trial and error, patience and stubbornness, espresso is appearing less daunting to me, and soon enough I'll have my shots exactly where I want them.
Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.