My Coffee Ritual

Coffee is an important part of my life, and my daily coffee ritual changes every few months. My current method for preparing coffee is espresso.

The Bean

This week, I'm doing a 50/50 blend. I'm working with a Tanzanian peaberry and my usual base bean, the South Indian Malabar "monsooned" or age cured bean. Both are arabica. I bought both beans, unroasted, from Green Beanery. I have hand roasted both beans, each separately in my coffee cast irons to around City+ this past weekend, so its now 3 days post roast. With African beans, perhaps because of the coffee processing practices in the region, I find that small bits of skin remain on the bean during the roast, which then fall off when I roll the beans in the skillet. With Indian beans, I have found that the whole skin slides off from the bean as a single "husk". This peaberry is quite dense and takes longer to roast than the lighter yet bigger monsooned bean, however the former rolls quite well in the skillet because of its more rounded shape and so the roasts turn out very even. The monsooned bean is light and roasts quickly, and is prone to uneven roasting if I dont frequently roll the beans in the skillet. I'm grinding this blend a tiny bit coarser than my usual setting because that dense peaberry produces a "wetter" powder that sometimes gets too dense for the presso. The grind has a rich dry aroma.

The Gear

For the roast I'm using a 6.5 inch Lodge cast iron skillet with cast iron lid that I have been using exclusively to roast coffee once a week, almost every week since around 2009. It has never been burnt or washed for all this time, so the seasoning on the pan is all coffee oil, and the soot and oil vapors from a decade of roasting has coated the inside of the lid with thick layer of a sort of natural ash concrete, enhancing its thermal properties.

For the grind I'm using a Breville BCG600SIL grinder modified with a printed impeller. The amount of grinds produced can be set based on time to grind. I have it set to produce around 30-35 grams of powder. 

For the extraction, I'm using an old presso. I bought it during the second year of my last stint at grad school, and it has re-entered my rotation in the second year of my return to grad school. I did some maintenance on the metal components, and upgraded to a fiberglass pressure chamber with ROK parts. Its light, easy to clean, and the espresso has a nice mellow taste because there's no scorching from the group head or steam, because there is no group head in this machine, and no steam. The internal pressure during extraction can be held by manually controlling the press at around 8-9 atmospheres. I have a naked portafilter but I'm not using it at the moment.

The process

I preheat the presso with boiling water. I preinfuse for about 10 seconds before pressing down. I have a good feel for the level of pressure I need to apply to get a 25-30 second 8 atmo pull, which gets me about 1.25-1.5 ounces of espresso, so its a bit of a ristretto. I dont usually measure the pressure.

The result

This week I'm enjoying a dense, sweetish espresso, with fruity notes in the cup aroma and chocolate notes in the afterbreath. The texture starts off as a velvety but sadly fleeting total crema that reduces to a loose maple syrup vicosity about 10 seconds into the cup, with a denser, sweeter settled crema on top. The wet aroma has a rich and fruity contribution from the peaberry, which works well with the low-key monsooned bean, which tends to be less of an olfactory experience anyway. I might try to go finer on the grind, so my next shot extends out a bit closer to 30 seconds. Absolutely no bitter notes, so I'm excited about trying to go darker with the peaberry. Next week, I think I'm going to try Full City or a Full City/City+ melange y taking out half the beans for the last minute or so of the roast. I'll keep the monsoon as a City+.