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Espresso: smaller dose, anyone?

January 30, 2012


The other day a Home-Barista member made a post about how he was enjoying Compass Coffee’s Delirium espresso blend more at 15 g. than at the recommended 18 g. Now I haven’t ever tasted this blend and know little about Compass other than the fact that they’re a Home-Barista sponsor; it’s the reply by a Compass barista (Bryan Wray), which I’ll quote in full below for discussion purposes, that interests me more:



“I think it depends on what you're looking for out of your espresso. Generally I categorize flavors into three areas: creamy, nutty, fruity and roasty. If you like a creamy/nutty (think chocolate and praline) shot then a lower dose (I wouldn't take it as low as 15g, but your tastes are just that, yours, and you're definitely a better judge of your own palate than me! lol) is going to suit you best. You'll still grab "fruit" flavors, but they're more like the blossoms of those fruits--softer and less dominant in the cup.



If you like a little bit sweeter and perhaps more intense shot then bring the dose up a couple grams and you'll really start to see things develop more layers.



This past weekend I heard someone say something that I had never really considered in as direct terms as he laid them out to be. Sam Purvis, of Coava in Portland, mentioned after his finals round run in the NWRBC that he was debating between 2 different roast dates. One date had more intensity where each layer had a more defined starting and stopping point. He said tipping the shot back gave you a rush of different flavors. The other roast date (the one he ended up going with) was interesting to him because, as he said it, "There were no starting and stopping points. It lingers in a way that you almost can't tell if you're still drinking it or if you have stopped."



I think of all the great things that you can take away from a weekend of watching the best baristas in the country compete, this one will hang with me for a very long time.



So, if you like your shot to have a dramatic, layer-upon-layer profile then most certainly up dose a little. If you want your shot to present itself as a uniform, balanced, well paced shot, then scoop a little off during that distribution ritual and it will pay off big time for your taste buds.”



As it happens, I had read this just after pulling two very good shots of Velton’s new Yemen at the roaster’s recommended 16-g. dose. That’s lower than my usual 18 g., and the results were delicious. For whatever reason, I’d never “downdosed” before in my brief flirtations with espresso, but you can bet I’ll continue playing with dose from now on!



Of course, this could all be extremely bean-dependent, and a possible confounding factor in my case is that these are the first shots pulled on my Classic after having adjusted the OPV. It’s too early to make any firm conclusions about what’s going on. Still, my interest is piqued, and I’m drinking much more espresso than usual as a result.



I know some of you leverheads are used to smaller shots, and I’ll bet others among us with non-lever machines have already experimented with lower doses. Is the barista quoted above onto something? If so, it seems I’m a creamy/nutty espresso guy.



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Currently drinking: Velton’s Yemen Mokha Harasi
In the mail: A surprise from Tonx + Kickstand cold brew coffee concentrate






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