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What makes a blend work better for a specific machine?

December 05, 2011

What makes a blend work better for a specific machine?  I have often wondered this and I do not have an answer, but there is no question that some blends taste better to me on one machine than another.  I am lucky enough to have an Elektra HX machine as well as a La Pavoni lever.  Most of the time I like the coffee on the Elektra much better.  On the other hand the Pavoni is a great machine and every once in a while I will put in a blend that is just great on the lever that is not as good on the pump machine.  I wonder if there are obvious reasons why one blend would be best one way or the other?


I think really dark roasts are better on the lever, for example, because the grouphead of the Elektra extracts more of the bass out of coffees and so if a coffee is roasted too dark it is not as forgiving of the bad roast, but the Pavoni hides some of those over stated bass notes.


I guess this might be a little like when I brought one of my favorite CD’s to a friends house to listen on his high end stereo and it sounded terrible.  All the flaws in the recording were suddenly crystal clear on his stereo where my cheapo stereo had hidden those flaws.


This is, of course, a vast over simplification.  The lever is not just going to be better on bad blends and the HX better on good blends.  For example, I posted the other day of picking up some quite good Counter Culture Rustico blend when I had not planned ahead and had failed to buy enough good coffee through Roaste over thanksgiving.  That is a very good blend and is not over roasted, but it is pulling fantastic shots on my lever and is only quite good on my HX.


I think one major issue is the different geometry of the basket.  Taller and deeper, but not as wide (51mm) will result naturally in a different profile than wider and shorter, such as a 58mm basket will give.  Perhaps something about a roast lends itself best to a given basket geometry.


I’ve never had it before, but Evocation, for example, has a blend called “49 mm blend” designed for machines like the Pavoni.  I don’t know if it is good or not (it probably is but I’ve never heard one way or the other), but the idea certainly makes sense.  


Do you know of blends that are best on certain kinds of machines and/or have a theory why?




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