September 2015 Subscription Letter
Espresso is one of our favorite presentations and brewing methods for coffee, and it’s also the source of several common questions we hear at the roastery. In our experience, many people believe espresso is a special kind of coffee bean, or that it must always be a super dark roast. The reality is that espresso is simply a brewing method to prepare coffee, which is by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee at high pressure. An espresso blend consists of coffees purposefully chosen to taste great through this brewing method.
In some instances, a roaster’s “espresso blend” (especially more contemporary, “third-wave” roasters) will simply be a combination of light to medium roasted beans producing a flavor profile they enjoy as an espresso. Many high-end cafes will not only serve an espresso blend to their customers, but also an “SOE” or single-origin espresso. SOEs can produce incredibly unique flavor profiles, often highlighting characteristics like brightness (acidity), sweetness or spiciness with greater intensity than a blend.
When developing an espresso blend, a roaster must balance several factors. The first is the overall taste and flavor profile of the blend, which will be most important when the coffee is brewed as a single shot of espresso. Depending on the goals of the roaster, most blends will seek to balance acidity with body, creating a clean blend with adequate brightness and structure. The second factor a roaster must consider is how the blend will hold up or change when milk is added to the shot, as in a cappuccino or latte. Increasing the body of the espresso blend can help the coffee hold up to milk, and this can be accomplished by adjusting the roast profile of one of the beans in the blend or by choosing a coffee with a heavier, more structured body in the first place.
This month’s subscription includes a bag of Tinker’s signature espresso blend: Conduit. Our blend changes with the seasons, both in terms of the coffees used for blending and the flavor profile of the season (floral in spring, chocolate in winter, etc.). We included Conduit this month to demonstrate that espresso blends can be great in multiple brewing methods, not just as a shot or in a latte. We’ve really enjoyed this coffee brewed via Chemex as it produces an incredibly well balanced cup while also allowing the brightness of the Colombian coffee from Los Naranjos (which is the base of this particular blend) to shine through. Enjoy the ‘spro!