Good espresso is an elusive and flighty goal at the best of times, but even more so when extracted under the concentrated parameters that we (and most of the 3rd wave coffee movement) have subjected it to. Extraction ratios edging ever closer to 1:1 have given us punchy, aggressive shots, usually focused on highlighting a single flavor element. The nuanced, diversely fruited Ethiopians become strawberry bombs, the complex and clean Central Americans become chocolate fountains. It isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's easier to say, "this tastes like strawberries" than trying to communicate a more subtle and complex flavor profile. Indeed, some of the most memorable shop interactions we've ever had have been when a customer can actually taste a specific flavor in the espresso. This is made much easier when a single characteristic is front and center.
Unfortunately, however, I think it's like ripping out pages of a book to get a reader to focus on a specific chapter. The coffees that we source are without exception multi dimensional. While our Sidama Ardi Espresso is a mind-blowing explosion of strawberry, there's an entire extra layer of peach, jasmine, apricot and lemon that never came through. Our San Rafael Espresso is like biting into a snickers candy bar but hidden below the surface, orange zest, melon and maple lay dormant. It's a tragic waste, but I think a different approach to both our roast profiles and espresso parameters is the solution. In recent experimentation, we've found that lighter roast profiles coupled with extended extraction parameters open up a whole new spectrum of flavor characteristics in our espresso.
First off, this idea isn't new. Chatting with Lorenzo Perkins at a BGA event in 2012 challenged some of my preconceived notions of the necessity of the almost molasses-like body of the espresso I was pulling. His (slightly depressing) blog post made me start thinking about espresso in a more philosophical sense. The final nudge that made me venture out of my comfort zone was Tim Wendelboe's dramatically under-recognized post from earlier this month. Being locked in to the normale requirements while developing roast profiles for Patrick Burns and Andrew McCaslin to compete with in the Big Central Regional competition didn't hurt, either.
Starting in October, we will be relaunching Epoch Espresso as a roast profile instead of a blend. Coffees that we find to express themselves favorably through the portafilter will have an extra option on our website for the Epoch Profile. Epoch Espressos will be very lightly roasted and will flourish under longer extraction parameters. 18 grams in, 40 ml out will be the recommended starting point. This will allow us to paint with a broader palette. We'll be able to expand on the nuance and complexity of our coffees through this medium while keeping Spitfire Espresso and non-Epoch single origin espressos for those who like it up front and punchy. We're extremely excited about all of the possibilities that will open up from this project and we can't wait to hear feedback as we roll out Epoch Espressos.