We are officially no longer roasting coffee specifically for espresso. Why would we decide to do this right now? Let me explain all of the reasons and maybe you will think twice about your espresso profiles. What is an espresso roast? Most people refer to an espresso roast as something that is darker, more developed, and meant to brew under pressure. There have been many times where I have cupped a coffee roasted by us or some other roaster and thought, “Wow, this is ashy, roasty, kind of flat, baked, and really just disappointing." Only to find out that it had been the “espresso roast profile.” From our experience, when someone tells a coffee roaster that their coffee is dark or baked the excuse is “It’s our espresso roast.”
Most espresso roasts are a poor representation of specialty coffee. Roasting is really hard, and to roast consistently requires a lot of work. Roasting a coffee that is properly developed and that will extract on your espresso machine in 25-35 seconds is the problem we run into. Most people would blame the grinders, but the biggest impact starts is with your roasting process.
Some would think that it’s not a good idea to use a filter roast on the espresso machine because it would taste bright, sour, not sweet, and simply unpleasant. This does not have to be true. What causes these flavors? One, your espresso is under extracted. This is the most common mistake. Two, the roast is underdeveloped. When I visit different cafés around the country, 1 out of 10 shots I get are close to the acceptable extraction range. This is a very low number! That is just talking about extraction, not to mention anything about flavors. This does not mean espresso is always flawless and perfect because it’s extracted at 18-23% range.
We can be excited about espresso at heart now! The future of espresso brewing and coffee brewing in general is looking bright. Thanks to Vince Fedele with his Mojo-To-Go apps and the refractometer, we are given tools to measure extraction in a quick and easy way. Heart has only been open a little over 4 years and the first thing I bought when we opened was a refractometer. This was the best investment I ever made in coffee. I did not know how to use this tool for the first year (or maybe even the first 2 years) properly. Now we use the device all day long in the café. The only thing I have to complain about is the amount of batteries we go through because of our frequent use of this device. The refractometer is also a great tool to keep you in check with your roasting and development. I’m not going to explain how to use it, but I will say, if you don’t own one and you work with coffee, it's like driving a car at night without headlights. Get one now!
Getting back to the roasting for “espresso” and what the point is. About 5 months ago, Scott Rao and I started emailing back and forth about roasting. He would taste our coffee at various cafés and ask what I had done with the roast profile. He would critique it, being brutally honest. Most people can’t handle honesty in this industry. After several emails back and forth, he accepted my request of helping us out with development and roast consistency. One of the first questions he had for me was, why do you roast espresso different than your regular filter profiles? My answers were something like: Most people want a bit darker roast for espresso and it’s more soluble, therefore, it’s easier to extract to our desired 18.5-20% extraction range with the Robur grinders. I also said that it would taste better in milk.
Scott disagreed with me about the extraction with our espresso at the current stage and he did not understand my logic behind roasting longer or “darker” for espresso. I started to think about it more and realized that this is something that I had not put enough thought into. I was just following the masses. After we spent about a week roasting and cupping together, I had a much greater understanding about what we were missing in our coffee before. Our filter roasts were a little underdeveloped and some of them were baked.
We have changed our roasting style up a bit. We started focusing on even development, not baking the coffee, and the regular filter profiles and espresso were starting to look really similar. The solubility of our coffee went up. When our filter and espresso profiles started to get increasingly close, we decided to start testing out our filter coffee on the espresso machine. We found that our espresso brewed with our filter roast was more juicy, sweet, and clean with no problems getting it to our desired extraction range. Now I finally understood Scott’s question: why are we roasting differently for espresso?
I’m super excited to make this switch and only have one roast profile. It will make production smoother, easier, and more consistent. I think customers and wholesale accounts will be much happier knowing that the coffee they get is going be predictable from week to week. When working with an ever changing crop, like coffee, consistency can be a challenge. I remember when I was just a consumer on the other side of the counter. Not knowing if I would get the same brew each time was my biggest complaint about going to get a cup of coffee. It was never the same, even if the coffee was from the same roaster & farm. It’s not rocket science. Roasting requires a lot of paying attention to detail and logging as much information as possible. If you are paying close attention, it's no longer hard to repeat the same profile with in a few seconds from each other. You will then have the different batches taste almost identical.
We can now say RIP SOE and feel confident that you will have a good experience with our coffee---regardless of brew method.