actionable WBC fallout reaches S.C. hinterland!

April 28, 2005 – 12:37 am

gotta say: there’s something to this deliberate underdosing thing.

if you hang out with the cool kids, you’ll have noticed the WBC fallout discussion spurred by some of the impromptu shot-pulling by certain grand masters at seattle’s recent espresso mecca. read post two of the above thread, and you’ll get a taste of the largely scandinavian practice of underdosing a double basket for the off-beat, totally world-apart flavor profile in a given bean or blend. as jimmy from espressolab notes (post four here) it puts a premium on the “serious ninja barista dosing skills.”

well. it took all of a brief biff to the kitchen to put this junkie’s ninja dosing skills to the test. paramount: a grind that isn’t lumpy (for those of us without a mazzer) and a seriously meticulous tamp (pretty much basic necessity any more). i used a four-day kenya karatina single-origin roast that’s given me some highs and lows over the past month at the normally dosed, three-to-five-day rest level. on a good day, very transparent, crisp cup with hefty bright notes yet an extremely undramatic first taste. very subtle, very understated.

today: a few underdosed shots down the drain, and then a doozy. it would not STOP striping, never showed a hint of blond, and fell symmetrically from the basket at a perfect clip. no pungency whatsoever in the aroma. incredible shot. and incredibly different. in a blind taste test, i would have guessed a different bean altogether, at first. serious maple flavor, some cinnamon and maybe blackberry. both sweet and spicy, yet not at all sharp. i’m not going to go so far as to say it was better than a regularly dosed keynote shot, but it was definitely a trippy profile.

which only whetted the appetite. all told, i plan some three-factor flavor profiling this weekend: (a) some advanced temp surfing, (b) consistent underdosing, and (c) a karatina on different rest lengths. (that’s another post — the unusual profile i got out of a five-day karatina this week, one also dramatically different from the usual three-day SO shots.)

it’s amazing to me that the pros over at SCAA are just digging into this debate (or, rather, following the scandinavians … again). so many “discoveries” are so simple and intuitive. tim wendelboe, a past champion and humble student of the brew from the looks of it, has this to say:

Andrew B said to me, (and I agree) ; Espresso preparation is like cooking. “You can give the same ingredients and the same recipe to different chefs, and the result will be different from chef to chef.”

Let us not try to standardize espresso preparation, but still experiment and do what we prefer for our preferred palate.

Of course different coffees need different dosing, temperatures and grinder settings. Why else would we have a barista competition?????

In the US I tasted some very interesting shots made by : Schomer, Bassett, and other coffeegeeks.. I was so relieved that it did not taste like the espresso back home. Why would we bother travelling around the globe to discover “god shots” if everybody did their espresso the same way??

nice. there’s a balance, of course, between questioning everything and realizing there are definite right and wrong ways to manage certain factors. cue john p:

I learned more of what I was doing wrong just by watching people who’ve pulled thousands of more great shots than I doing it up close and personal. I have found that I may have been underdosing, and for me, a few grams more, slightly coarser grind, a little harder tamp– is producing a sweeter shot with a more ‘substantial’ mouthfeel.

It’s great to know that everyone is improving their technique daily and
that all of us can benefit from it.
I’m almost getting smart enough to recognize my weak points….almost.

then there are those who find even basic standards offensive:

Klaus and i made some Gorgonzola Dolce and Crushed Basil Lattes yesterday. Bad idea? i’m sure most everyone here, upon reading the description, had to supress their gag reflex.

annnnd, that’s where we’ll end this scintillating discussion recap. join us tomorrow for more recipes from the seamy underbelly of siberian cuisine!