CI clumsily wields the hydraulic principle!

January 23, 2006 – 11:24 pm

there is a dramatic difference in cup character between SM’s zimbabwe aaa+ and the award-winning leopard forest zimbabwe aa+ bizarrely imported directly to tiny travelers rest, s.c. (the background) — a taste divergence easily explained by numerous differences in the cultivar, processing and import route of the respective coffees. but what struck me was the difference in the way it handled (yes, this subject again … don’t accuse this blog of abandoning a topic some find less than scintillating in the name of eye candy and page views).

the similarities: dry, earthy/grass aromatics. chaffy. extremely even roast finish with both. extreme balance in the cup (extending, in the case of the local import, to near-boring blandness). the tactile experiences were wholly apart, though, and unexpectedly yielded another facet to the theory of what makes a coffee that handles well in the shot-building process. the original intent of the comparisons was to simply get my bearings on the zim, since i’d really become befuddled with the odd balance and “baggy” taste of the local stuff. it was supposed to be award winning, supposed to have been cupped at 87 by the east african contest judges. but, to my palate, it wasn’t in the same league as the kenyas and ethiopians. thus, a direct comparison over various roast profiles, rest times and brew conditions of the aa+ with the expertly vetted aaa+ from my usual supplier.

what i found was that it took a much coarser grind to get the aa+ to pull espresso (2 oz. double shot in 27 seconds). there was a springy/gummy feel to the grounds under the tamper, a very poor cup when down-dosed, and my best example yet of a coffee that brews best with the aussie method of leveraging hydraulics via the up-dose. the aaa+, on the other hand took a bit longer to reach a comparable roast at the same profiles (i started with the exact same weight in green coffee), took a much finer grind to pull as espresso, packed much “cleaner” and “snappier” in the portafilter and brewed very thin in body, though nice and balanced in the flavor profile. there’s no doubt that the darker i roasted the better each bean handled, as theorized earlier. comparatively, however, there was a major difference in how the blander, “wetter”-feeling aa+ handled from the more complex-tasting, “drier”-handling aaa+ in the shot build … which suggests that a shot that feels better may tend to brew better the american, down-dosed way while the more demanding, erratic behavior of a coffee in your hands could indicate a prime candidate for australian up-dosing**. fight the more difficult shot-build, in other words, with the hydraulic virtues of a tightly packed portafilter! use the force! instaurator is your father!

**mind-blowingly counteractive caveat: at least in the case of the twin zimbabwes. and really, who drinks zim? the land of dictatorial power grabs offers far less opportunity for excellence in the cup than, say, its better-known east african neighbors. speaking of which … a foursome of us has just purchased a hefty lot of the wet-processed ethiopian sidamo that has gotten some recent raves. you will likely be force-fed more random and spontaneous quasi-theorems as we delve into it!