Espresso: Blending and Solubility
When it comes to our espresso blend, I have a few core strategies; First off, I avoid adhering to a strict flavor profile from month to month- I'm more interested in sticking to the overall archetype of what I perceive to be great espresso. On a personal level, when I think back to maybe the top 5 shots I've ever had, my memory is much less focused on the individual flavors and more about how the characteristics that I judge coffee by (sweetness, body, balance, acidity, etc.) coalesced into a singular experience. Therefore, I try to produce an espresso that creates this singular experience, rather than something that tastes like blueberries or chocolate fudge. I'm focused on choosing coffees that are most suited to fit specific roles within the blend itself. This generally means that I identify coffees that, while still exceptionally high quality, don't quite have the complexity of coffees I choose to have as part of our unblended offerings. As an example, the Brazilian coffee that is the base of our current blend might not exhibit a tremendous amount of acidity or fruit on its own, but it has an exceptionally clean, rounded, and creamy body that will punch through nearly anything, making it an ideal espresso base. This way of building the blend extends to each role within the espresso, be it body, mouthfeel, sugar sweetness, or the higher notes of fruit and acidity.
Something that I feel is often neglected when it comes to the creation of espresso blends is solubility. All coffees react differently to hot water, some extract easily, others need a finer grind or hotter water. Rosegold often receives compliments from baristas that it's "very easy to work with" and as a roaster, this is very intentional. I believe that blends that are notoriously difficult or inconsistent to work with have that reputation as a result of wildly different solubility levels between the various components. As a barista, if you're attempting to dial in a shot and you find yourself fluctuating between different flavors and extraction characteristics as you adjust your variables, it's easy to get frustrated and eventually settle on extraction parameters that are "good enough." In these instances, adjusting your variables really just moves your extraction window so that while one component might be properly extracted, another part of the blend might be either under or over-extracted, forcing you to choose which off-flavors you're okay with. I consider this a failure on the part of the roaster. A lot of effort goes into making sure that the roast levels and solubility of the various components are as close as I can reasonably make them so that you're not stuck in a position where you're forced to compromise on how you want your espresso to taste; if it's tasting either under or over-extracted, you should be able to quickly identify this, make logical adjustments based on how it tastes, and hit the sweet spot consistently. In order to make these adjustments, I find myself adjusting roast levels such that there is a slightly lower cup quality when tasted in the vacuum of a cupping table, but a much better shot on an actual espresso machine. This is a sacrifice that I'm willing to make 100% of the time.