ESE pod review: Bristot decaffeinato

The next ESE pod on my agenda is Bristot decaffeinato.

Opening the packet released a pleasantly fruity aroma.

For my first shot, I opted to use the factory portafilter (which meant not being able to directly measure the shot output), and my resulting shot was around 20g. The shot pulled quite slowly and I was worried that it would be bitter and overextracted, but the flavor was actually rich and well-rounded, and a bit nutty and sweet. Really nice crema on it as well.

To get a better comparison against the other pods so far, I pulled a second shot using the bottomless portafilter, and measured it to a 20.5g extraction, for a ratio of just under 3:1. From this I saw a little bit of channeling, a little more than the Illy pod, way less than the Arabica Express. This time the shot tasted just a little bit more bitter.

I think the main practicality problem with ESE pods is that they’re all 7-8g, so if you want a standard 2:1 ratio you’re getting only a tiny amount of espresso out. This is especially troublesome when drinking decaf, which is all about the flavor, and regardless it’s much more satisfying to have a larger shot, but even a 3:1 lungo is ridiculously small. Maybe this is a mismatch between my American sensibilities and what Italians want out of their coffee.

Or maybe I should be a bit more daring and try brewing at a higher ratio to see what comes out.

So that’s what I did:

Espresso cup sitting on a scale showing a weight of 35.6g

I was pretty worried about how this might taste. The shot looked pretty darn watery towards the end, and the shot continued to pull quite slowly.

I don’t know if it’s just that my taste buds are no good because this was my third shot tasted in a row, but… it’s fine. Tastes almost just like the first two. The texture is a little thinner, there’s a little bit more bitterness, and a bit less sweetness, but… it’s fine.

Maybe this stuff is more forgiving than I thought.

Maybe it’s just coffee and I shouldn’t get so worked up about it.

A decaf coffee rant

Why do so many roasters seem to think that decaf coffee isn’t worth doing a good job on? The whole reason people drink decaf is because they like the flavor of coffee, but don’t want (or can’t have) the caffeine. So you’d think that there’d be a lot more care taken on making decaf that tastes good!

Of all the roasters in Seattle I’ve only seen two that give a crap about making decaf at all good: Vivace and Zoka. And even then, both of them provide a wide variety of caffeinated roasts, and only a handful of decaf roasts. Portland’s Stumptown used to be a good choice, but their decaf quality has gone way downhill ever since Peet’s bought them out.

I suppose I should give Vita another try now that they’re under new ownership, but I’m not terribly optimistic about that.

But anyway. There’s this weird notion that to truly appreciate espresso you need to also be Very Into Caffeine. Seems like a bunch of shitty machismo to me.

Bodum Bistro milk frother

I’ve been wanting to make coffee drinks with milk. Back when I had a microwave, this was pretty easy; I’d just put a beaker of milk in, heat it for 30 seconds, and then froth it up with my cheap milk frother. But I got rid of my microwave years ago in favor of using a toaster oven instead (which has been far more useful to me), and the alternative is to heat it up in a saucepan first, but that’s annoying and means another pot to clean.

I also looked at many of James Hoffmann’s suggested alternatives and they were all either extremely expensive or even fussier than the methods I’d rejected.

So, the other day, after much deliberation I picked up a Bodum Bistro milk frother at Target. I was originally intending to get the higher-end barista version since it seemed like it would be easier to clean and was a little more flexible (since it supports making cold foam as well as having a purpose-made hot cocoa mode), but it turns out that’s only sold online and I didn’t really want to wait.

Read more…

Cold brew coffee

Ingredients:

  • 75 grams coarsely ground coffee
  • 500mL cold water

Combine the above in a large enough jar or pitcher. Allow to steep for 12-24 hours, then strain.

I use a Hario mizudashi pitcher (affiliate link) to make the process a lot easier.

This is pretty great on its own, but with my most recent batch (using the same overly-caramelly dark roast as in the coffee soda experiment), I poured it into a nitro cream whipper (affiliate link) and gave it a nitro boost. The resulting coffee was a bit foamy (I probably shook it too much and brought in too much nitrous) but it tasted way creamier and sweeter, without any need for cream or sugar. And, this has the benefit of being decaf; as far as I know none of the local or chain coffee shops offer decaf cold-brew, and certainly not nitro decaf.

Just a word of warning: decaf coffee still has some caffeine in it, and the cold-brew process is extremely efficient at extracting every last little bit. If you’re particularly caffeine-sensitive you’ll still want to limit your consumption of this.

Coffee soda

IMG_1889.jpeg

During the COVID-19 lockdown, my favorite local roaster had temporarily closed their retail shops, and being unwilling to spend $8 to get a bag of coffee shipped literally across the street, I decided to try to find other local roasters who made decaf that I could buy at the grocery store, with the hopes of finding something espresso-suitable. I failed.

Thankfully, Vivace reopened this week so I am now well-stocked on good coffee. But I still have a bunch of other coffee hanging around, so I decided, why not try making other things with it?

The first experiment: making cold-brew coffee soda.

Read more…

Improving my tamper

I’ve been very much enjoying the Flair, and have gotten very used to pulling shots with it. Since the making of the video I’ve streamlined my morning routine, and also started using a cork trivet as a tamping pad, which is easier on my countertops and the portafilter.

The big downside to the cheapest Flair model is it doesn’t really come with a tamper though, it just comes with a dosing cup that sort of doubles as one. But it’s not very good.

Read more…

Brewing with Flair

Today I got a Flair manual espresso maker, and I found that the manual that came with it was a little hard to follow, and the official “how to use Flair” videos were all about the higher-end models and also not that great to follow, and I couldn’t find any useful videos from reviewers on how to actually use the darn thing.

So after I played with it a bunch I figured out how to use it and drew a few shots (which all came out excellent! Espresso Vivace knows how to roast.). So I decided I’d share how I do it, which might be helpful for someone else.

Read more…