The Caffe Pompeii Circe (which is labeled as “Gusto” on the pod envelope) is one of the pods that Podhead sent me as a sample. Being fully-caffeinated I was hesitant to drink it (as caffeine hecks me up something fierce), so for the sake of this review I only did a single 16g shot.
This time I used my standard portafilter, so I don’t know whether there was channeling. However, the resulting coffee tasted smooth and well-balanced, and I definitely recommend this one wholeheartedly if you want an ESE pod to brew and don’t have any reason to avoid caffeine.
An hour later I had jitters and a panic attack, as expected. Oh well.
When I ordered a bunch of ESE pods for this ongoing ESE pod experiment, PODhead sent me a few samples of a few other pods. This is one of them. Oddly, I couldn’t find this particular one anywhere on their website, although a websearch turned it up, so it’s probably just something weird about their site navigation.
Also, given some of the extraneous slug text on the link, I worry about whether the links will remain active in the long term as their stock changes. If anyone from PODhead wants to let me know about what’s going on with that, it’d be greatly appreciated!
Anyway, they only gave me two pods, so I can only do a two-shot evaluation. For my first shot I went with a lungo, which I managed to get exactly 21g out. Yay me! The shot pulled cleanly and there was no channeling. Some slight bitter notes, maybe a little bit burned, but nothing unpleasant. Good texture. Left behind some sweet notes on my palate.
For my second shot I opted to go with a standard shot, and got 15g out. Just like with the Cremissimo arabica decaf I paradoxically got something more bitter and overextracted. So, this stuff definitely wants a shot on the longer side. It was still decently drinkable though.
This seems like a decent starter espresso for someone who just wants something simple and no-nonsense, and is somewhat forgiving to overextraction. Someone who doesn’t care about the fiddly details of espresso, or extraction ratios or channeling or texture, someone who has never heard of WDT or calibrated tamping or puck prep or any of the debates about 3 bar vs. 9 bar vs. 15 bar.
Upon opening, the pod smells like… pretty standard coffee, really. The puck is good and firm, and feels well-compacted. Pods are 7g.
For the first shot I did 24g out (3.4:1, for a longer-than-usual lungo). The resulting coffee was pretty smooth, with a slightly bitter finish and some sweet notes. There wasn’t anything about the flavor which particularly grabbed me; it tasted like a pretty ordinary espresso shot. Which, if we’re being honest, is a good thing. As usual I used the bottomless portafilter, and I didn’t see any channeling take place.
Shot 2 I only took to 14 grams, and paradoxically this was much more bitter than the first one. It tasted like the sort of espresso you’d get at a major coffee chain, or one of those mall kiosks.
And, finally, I did a 125g/4.4oz “shotover,” which took over 2 minutes to pull. It tasted like gas station coffee.
So, overall I would not recommend it. It seems to be good for lungo shots and nothing else, and even then, I’ve had better.
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:
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.
Recently I’ve been infatuated with espresso-type brewing, and have been on a quixotic quest to get the perfect decaf shot. In doing so, I bought a bottomless portafilter for my Gaggia Classic Pro, which very quickly revealed that the biggest problem in my brewing is that my Baratza Encore simply isn’t up to the task, even with the modifications I made to it; all of my shots were channeling and making a mess, regardless of grind size or tamp pressure. The only fix was to grind ultra-fine and tamp ultra-hard, and this led to an overly-slow, over-extracted shot.
As part of my process that led to this decision, I bought some ESE pods in order to have a baseline brewing experience. While ESE pods aren’t ideal for my taste in espresso (I prefer longer shots from a large dose, on the order of 20 in, 40 out) and also don’t satisfy my whole “espresso is an experiment in tweaking and fussiness” impulses, the experience was good enough that I decided to see if ESE Pods on their own were worthwhile.