Coffees labeled as “espresso” tend to be misunderstood by many consumers. Those that don’t have an espresso machine at home (most of us) are likely passing over coffees labeled as espresso. This is a shame because many espressos make wonderful cups of coffee.
Just to be clear, there is no such thing as an espresso tree that produces espresso beans. Another important thing to note is that you can put any kind of coffee through an espresso machine, it just may not taste very good. I am often asked then, “What does it take to consider a bean an espresso bean?” Espresso--the beverage--has several requirements to be considered espresso. Coffee beans that are labeled as espresso are a totally different thing. When a coffee is labeled as espresso it is to show that the roaster believes that this particular coffee will produce a well-balanced shot of espresso. It sounds simple, but some extra factors are taken into consideration for coffees that are destined to be made into espresso.
At Allegro, we have three very delicious single origin espressos representing each of the coffee producing regions: Papua New Guinea Baroida from the Pacific Island region; Colombia Tres Cruces from the Americas, and Ethiopia Suke Quto from Africa. If you’re familiar with our Allegro coffee line-up some of these coffees may sound familiar to you. These single origin espressos are similar to their “regular” coffee counterparts, but the way they were roasted is a little different. The coffees are roasted with a lower heat over a longer period of time to get richer flavors out of the beans and produce a sweeter shot of espresso. These coffees are all roasted to a light to medium roast level to maintain the flavor profile of the beans from their corresponding regions. These single origin espressos have excellent flavor, with a mild acidity and overall sweetness that I can really get behind. I certainly don’t have a fancy espresso machine sitting in my kitchen, but I’m not going to let that stop me from enjoying these delicious single origin espressos as coffee, and I hope you’ll try out these brew methods as well.
First up, Papua New Guinea Baroida: I began by setting aside a half pound to make a small batch of cold brewed coffee. For the cold brew, I used 1/2 lb of coffee ground on “Drip” and poured about 5 ½ cups of cold filtered water over the grounds and let this mixture sit for 12 hours before straining. I was impressed by how flavorful the coffee was, very delicious earthy notes with subtle fruity notes and smooth mouth feel. I also brewed this coffee as a V60 pour-over using 28 grams of coffee ground on a “fine” setting and poured 453 grams of water over the coffee. The resulting cup was juicy and had notes of nutmeg and papaya with a soft mouth feel. The earthier tones found in the cold-brewed batch were not as present in this cup. My favorite brew method for this coffee was in the French press. I used 28 grams of coffee ground on “percolator” and poured 453 grams of water over the coffee. The cup was very bright with a surprisingly light body for a French press. The flavors were actually quite similar to the pour over, with notes of nutmeg and papaya, but it just seemed a little more flavorful than the pour over.
Colombia Tres Cruces: I also wanted to try this coffee as cold brewed coffee, so I followed the same recipe as the Papua New Guinea, 1/2lb of coffee ground on “drip” and poured 5 ½ cups of cold filtered water over the grounds and it sat for 12 hours before straining. The Colombian Tres Cruces had much more subtle flavors than the New Guinea. The resulting cold brew was very light in body, but had prominent notes of dark chocolate and subtle notes of cherry with a smooth mouth feel. I also tried the Colombia Tres Cruces as a French press and used the same recipe as I did with the Papua New Guinea. The resulting cup was very mild in body. It had a slightly different flavor profile as the cold brew. There was a hearty nuttiness that came through with hints of dark chocolate. My favorite brew method for the Colombia Tres Cruces was a V60 pour over. I used the same recipe as I did with the Papua New Guinea. The pour over had a very clean taste with a bright acidity right off the bat. There were notes of cherry and dark chocolate as I slurped my cup. I really enjoyed how lively this cup tasted!
Ethiopia Suke Quto (my personal favorite!): I’ve probably had the most experience with this espresso out of the three single origins we are talking about today. I was able to use this espresso in a Regional Barista Competition in early 2014, and ever since then I’ve been excited about how amazing it is. I already had an idea in my mind of what might be my favorite out of these brew methods, but first let’s talk about the others. I started brewing this as a French press using the same 28g of coffee to 453 grams of water ratio. The resulting cup was a bright, juicy and sweet cup with notes of plum and a light body. The next brew method was a V60 pour over using the same 28g/453g coffee to water ratio. The resulting cup was very clean and bright with a smooth mouth feel. Nice notes of plum and a surprisingly full bodied cup of coffee considering the brew method. The method I knew would let this coffee shine through was the cold brew method. I used 1/2lb of coffee ground on “Drip” and about 5 ½ cups of cold filtered water and 12 hours of time before straining. This cold brew was very rich and juicy, just like biting into a ripe plum. The sweetness was present, but not overpowering and balanced nicely with an almost dark chocolate note in the finish.
As you can see, all of these coffees labeled as espresso perform extremely well even when brewed as “regular” coffee. Next time you’re shopping for coffee, experiment with these single origin espressos.
Sheli Maciel is a Global Education & Training Specialist at Allegro Coffee Company. She is also a fierce competitor at regional barista competitions.
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