The four main variables in making good espresso include the quality of the machine, the ability to get a good and consistent grind, the quality and freshness of the beans and one’s barista skills (i.e. the ability to pull the first three items together into a compelling shot). Having recently achieved some degree of success with regard to the first two variables, and simply needing time and practice for the fourth, I turned my attention to the third. The quality of the beans also happens to be the easiest to and cheapest to fix.
I stopped off at Caffe Mediterraneum, my local supplier of Barefoot coffee, and picked up a couple of bags. I’ll try to keep my rant to a minimum, but Caffe Mediterraneum’s new labels fail to mention Barefoot’s role as roaster. This is a huge pet peave of mine. Please give credit where credit is due. Labeling annoyances aside, the coffee was pretty good and certainly very fresh. While my barista skills are far from the likes of Stephen Morrissey or Kyle Glanville, I was able to get something respectable after only a few sink shots.
The Element 114 produced a slightly edgy, but overall well-rounded espresso. I got notes of green apple, cocoa and a little bit of mint. It was a little bright with some darker undertones, but not as lemony bright and sweetly dark as when it was prepared for me previously both at Barefoot and at the 2008 WRBC. I liked those two renditions a bit better. What I got at home – I’m guessing something about water temperature or lever vs. pump machinery – hits a nice neutral middle. It’s not particularly sweet, heavy, dark, bitter or bright.
I got compliments from guests on the Santa Clara as a French Press, although, to me it seemed a little too dark and single noted as a brewed coffee. I’d personally stick with it as a decaf espresso or an Americano. As espresso, the Sumatran in this blend really comes through – a flavor profile that I find myself shying away from these days. I got notes of bell pepper, pine, grass and earth. The overall effect was dry with some bright acidity that comes through as the espresso cools. It’s good for a decaf but nothing particularly special.