During my recent visit to Chocolate Fish Coffee, I picked up two bags of Ecco Caffe coffee – the two blends I tried while visiting. I always enjoy calibrating my home espresso against a well-prepared rendition by some skilled baristas that could probably open up a can of whoop-ass on my measly home operation. Besides, I needed to see how the Northern Italian blend stood up to my previous encounters with the Ecco Reserve.
But first a gripe and then a compliment. As I commented before in the Ecco Reserve review, Ecco’s bags are frustratingly confusing. All their bags look like they contain some “Northern Italian Roast Organic Whole Bean Coffee,” which is sort of true (although the Northern Italian Roast isn’t organic), but not really all that informative. Ecco Caffe relies on a little red stamp (or possibly big black sharpie) to distinguish the blends – a terrible and confusing way to label coffee. Chocolate Fish, however, has at least made up for this shortcoming by developing a brilliant solution to an often voiced pet peeve of mine – cafes that label bags of coffee as their own and don’t give proper credit to the roaster. Chocolate Fish has placed their own sticker on the other side of the bag – Chocolate Fish on one side, Ecco Caffe on the other.
As far as the coffee, the Northern Italian struck me at home as surprisingly fruity (toasted banana) and floral (couldn’t quite place it, but something very sweet) with a lot of rich, dark chocolate and oak. My espresso was a bit more syrupy than at the cafe, with some of that lemony acidity, but was overall more subtle and subdued. My shots at home were tasty and delicious, but more bottom heavy without all that front-forward brightness. Not better or worse, just different.
The decaf is mildly smokey and full of tobacco, pepper and just a hint of something fruity like dried cherries. It produces a bold, sweet espresso that really rides the line when it comes to the depth of the roast. I’m not quite sure how to explain it other than this coffee pulls out just in time, leaving you with an exhilarating rush (without the caffeine). I just felt thankful for where it could have gone but didn’t.
I never did get around to trying these coffees out in a French Press although in cupping them, I really did enjoy the quality of the coffee I was tasting – something that I don’t often get with espressos that come out too dark and roasty. What I tasted was pleasant, smooth and complex and would probably work quite nicely as a French Press.