a tasting a day keeps the whateva: day 1, espresso extraction deconstruction

I think I settled on a coffee for competition last night (NERBC what what!). I don’t plan on giving any hints as to what I settled on, and furthermore here’s a really cool picture I took last night that isn’t related at all to my competition coffee:


Anyway, after the long night of espresso tasting, I’m thinking it could be a fun exercise to do a new tasting each day for a week. They will be experiments, probably mostly testing variables and probably mostly with espresso. I’ll try to get creative with it – hopefully some totally new exercises, definitely some new takes on the ol’ barista training standards.

the experiment


This first tasting is an example of the latter: the ol’ different-parts-of-the-extraction tasting experiment.” I’ve usually seen this done with the espresso divided into three parts: the first ten seconds (or so) in one cup, the second in another, and the third in another.1 The idea is to isolate underextraction, balance, and overextraction in separate cups.

you may notice in the photo above that I’ve added a fourth cup to the tasting – a version of the first cup (first ten seconds) diluted with water. Without dilution, the first cup is very strong, syrupy, and difficult to taste. For many new baristas, the strength of the cup will register as bitterness. The diluted cup is more obviously sweet and acidic.


I’ll probably do this a little differently next time. There were a couple of problems with this experiment. The most obvious is that the ten second cup is far shorter than the others. Should the timer start when the espresso begins to actually flow?

A somewhat related problem is the ‘balanced’ cup. The under- and over-extracted parts are easy to recognize. If tasting in order, the ‘balanced cup’ tastes balanced after the sickly sweet first cup. But in the reverse order, after the weak over extracted cup, sour and briny flavors really jumped out of the ‘balanced’ cup.

It would be interesting to find that point of balance a little better. Using a middle point in terms of volume or mass might be a good start?

more tasting ASAP!

  1. I’ve also seen two-part and four-part versions.

About barnwolf

head barista for pavement coffeehouse and erc boston
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