dman777 Senior Member Joined: 26 Dec 2011 Posts: 236 Location: austin Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: Silvia- No PID Grinder: Compak k3 touch Drip: french press
Posted Sun Feb 12, 2012, 11:03pm Subject: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
In my quest to make perfect espresso I realize that I can not always trust my palate as many times it is off. And then also I think my state of mind will influence the taste also....so if I'm in a bad mood or frustrated then it's really hard to tell if it's really the coffee or if it's my perception of the coffee.
majorbig Senior Member Joined: 10 Jun 2011 Posts: 5 Location: Orlando Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012, 9:33am Subject: Re: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
I have noticed the same thing when I brew up espresso, I have also noticed that the more tired I am the better the espresso tastes to me, my expectations of a shot going in will often make the shot taste better or worse as well.
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,278 Location: Berkeley, CA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -... Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: CCD, Chemex Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012, 7:30am Subject: Re: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
Darin, this is simple reality. Mood, as well as environment, and what you had for breakfast -- and so many other factors -- ALL contribute to how you perceive taste. But it's also the difference between tasting professionally rather than tasting for yourself.
As a professional taster, one has a set of (perceived) standards that are impossible to quantify, but that everyone agrees upon. (Yeah, don't think too hard about that one; it's one of those conundrums that will drive you crazy!) You (attempt to) taste to that standard, and you ignore that fight with your spouse, that your teenagers is driving you crazy, that stuffy nose, and that your allergies are acting up . . . all of which is virtually impossible, but you try nonetheless.
When you taste for yourself, these factors are (usually) more difficult to push out of your brain than when you're in a room of people all trying to push these same things out of their minds . . . let alone that what you've had for breakfast/lunch will affect your ability to taste, or how many samples you've already tasted, or . . . or . . . or . . . .
And then there is the concept of "perfect espresso." I would respectfully suggest there is no such thing. We try to be as consistent as possible, to replicate results again and again . . . but guess what? We cannot. The key term here is "try." If this were pure science, then perhaps -- perhaps -- we might be able to pull "god shot" after "god shot" after "god shot." But no one -- not even the most experienced professional barista -- accomplishes that.
I cannot remember the last "sink shot" I pulled. And while it's certainly true that the shots I pull are a) consistent, and b) better than 95 98 percent of what I try in cafés, that perfect "god shot" appears only when it wants to . . .
There are times when I pull a shot that stops me dead in my tracks and leaves me speechless. And then I rack my brain to figure out what I did different, what I did that made such a difference . . . and the answer is always "nothing."
That last two percent is in the hands of the espresso gods, and they are the most fickle teases . . . .
Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012, 9:48am Subject: Re: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
As a professional taster, one has a set of (perceived) standards that are impossible to quantify, but that everyone agrees upon. (Yeah, don't think too hard about that one; it's one of those conundrums that will drive you crazy!)
And therein lies yet another example of the dangers of trying to quantify and scientifically control the cr4eation of espresso. Tasting (and a good part of creating) espresso is an art. And the definition of a God shot is a difficult (if not impossible) thing to do. I have had maybe three. Part of that "perfect" shot is that it is dramatically memorable event. I remember one shot I had about three or four years ago at an SCAA exhibition. Another was one I pulled here at home and shared with two others because it was really too good to keep to myself. The experience is easy to discuss, but the taste; it is impossible to do so.
Participating in these forums one can become overwhelmed by the technical aspect of creating espresso because that is what dominates the discussions here. Why? Because it is so very difficult to discuss taste. We talk of some nuances of chocolate (the easiest to create) and citrus, fruit, leather, various wood flavors, and so many more. But the overall experience is nearly impossible to talk about except between two trained and experienced experts.
State of palate is also important. It can make the first shot taste a lot better than the first, or vice versa. Brush your teeth before sipping and you will have a good example of that. Taking antibiotics can change the ability to taste or the balance of flavors.
So what to do? Stop trying to talk about it and just keep making and enjoying espresso. Perfecting espresso? Give us a call in about ten or fifteen years and let us know how you are doing. I can echo what Jason said. After just over 11 years of making espresso at home on a near-daily basis, I can't remember my last sink shot, but the truly exceptional and memorable shots are few and far between even for the experienced with exceptional equipment.
Next week we will discuss the difference between blue and red.
Posted Wed Feb 15, 2012, 4:10pm Subject: Re: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
So you guys don't get sink shots when dialing in a new blend? I'm impressed! I think one time I made a blend switch and didn't have to adjust my grinder at all. I remember it well. I had switch from Deep Cello Black Tie to Red Bird. Every other switch I've made required grinder adjustments. Now, yeah, I usually go ahead and drink the first shot anyways when dialing in a new blend, but there are also times when the first shot is clearly way off and I have to dump it.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
Posted Wed Feb 15, 2012, 4:27pm Subject: Re: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
Don't be too impressed... I blend and roast my own coffee and use a blend similar enough each time that small adjustments are made, but nothing drastic. I also have found that my big conical is more forgiving over a wider range of grind adjustments. I also normally do not drink straight shots. They can get rough on my 60 Y.O. stomach...
bittersweet101 Senior Member Joined: 14 Apr 2012 Posts: 35 Location: Philippines Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 11:30am Subject: Re: Trusting My Palate And Perfect Espresso
I've read somewhere that our very own physiology affects the way we taste all things, that even to which part of our tongue did the food/drink hit will affect our perceived taste of the food/drink. That said, I really don't think there is such a thing as a "perfect" espresso as even those that have passed or even set our standards for a perfect cup may seem imperfect to us from time to time. What I mean is, you can be robotic and purely systematic in making a cup of espresso, you can follow everything down to the line but from time to time, certain factors will definitely affect how that coffee tastes.
And yes, I agree that "tasting and a good part of creating espresso is an art". And like art (or life, in general), only small parts of our time should be dedicated in analyzing and studying it. For the most part, we should just live in the moment and enjoy it. Cheers, guys! ^_^
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