Robert McKeon Aloe
Aug 16, 2018 · 6 min read

Processing: After the beans are picked, they have to be processed via dry, wet, or honey. I prefer dry processed because it gives a more fruity flavor. I just recently had honey processed which is stripping off some of the fruit but not all of it, and then drying in the sun.

Blend: Africa + South American. I have found, after a few years of roasting, that a bean from one continent with another had a nice balance. I’m not a fan of single origin, and I recently found out single origin only means from the same farm. It could have come from different trees on the farm and blended into one. What would be neat is single tree origin bean, but I haven’t seen it yet. Gesha is another whole thing, but I’ve only had three different Gesha beans so far, and only the Columbian Gesha Honey Processed was far better than a regular bean for me.

This came with my green beans from Sweet Maria’s, and I thought it gave a great explanation for the wet and dry process (https://www.sweetmarias.com)

Here is my favor roast so far: Half Ethiopian Dry Processed and half Columbian Gesha Honey Processed

For further reading on the processing, I would suggest this article http://blog.seattlecoffeeworks.com/roastery/earth-honey-process/

Here is my coffee roaster in action!

Roast: Close-up of Medium Roast (1 minute past the first crack). It took me a year to get to the right roasting profile. I modified how quickly it came to temperature, and I found if it was too slow, the espresso would taste more earthy but lack certain notes. If it came to temperature too quickly, it would be too bitter even for a medium roast. I also settled on waiting for the first crack then timing out one minute. At the end, the first crack has just about finished, but it still isn’t a City+ roast. This has given me the best roast for my manual espresso machine which is aimed for drinking espresso straight, no sugar.

Weigh (14g single, 24g double), Grind, Pack. This uses a ROK grinder (http://www.rokkitchentools.com) which is designed to give consistent particle size. I blew out four electric grinders previously, trying to get to a very fine grind, while this one didn’t have any issues. I immediately tasted the difference in the cup, and I would recommend it to anyone.

I overpack the basket as well. I found for a normal (7 grams) amount of coffee, I didn’t like what came out. I wanted something richer. I tweaked the weight for both single and double shots which make my shots double and 3.5 single shots respectively.

Brew using custom setup. Remember, part of the enjoyment is the experience, the ritual of the brew. This machine is called a Kim Express circa 1966, and it is a spring driven manual espresso machine. That means you pull the handle to tighten the spring, letting water in, then upon release, you can control the flow of water through the coffee by slowing it down. It does better than a regular manual machine because of the control factor.

Go bottomless! I use a bottomless portafilter. Normally the espresso bounces off of the portafilter leaving a slight resin, and instead this goes directly in the cup. It gives a much longer after taste, and the shot tastes better in general. It also allows me to see how well I’ve pack a shot so I can make adjustments and improve my technique. You may also notice the baskets look different. The one on the left is the original, and the one on the right is the more expensive basket made by VST (https://store.vstapps.com/products/vst-precision-filter-baskets). This basket it made to allow the best flow of espresso, and all the holes have a specification. I could immediately taste the difference, and it was beautiful.

For brewing, I let the water in for 10 seconds before I apply pressure. Then I aim to let all the coffee start to come out before increasing the pressure. Because I don’t have a pressure gage, it is blind pressure profiling iterated twice a day for three years to give the profile I want. I’m not sure that that profile is exactly, but it is good. Here is a slow motion video!

Add a little water! I had espresso with someone new a few weeks ago, and he suggested adding a little water. He said he liked how strong my coffee was but a little bit of water may allow one to be less overwhelmed so they can taste all the nuanced flavors. He was right! I usually draw a short shot, and the fact that I use so much coffee means it comes out strong. My aim is for the experience of melting chocolate on your tongue and how the chocolate coats your tongue for a long time. I also don’t add sugar, but rather my beans should provide that sweetness. This assumes the correct roast.

Before and after a little water.

My espresso ritual is quite enjoyable, and my current focus for improvement is packing the shot more evenly and changing how I pressure profile. I was able to see this using the bottomless portafilter. I was originally making espresso twice a day, but only getting it right once a week. Now I get it right twice a day, everyday. At the beginning, I could get close most of the time, but nowhere near the consistency I have now. More importantly, it provides a great way to socialize and jell with my team. Here’s a look at that picture I had at the beginning because maybe some of the bits make more sense.

If you like, follow me on Twitter and YouTube where I post videos espresso shots on different machines and espresso related stuff. You can also find me on LinkedIn.

Overthinking Life

Thinking too much on Philosophy, Math, Science, Politics, Work, and Life

Robert McKeon Aloe

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I’m in love with my wife, my kids, espresso, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.

Overthinking Life

Thinking too much on Philosophy, Math, Science, Politics, Work, and Life

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