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West Coast Roasting's Torro Blend
West Coast Roasting's Torro Blend
Posted September 9, 2006 3:30pm
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Nate from West Coast Roasting Company recently sent me three pounds of his signature espresso blend, Torro. Italian (or Latin?) for the bull, meaning strong and in your face espresso - just the way I like it :)

Nate's one of those people who were so fanatical about home roasting, he decided to go more "pro" and now is building up his business, selling to local cafes, home espresso enthusiasts, and pretty much anyone looking for a great espresso.

For a week, I was able to put Torro through several machines with many different people sampling the product. The machines included (but are not limited to):

- a Synesso Syncra
- a new model La Marzocco 3 group
- a one group La Marzocco Linea hybrid (with temperature stability built in)
- a Krups XP4050 (currently on the testing bench)
- Rancilio Silvia, unmodded
- Solis SL-70, using unpressurized baskets

The Linea hybrid was the first test machine for the blend, and it was set at 201.5F, which Kido from Intelligentsia seems to like these days - but the Torro didn't like that temperature - shots ran too bitter and a tad underextracted, so I dialed the PID down to 199.5 (after some trials), and I was getting some really great shots of espresso straight up. Lush body, mild acidity, a kind of super mild pepper / cinnamon spice mix, and a lingering aftertaste of a kind of peppery chocolate, slightly reminiscent of the single origin chocolates, the Chucuri from Guittard I had the pleasure of trying this spring.

I could taste a bit of fruit in there, but was pressed to identify it.

When we pulled it on the Synesso, we found we had to dial it in a bit lower - about 2F lower, to get similar results - but we were also using a larger filter basket on the Synesso - I use the Synesso double filter on my Linea, but we were using what looked like a 2.5 shot basket on the Synesso. Still, the blend worked great.

Interesting stuff too - on the three consumer machines, Torro fared worst on the Silvia. Part of the problem was me, the barista though. I was almost out of the coffee by this time, and didn't have enough to do a lot of temperature surfing on the Silvia - not really any at all. I tried at the top of the cycle, and the shots ran bitter. I tried near the end of a boiler cycle, and it was too sour.

But that's the worst of it. The shots performed amazingly well on the Krups XP4050, a thermoblock machine with automatic controls, and of all things, pressurized filter baskets. I did run about a half dozen doubles through it before I got to the point where I was liking the shots, but once I found a sweet spot (basically wait about 15 seconds after the thermoblock has cycled), I was happy with the straight shots, and felt it made a great americano.

The Solis SL-70 was even better. Not nearly as good as the results I was getting from the Linea Hybrid, but I tell you what, these were shots I'd be happy to share with anyone. And I did share with two people, both who felt it was a nice rounded espresso, more than enough body from a consumer machine.

West Coast Roasting's Torro got the milk treatment too - macchiatos, traditional capps, and lattes. Went up to a 5:1 ratio of milk to espresso, and found that Torro held its own and passed the WBC test (ie, "espresso taste must be prominent in the beverage") right up to 3:1 ratios, which is a traditional latte in my eye. Takes a lot of good effort on the roaster / blender's part to make an espresso blend that can stand up well as a straight shot or as a 3:1 ratio milk drink. Not many can do this - heck, in Vancouver, there's only two roasters hitting this mark, in my opinion.

Overall, it's a very interesting, well rounded coffee. Every person who tried it liked it, some thought it was really good. The only thing I'd like to see improved is maybe tweak the blend to be a bit more tolerant of temperature ranges, especially on the higher scale (200-204F), but you know what, maybe ignore that - the wet coast style is darker roasts, which usually require a cooler brewing temperature.

And since I like espresso to constantly surprise me, perhaps a bit more of a fruit hit in the finish would take this blend even higher - the body is lush and amazing, but if there were a fruit surprise (either red or blue/purple fruit), it would take it through the stratosphere.

This is definitely one of the better espresso blends I've tried this year - I think I'm up to about 45 or 50 now, and I'd easily place this in the top ten or fifteen. Nate's just starting out, so definitely give them a try if you're looking for a new and different blend to put through your machine!

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