New Coffee (Kaldis), and Livia Update
Posted November 22, 2000 5:55pm
Yikes. November 2000 all ready, and already 2/3rds of the way through it. Remember when we were all (okay, some were) worrying about this whole Y2K thing? Some people even took to the hills. And now it's almost a year later.
These past few weeks have been exceptionally busy for me. My company is currently working on three projects, two paid ones, one in house. I'm in the process of setting up our new office which is a nightmare. We're also right smack in the middle of incorporating our company, which in Canada is a lot of paperwork. We also just recently launched a new website for one of our clients. The site is for The Electric Mail Company, and the entire thing is driven by our WIPS™software. When I say entire, I mean entire. Just about every word you see on the site is controllable via the WIPS back end software, all through an insanely easy to use web-based editing system. If you can figure out how to use a hotmail account, you can use our software, it's that easy. The difference between us and Hotmail is ours is also seriously powerful - think steroid injection big time.
Every once in a while, I get sent stuff by online vendors. Usually they want me to test it or give them feedback, and if I like it, I'm sure they don't mind me mentioning it here on my website or in other public forums. In fact, if I really do like a product, I'll happily flaunt it off, because good products and (hopefully) good service should be recognized and talked about.
That said,sometimes I get products that really suck. I won't give negative feedback in public (unless a company really, really deserves it, eg Mr. Cappuccino), but will be honest with the vendor. I've received coffee samples in the past that were pretty bad, or old, or a combination of the two, and I've let the vendors know privately while keeping mum publicly.
This isn't the case with the most recent vendor who sent me something. Verner Earls of the KPS Espresso company recently sent me a sample pound of his Kaldi Espresso Blend. It ships in 1 way valve bags, and he sent it Priority post the day after he roasted. Now Verner was pretty boastful in his email - he said he hoped to ship me some to find out how the crema production and taste of his custom blend compares to others - "otherwise, I'll just have to keep assuming that ours is simply the best" !! How could I turn down an offer to test that!
So I received his beans on Friday last week, and have been testing it since in three machines - the Livia, the Solis Master 5000 Digital super auto, and in an unspecified machine I have in the house for a future review.
The beans were definitely a dark roast - a heavy sheen fell on all of them. Not a pitch black, burnt bean, but a dark roast with a heavy outer oil casing. That kind of turned me off a bit - I'm a Full City kinda guy who likes keeping all those oils inside until I grind and brew the coffee. But I have a few friends who prefer darker roasts, so I enlisted their aid in testing these beans. David, a Gaggia owner and a guy I've known for a long time, took a quarter pound home with him to run up and down his machine. His short comments? Great blend, nice shots, very close in comparison to his own time tested home roast blends. He said, and I quote "I'd buy these if I lived in the States". Brent, who is "between machines" at the moment tried out some samples from the Super Auto and the unspecified machine, and passed a similar judgement. "Definitely better than the espressos I've been drinking all week".
Me? As I said, I am *not* a fan of dark roast, so my own taste judgement will be biased. My palette is more towards Full City for my own espresso consumption, and as a result, I found the shots produced by this machine to be a tad bitter. But let me tell you one thing. These beans pump out the crema big time. On all three test machines, after adjusting grind, the shots were glorious to look at. Dark dark crema, almost black to start, with a nice tiger fleck pattern to finish. For the double ristretti I make as a rule, the shots were syrupy thick. Now, they weren't the thickest, most syrupy consistent shots I've had (I have pics and movies on this site that show shots with more crema), but they were pretty good, and definitely above average for commercially roasted beans I've tried in the past.
As for taste? Something's going on in these shots. What it is, I can't put a finger on. I've had about 10 double ristrettos brewed with these beans in the past three days, and I still can't put a finger on the taste. But it's good. The bitterness from the dark roast bites into my taste buds a bit, but a good emphasis on blending is going on in this sampling, leaving a heady, complex mixture of tastes. I taste a bit of chocolate in there. I taste a bit of East Indian grassyness in there. I taste a bit of an almost coca cola taste in there (folks, I'm fighting for words here - but trust me, I mean "coca cola in a very good way). This is one complex shot that, other than the slightly bitter finish, leaves a good aftertaste. David, who is much more attuned to dark roasts than I (he doesn't like my full city shots much, btw) echoes these sentiments but adds "the aftertaste is the best part of this bean - it lingers pleasantly on my tongue, and for a dark roast is surprisingly mellow."
Overall, I'd say Verner has a winning blend here, and it definitely suits many palettes (ie, people who like darker roasts) out there. It made David happy. And It made Brent very, very happy. I'm okay with it too, but yada yada Full City vs. Dark Roast, yada yada yada. Next time I should get Verner to send me some of his lighter roasts. :-)
At $10 per pound, it is a bit pricey, but call this bean an adventure you should try, especially if you are a fan of the darker roasts. If you'd like to try it out, visit Verner's site, or fire off an email to him.
This week I tooled around a bit with the Livia's internals - namely changing the boiler pressure a bit. The result was shots that were a microtad too hot, but much improved steam. The steam was always fast - ie, it would do 10oz of milk in about 15 seconds, but I was having trouble controlling it enough to get good microfoam. Boosting the boiler pressure by a half turn all of a sudden cured this. Go figure. Now I have roughly the same heat up times, but the steam seems a bit more powerful, or focused, and my foaming is getting much better. I can do the swirlies that Schomer gleefully writes about in his book and his columns online, and I keep getting better at it, which is good.
Meantime, my espresso is coming out pretty hot. About 96C at the brewhead after I flush the HE for a few ounces before brewing. I'd prefer 92. I wonder if there's a way to control this....
Till next time, thanks for stopping by!