Friday, September 29, 2006
There is no standard!
Ppl just DON'T GET IT!!
Ristretto is NOT automatically better than a Normale. In fact, I HATE those two words. The dosage and resulting liquid is much much more meaningful than putting label on drinks. Who cares what you call it... just have good espresso. Each bean/blend has an optimum range of flavor that the roaster wanted to express. It's up to the Barista to choose what he/she wanted to present, from that range of flavor, to the customer. This is what makes this brewing method interesting.
Using a singular apporach is just plain wrong!
So many ppl are polluted by what are presented in the media/online forums to think that ristretto = good. Well, why is that? Because most of the bean/blends are CRAP! They are usually over-roasted to cover up the off-flavor and defects from the junk beans in it. In this case, pulling a "ristretto" helps to make it pallatable because when you up the dose and pull it short, you kill the overwhelming roast flavor (think burnt stench). And because it's a duller coffee (due to the darker roast), flavor gets amplified enough to be notice w/out being over-bearing. The result is a mellow (or dull, depends on your definition) shot that is somewhat muddy (from the roast) but viscous and enjoyable.
But if you take the same approach to a light roast premium bean (such as the SOE Yirg from Terroir), you are going to have some "Terroiry" shots (yes, there is such term being thrown around). The shot will be VERY astringent and flavors will be painfully over-whelming. The beautiful aromatics will be killed and the sweetness will not be able to show thru. Those shots usually resemble stomach bile and have cause me to vomit in the past. But when it's done right, the shot smell and taste like the fresh ground coffee. Aromatic, sweet, fruity, clean-ripe acidity, and enough roast to balance things out.
I am not saying if one style of pull is better than another. I enjoyed both, DEPENDS ON THE COFFEE. But if ppl keep having the idea that ristretto is the only way to go, the roasters will continue to cater to that style (over roasted dull beans). And we might never see the true beauty of the uber premium beans that are becoming more available in the markets. I have tasted a DARK ROAST COE bean marketed as SOE. Let me tell you, it's so dull and burnt that make me weep. And that is why SOE gets all the misunderstanding it recieves simply because the ppl (roaster and consumers) just don't get it.
Do not be satisfy with one way of doing things. The preparation should be a tool to express what is in the bean and not the other way around. And please do not ask for a ristretto shot... just ask for a GOOD shot and trust your barista.
Posted by Ben Chen at 9:43 AM