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Dialing in French Canyon Espresso Blend from Starved Rock Coffee
Why French Canyon?
At SRCC, we serve a number of coffee options including both blends and single-origins. We’re proud of every single coffee we roast and believe that each one has the potential to thrive in any brewing method. We designate the French Canyon (FC) blend as our “espresso” blend, even though any of our coffees can be used to brew espresso. (A common misconception is that certain types of coffees are “espresso beans.” Espresso is the brewing method of using about nine bars of pressure to push a small amount of water quickly through a bed of coffee to make a small, compact, highly flavorful coffee beverage ideally mixed with steam milk. Any type of coffee can be used in this brewing method.) In most contexts, espresso needs to have a low level of acidity, strong chocolate and nutty notes, and a full body. Our French Canyon blend meets these needs with excellence and consistency.
Roast Date, Degassing, Oxidization, and FIFO
The first key to dialing in FC is making sure to use fresh, degassed coffee. Coffee needs four to seven days to settle down before it is ready to brew. During the first few days after the roasting process, the coffee releases gasses that entered during the roast. These gasses are the source of some of the flavors and aromas we know and love. During these first few days where the gasses are being released the flavor profile of the coffee is volatile and hard to nail down. Allowing the coffee time to rest ensures consistency from day to day and shot to shot. Along the same line, oxidization (the interaction between oxygen and any food item) can cause problems for coffee as well. Make sure that every time you open a bag of French Canyon you keep the coffee either in the espresso grinder-hopper with the lid on, or in an airtight container. Oxygen can cause the coffee to lose sweetness and brightness, leading to a flat, cardboard-like taste. Finally, always remember to use the FIFO method with French Canyon and every other coffee. First In, First Out.
Dose and Ratio
Dose - Dose-in for espresso refers to the weight of the coffee as it sits in the portafilter basket. Different portafilters call for different doses depending on their size. Remove the basket to find out what yours is designed for.
Ratio - The espresso ratio is very important for determining strength and body. The range of ratios varies from 1:1 to 1:3. We recommend a 1:2.25 ratio for the French Canyon. This would mean that for a 16-gram dose-in, you’ll want to see 36 grams of liquid coffee output. This ratio maintains the body of traditional espresso while also stretching the coffee enough to make it enjoyable on its own.
Brew Time and Grind Size
Once the main part of your recipe is dialed in (ratio), you won’t have to change it anytime soon. However, to ensure that you’re dialing in every day there are other variables to consider. The variable that changes most often when dialing in espresso is the grind size. Grind size creates more or less surface area of the coffee to extract from, thus creating a higher or lower extraction when the grinder is finer or coarser. The grind size is reflected in the brew time. Brew time is an espresso variable that is often talked about as very important, but it is really more of a reflection of the execution of the other variables, particularly grind size. Most of the time an espresso brew time between 25-40 seconds is ideal. Finding the sweet spot means that adjustments have to be made to the grind size almost every day. In other words, there is no prescribed grind size for FC, just adjust the grind size until your shots are pulling in the above range and tasting the way you want.
Consistency from shot to shot is important to maintaining the quality established in your dialing-in process. Make sure that your grinder is consistently dosing out to your desired weight by periodically weighing the dose in the basket. If your grinder does not have a grind-by-time function you will need to weigh every shot. Make sure to also use a distribution tool to flatten the bed of coffee and eliminate pockets of air. Finally, tamp with the same pressure every time and make sure all of your team members are doing the same.
The only way to know that French Canyon is dialed in is if it tastes delicious. French Canyon has a full body, with prevalent tasting notes of dark chocolate, cane sugar, and a little bit of tart acidity that reminds us of red apples.