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The sense of smell in shot evaluation
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Senior Member
Joined: 24 Sep 2012
Posts: 764
Location: OK
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: QM Vetrano 2B
Grinder: Fort'e GP
Posted Fri Jul 12, 2013, 5:23pm
Subject: The sense of smell in shot evaluation

Using a CC1 and Redbird right now. I won't bore you with the details, but evidently for months I was trying to create a good shot with a machine that was suffering from low/changing pressure and just recently resolved that issue with the help of Bill at Crosslands. Thanks Bill!

Anyway, now I have spent the last 10 days or so at least enjoying espresso that was at least  drinkable. I almost always drink mochas that are flavored, but I always taste the milk and coffee before I add flavors or chocolate. Some shots have had very interesting taste even though I haven't found the after taste I have enjoyed from some other venues. I have been leaving temperature about 203. MY own tests indicate that I am probably in actuality hitting the coffee at about 199. I have tried to vary grind to yield about 30 grams of espresso from 20 grams of fresh ground in about 25-28 seconds using a 2 second infusion and a 3 second wait before I actually start the shot. I have chosen 30 grams as my target as it seem to be very much in the middle of the range of shots that I find the most palatable. My intent has always been to shut the shot off early if I see blonding, but to be honest, I don't think I ever see any blonding under the conditions I have described here. I have missed my target a few times by only a few grams... maybe 26 or 27 grams of yield in 28 seconds or so including the pre infusion and wait.  I have noticed a very sweet smell to the shot that I don't seem to notice if the shot goes even a few grams more. The sweet aroma reminds me a bit of chewing tobacco.

Do others experience this sweet smell? I cant say the shot is better, but its not bad when I smell this sweetness. It doesn't necessarily transfer to the taste (at least not to me).  Is the sweetness telling me anything? Should I be trying for this sweet aroma? I can tell you when my brew pressure was messed up (low), most of my shots smelled burned.

Comments about how to read the aroma of the shot would be appreciated and also if this information is useful in helping improve shot quality.
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Senior Member
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,083
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Fri Jul 12, 2013, 9:23pm
Subject: Re: The sense of smell in shot evaluation

What really counts in the end is that you personally enjoy the drink in your cup. Apart from that:

NobbyR Said:

Cupping coffee or wine and whisky tasting is an aptitude that can be learned. What we call flavor is a complex sensation composed of taste (salty, sweet, bitter, sour), smell (aromas like caramel, fruity, chocolate, etc.) and mouthfeel (hot, oily, watery etc.), but it's mostly your nose that needs to be trained to identify those aromas.

In order to learn wine tasting, for example, you can get vials of the most common aromas found in wine like berries or peach. You start by smelling those until you can identify them. Then you progress to smelling and tasting wine and try to discover those aromas. By then, it's usually fairly easy to identify frequent and predominant aromas like blackberry or tannic acid. It's basically all about activating our nose memory.

For cupping coffee it's basically the same. The coffee taster's flavor wheel can help to name your sensations. Maybe this Beginner's Guide to Cupping can help you as well.

Posted July 9, 2013 link

"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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