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enotslim
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Joined: 24 Mar 2014
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Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Estro Vapore/bottomless...
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Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 6:17am
Subject: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

I am very new to (hopefully) good espresso.

In my quest to learn about and increase my enjoyment I recently visited two local coffee shops with rave reviews for "the best espresso in the city", etc. In both I had triple ristretto Barrington Gold that were noticeably sour but drinkable. Tasted pretty much the same at both shops. At home I initially made undrinkably sour (standard double) shots of Barrington Gold. I literally could not drink them. After reading this web site I made sure the portafilter was preheated and the resulting shots were unbelievably different with only a slight hint of sourness. They were actually really good. I actually think they were better than from the coffee shops.

Am I missing something here? Is some degree of "sour" considered desirable in some espresso? I've read that sour is a particularly prominent component of some "higher end" beans but I wasn't sure if the authors considered this good or bad.

Thanks.
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Burner0000
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Joined: 28 Jul 2011
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Location: Cambridge, Ontario Canada
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Espresso: Rancilio Silvia, VFA Expres...
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Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 6:39am
Subject: Re: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

enotslim Said:

I am very new to (hopefully) good espresso.

In my quest to learn about and increase my enjoyment I recently visited two local coffee shops with rave reviews for "the best espresso in the city", etc. In both I had triple ristretto Barrington Gold that were noticeably sour but drinkable. Tasted pretty much the same at both shops. At home I initially made undrinkably sour (standard double) shots of Barrington Gold. I literally could not drink them. After reading this web site I made sure the portafilter was preheated and the resulting shots were unbelievably different with only a slight hint of sourness. They were actually really good. I actually think they were better than from the coffee shops.

Am I missing something here? Is some degree of "sour" considered desirable in some espresso? I've read that sour is a particularly prominent component of some "higher end" beans but I wasn't sure if the authors considered this good or bad.

Thanks.

Posted March 24, 2014 link

Could be a bunch of different variables.. Could be a more acidic bean or blend they are using, Grind setting is off.. Both.. Never hurts to tell them though especially if your ordering something like a triple ristretto.  They would most likely appreciate your feedback.  I myself only drink double ristrettos because I always find triples to be too strong. Some may find a bit of sourness which I think may actually be brightness (acidity) in the espresso you drank.  About a year ago I received a free light espresso blend sample from a local roaster. It was a city roast (light roast). 98% of the espresso I've tried in my time was at least a full city-French roast (medium-dark roast). I gave it a shot anyways and it was pretty acidic but amazing!  I hate pretty much any acidity in coffee but this blend was amazing.  I`d give them another shot. :)
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NobbyR
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NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
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Location: Germany
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Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 8:48am
Subject: Re: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

There are several possible reasons for sour espresso:
  • brewing temperature too low
  • acidity of the water
  • very soft water
  • light roast (the darker the roast the less acidity the beans contain)
  • unterextraction
  • variety of beans/blend

Whether or not you like a certain acidity in your espresso depends on your personel preferences.

 
***
"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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SproBro
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Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 6:05pm
Subject: Re: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

It could simply be your brew ratio at home is more ideal for drinking strait shots. A full triple is like what, 21 grams? at 100% brew ratio that is like what appx 1.25 oz of liquid espresso? Hellofaratio to drink strait up. The blend you mentioned is steered specifically away from acidity according to the roaster's website, so I think you are in fact getting sourness/underextraction not acidity.

My thought however is that the "ristretto" in the cafe is not being fully developed, and your just getting a first 2/3 cut rather than a true ristretto (at least to my understanding of what a ristretto is). A first 2/3 cut is going to lack bitters and sugars from the back 1/3 of the brew time that bring the other parts into balance. This would be a real PITA to dial in a triple ristretto. I think if I tried to order a "triple ristretto" at my local go-to, they would just tell me no. Can you blame a shop for not having a titan grinder specifically dedicated to being dialed in for triple ristrettos every morning/few days?
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enotslim
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Joined: 24 Mar 2014
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Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Estro Vapore/bottomless...
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Posted Tue Mar 25, 2014, 5:04am
Subject: Re: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

I may be wrong about it being a triple ristretto. They said triple ristretto is their "standard" ingredient for lattes so I assumed (probably naively - I'm allowed since I'm ... naive) it was also what they serve when someone asks for "espresso". The espresso was offered "free" when I bought beans so I took what they gave me. I didn't specifically order anything. I have so much to learn.
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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
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Location: Monrovia, CA
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Posted Tue Mar 25, 2014, 6:40am
Subject: Re: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

In your case, "sour" could mean that the shops are pulling beans which you don't like when they're pulled "right," or that they're under-extracting as a result of any one of a number of possible screw-ups.  

A pull which is bound to be sour, then made more sour because of bad technique, may have enough punch for some coffee character to power its way through a lot of milk; but is bound to be unpleasant straight.  It's my understanding (from cafe owners talking about other cafes) that cafes are far more oriented towards producing milk drinks than straight espresso.  Maybe that's sour grapes, but maybe that's the whole thing right there.

The term "triple ristretto" should send up warning flags.  Almost no one, baristas in shops included, can pull a good triple.  (Me neither, fwiw.)  Compared to normales, ristrettos are inherently under-extracted -- that's what "restricting" (ristretto in Italian) the amount of water into the puck (by stopping the pull before it blonds) does.  

On top of that -- not that there aren't notable exceptions -- most "professional" baristas are clueless.  They're typically not well trained, aren't paid or treated well cenough by their employers to care, and don't have enough interest on their own to perfect their craft. That doesn't mean the employees won't be friendly, courteous and efficient, but while making espresso is not a profession, it IS a craft.  

If the baristas don't taste the coffee on a regular basis, understand what they're tasting, and know how to tweak it to make it taste good, the customer will not good coffee.  

In the meantime, you should be looking for shops which pull good straight shots.

Rich
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SproBro
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Joined: 11 Feb 2014
Posts: 62
Location: Topeka, KS
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1 v1.5
Grinder: Compak K10PB, Vario
Posted Tue Mar 25, 2014, 6:47am
Subject: Re: sour espresso at coffee shop
 

It may be dialled in (like many shops) to be able to get through 10oz of sweet milk on top, so the customer tastes something besides frothed milk. Glad to hear you didn't go stomping into a cafe wielding the term ristretto like a sidearm :D
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