Joel_B Senior Member Joined: 9 Oct 2007 Posts: 1,823 Location: Pacific NW Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Astra Mega II Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup Drip: nope, french press Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Fri Feb 5, 2010, 5:22am Subject: Re: Stumptown Hairbender
Jackson, as promised an attatched picture.
The odds of you getting a "bad batch" of Hairbender (in the way you're describing it) are really, really low. It's not just the afore-mentioned post-roast blending or the volume. Stumptown has pretty serious QC (with dedicated QC staff) and as their most-sold coffee is the Hairbender, it's checked daily.
TonyVan Senior Member Joined: 24 May 2010 Posts: 269 Location: Pacific Northwest Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: GS/3, La Pavoni Grinder: Macap M7K, Rocky Drip: Kone
Posted Sun Jul 31, 2011, 12:48am Subject: Re: Stumptown Hairbender
Thank you for posting this link and for the additional perspectives it offers.
Very strange to me, however, is the stated objective of filling a 2 oz. cup in 25 seconds - that's a radical departure from the < 1 oz. Stumptown standard described earlier in this thread. And the article having described the technique at "Lit" (the Toronto cafe) and at the referenced workshop as having been conveyed directly by Stumptown's training team only makes the stated volume objective odder still.
I've had many shots of Hairbender at at least three of Stumptown's locations, and they have always been very short ristrettos - in the 3/4 oz. range and certainly nowhere near 2 oz. If anyone can explain this disparity, the clarity would be welcome, especially given the important position this blend plays in the business and it's position as a reference.
I have an enormous respect for this blend and what it can give you, not the least important of which is an education. As opposed to a "forgiving" nature, Hairbender instead ruthlessly reflects the barista's choices and will expose any shortcomings or sloppiness in one's technique. Working with something this sensitive makes it tough to dial in, but my experience is also that this sensitivity provides amplified feedback to one's tuning and adjustments. This is also why I get a shot whenever I buy Hairbender beans, since it helps to stay "calibrated" in comparison to what I'm getting at home, and a reference point from which to bend the results.
In my own opinion, I DO find Hairbender to be prone to an aggressive profile, especially if brewed too cool, ground too coarse, dosed too low or in general under-extracted. I suspect my own experience is not unique, and similar results have led to some of the comments in this thread regarding some people simply not liking it; it's exacting nature may have somewhat limited the number of happy tasters.
One piece of advice for dialing in Hairbender to your taste is the use of shot segmentation. Line up three (or more if you like) shot glasses an split a 25-second pour between them. Tasting will tell you where Hairbender's component flavors are coming from and you may well find a balance you like better by lengthening or shortening the shot duration, or adjusting your dose/grind to emphasize the early or late portion of the pour. The particular value of Hairbender here is that there is so much going on in the blend that the partial shots are far more interesting to analyze than usual.
One of the luxuries of living in Portland is that it's always easy to get another bag (no tax, no shipping), get a shot at the counter to remind you what you're aiming at, and try again. I know a lot of easier coffees, but few that reward your effort so handsomely. With care and practice, I've been able to get remarkable Hairbender shots even from my treasured old La Pavoni (although I have to say that with a 49mm basket, the ristrettos volume is REALLY small - the GS/3 makes it a lot easier).
So despite - and in part because of- it's highly strung nature, Hairbender to me fully deserves it's position in the top echelon. It's consistency is especially appreciated in this age of seasonal/variable blends - as is the effort and expertise it must require to manage the almost infinite selection and roasting variables to achieve this kind of stability.
Posted Wed Feb 22, 2012, 7:19pm Subject: Re: Stumptown Hairbender
I wish I had of read this article before buying 3/4lbs and having to throw them out...such a waste. No wonder I couldn't make a drinkable cup using my Cafe Roma...too low a temp, ppf, 12g dose (max I can fit), trying to pull 2oz.
I also asumed that I had a bad batch, that they where moldy or something. It was incredibly sour and off tasing.
I went back to the cafe where I purchased them from and had the baristta pull me a shot. He pulled about 1.25oz shot. It tasted better, but I think it's still not for my pallette, it was very complex tasting. I did enjoy however that I really started tasting fruity notes of it about 20mins after I had finished...and they stayed for quite awhile.
Being new to espresso, and mostly a milk beverage consumer, I think I'll stick with simpler roasts for now...at least until I upgrade to a better machine (thinking Silvia).
naimnut Senior Member Joined: 13 Jul 2011 Posts: 66 Location: Seattle area Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Expobar Brewtus II Grinder: Baratza Vario Drip: Braun Aeromaster
Posted Thu Feb 23, 2012, 9:12am Subject: Re: Stumptown Hairbender
Stumptown isn't for everybody and Hairbender isn't for everybody, and there's no shame in that. We all have different preferences, even when we've started to educate our palettes.
This has been a very good thread for me to read, as I have a similarly difficult bean I've been struggling to dial in, and it appears to be a very similar roast level to the Hairbender. That bean is the Deep Cello Bossa. I can pull gorgeous shots of the Nostromo, or Black Tie, but the Bossa flows fast and gives me lots of spritzers. This thread has given me some good pointers for refining my approach to this bean.
And since I'll be in Portland this weekend maybe I'll pick up some more Hairbender or maybe some Holler Mountain.
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