Maybe not latte art, but nice foam and a pretty drink. Not bad if I say so myself.
I am proud to say that I have finally gotten the hang of both my new Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine and my new Baratza Vario Coffee grinder. It took a little bit of time to get the hang of all the features, but I now have a much better understanding of all the components involved in making a great espresso drink. Other than learning the functionality of my equipment, I've come across a basic truth of espresso that I feel is imperative to share. Simply put, fresher beans yield better espresso.
It's one of the first things you learn when you start cooking. Better ingredients make better food. Now, it is entirely possible to get awesome ingredients and screw them up in the preparation, and the same can be said of espresso, but as I bought coffee beans, tasting and trying different brands and roasters, one thing became evident - the brand of coffee I bought was much less important than the roast date of the coffee beans.
With my previous setup, I had tested several brands of coffee beans and found a favorite, namely, the Black Cat espresso blend from Intelligentsia. With my new equipment, I was pulling much more flavorful shots and was ready to try again at taste-testing coffee. Much to my surprise, while I had personal favorites, the biggest factor in my espresso pleasure was based most consistently on the freshness of the beans. Ideally, 3 to 10 days after roasting was my favorite, and while I had preferences between brands, the biggest differences all arose based on how close to the roasting date I brewed the beans. It probably shouldn't have surprised me so much, but the differences were huge, not only did fresher beans have a ton more crema, but drastically better aroma and flavor.
Espresso pulled from 3 month old beans.
Espresso pulled from week old beans.
With that in mind, I am continuing my taste tests. If you've got a favorite brand for espresso, I'd love a recommendation, and if the beans can be bought here in Orlando, even better.