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How to get the best out of lighter roasts

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I'm still very new to the world of speciality coffee, but have tried a bunch of different coffees now, however I struggle get get a cup I really enjoy from any of the lighter roasts that I've had, and I don't know if that's purely because my tastes veer more towards medium to darker roasts, or because I'm not doing a great job of getting the best out of those lighter beans.

I mostly drink black americano and the occasional latte, and generally go with a 2:1 ratio, starting with 18g in and looking to get 36-40g out in around 28-30 seconds. Using that method I'm getting some fabulous results with some medium and darker roasted coffees (Rave Chatswood, Signature, Ozone Hodson and Tamper blend), but most of the lighter roasts I've tried (Drop tasting pack for instance) just seem completely underwhelming to me. So can anyone give some pointers to maybe tweak my basic recipe to bring the best out of those beans?

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Hi Biggow,

I found this flow chart some time ago and found it helps dialling in no end:

 

9F095684-EA7E-4DE8-8C8A-6A2847D589FA.thumb.jpeg.24125078d8e216a2f18ddeac158f21ed.jpeg

full details of how to extract more/less discussed later in the article here:

https://baristahustle.com/blog/coffee-extraction-the-80-20-method/

If you have an iPad or iPhone record your findings on this app (couple of quid) to help you develop dialling in and to refer back to:

TasteBuddy - Tasting Journal by Semicomma LLC
https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/tastebuddy-tasting-journal/id1271020897

 

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Ve ve suvivius.... /E37s/ Eazytamp / tupperware pot / completely healthy relationship with coffee (and bank manager).

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If you're not drinking neat espresso at 1:2 ratio, then you could be shooting yourself in the foot by brewing that short & limiting the level of extraction you can hit.

Try a 1:4 shot with a light roast, top it up to the same weight as your usual Americano, how does it taste?


“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

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When he extracts 1:4, does he needs to grind coarser to hit the 30-35 seconds mark or leave the grind setting same and extract in 60-70 seconds? 


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Sure a bit coarser, don't fret too much about the time, 60s might be OK, might be a little silty, a bit less than 35s might be OK too.

Use grind size to steer flavour, ratio to steer strength.

The idea at this stage is to pull 1:4 & see if it too silty/bitter & if it is weak enough to enjoy without additional water/with just a splash. Force an error if you like, then work back to getting a cleaner shot.

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“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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The above is really good advice.

A longer shot will help you get more sweetness in the cup

It might turn out that you just like medium better right now, but be prepared for your tastes to change and explore - the beans are a fun element of coffee, once you’ve dialled in some basic skills.

Definitely record your experiences and preferences to come back and review and learn what flavours / tasting notes / roast profiles you prefer. I started that same process 18 months ago by basically ordering one of everything that Rave were selling at the time, then noting what I liked and why, that was incredibly helpful.


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Great advice guys, I recently bought a lighter Guatemalan roast from my local coffee shop and have been struggling to dial it in. Even on a very fine setting the espresso just seems to torrentially pour through the portafilter (about 40mls in 15 seconds). Maybe there is some channelling going on? 


Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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10 minutes ago, Drellis said:

Great advice guys, I recently bought a lighter Guatemalan roast from my local coffee shop and have been struggling to dial it in. Even on a very fine setting the espresso just seems to torrentially pour through the portafilter (about 40mls in 15 seconds). Maybe there is some channelling going on? 

What dose , in what basket , how is the coffee stored, can you grind any finer?


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Are you stirring the grounds before you tamp and pull the shot. I have found that some beans are very unforgiving of poor puck prep and you get one of two things if you don't do it well. It will either choke or taken ages to come through at first before gushing when you grind too fine. If you don't grind fine enough though it just runs through far too quickly. I have been stirring and nutating lately and that seems to really help with this sort of thing. 

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Just now, Mrboots2u said:

What dose , in what basket , how is the coffee stored, can you grind any finer?

Thanks both for the replies. I use 19g in a naked portafilter (the basket is built into the PF so not sure what it is). Coffee is stored in a cupboard in the brown paper bag the coffee was bought in with a clip to keep it closed. Ye, I guess I could go finer but I seem to be pretty close to the zero on my SJ. There seems to be a lot of chaff (light brown bits) left over in the basket too. I guess that is expected with lighter roasts since it doesn't get burnt off. 


Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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. There seems to be a lot of chaff (light brown bits) left over in the basket too. I guess that is expected with lighter roasts since it doesn't get burnt off. 


That is interesting observation as usually the start point for dialling espresso is to grind fine enough to the point where the chaff blends into the coffee grinds.

Go finer and see what happens.

Adjust the grinder to check the zero point (when the burrs just chirp together a little when running) then back off and set your zero limiter screw. It is possible that your grinder limiter isn’t set close enough to the true zero point



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Thanks both for the replies. I use 19g in a naked portafilter (the basket is built into the PF so not sure what it is).


What is the machine?
Check the dose with the penny / 10p trick to ensure you aren’t overdosing the basket as, is built-in basket, I would be surprised if it is designed to accept 19g

Coffee is stored in a cupboard in the brown paper bag the coffee was bought in with a clip to keep it closed.

I know you will read this everywhere, but make sure to buy from a quality roaster and use not before about 10 days post-roast (for espresso) and before 2-3 months post-roast


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5 minutes ago, mctrials23 said:

Are you stirring the grounds before you tamp and pull the shot. I have found that some beans are very unforgiving of poor puck prep and you get one of two things if you don't do it well. It will either choke or taken ages to come through at first before gushing when you grind too fine. If you don't grind fine enough though it just runs through far too quickly. I have been stirring and nutating lately and that seems to really help with this sort of thing. 

Ye I use a cocktail stick to evenly distribute the grounds, I may have become a bit lazy in this practice of late. I'll definetly give this more attention and see if it helps. Thanks. 

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Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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9 minutes ago, Drellis said:

 There seems to be a lot of chaff (light brown bits) left over in the basket too. I guess that is expected with lighter roasts since it doesn't get burnt off. 

This usually becomes more obvious as you go coarser, not so evident at espresso grind. How far off zero are you and do the burrs actually chirp at zero?


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https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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8 minutes ago, rob177palmer said:

 


That is interesting observation as usually the start point for dialling espresso is to grind fine enough to the point where the chaff blends into the coffee grinds.

Go finer and see what happens.

Adjust the grinder to check the zero point (when the burrs just chirp together a little when running) then back off and set your zero limiter screw. It is possible that your grinder limiter isn’t set close enough to the true zero point



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Thanks, I will give this a go and report back with the results. 


Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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2 minutes ago, MWJB said:

This usually becomes more obvious as you go coarser, not so evident at espresso grind. How far off zero are you and do the burrs actually chirp at zero?

Yes, got the chirping at zero. Backed it off 4 small notches and this time the grind is much finer (as expected). Less chaff seen also. Made sure tamp was good and even and got 70mls from 19g in 25 seconds so still quite quick. I will try a bit finer tomorrow (I'm already on my third coffee today...). Thanks all for the help. This is why I love the coffee community 😃 so much more to learn

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Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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1 minute ago, Drellis said:

Yes, got the chirping at zero. Backed it off 4 small notches and this time the grind is much finer (as expected). Less chaff seen also. Made sure tamp was good and even and got 70mls from 19g in 25 seconds so still quite quick. I will try a bit finer tomorrow (I'm already on my third coffee today...). 

How did it taste? 25s might not be that far off for a 1:3.7 shot.

Are you aiming for a specific brew ratio (40ml from  1 shot to 70ml from the next seems a bit haphazard).


“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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I also find if the dose sits too high in the basket, that it runs faster. I assume from contacting the shower screen more quickly. Rob mentioned trying to check with a penny - that's simply grinding the coffee and putting it on top of the coffee then locking in the portafilter and unlocking it without running the shot. if you can already see an impression in the coffee from the penny, then it's potentially sitting a bit high and you might find slightly less coffee actually slowed the shot down. 


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The basket is built into the portafilter? 

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1 hour ago, MWJB said:

How did it taste? 25s might not be that far off for a 1:3.7 shot.

Are you aiming for a specific brew ratio (40ml from  1 shot to 70ml from the next seems a bit haphazard).

It tasted okay, possible a little on the 'sour' side. An improvement non-the less. I usually aim for a 1:2 ratio but from reading the early part of this discussion maybe I should be aiming for higher ratios for lighter roasts anyway. I will try reducing the dose as per the above advice from jlarkin and go a bit finer and see what the change is. 


Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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58 minutes ago, Mrboots2u said:

The basket is built into the portafilter? 

So I'm glad you bought this up as it turns out I can change the basket! I bought the naked portafilter from Edesia Express on Amazon (with a 21g basket) and always thought the basket was fixed. Can I ask a potentially silly question? How much difference does changing the basket make? I have read about VST and IMS baskets on this forum but not looked into their benefits further. (this could be a whole new forum)

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Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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So I'm glad you bought this up as it turns out I can change the basket! I bought the naked portafilter from Edesia Express on Amazon (with a 21g basket) and always thought the basket was fixed. Can I ask a potentially silly question? How much difference does changing the basket make? I have read about VST and IMS baskets on this forum but not looked into their benefits further. (this could be a whole new forum)

Very worthwhile.

They are much more discriminatory against poor prep, which in turn makes you focus on improving this element and so improving the espresso.

Very worthwhile purchase, but bear in mind it is likely to make things worse before better


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16 hours ago, rob177palmer said:


Very worthwhile.

They are much more discriminatory against poor prep, which in turn makes you focus on improving this element and so improving the espresso.

Very worthwhile purchase, but bear in mind it is likely to make things worse before better emoji23.png


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Good to know, I may leave it a while before upgrading so I can master this one first 👍

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Fracino Cherub/Mazzer Super Jolly 

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I was at a similar stage, achieving great extraction and flavour with medium/dark roasts but no success with lighter ones or single origins.

I'm not sure if it's just a fluke but I'm currently on a bag of Ethiopia Biloya from Craft House Coffee and for the first time can taste strong fruit flavours, a really clear taste of grapes as the roaster suggested. I've found I'm grinding much finer than with darker roasts. Looking forward to the next roast from CHC. 

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Working my way through different beans & always on the look out for a great coffee shop on my travels

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