Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A bold beginning

Today marks an historic day. It marks the beginning of a flavour experiment that will lead to the unexpected. At least that's what I'm hoping.

A little history. After leaving the world of the gainfully employed at the end of July 2011, I decided to acquire the taste of coffee. It started as a means to an end, specifically to appreciate the subtleties of stout ales, but has turned into a force in its own right. I now enjoy drinking coffee, mostly espresso or americano. I can now discern a good cup from a bad cup, and a good cup from a great cup.

I recently made the acquaintance of an extremely friendly and generally delightful coffee shop owner after he served me an excellent long double shot of espresso. I may refer to him occasionally as Mr. Mad Bean. I got to thinking about the process of espresso infusion. The pressure that gives the brew its masculine qualities. The machinery specifically engineered to bring forth the essence of a well roasted bean. What other flavours would compete and complement this heady beast of a beverage? I have 13 ideas so far. Can they be added to the grinds and be infused in the same way? I shared these thoughts with MrMB and his interest was piqued. A Google search revealed little.

We resolved to join forces and experiment. His machine, my variations, our curiosity. The goal is to make a cup of infused espresso that subtly enhances the overall flavour while maintaining the essential qualities of a good brew, and tasty enough to enjoy regularly.

The first test was this afternoon. Oven dehydrated orange and nutmeg. A pinch was undetectable, yet a teaspoon mixed in with the grinds completely overpowered the espresso. The orange rind changed from refreshingly bright to stodgy during dehydration and didn't work with the coffee. My food processor was not able to grind the rind into powder as I'd hoped, and some of the largeer (2mm) chunks blocked the filter to a small degree. (I purchased a mortar and pestle to fine grind things so this shouldn't be a problem going forward.) The nutmeg was undetectable.

I'd consider this a partial success. The infusion method works. However, this particular spice mixture is better suited to cookies than coffee. I will try air drying or use fresh orange zest to keep the bright notes. This should allow the orange to slice rather than strangle the flavour of the coffee.

I can't speak for Mr. Mad Bean, but I'm excited for tomorrow's experiment!

Lessons learned so far:
-espresso infusion works
-the finer grind the better
-don't heat dry orange

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