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Sour grapes (and espresso!)

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  • Sour grapes (and espresso!)

    Hi Guys,

    I recently bought 250g of Costa Rica Tarrazu from which seems to have a "funny taste" to it. My steam wand is currently under construction so Ive been delving into the world of espresso (being the base for all my milk based drinks anyways, I should learn to have a good grip on it anyways).

    After thoroughly tasting my espressos I decided that taste was most definitely sour.

    I have a Nemox Fenice Dell Opera, which Ive let heat up over a good few hours and pulled plenty of blank shots through and ensured the heat light is off (indicating its ready), so it shouldnt be a problem with too cold a brew temp. I mean, Im no temp surfing nut, but the machine is definitely well and truly heated through.

    I dont recall getting such a sour taste from other beans so Im trying to think what might be the problem.

    Ive tried changing a few variables;

    Finer grind with not quite so hard a tamp - still sour :-/
    Slightly less fine grind, more dose and harder tamp -- more body, but still distinctly sour

    My pull times are always more than 25 secs and less than 60 secs; I would say that they are leaning towards too fine a grind or too hard a tamp, but before I go adjusting one or the other I thought Id see what you guys recommend.

    The beans still seem relatively gassy, but they are a lot more settled than they were when I got them. I am getting a decent amount of crema but it seems almost bubbly rather than smooth and creamy, which is what leads me to believe the beans are gassy. Of course, if this can be caused by something else, let me know.

    Any pointers on what I can do if my brew is sour like this?



  • #2
    Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

    Well, this might not be of any help to you Lachlan, but I thought Id reply anyway!

    We just recently experienced a sour batch of coffee at work. At first it didnt seem obvious until later in the day when the boss lady and I tried the coffee and nearly spat it out on the floor!

    A regular who comes in for his shot said it tasted bitter, especially after I had done all my usual steps to produce the perfect shot for him and I was left scratching my head in confusion. As the day went on, so it seemed the coffee soured even more! Probably because it was warming up inside the shop and the beans were letting off more of their odor.

    We removed the offending beans from the hopper and decided that their smell was odd and that the coffee flavour was coming from them. In the end, we just chucked them out. Not much more we thought we could do. Especially as our supplier is not just around the corner! (rather a full days drive away!)


    • #3
      Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

      Hey Scoota,

      I guess being that I am still relatively new to the world of espresso machines I am more inclined to blame my technique first.

      I do have another batch of beans from the same order of a different variety. It will be interesting to see if they seem "normal".

      Unfortunately I only have the one truly airtight container so Im not too keen on ripping into the next vac pack of beans as it means something is going to end up in a subpar plastic container.

      I was hoping to see what the other CSers thought/recommended over the day and try another couple of shots tonight. If its still overwhelmingly sour Ill try the other batch of beans -- that should at least tell me definitively whether my technique sucks or the beans are just dodgy.

      Thanks again for the feedback -- its good to know that sometimes it *can* just be the beans.



      • #4
        Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

        Quite possibly the beans,
        I have roasted several batches of Costa Rica Terrazu, mainly for plunger/Filter brewing and not really been keen on the flavour, but I think that was a personal preference rather than a fault.
        However having said that, ..
        one batch of beans that I roasted (cant remember now what they were) had one of the "stinker" beans in it,
        I thought the beans smelled off, after I roasted them and let them settle, fortunately the first lot I put through Rocky had the stinker in it, sounded a bit like a stone in the grinder, and the smell, ...OH Boy it was bad.

        Occasionally even the best suppliers have a hiccup for whatever reason.

        Be good to try some other varieties in your machine to get a feel for the range of tastes that can be enjoyed. It may be that your personal preference is for a different variety of bean from a different country, or more likely a blend of two or three types of beans.


        • #5
          Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

          Originally posted by Lachlan link=1150714478/0#0 date=1150714477
          I have a Nemox Fenice Dell Opera, which Ive let heat up over a good few hours and pulled plenty of blank shots through and ensured the heat light is off (indicating its ready), so it shouldnt be a problem with too cold a brew temp. I mean, Im no temp surfing nut, but the machine is definitely well and truly heated through.

          Hi Lachlan,

          Given that you have not noticed this "sourness" with prior blends or SOs, it is quite likely that this particular batch of beans may be to blame, for one of any number of reasons. If you have nothing else to store your second batch of beans in, how about grabbing a couple of suitably sized "zip-top" bags and store these in the back of a cool, dark cupboard until such time as you have something better...... lots of people use these [smiley=thumbsup.gif].

          Regarding the Brew Water temp while pulling a shot..... The only way you are going to know for sure just what is going on is to grab yourself one of those cheap Digital Multi-Meters that comes complete with a K T/couple Probe and built-in compensation within the DMM. You can get these from Dick Smith or Jaycar, etc for about $23-30.00. Once you have it in your hot little hands, you just place the bead of the T/couple in the middle and on top of the coffee cake just prior to locking the PortaFilter into place after the mandatory warming up period. The T/couple cable will kink a bit but should survive the trauma ok. Sparky talked me into doing it this way and so far, no broken cable cores :P.

          You then just allow the PF to heat up to a static temperature as observed on your DMM or simply allow to sit for another half an hour, by which time the PF temp should have attained equilibrium. Now, just pull a series of double shots (60ml) while allowing the machine to heat back up between shots and see which part of the "Temp Surfing Cycle" results in the most optimum water temperature at the top of the coffee cake. Once you know this, its just a matter of keeping your Stop-Watch handy when ready to pull a shot and hit the Brew Button at that time pre or post light-on or light-out..... which ever it turns out to be. Its a bit of mucking around but once established you shouldnt have to repeat the process unless you make some kind of significant change(mod) to the Brew Water circuit.

          All the best,


          • #6
            Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

            For any of those interested.. New beans (some I roasted myself) and no sourness to be found.

            Viva La Popper!


            • #7
              Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

              Hi Lachlan,
              I to have been experimenting with the C.R. Tarrazu, and found that when taken to the verge of 2nd X, I experience sourness, which I have interpreted as “acid” more recently I have been roasting them to rolling 2nd X, and while the acid is still there its more muted and I’m getting choc/citrus flavours. The batch that improved for you, how was that roasted? How does it taste to you now?


              • #8
                Re: Sour grapes (and espresso!)

                Hi Billi.

                The C.R.Tarrazu were not roasted by me -- I bought them from Maybe that batch ran a little long? who knows.

                The batch that is improved was actually Brazil Santos, popper roasted. It was my first really successful roast and I would say a light to medium roast.

                It has a real zing to it as well as chocolately undertones. I almost want to describe it like a choc-banana taste in my latté -- very nice.

                Sadly its almost all gone. *oinks like a pig*

                Will have to roast more!