Today's selection was made mostly because of rising costs. It's Safeway's "Espresso Roast". (As you can see, while we would like to think we know our stuff, and we know what stuff is right to do with our coffee, we're not too big on being "stuffy" here.) Sorry: no linkage this time. Talk to your local Vons/Pavilions/Safeway about that.
Now, the main reason why that title above has been chosen is not mainly out of derogation. No! It's actually just my trying to be catchy based on the initial smells from the bean before grinding: timber, baker's chocolate (and chocolate milk), toasted marshmallow, graham, charcoal, peanut, kettle corn, and even a shallow oak leaf. It seriously made me feel like I was camping in a place that didn't require me to rough it.
The only problem with the smell on this bean is that it's a tad weak; the smells are distinctive, but they're not immediate - with the exception of the baker's chocolate. In addition, the smells "hollowed out" halfway through and I had to keep moving around to different areas of the container, which suggests a little bit of unevenness in the processing, including roasting. Nevertheless, the bean might go especially well with chocolate syrup as a homemade "mocha", and in fact because of this I had once thought that [most of] the beans were probably from Arabia directly.
What a great segue that is (thanks me!): Did you know that "mocha" was a term first coined because of the coffee beans that came from the Mocha region of Arabia? Hence, why "mocha" has come to be moderately associated with "chocolate". You can find more about that here, with more historical anecdotes (including how coffee became "Christianized" - hilarious!) and a time-line to boot. Just can't resist needing a link anymore, now can we?!
Humor aside, the rest of the tasting procedure unfortunately left much to be desired. I no longer thought the beans were from Arabia after actually tasting them - they are probably Mexican imports. True, after grinding I had thoughts of marble ice cream, black licorice, and silk ribbon, but I also had images of sidewalk chalk and desert hills. During brewing, the color follows the initial smell in being a bit shallow in the middle, but overall it's darker than the edges of India Peaberry. The froth line is average, meaning the brew was at least successful, and there was a strong first waft of chocolate, but after that the nose completely disappeared. The magnesium is much too strong in this coffee, and it reminds me of concrete. Really. I was starting at a sidewalk the entire tasting time. And in fact, the mouthfeel actually seems no different from the press than it may have had it been put through a drip machine, which is probably the most disappointing point of all. There's not much of an aftertaste, which is nice, but this is because the brew is dry, not smooth. There's little if any oil to speak of.
You see, espresso roasting is supposed to have two goals in mind. (1) Maximizing sweetness and aroma, and (2) minimizing bitterness and acidity. Most who roast for "espresso" potential do #2 while forgetting #1. This is understandable, because of the demand. But this roast went all over the place and therefore only mildly maximized aroma while barely minimizing bitterness. In other words, it didn't do either part fully, and therefore ended up less than mediocre.
In any case, it's a good purchase at around $8/lb. You can tell that I am advising you to buy it if you want to save money, not if you want guaranteed enjoyment. It's certainly not something I would give as a gift, use to woo a beautiful lady, or serve at an important gathering, but I would recommend it for everyday sniffing. And of course, it looks great amongst my clear-plasticized, airtight row of containers on the kitchen counter, which means about 2 beans out of 5.
All the best, of course,
Now playing: Jason Mraz - The Dynamo of Volition