This morning is a rare treat where I get to share a coffee that came to me in Kansas City all the way from Hungary’s Black Sheep Roastery and Coffee! Special thanks to Zoltán Ujszászi (uzotya on Instagram) for hooking me up with this coffee! Let’s check it out…
BLACK SHEEP FEKETE BÁRÁNY ESPRESSO BLEND 2.0
Three things have me exceptionally excited about this coffee I get to share with you, dear readers, today! First, it’s my first coffee from Hungary. Second, the national drink of Hungary is, supposedly, fekete kávé, or strong, black coffee. And, last but not least, my dad is Hungarian and I’ve always had a sense of national pride for the country, even though I was born and raised here in the USA (except for that 7 years in Italy!). I was combing through Instagram one day when I noticed a photo of Fekete Bárány (Black Sheep) on Zoltán’s feed and when I commented, he offered to trade some coffee and send me a bag! What a guy! Now the pressure is on for me to find something great to send him! A few weeks later I received a 200g (about 7 ounces) bag of Black Sheep’s Espresso Blend 2.0 and I’ve been digging into it.
Black Sheep is a roastery and cafe located in Debrecen, Hungary. Debrecen, with a population of around 207,000 or so, is the second largest city in Hungary after Budapest and it’s located in the far east of the country. This is toward the part of Hungary my dad was born in, Máramarossziget, which became part of Romania after WWII and is now known as Sighetu Marmatlei. Jump in a car in Debrecen and head east and a bit north toward Transylvania (yep, maybe I’m part vampire, too) for four hours and you’ll be in my dad’s birthplace. Maybe I’ll make the trip someday!
Taking a look at Black Sheep’s website, it would appear that the cafe is a dog-friendly location that serves coffee, roasts on premises, and has a barbershop right there, too, because… why not? LOL They have a nice selection of coffees at the moment and I did notice that the Espresso Blend 2.0 appears to have changed components. Mine was roasted on August 27 (label says “best by Aug. 27, 2018”!!!!) and it’s a blend of Colombia Huila, Brazil Quilombo and India Monsoon Malabar. The current blend appears to be different coffees each from the same countries of Brazil, Colombia and India. Opening the bag, I was greeted with beautifully browned beans that had the slightest sheen on them, but no real oil spots. They grind easily and I noticed a bit of berry fragrance when I was grinding and tamping my shots. I noticed mostly chocolate and caramel notes in my straight shots and got some aromas of plum and slight berry notes in my cappuccino. I don’t speak or read Hungarian, so I was quite pleased when I sat down to type my review and ran the label through Google’s translation service to find that the flavor notes on this coffee are, “caramel, chocolate, berry fruit!” Cool! I’m always worried about whether my palate is really tasting what I think it’s tasting or whether it’s under the influence of label suggestion (and I try to avoid the label descriptions until after I’m done with my notes), so it’s nice to get some validation like this!
Quickly, before I get to the coffee itself, my current equipment is: Gaggia Classic with OPV tuned to about 9 bar, Rancilio Rocky grinder, Decent Espresso 20g precision basket and Decent Espresso 58.5mm tamper calibrated to 25lb tamping pressure.
I pulled my shots a couple different ways. With my Rocky set on “7” I used a 20g dose and let it run for about 37 seconds, which is a long time. I didn’t weigh this shot, but my guess is it was around 30g of espresso, just knowing the cup I was using. This produced a beautiful, luscious crema and a dark chocolate, sweet, minimally fruity shot that I would call old school/Italian. Those parameters were a little wild, so I opened up the grinder one step and, again, using a 20g dose, I got a 27g shot in about 27 seconds. The crema was a little thinner and had more air bubbles in it and this ramped the bitterness of the espresso up substantially. I used a similar shot for my milk-based drink, a 5-6oz cappuccino, and it was fantastic! The sweetness of the milk perfectly balanced with the bitterness of the shot. I was getting some plum aromas from this capp and also hints of berry jame that I did not get from the straight espresso.
As I was poking around Black Sheep’s website, however, I did notice under the “coffeeshop” tab that they mention, “An average coffee is made of 6-7 grams of coffee grounds, we use 10-11 grams, therefore we get a much tastier upshot.” Hmmm… I forgot how common using small baskets is in Europe and didn’t know if that was a non-USA thing or more of a Roman traditional thing, or what. Apparently, more common than I knew. In any case, this took me back to the drawing board, since I was trying to pull this coffee in the American style of a giant 20g basket and going for 1:1.5 or 1:2 yields. I have a small “single dose” basket, so I decided now was as good of a time as any to try it out (for the first time). LOL
This brought up so many questions I would have to work out, mainly how much, if any, my grind size would have to change to accommodate this small dose size and, of course, what the yield should be and in how many seconds. Hmmmm. Doing a little research as my Classic came up to temp again, it looked like for a normal espresso I was still going for a 1 to 1.5 or 2 extraction ratio in about 25 seconds. So, I decided to make life easy, using a 10g dolse and going for 15-20g of espresso in 25 seconds.
Aaaaaand… that experiment ended before it started! LOL Apparently, a 20g basket is really a “triple” basket, a “double basket” would cover more like a 10-12g dose and a single basket is intended for like 6-7g of coffee. Tried 10g in my single basket and it just smoohed the coffee right into the shower screen. There is no possible way a proper espresso could be made that way. You need a bit of headroom! LOL A valiant effort.
All in all, I really enjoyed this coffee. As espresso, I think I preferred a ristretto style pull, using a longer extraction and getting a bit less yield than expected. This cut down a lot on the bitterness I found with my more “normal” shot parameters. Yet, in a milk drink, the more bitter shots worked great to give balance to the sweetness of the milk, and I got hints of plums and berry jam in the aroma and flavor, which was nice. All in all, a great experience and I’m so thankful for Zoltán for sending me Black Sheep’s Espresso Blend 2.0. Fekete bárány!!!