Manzanita Roasting Co. El Gaucho – Espresso Test

posted in: 2017, espresso, reviews | 0


To get through the midweek blahs I’m relying on San Diego’s excellent Manzanita Roasting Co. and their Swiss Army Knife coffee, El Gaucho, which is ready for anything you throw at it, whether espresso, drip, cold brew or pourovers. I started with espresso today and I’ll update a quick review, probably on Friday, with my pourover/drip findings. Slurp! (apologies for the photos… they are appearing in the correct orientation on my screen, but not in the post. This is what I get for posting from a PC and not my Mac!)

Manzanita Roasting Company

Purchase this coffee directly for $14/12oz


Take a quick peek at my list of reviews under the state of California and you’ll see that I’ve had a lot of Manzanita’s coffee! And I smile every time a package from them shows up! Manzanita is Weston and Samantha Nawrocki and they’re currently planning an expansion that will take their roasting operation to new heights. Currently they’re housed on the Bernardo Winery property, and Sam’s family has owned that business for over 120 years, so she has wine running through her veins, which is a good thing when it comes to coffee. Wes is no slouch, either, as a professionally trained chef and sommelier! He rocks his Loring roaster and brings us consistently great coffee time after time.

Today’s coffee is Manzanita’s El Gaucho. This is a bronze medal winner in the Golden Bean Awards’ milk-based espresso category and it’s a blend of coffees from El Salvador, Ethiopia and Colombia. I don’t know the details on all the components, but the Colombia is the dominant flavor profile, at least as espresso, for me. Sometimes a natural Ethiopian gets thrown in the mix to add some fruitiness but I’m not sure if that’s the case on this one. What I do know is that El Gaucho is designed to be Manzanita’s do-it-all, Swiss Army coffee, intended for any and all brew methods. My caffeine tolerance isn’t great, so rather than nuking myself for the day I decided to separate my reviews with today’s being the espresso component and then I’ll follow up with this coffee as a pourover on Friday if time allows or next Monday at the latest. Manzanita says to expect “chocolate, low acidity” from this coffee, so we shall see!

I’ve made a recent change in my espresso setup, retiring my trusty old Gaggia Espresso and upgrading to a more modern Classic. I saved this machine from the clutches of a real espresso abuser and you wouldn’t have believed how badly a 2-year old espresso machine could look. This thing was a mess, but a new pump and a lot of tuning has her running pretty nicely. I’m using Third Wave Water’s espresso blend for my water and my grinder is the trusty Rancilio Rocky, which I found set on “7” to be good for my shots. I also use a bottomless portafilter and a Decent Espresso 20g precision basket with Decent’s 58.5mm precision tamper that is also calibrated to 25lbs of tamping pressure.

I was getting good shots of this coffee using a 20.0g dose and a 35-37g output in 27 seconds. These shots were maybe a little on the intense side, so you could back off the grinder a little bit if you are running stepless and probably mellow it out a little, but I liked things this way for this coffee. I got a lot of nuts with orange and lemon acidity and a healthy amount of bitterness (the good kind) and tons of bittersweet/dark chocolate in the finish. There’s not a lot of roastiness or any “burned” characteristics to this coffee and it’s a solid medium roast. As I was playing around I opened up the grinder some and hit a 57.4g yield using 20g of coffee in 25 seconds. Normally this is a bit of a crazy parameter with espresso, but it wasn’t bad at all. This took most of the acidity way down and played up the nuttiness and chocolatey flavors. As the coffee cooled it really came off almost like a Moka pot more than espresso, which was interesting, but also makes sense looking at the ratios. With my real 20g in 37g out shot, I would call it bright and citrusy for sure, so stretching the extraction a little would probably be ideal to mellow it out just a touch. I am milk-less at the moment, but the folks at the Golden Bean Awards gave this coffee a bronze in the milky category and with that chocolate and nut-forward character, I can imagine this is a great coffee, especially for smaller milk drinks like macchiatos and Gibraltar/cortados. Yum!

Otherwise, this coffee pulled really nicely and was really nicely behaved. The crema is thick and pretty and really this blend just cooperated beautifully in my Gaggia. I’ve also been resting the coffee for around two weeks and for me, 10-14 days is generally the sweet spot for espresso, although I can tell this one will have legs to carry it a lot further. Stay tuned for another review of this coffee as a pourover, either on Friday or next Monday!