“I don’t know if I’m on step 15,” said Olympia co-owner Sam Schroeder, who is turning the funnel to adjust the grind size. “That’s sloppy.”
Things get better after that though. Sam runs the blender and Olympia’s retail coach, Reyna Callejo, operates the espresso machine while I sit back and watch the pros at work. Each time, the duo used 18 grams Big truck blends, working their way up to 36 grams of espresso. Grind size 15 is too coarse, so are 12 and 8. Number six is too good, and number 7, as Reyna claims, “tastes like a Big Truck!”
In the words of the Olympia bartender, that means it’s right where it needs to be.
Sam is still a bit confused about the off-centre dialing, but that dialing session told him a lot. “I don’t like the way the numbers don’t align, but I like the fine tuning.”
We all appreciate the flavor of the coffee and love the body as well, something with a conical edge like the one in the ESP can often perform better than a competitor with a flat edge. Flat blade grinders usually have good grind size consistency, but the coffee they produce can be a bit more; it’s complicated, but in the end it’s usually a matter of personal preference.
“There’s been more variation in the ESP’s grind size, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Reyna said.
Preparing for an appointment, Sam blessed the ESP, calling it “pretty impressive for a $200 blender.”
Reyna took it from there as we explored the coarse grinding possibilities. She started working spill in one Kalita waves, one batch based on grind size 28, one over 25, praising its grind speed as she goes. When she milled a size 20, she claimed this would be the only one, and it turned out to make a great cup.
Next, we tightened up the grind a bit to try out Reyna’s current favorite brewing method, placing the Chemex filter in a origami dropper, creating what is essentially a combination of a classic Chemex and a latte. At grind size 30, it grinds through the beans at what she calls “supercharged speed,” which shows a slightly different consistency during the grind.
“Rock!” She declared, “Look at all of them.”
Relatively large beans rose to the head of the bed after she poured the water in, and Reyna said she would try a finer grind next time. We agree that what she does is already pretty good, with a pleasant texture, and we would have easily tweaked it to get an even better cup.
“The difference in grind size is personal preference,” she said, referring to the controversial issue of grind consistency, “Some is desirable, nothing is more than a note, but a lot can be a lot for some people.”
From there, we went to the bottom of the possibilities of the grind size, discovering what fans of the French press and Cold beer had to expect. To start, she poured a tablespoon of flour onto the countertop, where we noticed a pretty big variation in grind size.
“This might give you a more muddled French press,” she said, with a hint of frustration in her voice, “but it’s also a more forgiving method.”
We went far enough in our testing that I asked Reyna if we had a true all-in-one blender, one that can do everything from finely grind espresso to coarse-style grind. France.
“Almost! You’re not going to have a good time grinding too rough.”
Oh man, we were so close.
Back home, I understood what she meant; it’s made for good French press but muddier than I’ve ever used. As a regular French drinker, I don’t mind a little scum, but not sure if I want that much from here on out. However, I found this machine to be very impressive.
Overall, I didn’t make a lot of notes about this machine as it is impressively capable of grinding almost a full range of coffees. If I’m a casual home brewer who wants to make espresso coffee—and also like the simplicity of Chemex’s drip, meditative overflow and coarser grind—it may not be the perfect coffee shop. But as Reyna reminded me, “It makes espresso. That’s a lot.”