Perfection Just Got Better – by Aaron De Lazzer

The Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso receives a lot of attention. We fuss over the coffee, the roast profile and more. At the front of house we have skilled baristas (Fuji & Geoff who you’ve met in previous blog posts, if not in person), who bring all their knowledge to bear. Great coffee, professional equipment, and people. It’s good but it’s static. There comes a time when you need to make music and this is where it gets interesting. How are you going to play it when you pull and present that shot?

Well, the players just got their equipment re-tuned.

VST basket at Ethical Bean Coffee

A VST basket

Recent years have been filled with a quest for making what is already divine espresso, even better.  It has been a slow drag, glacial even, but with small significant sparks of awesome.

Most notable was the desire for precise control over the water temperature used to extract the coffee. If only we could do that, we would step across a threshold and into an espresso wonderland. And then it was done and it was good. The espresso machine at Ethical Bean is temperature stabilized to within a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit.

More recently there has been the desire to fine-tune the pressure profile for the extraction. Typically it is very linear. Pump on, pump off, done. The exception being lever machines. They are currently enjoying a mini-revival for their retro-chic, AK-47 simplicity, and the signature taste that comes from a more curvaceous extraction. Recently there are a few machines out there that make this level of control a reality.

All the while, as these titanic accomplishments of engineering have been considered, prototyped and designed, there has been a piece of stamped metal flying way below the radar in its significance, yet it greatly impacts the taste of espresso – the humble portafilter basket. It is the crucible where the espresso is held when being extracted.

The quality control on these has been atrocious, and their roll in the chain of turning finely ground coffee into espresso, completely ignored.

Amazingly, a clever person realized the shortcomings and set about resolving them with a little American engineering and the surgical instrument like quality control. Check out a much more detailed description in Barista Magazine issue April/May 2011, starting on page 74.

The new VST baskets have arrived, installed, and are now making beautiful music at Ethical Bean. Stop by the café for an espresso-based beverage test drive. For maximum appreciation of these new little marvels, we recommend enjoying an espresso, even if you’ve never tried one.

With these baskets there is more detail in the cup: unctuous body, sweetness and incredible integrity – perfection just got better.

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