Breaking down the breakdown…
April 3, 2009
Okay, so partially to help get the thoughts organized in my own head as well as to answer a question I have gotten a bit as of late, I am going to take a second here to breakdown what I am doing with the signature drink I am using in this years competition. The concept is easy and based on an exercise that anyone looking to really understand an extraction better should try. The exercise has you split a single extraction into several increments by switching the cup every 5 seconds or so. Some folks are lucky enough to use handcrafted overly verbose tools like this one but simply swapping shot glasses quickly by hand will suffice. When the shot is finished you can easily see and taste the changes that occur throughout the life of the shot. For the drink I am using in competition, I have decided to simplify this and split the shot into just two segments, using the beginning for a hot drink and the end for a cold drink. I then pair each half of the extraction with flavors and textures that I feel match up with and amplify qualities found in my espresso.
The Hot Drink: In the beginning of the extraction I find a darker sweetness, some savory elements, a bit of a nuttiness and texturally rich quality that ties it all together. To work with this I combined a dark muscovado sugar with an 82% bittersweet dark chocolate, some black sea salt and finely diced roasted almonds. All of this is steeped together in heavy cream for about 12 minutes. I strain off the result and add the beginning of the extraction to it. The flavors meld together wonderfully with just a little stirring. Being the small drink that it is very little amount of each of the ingredients was needed. Balance is key.
The Cold Drink: In the end of the extraction the shot begins to lighten in body and color. You find the more juicy berry like parts of the shot transformed into it’s more core elements of a pleasant tartness, a slight bitterness and a nice clean sweetness. I felt that blackberries had many of the qualities that I got out of the Bolivia as an espresso so for this drink I used some of them freshly pressed. To match up with that clean sweetness I added a bit of an Agave nectar. To help give it the lightness that I feel this part of the extraction has I added a bit of the Bolivia brewed up in a café solo that had been chilled. All of this along with the end of the extraction are added to a shaker and agitated. A nice effect that sometimes happens when you shake a juice or espresso with ice is that a slightly frothy head forms on your drinks. In the finished drink this plays nicely off of how the crema is found mainly in the second half of the extraction. The result is cool and crisp, an amplified version of all of those sweet, tart and slightly bitter notes the end of an extraction can hold.
Does this make sense? I am going to have to explain this to an international panel of judges in about two weeks so if any of it seems a bit wonky and hard to decipher I implore you to leave a comment saying how.
While I cant afford to have my own celebrity handler, I have seemed to inspire enough need for help that my good friend and coach Charles Babinski sets up variations on the signature drink without much prodding.