Chromatic Coffee Co. - Gamut Espresso$16
- Forgiving espresso blend
- Major dark chocolate flavor
- Buttery flavor
- Allegedly great for lattes
- Minimal complexity
- Not very good as drip
Today's review of the Gamut Espresso by Chromatic Coffee is a direct result of Margaret's (coffeecantata.co) recommendation and review a few months back.
On my way back from a weekend of camping near San Luis Obispo I was feeling a little bit tired from the drive when we got to the San Jose area. We decided we wanted coffee, and a lightbulb quickly lit up in my head.
“Quick V, look up the address for Chromatic Coffee, I think we aren't too far away!”
*looks at her phone for a couple of minutes*
“12 minutes away, en route,” she responds.
About Chromatic Coffee
This gorgeous little shop (from the inside, at least) is inconspicuously nestled in a strip mall off a major street in Santa Clara, CA.
Their walls are lined with brewing equipment, tasteful artwork, and lb after lb of freshly roasted bags of coffee.
I ordered an espresso, and the barista politely asked if I minded waiting for her to dial-in the grinder before serving up my shot.
I watched her thoughtfully pull shots, smell them, taste them, and dump them before pulling another. Ultimately, the one she pulled for me tasted great. Was it the Gamut? Probably, but I didn't ask (doh!).
About The Gamut Espresso Blend
This is an espresso blend that is pulled year-round at their cafe, and it doesn't surprise me.
The coffee itself consists of beans from Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, and El Salvador…talk about a diverse, all-star lineup.
Flavor notes from Chromatic: dark chocolate, butterscotch, creamy (wait, is that a flavor? just playin')
General Notes and Observations
This is not a versatile bag of coffee. Meaning: it works incredibly well with very few brew methods.
Is this a bad thing?
Not at all. Simply put, this blend works really well for espresso but is pretty average for other brew methods.
Roast: Full City+
Aroma: milk chocolate, butter
The whole beans smell absolutely delicious. Major milk chocolate, butter ball status.
Aside from my MyPressi Twist (e.g. espresso), I experimented with a few other brew methods that I thought could potentially work well with this blend.AeroPress, Hario V60, and Bialetti Moka Express were the methods I tried.
The day after brewing my first espresso I decided to give the Gamut a try with my Hario V60.
It was over-extracted despite a good brew time and pretty standard parameters that I use for other coffee. I used an 18:1 ratio, a fine drip grind, and 210˚F water.
The water temperature was most likely where I went wrong. And yes, I know what the SCAA recommends. My use of high temperatures has mostly been inspired by my experiment with heat loss during extraction.
If I had to do it over again, I would have gone with a cooler temperature. After all, at Chromatic's cafe they use Bonavita Immersion Drippers with coarser grinds, cooler water temperatures, and longer steep times. So maybe this coffee is best served under conditions like these?
After my temperature tragedy with the V60, I decided to tone things down to the manufacturer recommend 175˚F for the AeroPress.
The results were a way more balanced cup of coffee, but still nothing to write home about. In fact, I had nothing to write at all about it aside from what you've just read.
Bialetti Moka Pot
My girlfriend nearly gagged when I gave her a cup of the Gamut in Moka Pot form. I diluted half of the mug too!
I thought it was probably the most interest (read: best-tasting) cup of coffee from the 3 alternate brew methods I used.
But in relative terms nothing compared to this coffee in its espresso form.
That's why you're here, right?
I have to say, this blend lived up to the hype. Some of the best shots I've pulled in awhile, particularly the second one, which came just 5 days post-roast.
Aside from the incredibly rich, sweet, chocolate flavor…the mouthfeel was what really blew me away. So syrupy and smooth.
Was it because of the smaller yield? Likely, yes. But so what?
Even at a larger yield this was an above average espresso that I found to be very forgiving under different parameters.
To me, the best blends tend to be this way.
Flavors: dark chocolate, berry, nut
Sorry for the lack of specifics. I really don't want to lie about what I'm tasting, and for this blend that's as descriptive as my palate took me.
Today I'm introducing some new rating categories to add to the current 5 I'm already using. The new ones are: complexity, balance, versatility, forgiveness, and sweetness.
“5 new categories!?”
“What are you nuts?!”
Maybe a little bit, yes. But the reason I wanted to rate these additional categories is because I find myself looking at these things a lot when I review coffee these days.
My previous rating system was also pretty much a direct copy of Kenneth Davids from coffeereview.com (hey, he taught this to me and others at Coffee Con 2014 so I hope he was ok with it).
So, if you're curious about these new rating categories you can check out their meanings here.
There was definitely a berry presence in the longer, lower temperature pulls. But this was more of a savory blend if anything.
Nutty aftertaste at times, but mostly dark chocolate with a slight bitterness. No dryness, so it wasn't something that had to be washed down with water right away.
The whole beans had a delicious milk chocolate, butter aroma. The ground coffee also smelled delicious, but it was slightly different. Couldn't put my finger on it though.
Neither too bitter nor too sweet. I over-extracted a few times, but for the most part all of the beans worked in perfect harmony when brewed in espresso form.
Sheer perfection. The highlight of this espresso blend if you ask me.
My sense is that this could be a far more complex blend than what I was able to get out of it. I found it interesting that the aroma was milk chocolate, while the flavor was mostly dark chocolate.
I only got a little bit of berry here and there, but I couldn't identify what it was.
For me, the butterscotch was muted…which makes me wonder if that would have been the case had I made a latte as Margaret did.
This was the other highlight for me. When pulled under the right conditions, I think it would be hard to pull an espresso that beats this from a random bag of specialty coffee beans.
Thank you, Gamut for allowing me to experience your glory with my little MyPressi Twist. Margaret warned me ahead of time that this blend didn't work out with another handheld espresso maker, but fortunately that wasn't the case here.
I was able to pull good shots right away, and I used at least 3 different grind settings throughout.
Different temperatures and yields definitely impacted how things came out, but the differences weren't bad differences.
Major sweetness when you pull this shot right. Having said that, somebody who has yet to acquire the taste of concentrated coffee (read: my girlfriend) might find the exact opposite.
I fully endorse the 15g yield at around 197˚F for maximum sweetness.
Sorry bub, you should stick to espresso with this one.
Highly, highly recommended for espresso enthusiasts.
Not recommended for those who make drip coffee exclusively and/or like fruitier flavor notes.
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