If you read my Sterling Coffee Roasters Kenya Gachatha AA review, you’ll recall that I was a babbling neurotic mess at the coffee shop and the roaster himself took pity on me and gave me a bag for free, with the suggestion that if I liked what I tasted, I could order from the website in the future as a thank-you. Well, since the Gachatha AA definitely lived up to my expectations, I fulfilled my promise and purchased bags of their Guatemala Los Carillos (which will be my next review) and this bag of their house espresso blend, named Blendo Stupendo.
I admit, I think this name is rather silly, but I rather enjoy silly things.
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous review is that Sterling ships their coffee in 10-ounce bags, which is a bit smaller than the usual 12- or 16-ounce bags from most roasters. I’m not generally picky about my bag sizing, but when it comes to espresso, bags smaller than 12 ounces make me a little nervous because it can take me a while to dial in the proper parameters for an espresso shot, especially if I’ve never worked with that particular bean before. What do I mean by “dialing in a shot”? When I am making espresso, I make note of the following factors:
Input (how many grams of coffee I grind into the portafilter)
Water temperature at the start of extraction
Output (weight of the espresso yield)
As I experiment, I note results in the cup and change one item at a time so I can pinpoint what parameters I think will lead to the ideal shot. This all can change as the beans age, and if the weather/humidity changes substantially! It’s quite a dance. I don’t typically do an espresso tasting on a morning where I have to be someplace because fine-tuning these shots can take quite a while. Luckily, once I find the “right” parameters, I don’t have to change them too much for the remainder of the bag. I started with the 10-ounce bag, and it took me about 4 ounces of beans before I felt I had figured out the right parameters, so I luckily had 6 ounces of beans left to enjoy.
Whole beans: Lots of sweet and nutty chocolate notes in the aroma!
I found that pulling shots timed between 23-27 seconds from first drip yielded the best-tasting shots. According to their website, Sterling pulls their shots at 19g in, 30g out, 24-28 seconds (no note on temperature). I tried this at 201 F, and it was pretty good – extremely smooth and sweet, creamy, very easy to drink. However, I must be a ristretto kind of person because 19g in, 15g out, 201 F at 27 seconds yielded a shot that was like sweet chocolate syrup with just a hint of plum. So delicious. The normale shot tasted bland in comparison.
Adding milk: To replicate as closely as possible what Sterling does in their cafes, I pulled a normale shot and added 10 oz steamed milk to make a latte. Creamy, sweet, mild, and delicious. It smelled like milk chocolate and tasted like love. Friendly, uncomplicated, gentle, and comforting. What a nice way to wake up!
I also pulled a ristretto shot and added around 4 oz of steamed milk. This was even better than the previous drink to me; I liked how the ristretto shot + less milk = a more assertive (but still super smooth and creamy) coffee flavor.
AeroPress: Even though these beans are a medium roast, when brewed in the AeroPress they came out tasting like a dark roast to my palate. There were no chocolate flavors – just a very strong and slightly harsh taste. When I added water to the concentrate, it was better but still one-dimensional.
Summary: Delicious blend for espresso, both straight and in milk. Underwhelming to me in an AeroPress, but if you like the taste of dark-roasted coffee, this might float your boat. I would love if Sterling would sell Blendo Stupendo in slightly larger bags so that I didn’t feel like I was wasting such a large proportion of my coffee dialing in the shot (the next size up is in 3 lb bags, which is just too much for me!).
From the roaster:
(website) Blendo Stupendo is carefully crafted to balance smooth taste and premium drinkability. We use it in our shops as our primary espresso for all milk drinks and those customers who want a consistent, Italian-style coffee without a lot of brightness. Currently the Stupendo is 75% Cauca Colombia and 25% Sao Silvestre Brazil. The Colombia is rich and smooth, and the Brazil adds a peanut brittle sweetness. Medium roasted for every preparation.
(printed on bag) Blendo Stupendo is the George Washington of coffee. Composed of top quality Central and South American beans, the Stupendo is sourced and roasted to taste like the coffee our country grew up drinking. With classic flavors like rich chocolate, caramel, and a hint of toasted nuts, Stupendo will get you across the Delaware (or at least it’ll get you to work).