Review: Blue Bottle Hayes Valley Espresso (Oakland, California)

I have my cousin Lynn to thank for introducing me to Blue Bottle Coffee Roasters. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, they’ve expanded to include locations in Los Angeles, New York City, and Japan. In recent years they’ve acquired both the Tonx and Handsome Coffee companies, and it was just announced that they are merging with San Francisco-based bakery Tartine. Clearly, this company is growing!

I’ve ordered online from Blue Bottle before (their Giant Steps and Bella Donovan blends). Those came in 12 oz bags, so I was surprised when I found that the bags at the shop I visited were 8 oz sizes. Now, it did make the price a little easier to swallow, but since it’s always a challenge to dial in an espresso grind, I was a bit concerned that I would run out of coffee before finding the sweet spot. I would have purchased 2 bags, but they only had one Hayes Valley left on the shelf. Thus, I crossed my fingers and decided to take my chances!

Why did I choose Hayes Valley over their other espresso offerings that day? This sentence jumped out at me: “This is the most Brahmsian espresso we have.” How could I resist??

Whole beans: Spicy dark chocolate. Heady aroma.

Brewing parameters: 20 g in a double basket, 1:2 normale ratio, 200 F, 30 sec shot.

I still feel like I can experiment a bit more with temperature, ratio, etc., but based on the shot I sampled at the shop (which was super smooth and delicious), I think this shot got closest to what I was served. There was a nice balance to the shot; it was very creamy and sweet, almost like a chocolate malt. This is one espresso I prefer straight vs. in milk; I steamed a bit of milk (maybe 3-4 oz) to add to my 2 oz shot, and I felt like the flavor of the espresso got lost. Still pleasant, but it didn’t stand up as well as I would have liked.

Summary: Very pleasant as a straight shot. Not the most complex of flavors, but nice and comforting to drink. Slightly lower temperatures (199 F) bring out more of the orange zest and less of the cocoa.

From the roaster: Cocoa, orange zest, smoky finish

This is probably our darkest espresso: lower-toned, minimal brightness, plenty of chocolate – with an engaging complexity as a straight shot. The shots are gorgeous: achingly heavy with voluptuous red-brown crema, and the silky, somewhat dangerous-looking viscosity of a power-steering stop-leak product once used on our (now departed) heroically battered 1983 Peugeot. In milk, it tastes like chocolate ovaltine, and holds its own from the daintiest 3oz Macchiato to our towering 12oz caffe latte. This is the most Brahmsian espresso we have. Brooding and autumnal, it is a coffee to mourn the passing of time.

Blue Bottle Hayes Valley Espresso

One Reply to “Review: Blue Bottle Hayes Valley Espresso (Oakland, California)”

  1. If your not careful you’ll have to start your own magazine!

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