Review: Drum Coffee Luigi Blend Traditional Italian Espresso Blend (Missoula, Montana)

When I started getting into specialty coffee, one “rule” I heard a lot was that you do not need an “espresso” blend to make espresso. This is true. I’ve had some amazing espresso shots pulled from single-origin coffees, and I’ve had terrific drip coffee made from beans marketed for espresso. However, not all beans are meant to be good for everything, and more often than not, I find that there are one or maybe two brewing methods that showcase the flavors best in a particular bean.

Drum Coffee’s Luigi Blend is designed specifically for espresso, and their site delves deeper into the inspiration behind the blend:

Luigi is dedicated to Italian American jazz drummer Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni aka Louie Bellson. Best known for his work in the 1940s and ’50s with Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and Duke Ellington who called him “The world’s greatest drummer.” He was also a drumming innovator credited with pioneering the use of two bass drums and other inventions.

Bellson and his wife, actress and singer Pearl Bailey, had the second highest number of appearances at the White House (only Bob Hope had more). “La vita inizia dopo il cafè.” Life begins after coffee.

*Please note, Luigi is specifically roasted and blended for the high pressure espresso brewing method and tastes best as such.

During lockdown, I’ve been working on improving and refining my espresso technique, and I’ve switched from using the spouted portafilter that came with my Quick Mill espresso machine to using a bottomless portafilter with VST baskets. It was a reality check to be able to clearly see all the errors in my technique (the spurting, the channeling, the uneven extraction), even when the shots tasted decent, but I was determined to get better with the equipment I owned (I refuse to sink money into a new grinder… for now…!). The Luigi Blend arrived at my home right as I was getting more consistent and confident in my espresso technique, so it was a good test for me on how well I could dial in a new bean.

Whole bean: Very evenly roasted, no sheen of oil on the beans, satisfying scent of bittersweet chocolate and nuts.

Espresso: With each shot, I was aiming for 18 grams in, 36 grams out, so my shots didn’t vary too much from that ratio once I’d dialed in the beans. To me, the best flavor came from setting my machine between 202-204 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was just as the packaging described: peanut butter and chocolate. A Reese’s peanut butter cup in the form of espresso! Super smooth, inviting, comforting, decadent, sweet. In short, it is everything I want in a straight espresso shot. And this is even considering that I’m probably one of the few Americans that really doesn’t care for peanut butter!

With milk: This shot stood up well in milk drinks, with the milk bringing out the chocolate flavor in the espresso. I mostly drank these as 6 oz cappuccinos, but I also made lattes for Shutterbug, which he enjoyed very much.

Still working on getting the milk consistency right, but this was one of my better pours.

Other methods: I did try these beans in an AeroPress, and while they weren’t bad, the resulting brew was noticeably blander and less flavorful than pulled as true espresso, so I have to echo Drum Coffee’s recommendation here that they are best showcased when pulled as espresso. However, I did also try them in a French press and that was rather enjoyable… less peanut, more bittersweet cocoa flavor. Simple, satisfying, delicious coffee.

Summary: I am as enthusiastic about the Luigi Blend for espresso as I was about the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Banko Gotiti for drip. Drum Coffee is absolutely exceptional at what they do, and this is one of the best espressos I’ve ever had. As soon as I was getting low on this bag, we placed an order for three more because I wasn’t ready to move on yet! Considering that I rarely order the same coffee twice, it’s a testament to how much we enjoyed this. And considering the source, it felt only right to put on some Fitz and the Tantrums while brewing this most mornings. Thanks, John and Jenna Wick! 🙂

From the roaster: peanut butter and chocolate spice

Drum Coffee Luigi Traditional Espresso Blend

Review conducted 6 days post-roast.

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