Big Truck Espresso

This month, we’re highlighting another two-beaner with serious devotees – Olympia Coffee Roasting’s Big Truck Espresso Blend.

Olympia Coffee Roasting is based in Washington’s charming state capitol, where they’ve been roasting an evolving profile of Big Truck Espresso for around 5 years. The current version is an 80/20 split between El Salvador Santa Adelaida (100% Bourbon, washed) and Ethiopia Dara Sidamo, the first-ever washed Ethiopian to be featured in the Big Truck blend.

Our informal panel of esteemed tasters (coffee geeks, competition baristas and green buyers)  sat down with a couple of pounds of the Truck, a Synesso 3-group, and a set of Anfim prototype grinders. Most of us had never tried Big Truck before, and we performed our taste testing “blind”, without preconceived notions with regards to blend origin, flavor profile, or suggested brewing methods.  Trial and error was encouraged, much espresso was slurped, and the overall impressions were quite positive. Here are our notes:

For starters, Big Truck seemed to fit a kind of “high and tight” profile, giving us a coarser ground coffee and resulting in a very full basket. Different coffees need to be extracted differently; while some coffees benefit from a finer or shorter extraction, Big Truck seemed to demand a lower surface area to volume ratio and a longer extraction to achieve the best shots.

Our first “best” round of shots went something like this: 22.5-second pull (8-second preinfusion), 203F water temp, 19-gram dose, 1.5 oz shot. These parameters made the Ethiopian notes jump out in the forefront of the shot; washed Ethiopian dark fruits dominated the cup, giving us purple grapes and plums up front, with a long, sweet fig finish at about 20 seconds after tasting. Our shots weren’t particularly viscous or “syrupy”, but those purple flavors definitely lingered in the cup. A nice shot, but we found ourselves searching for the El Salvadorian flavor notes, only slightly suggested by a clove-y sharpness upfront.

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So, with a bit of calibration and a nice cold glass of Perrier, we worked our way towards another “best” set of specs: 24 second pull (10 second preinfusion), 203F water temp, 19.5 gram dose, 1.5 oz shot. Big smiles all around, and the quote of the evening: “It’s like a perfect circle in my mouth”.

These specs yielded big sweet/tangy pie cherries up front, with this roundness in the body that just perfectly incorporated the Ethiopian and El Salvadorian profiles. There’s a natural tendency when working with a 2-bean blend to play “spot the individual flavor notes”, but when you get both the El Salvador and the Ethiopian dancing together it can make for a really special and neat shot of espresso. It’s worth mentioning, getting those special shots out of the Big Truck took us a little while, but when we got it there, everyone in the room was more than pleased.

Then it was Macchiato and Cappuccino time! Over the past few months, informed Northwest baristas have developed a decided predilection for the 5% milk being quietly rolled out by Portland’s Sunshine Dairy. Sunshine Dairy has done quite a bit of testing and demoing throughout the Seattle area, and their 5% should start being available to the public at specialty cafes by year’s end (Editors Note: standard whole milk runs at about 3.5%). With a bit on hand, we couldn’t help but incorporating that good stuff into our taste test.

Macchiato: Big Truck proved to be remarkably stable coffee, the flavors standing up well to a splash of steamed macch milk. As we went around the room, we found ourselves adding slight dairy modifiers to all our previous tasting notes; tart cherries and cloves become cherry pie à la mode, while plums and purple fruits became Greek Gods fig yogurt.

Cappuccino:  We steamed milk to 134 degrees, pulled shots with a 13-second preinfusion (25.5-second full shot, slightly longer for sweetness), volume 1.5 oz, 19.5 grams…and the resulting Cappuccino tasted like honey nut cheerios milk. Seriously, try it, try those specs…honey-sweet and earthy, and decidedly hard to pass off to the next taster.

Our biggest consensus note was this: Big Truck is a wonderfully responsive espresso blend. Aim for sweeter and you’ll get it; try and bring out the individual components and you can find them, or go for the perfect blend and it’s there too. And really, the combination of Big Truck, 5% from Sunshine Dairy, and a damn skilled barista-made for one of the best capps we’ve ever tasted.

Big Truck has a small but growing footprint, with select availability in the Pacific Northwest (try Coffeehouse Five in PDX or Fish Tale Brewery in Olympia), a notable inclusion on the menu at Serrano Social Club in Modesto, CA, and a prominent role as the flagship espresso for OTG’s newly opened World Bean program at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. We talked briefly with Jesse Kahn, grand poobah and First Tiger for World Bean’s coffee program, and he generously extolled the virtues of Big Truck while comparing tasting notes:

“We chose Big Truck for its accessible flavor profile, both sweet and complex, perfect for winning over converts in a setting like ours. It’s jammy, figgy, and there’s these great round orange citrus notes in the cup. We’re committed to organic practices and transparency, and Olympia Coffee Roasting does a great job of meeting those standards.”

Perhaps the best place to try Big Truck is at Olympia Coffee Roasting’s lovely Cherry Street roast works, located at 108 Cherry Street in downtown Olympia, Washington. To learn more about Big Truck, check out Olympia Coffee Roasting online.

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