Maybe it's because I liked the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, or maybe it's because every seasonal blend I've had from Ritual Coffee Roasters has been good, but I was particularly stoked for this summer's release of Acid Test. Ritual's website give a particularly good and descriptive narrative for this coffee:
It's been fifty years since the legendary Summer of Love overtook the Upper Haight district of San Francisco and captured the world's imagination. New possibilities led to the founding of now quintessential San Franciscan organizations, few more mind-altering on the publishing scene than our friends at Chronicle Books. In a fun and stimulating homage to the Summer of Love and to the birth of so much creative energy we are proud to bring you the latest Acid Test, a fresh seasonal espresso and fruit-forward flashback to the experience of '67. Like the complementary colors that took poster art to the next level, we've gathered complimentary coffees that play off each other like the tones in psychedelia, buzzy behind the eyes and expanding the consciousness of what coffee can be. To push things further, to bring sweetness, brightness, and acidity to the forefront. Acidity in coffee is always something we've been excited about, and never wanted to tune out by succumbing to the over-roasted status quo. So get it while it's still legal. Preserve your right to drink great coffee, read great books, and live an uncluttered life. Can you pass the test?
Maria Zelaya's Hacienda Carmona (40%) provides the base for this punchy espresso, one that manages to be both balanced and sparkling all at once, while her neighbors in Guatemala, the Hunapu Producer group (20%), contribute the bright, sweet citrus that gives this blend its namesake acidity. The Los Gigantes from Colombia (20%) adds a comforting layer of baked goods and spice, and the astounding Gachatha from Kenya (20%) brings its rich, meticulous juice to tie the whole thing together, with raspberry, meyer lemon and ruby-red grapefruit flavors ready to expand your mind and palate.
I like bright coffees with balance acidity, so this one was looking to be right up my alley and it delivered. It delivered because the acidity was balanced, it was the prominent characteristic of the coffee but it was not overpowering or too in your face, it was showcased and complimented the citrus sweetness and slight baking spices. Interestingly, Ritual provides two different recipes for pulling shots with this coffee.
For a robust, full-bodied extraction:
- 17.6g dose
- 31 second extraction
- 30.2g yield
For a lighter, brighter extraction:
- 17g dose
- 27 second extraction
- 33.1g yield
I did try both parameters, and found the lighter, brighter extraction to definitely be just that. This one was grapefruit-y citrus acidity forward and in your face, an espresso for a very specific crowd. I preferred the parameters for the more robust extraction, though I think the lighter, brighter recipe might work well with a machine that has extended preinfusion and pressure profiling, to soften the sharp edges, so to speak.
Pulling shots at 18 gram dose in an 18 gram VST basket to a 29 - 31 gram yield in 30-32 seconds resulted in more syrupy blood orange sweetness with a hint of chocolate and baking spices that kind of held up the body of the coffee. The raspberry and juicy red citrus sweetness and acidity lingered on the palette long after the shot was finished.
I did try this coffee in the Aeropress when camping as well, with good results. Hand grinding resulted in dried grounds the smelled like chocolate chip cookies or maybe a brownie batter, with a sweet chocolate scent. The Aeropress resulted in much less transparency, at least in the few cups I brewed, but brought forth a very juicy mouthfeel and lingering sweetness. The citrus acidity of the espresso was tamed in this way. I didn't have a scale with me camping, so I do think the Aeropress cups could have been better dialed in, but they were good at my "standard" recipe of:
- 17 grams of coffee, inverted method
- Fill with water about 20-30 seconds off boil
- Stir, and top off with remaining water, stir again
- Cap and turn over while rotating the press to kind of stir it up a bit
- At 1 minute of brewing, press for 30 seconds.
Overall, I think this is a great coffee for those that like and those wanting to try a coffee that showcases acidity and makes for a very bright and complex cup. The espresso was reasonable to work with, and their listed parameters offer a really good starting point. Acid Test is available as this Summer's seasonal espresso for $16.25 for a 12 ounce bag here or your local Ritual retailer.