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Unless you've suffered a particularly bad case of hay fever for your entire life, you've likely noticed by now that coffee has a pretty unique and lovely smell, one that crops up in both the brewing and drinking process. The smell that a freshly prepared cup of coffee leaves in the kitchen is often highlighted by the coffee crowd as a key part of its morning ritual. Part of what makes the smell so distinct is that coffee itself contains a high number of volatile aromatic compounds which are released during the brewing process due to the heat of the brewing environment. Lovely as this smells, it also means that these particular aromas are released into the air rather than making it into your cup.
Nucleus Coffee Tools, the brainchild of former World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic, developed a solution to this problem in pour-over brewing with the Paragon brewer, a unique device that uses a technique called extract chilling to hold onto more of those flighty aromatic compounds. Now that same solution is available to espresso lovers in the form of the Paragon Espresso.
About the Paragon Espresso
In terms of appearance, Nucleus' Paragon Espresso is even simplier than the original Paragon and is made up of just two parts: the silicone and aluminium mount, and the titanium-coated stainless steel chilling rock. Setting it up is easy too. Simply place the mount in your espresso cup below the portafilter and group head, and place the chilled rock in the mount right before pulling your shot. The idea is that the rock cools your espresso down on impact, preventing the aromatic compounds that would otherwise evaporate at higher temperatures from dissipating.
The point isn't to ice your espresso though. Your shot, in running onto and over the chilling rock is only briefly in contact with it, just enough to "shock" those aromatic compounds into remaining in the cup. But while your espresso is a little cooler by the time it reaches your cup than if it were pulled regularly, it should still be hot. Nucleus claims that this method allows one to capture and express up to 40% more key aroma volatile molecules than with an identical brew minus chilling. Given espresso's potential for flavour intensity and depth, which is arguably what makes it so exciting, this extra 40% is pretty substantial.
The Paragon Espresso mount is adjustable in the sense that there are two heights depending on which way you have it flipped as it perches on the rim of a cup, to accommodate different cup and machine proportions. The chilling rock that sits inside of it is 30mm in diameter, a little smaller than the one that fits the standard Paragon and is made of titanium-coated stainless steel, giving it an attractive golden sheen. Its shape and the large surface area allow for even and rapid chilling as you pull your shot.
Below the sparkly surface is a dense liquid-gel core that freezes faster than water, and stays frozen (and hence colder) longer than in a hollow or water-filled alternative. This means that unless you're serving extract-chilled shots at a high volume, you won't need to spend much time waiting by the freezer between pulls. Even then, the Paragon Espresso comes with four chilling rocks and two stands, so you should have more than enough for a session of coffee-making.
If you already love the original Paragon, or if you're just looking for a way to inject your espresso with even more complexity and nuance, the Paragon Espresso is for you. And if you have any volume-related concerns, you can always pick up a few extra chilling rocks should the initial four not meet your needs.
Nucleus Paragon Espresso features
- Extract chilling technology captures and retains up to 40% more aroma-volatile compounds from your brew, taking your espresso to the next level.
- Includes 2 x lightweight, height-adjustable stands with no-slip grips.
- Includes 4 x 30mm titanium-coated stainless steel chilling rocks, with liquid gel centre for fast and prolonged freezing.
- Dimensions (W x L): 34mm x 120mm
- Material - Electrophoresis powder-coated aluminium (centre), silicone (grips)
Chilling rock specifications
- Dimensions (diameter): 30mm
- Material: food-safe titanium-coated 304-grade stainless steel, with liquid-gel core