After trying out a bunch of light roasts and "working hard" to get a good espresso out of them, I decided to take a different approach. At our local bean store I asked for the darkest, espresso-est espressobeans of all. We ended up with the Boot Mystery, which is by far the darkest bean I have ever ground up.
The manual espresso process sure is a lot easier with these beans. I had to tweak to get the best results, but both the too fine grind (encore setting 6 and 8) and the slightly too course grind (encore setting 10) both produced very drinkable results. As you can imagine, the sweetspot was at setting 9: This is what dark roasted espresso should taste like!
All of a sudden, a wealth of tastes come rushing in. A rich body, great looks (some of the first "contrasting colors" I've seen in the crema), loads to explore here. We found it a very smooth drink, with dark tones like wood, smoke, walnut and moka but with a soft side of butter, cream and liquorice.
Until we've found another dark roast that tastes even better, the Boot mystery gets our snobtastic recommendation!