Sweet Maria's Weblog

Taste Testing: Sweet as Sugar

 One of the most common types of flavor descriptors that we use are different types of sugars. The sweetness in the coffee can be the result of many things; the green coffee quality, the age or storage conditions of the coffee, the roast, the rest, or even the brew. We're not going to so much get into what leads to what type of sugar sweetness, but I wanted to speak to the differences in some of the sugar types that we use so that when you see them in a description you can have a better idea of what we're talking about. 

The sugar refining process is all about taking the raw material and taking as much of it away as possible through boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying until all that's left is sucrose. Refined white sugar can be 99% sucrose, and may have additives used as well to whiten it. Sugar in the Raw is not raw sugar at all. It's refined, but not as much as white table sugar and also hasn't been through a whitening process. Molasses is a liquid by-product of the sugar refining process, and in the case of brown sugars is added back to refined sugars to create a deeper flavor.

For this test, I looked at granulated sugar. I did caramelize some refined white sugar so I can speak a little on that, but I'm saving honey, syrup, and other sweetners of that nature for another test. I did however look at Molasses granules in this test. 

I tasted:

Refined White Sugar



Dark Brown Sugar

Molasses Granules

and Light and Dark Carmelized Refined White Sugar

Turbinado is produced in the first pressing of the sugar cane and is refined just through boiling and then cetrifuging in turbines. This sugar retains much more of it's molasses and can be used as a substitute for brown sugar but is distinctly different. Sucanat is a kosher sugar that is produced just from dehydrated sugar cane juice, with no refinement. This is a similar sugar to muscavado, panela, demerera, or jaggery which are all geographically specific sugars, but sucanat is actually a brand name. What was especially intersting was the difference between the sucanat and the molasses granules, which many sources identify as being the same, but from my understanding the granules I tasted were produced from dehydrated molasses, not pure cane juice.

What I tasted:

Refined white - Intensely sweet, but only on the tip of the tongue sweet, not long lasting. Only really sweet right at the point of contact. This kind of immediate sweetness without any lasting effect can be...

Two Reasons Why Sweet Maria's Coffee Rocks

Today, Maria got the troops together for a few minutes to congratulate Jose and Keli, whom have tirelessly helped us fulfill your orders for the past 9 years. Wow!...9 years! Thank you Keli and Jose! You guys rock!

Holiday Shipping Deadlines

Hello hello from Santa's Busy Workshop.  All the elves here getting a wee bit tired.... but the holiday is fast approaching!  To keep the stress level at a tolerable level, please keep in mind the following dates for Christmas delivery for UPS Ground and SM Shipping Special options. We will be  shipping air orders the next business day that the order is placed.

East Coast Coast (roughly Eastern Time zone states)  Order by Thursday Dec 13th
Midwest (Central Time zone) Order by Friday Dec 14th
Rockies (Mountain Time zone) Order by Sunday Dec 16th
West Coast (Pacific Time zone) Order by Dec 18th

If you have cut it too close, we also have gift certificates available.

Five new coffees

Costa Rica Hernan Solis Villa Sarchi with fresh cream, toasted sugar and loads of plum flavor.

Guatemala Puerte Verde Bourbon is a well structured cup with tartaric acidity and milk chocolate.

Nicaragua Maragogype Finca Los Angeles has weighty body, honey, chocolate cake, and walnut notes.

Kenya Nyeri AB Gaturiri a "big" coffee with blackberry, concord grape juice, and sweet lemonade tones.

Sumatra Lintong Dolok Sanggul has great rustic sweetness, fruit and chocolate flavors and black tea character. Enjoy this bounty of new offerings.

Why I Travel with an Aeropress

Water boils a little too easily at 3650 meters. That's where I am in the photo, after a rainy night at Chennak camp in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. Given the fact that any coffee would taste pretty bad brewed at low temeratures, the Aeropress did a pretty good job at making an decent cup.

I remember I was able to use the Aeropress make an acceptable, but not entirely delicious, cup of coffee with hot tap water direct in South America. Granted it was exceptionally hot water since as there was a 220v heater precariously perched inside the shower. And the fact that using any tap water in any coffee origin country is like playing Russian roulette with your gut health. But it was totally quaffable and far better than the fermented and foul coffee in the hotel restaurant.

In terms of convenience on the road, I have a grudging respect for Starbucks Via instant coffee because, given what you need  (a mug of hot water)  the resultsare pretty good. Those damn things are hideously expensive per cup though. And giving money to "big green" also has other costs, like besmirching some little part of your soul. On the flip side we have the rather annoying pour over craze.

Don't read that wrong. I love dripper brewing. I always have, and sold the rather cheap and simple stuff to do it for 15 years. But the latest frenzy in pour over risks getting it wrong while trying so hard to get it right. First there is the fact it takes something so simple and relegates it to a mechanical technique of overbearing "do's and don'ts". You must have this filter and that holder, made of the right material, with the proper kit now setting you back the price of 6 old melitta holders and 2 years supply of filters. My mom uses a plastic cone, chemex filters and a mason jar with hemp twine at the neck so you can handle it hot. It works. If she stopped roasting to 3rd crack it would taste a lot better. I know we sell fancy stuff and it costs more that it should. But in my heart I like basic and simple approaches.

These technique-dependent cones like the hario, with its gaping drain hole, require a curvy spouted watering can or you just can't regulate the flow. It takes a simple method and re-mystifies it, so much that the brew bar fad at coffee shops can make a simple and direct method into a professionalized and inaccessible spectacle. If you price out the grinders and scales and kettles and hot water towers that are being used to create this coffee performance, it's several thousand dollars minimum....