Sweet Maria's Weblog
Last Friday, Oct 26th, I participated in a brewing event at the SCAA headquarters in Long Beach, CA. There were 7 stations/brew methods and 2 coffees. The coffees were a Costa Rica from the Helsar mill roasted by Verve Coffee Roasters and a Washed Ethiopia Yukro from Portola Coffee lab. The brew methods were: Chemex with Able Kone filter, Press Pot, Aeropress with paper filter, Hario V60, Clever, Fetco batch brewer, and Espresso. The discussion was less about a straight up comparisson of the brewing methods, but rather was centered around the sweetness of a coffee and how the different brew methods delivered the sweetness of the coffee. The people working each station also talked about the pro and cons of each method and what was necessary to brew well with them at home, excluding the larger batch brewer and espresso machine.
For me personally, I felt that for the Costa Rica that the Fetco batch brewer really did the best job of showing the sweetness of that coffee. For the Ethiopia, I was very pleasantly surprised at the brew in the press pot! The press pot has been getting poo-poo'd quite a bit these days in specialty coffee circles, very unfairly if you ask me. The common misconception is that you can't brew a "brighter" coffee with the device, that it will become much too aggresively acidic. In this brew there was tons of the honey-suckle floral notes of this coffee present, and a really lovely and long finishing sweetness. If anything, I found this brew to be the most balanced of the set except for one other method.
The Clever dripper was most everyones' favorite brew out of all of the methods for both coffees. Most people also found that the Clever brew was also the sweetest iteration of both coffees. I mention this because there were a handful of folks who's favorite wasn't what they considered to be the sweetest cup.
During the discussion following the tasting there was really just a little bit of talk about comparing one method to the other, outside of talking about what the favorite cup was. The conversation that was more actively participated in was about the moods of the different methods. This was really interesting, with the Chemex having a social mood, and the Aeropress was both technical yet playful at the same time. We also compared methods to different shoe styles, with the Clever being a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors, the Fetco being a steel toed work boot, and the Aeropress being those sort of creepy toe shoes!
These kind of conversations can be really fun...
There are a number of flavors that can found in a cup of coffee. Read the coffee reviews on this site and you'll see the mention of various types of nut, fruit, cookie/biscuit, etc. etc. These flavors are the result of the presense of organic acids and compounds and certain chemical and physical changes that happen during growing, harvesting, processing, and roasting.
One of the best ways to teach yourself to be able to discern these various flavors is to sit down to some very purposeful tastings where you can compare and document the differences and similarities between 3 or more types of nut, or apples to oranges to apricots, or even apples of different varieties.
Today I am going to start a regular blog feature where I will do some of these tests and document my findings. I'll look at 3 or more items and compare their sweetness, fattiness/mouthfeel, and acidity or astringency. I'll also talk about some other foods where these similar flavor descriptors might be found, and list some coffees that have those flavor attributes. I encourage everyone to mimic these tests and/or to do their own and pretty please post their findings over in the Sweet maria's Forum.
There's some greater detail about learning to taste in the Teaching to Taste article in the Sweet Maria's Library, found here - www.sweetmarias.com/library/node/2931
Todays tasting will be: Almonds, Peanuts, & Walnuts
I've chosen 3 types of nut/legume, roasted and NOT salted. Nuts/Legumes are astringent foods, and when used as a descriptor in another product is usually accompanied by a dry or astringent mouthfeel.
- Almond: sweetest out of the 3, a bit of fattiness and dryness in the aftertaste, but in tasting the familiar almond flavor it's hard not to think about cakes. There is a liquor-like quality to the sweetness that isn't as pronounced in the other 2 nuts here. There's more flavor throughout the palate as well. The Java Sunda Pitaloka has some toasted almond notes at most roast levels from City through Full City: www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.indonesia.java.php
- Peanut: This is the fattiest of the 3 with a creamy mouthfeel and long lasting aftertastes. There is a sugary sweetness underneath all the fattiness, more sugary than liquor-like. One thing that the fattiness really counters is the dryness. There is a much less bittering dryness in the peanut compared to the other 2 nuts....
Costa Rica Finca Salaca Las Brisas has crisp red apple and white grape notes along with creamy body and baker's chocolate finish.
Nicaragua Acopio Suyatal has semi-sweet chocolate malt, concord grape, ginger spice and caramel biscuit notes.
Ethiopia Bedele Sota Cooperative with beautiful effervescence, date, raisin, prune and supple mouthfeel.
Kenya Nyeri AA Ngunguru with black currant, rindy citrus, white grapefruit, pungent spices; complex yet articulate acidity.