This post is a little more technical than usual, so apologies to my readers looking for an easy read. More of those to come soon.
My new friend Paul Dow from Octane Coffee in Atlanta was kind enough to take one of my coffees through the ringer and give me feedback. What stood out to me (other than his expansive tasting vocabulary) were the variations on the tasting notes. Specifically the notes of: “heavy body, light acidity, notes of bourbon, tobacco, caramel, roasted walnut, barbecue sauce” at one brew parameter, to: “Difficulty discerning flavors” at another. Now, no TDS measurements were taken, but I have a feeling that the extraction rate wasn’t loads off. So what made the coffee go from singing at the opera to a muffled telephone conversation?
It helped steer thoughts I had been trying to specify as I was preparing for our upcoming Roaster’s Table event, as well as the Oly vs. ATL Brew battle I’m participating in this Sunday. I had been working diligently on a particular method and finally gotten it right where I was happy. I then tried the exact same method, dose, grind, brew with a different coffee and . . . it was awful. I mean, terrible. What was the huge difference? What made that method work for that coffee and not for the other?
I’ve stumbled across thoughts like these before. Each coffee has its own brewing parameters that work best for it. But why? Is it bean density? Roast level? Processing? Probably all of the above.
There are actually two main questions above that I’ve managed to garble, so let me try again one at a time.
1. While there are multiple ways of achieving proper brewed extraction levels of a coffee (differing grind, steep times, water amounts, stirring or not), how does one determine which one is best? And what makes it best? Is it simply because it tastes better, or is there a specific reason?
2. What beans characteristics are most important when considering brew parameters? Does a specific varietal simply indicate a generalized flavor characteristic, or should I consider the varietal when I’m setting brew parameters?
All thoughts and ideas are welcome. Coffee is so fun. Peace.