Why do my cuppings taste inconsistent?

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
JosiahAnduril

#1: Post by JosiahAnduril »

Recently at our café we were noticing that some of our pourovers were tasting dull, so we began a deep dive into the variables that were going into our brewed coffee and trying to identify the source of the problem .
The issue mostly manifested itself as coffee tasting dull or flat. Not always weak, but often lacking the sparkle we usually enjoy.

The last two weeks have been almost entirely focused on water, but as I have cupped over 25 different waters recipes, and recupped the same waters again, I've realized that I'm still getting different results.

Any ideas? We've been doing our testing with both in-house roasted beans and beans from other roasters. Usually use a Stagg EKG for boiling water, BH cupping bowls, and an EK-43 with new MK burrs resharpened to pre-2015 geometry by SSP.

I'd love any ideas about what is causing the inconsistency. If I can provide any more data, let me know!

molimo140

#2: Post by molimo140 »

This is a total shot in the dark, but I think it may come down to palate. How we taste can be affected by so many factors outside of the actual sensory input itself. What we eat during the day, how hydrated we are, how much sleep we got, etc..

Speaking from outside the world of coffee - there are teas and whiskies that have tasted drastically different even a day apart from each other, with all the inputs being equal.

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Peppersass
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#3: Post by Peppersass »

What roast levels are you testing? Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Dark, Dark? What origin?

Lack of sparkle suggests less acidity, which could be related to lack of acidity in the beans, which would be more likely with Medium to Dark roasts, or over extraction, which is hard to do with Light and Medium-Light roasts.

The origin could be playing a role, too, perhaps in concert with the roast level. For example, light-roasted African coffees tend to be more acidic than darker-roasted SA coffees.

It's possible that you're grinding too fine for cupping, causing the grounds to over-extract. You might try grinding a lot coarser for cupping and see if that brings back the acidity on a consistent basis without producing sourness.

If you still get dull, flat coffee or inconsistent results with cupping, it could be that the long soak is over-extracting the coffee and masking the acidity. Then you might try going back to pourover and adjusting parameters to reduce the extraction, like grinding coarser, not blooming, pouring faster, lowering the temperature, etc. If small changes take you directly to sour, then my over-extraction theory is probably a dead-end. But if small changes increase acidity -- i.e., sparkle -- then extraction level may be the adjustment you need.

FWIW, I find that a refractometer can be a useful tool for troubleshooting problems like this. You can use one to help you get a handle on how the extraction level changes with different brew parameters, techniques, equipment, water, etc. It's too late now, but if you had taken baseline extraction yield measurements on your pourovers back when they had sparkle, and regularly re-measured, you might have been able to identify the specific cause of the reduced acidity when it happened -- e.g., a change in extraction level due to a change in water, a change in parameters/technique, a change in equipment (did the re-sharpened burrs have anything to do with it?), etc. The cost of a quality refractometer and software may be high for home baristas, but If I owned a cafe, I'd definitely use a refractometer on a regular basis.

DamianWarS
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#4: Post by DamianWarS »

JosiahAnduril wrote:Recently at our café we were noticing that some of our pourovers were tasting dull, so we began a deep dive into the variables that were going into our brewed coffee and trying to identify the source of the problem .
The issue mostly manifested itself as coffee tasting dull or flat. Not always weak, but often lacking the sparkle we usually enjoy.

The last two weeks have been almost entirely focused on water, but as I have cupped over 25 different waters recipes, and recupped the same waters again, I've realized that I'm still getting different results.

Any ideas? We've been doing our testing with both in-house roasted beans and beans from other roasters. Usually use a Stagg EKG for boiling water, BH cupping bowls, and an EK-43 with new MK burrs resharpened to pre-2015 geometry by SSP.

I'd love any ideas about what is causing the inconsistency. If I can provide any more data, let me know!
do you take any TDS readings to measure extraction yield? inconsistences would certainly be highlighted if the extraction is different which might help isolate the problem. If you don't I suggest adopting this practice to pair with your cuppings. Do you also cup with other people? I'm not questioning your sensory skills but similar to extraction the more people involve may help validate these differences more people also I think adds to the cupping experience. it's just collecting different kinds of data points on the coffee that will help you understand what's happening. also, I heard "new burrs" in there. Does that mean unseasoned burrs? my understanding is unseasoned burrs produce more fines which may be throwing everything. even if they are seasoned maybe you want to cup some different grind settings and to see if one stands out with the sparkle you're looking for.