Coffee-flavored coffee

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
josemolina
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#1: Post by josemolina »

Anyone reading this post likely understands that the flavors of coffees are extremely varied. There are hundreds of possibilities and experts have organized them for us into categories and illustrated them with graphics. If you look carefully at these systematic flavor catalogs, though, you'll notice that there's one surprising omission: the flavor called 'coffee'. Again, we all understand that coffee doesn't have a flavor. At the same time, we also all know that 'coffee' is a legitimate descriptor; it specifies the flavor of, say, coffee ice cream. Why don't sophisticated coffee people like us talk about the coffee flavor of coffee?

The point is that this flavor or its absence is an important characteristic of what we're drinking. In my own notes on beans I'm trying, I'll often say something like "powerful preserved fruit on a solid foundation of coffee" or, conversely, "fresh citrus acidity, thin mouthfeel, zero coffee flavor." Both of these beans might be excellent, but they're different, and a key aspect of the difference is the degree to which they're coffee flavored.

Opinions?

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Sal
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#2: Post by Sal »

It depends on how one defines the "coffee" flavor. It is safe to assume that in most cases when the term "coffee flavor" is used as a descriptive adjective of gustatory stimuli, the flavor profile is traditional "nutty", "cocoa", and "bitter" flavors and roast notes as well as some sugar caramelization flavors that are mostly the "brown" notes of the flavor wheel. Those are the prominent flavors found in classic and traditional cups of coffee. Certainly, many coffee drinkers prefer those flavor profiles, including myself.

I have found that the newer "third wave", "light roasted", and "fruit-forward" coffees put more emphasis on flavors other than those "traditional" notes. After exploring some newer "third wave", "light roasted", and "fruit-forward" coffees for a while, I concluded that I sincerely do not enjoy that high-acidity, light roast coffees no matter how high the SCA cupping scores were. For people like me, some roasters do push their craft roasted coffees labeled as "Coffee Coffee" (i.e. Coffees that taste like Coffee). Here is an example from George Howell Coffee.
I am a home-roaster, not a home-barista...

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another_jim
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#3: Post by another_jim »

josemolina wrote:At the same time, we also all know that 'coffee' is a legitimate descriptor; it specifies the flavor of, say, coffee ice cream. Why don't sophisticated coffee people like us talk about the coffee flavor of coffee?
At least one sophisticated coffee person, George Howell, has heard you. As you can see from the link, he is using coffee in his descriptive charts. It seems to be an indicator how conventional (lots of coffee flavor) or off-the-wall (not much coffee flavor) the coffee is.
Jim Schulman

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Jeff
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#4: Post by Jeff »

Many in other forums would argue that traditional "coffee" flavor is mainly roast, often nearly independent of the variety of cherry and its subsequent pre-roast processing. I grew up with coffee ice cream as a preferred treat. To me it tastes like the generic "lattes" popular in the US and very little like what I consider a good cup of coffee to provide. I've felt that way since I started drinking coffee from George Howell's Coffee Connection in the late 70s and discovered that good coffee doesn't need cream and sugar.

Commodity coffee is out there, billions of pounds of it that "tastes like coffee" delivered every year.

jpender
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#5: Post by jpender »

It would be interesting to find a minimum set of ingredients in roasted coffee that produces a "coffee" flavor. For that matter are there coffee substitutes that convincingly taste like roasted coffee? My guess is they just put coffee in coffee ice cream or coffee jelly beans or whatever.

Way back when, for poorly conceived health reasons, I drank Postum for a while. As I recall it's made from wheat and molasses and has only a vague similarity to coffee, like carob versus chocolate (I ate carob back then too, jeez). In fact that's a good example where the roasted flavors are up front but there is also a distinctiveness so that nobody confuses chocolate with other roasted products. Everybody (except many chocolate growers) knows what chocolate tastes like.

Without any roasting coffee probably wouldn't taste like coffee at all.

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another_jim
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#6: Post by another_jim »

The coffee taste does comes from roasting, and is in the background. It is both intantly recognizable, but does vary by roast level, from bread and grain flavors for light roasts through nuts, caramel, cocoa in ever darker roasts, to tobacco/creosote for very dark ones.

Howell's new charting method implies that the amount of roast you will taste is a property of the coffee, not the roasting style. In other words, a cofffee that shows diminished fruit and a lot of caramel at a medium roast will taste mostly nutty or grainy rather than fruity at lighter roasts. A fruit bomb coffee at lighter roasts will remain a fruit bomb at darker ones too. This has been my experience; so I like this charting method, and hope it catches on.
Jim Schulman

Pressino
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#7: Post by Pressino »

In the course of my day job I sometimes need to assess a person's ability to detect and identify odors. For that I purpose I have a few small vials of odiferous substances I use to test the sense of smell. These include essential oils like orange, peppermint, and fir. Freshly ground coffee can also be used and is easily identified by most people as "coffee."

My point is that although there are clearly many different and complex taste and aroma profiles of brewed coffee, there appears to be a general identifiable aroma that folks recognize as "coffee."

Maybe that's what the guys who make synthetic food flavorings will try to chemically emulate when they make and patent their "Coffee Flavor."

DaveC
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#8: Post by DaveC »

Coffee that has a predominant coffee taste....you have probably just defined the 5th wave of coffee. I can see it now..."Our coffee tastes of coffee"

drH
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#9: Post by drH »

I've had quite a few moments when I make an espresso or pour-over and I get this feeling of "this is very coffee flavored!"
When I look further I often find that there is robusta in the blend. That association of robusta with "real" coffee flavor is likely because I grew up with access to off-the-shelf supermarket blends. The robusta from specialty roasters is much better and fresher but still evokes that coffee character I remember.

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another_jim
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#10: Post by another_jim »

Pressino wrote:My point is that although there are clearly many different and complex taste and aroma profiles of brewed coffee, there appears to be a general identifiable aroma that folks recognize as "coffee."
Does not necessarily follow. Not everyhting I see as a "tree" looks the same; it's a question of complex patterns and lots of experience. I'll bet that there is no single aromatic chemical that underlies "floral" aromas. The same I think is true of coffee; all your test folks will identify grounds from all roast levels as "coffee," but this may be based on experience with lots of coffee smells, rather than there being a single coffee aromatic.

That being said, coffee essential oil, a mix of about ten chemicals, has a long history of being used to supply the classic coffee aroma. The oddest of these uses was adding a few drops to instant coffee so that the buyer got the smell of coffee on opening the jar, since there was no trace left of the smell in the actual product.
Jim Schulman