Help understanding what I'm tasting in Stumptown Hair Bender?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
Stearmandriver
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Joined: 1 year ago

#1: Post by Stearmandriver »

Hello all!

I've recently started down the road of trying to appreciate coffee more deeply, after enjoying it without thinking too hard about it for years ;). I've been trying different specialty coffees since I started making espresso at home, and I've dialed in a few that I really enjoy. But I'm trying to understand more about what I'm tasting, and I'm really curious about this particular coffee.

I've loved Stumptown espresso from their cafes for years, and now I like making it at home. Hair Bender always has a unique tasting note for me, whether in a drink from the cafe, from my home machine... Even in their bottled cold brew from the supermarket. I can't really decide how to describe this taste; sometimes I think it's roasty or earthy, other times I think it's more tangy.

I know taste is entirely subjective, but as this is a fairly unique thing that jumps out at me from this coffee, I'm assuming it's a dominant characteristic of this blend and so at least some of you can take a guess as to what I'm tasting.

Could someone tell me what it is? Is it rooted in an origin, a processing method, roasting method etc? I'd really like to seek more of it out but I don't know what I'm looking for.

Thanks!

Milligan
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#2: Post by Milligan »

Welcome to specialty coffee! It is an exciting experience to start tasting coffee more deliberately. There is so much to taste and try. I would recommend trying a lot of coffees and keeping a little journal. It doesn't have to be a SCA cupping protocol, but writing down notes about coffees seems to stimulate the learning and retention side of my brain more than just thinking about it. It is fun to circle back on coffees after a few months and see how the notes compare as well. I tend to like to make a pour over of a coffee to get the best flavor separation as possible. Espresso usually overwhelms my palate and one needs rather high end gear to approach the flavor separation of a pour over. Something to consider when trying to note specific flavors.

It takes time, experience, and hundreds of coffees/brews to develop even a minimal palate. There are some great coffee flavor wheels out there to start understanding the nomenclature surround coffee tasting. Article on the SCA Flavor Wheel. You have to purchase the SCA wheel, but there are alternatives. One can be found here. Start with the more general flavors in the middle and spread out as your palate develops.

Coffee is best tasted with friends and family. Having several people taste the coffee and share notes is a lot of fun. I'd also recommend a cupping course. Roasters/cafes in larger areas typically have low cost cupping courses that can quickly give you all the basics.

As for hairbender, it is hard for us to tell you what resonates with you in that specific coffee. I find that hairbender is more of an all-rounder with some chocolate, a bit of nice acidity, and a darker fruit undertone. It may just be that it is the first "good" coffee that you've had. Some other roasters to check out to get you started would be Black and White Roasters, Red Rooster, Onyx, Cimarron, Dragonfly, and Klatch. From there you can get more specific on what you like. Enjoy!

Stearmandriver (original poster)
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Joined: 1 year ago

#3: Post by Stearmandriver (original poster) »

Thanks for those thoughts. I've been thinking the same thing, that I really need to do a comparison tasting of several different coffees to really start figuring out differences. Searching about this, I found a James Hoffman video (of course ;) ) talking about cupping, a term I had not heard before. Guess I'll give it a go.

Messing around with the Hair Bender some more, I'm leaning towards thinking it's the acidity I'm tasting / noticing. I wouldn't have called it a citrus or fruity taste before, but after considering if this could be what it is, now I'm definitely noticing a citrus character to the taste. As I've typically favored darker roasts in the past, this may be why this blend seems so different. It might be as simple as I really like acidity in coffee and didn't know what it was before haha. I'll have to seek out some coffee types / brands that are supposed fruit / citrus "bombs" and see if I can find similarities...

Fun stuff! And if I'm totally wrong about this, worst thing is I drink more coffee. ;)

coyote-1
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#4: Post by coyote-1 »

Welcome to the dark side!

We all experience things differently. My own simple experience of HairBender espresso flavor: citrus notes, without anything that impacts me as acid. If that makes sense. The consistency in the cup seems slightly less dense than some of the other stuff I'm using.

Milligan
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#5: Post by Milligan »

Stearmandriver wrote:Thanks for those thoughts. I've been thinking the same thing, that I really need to do a comparison tasting of several different coffees to really start figuring out differences. Searching about this, I found a James Hoffman video (of course ;) ) talking about cupping, a term I had not heard before. Guess I'll give it a go.

Messing around with the Hair Bender some more, I'm leaning towards thinking it's the acidity I'm tasting / noticing. I wouldn't have called it a citrus or fruity taste before, but after considering if this could be what it is, now I'm definitely noticing a citrus character to the taste. As I've typically favored darker roasts in the past, this may be why this blend seems so different. It might be as simple as I really like acidity in coffee and didn't know what it was before haha. I'll have to seek out some coffee types / brands that are supposed fruit / citrus "bombs" and see if I can find similarities...

Fun stuff! And if I'm totally wrong about this, worst thing is I drink more coffee. ;)
If I had to bet, I'd think what surprises you is a combination of a bit of acidity and the a little of the fruit note. Hairbender doesn't have a huge fruit note, but it does have a bit. Nearly all coffee people drink has zero fruit note. You have to seek it out, so to say. Another that I find in the same category is Hologram by Counter Culture. Some grocery stores carry it. It works with berries and chocolate.

Do know that lighter roasts that focus on "fruit bombs" can be difficult to extract and require some special techniques otherwise you will only get a very sour shot.

Stearmandriver (original poster)
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Joined: 1 year ago

#6: Post by Stearmandriver (original poster) »

Thanks folks. I'll have to seek out some of these fruit bomb / high acidity coffees. Can anyone recommend one? I understand they will present challenges as espresso; I'm happy to brew them as a pour over or whatever works; just looking for a really obvious over the top example to be able to figure out if that's the flavors I'm talking about.

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Jake_G
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#7: Post by Jake_G »

Big truck and little buddy from Olympia are nice fruit and chocolate espresso blends that I enjoy.
LMWDP #704

Milligan
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#8: Post by Milligan »

Stearmandriver wrote:Thanks folks. I'll have to seek out some of these fruit bomb / high acidity coffees. Can anyone recommend one? I understand they will present challenges as espresso; I'm happy to brew them as a pour over or whatever works; just looking for a really obvious over the top example to be able to figure out if that's the flavors I'm talking about.
For some that are easier to extract, I'd look to Black and White. They have a blend called "The Future" that has a nice fruit note and uses a rotation of coffee to highlight different growing seasons. Nearly any of their single origins will be delightful. Look to their flavor descriptors and try to pick out a natural or anaerobic natural coffee for serious fruit tones. Black and White typically go to a medium-light range so they are easy to brew in my experience without needing to do anything fancy.

Bizmark
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#9: Post by Bizmark »

From my notes from Oct 2021 Hairbender was a mid-range medium light roast that required PI and a bloom stage followed by a relatively fast flow ending at 3.3g/s, all in 22s. The flavor was pretty much one dimensional: lime with a subdued lime zest, tart rather than sour. Since this is a blend it undoubtedly changes during the year and from year to year.

bored117
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#10: Post by bored117 »

Fruit bomb that comes to mind is klatch panama elida catuai natural. However this can be too much on that side for many.