Is body the enemy of clarity? - Page 5

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
Intrepid510

#41: Post by Intrepid510 » May 23, 2013, 12:38 pm

Hmm, interesting points brought up by a number of people. It's a tough question.

I have had very distinctive CCD brews at Modern Coffee in Oakland, CA, which are great examples of coffee with that full richness of body yet where I can taste the unique qualities of that bean.

However, I have quite a few V60 cups at home and away that end up a generic under-extracted taste to which I feel like I could be drinking anything.

....

I am going to have to disagree with the question for the above points. If a coffee is made properly with the proper equipment and technique I do not believe you are going to lose the unique qualities of a coffee. The problem is specific methods are more prone to swing one way or the other, i.e. under-extraction, over extraction etc. More problematic to me is a coffee might prefer one method over another to highlight itself properly.

Also, people seem to equate thin = clarity.

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Eastsideloco
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#42: Post by Eastsideloco » May 24, 2013, 4:17 pm

I've done some follow up tests using Jim's hybrid approach: coarse grind, 4 minute immersion brewing, decant through paper filter. The second round of testing was to try a Scandinavian roasted coffee next to a more traditional roast from TONX. For the side-by-side tasting I adapted my previous method to single servings by performing the immersion step in a 2-cup Bodum press. Here are some photos of Test #2:

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(TONX Ethiopian on left; Heart Colombian on right.)

While both cups had good body, they didn't have good clarity of taste in spite of the fact that they had good visual clarity. They both tasted a little too much like tea, especially the Scandinavian roast from Heart.

Of course, in some cases that may be just what you are looking for. For example, Jim mentioned his coffee and food pairing from a Chicago get together:
Those were ultralight roasts, done on a PIDed airroaster, taken to the early first crack, stalled for ninety seconds at 400F, and dumped. They were designed to sparkle, but not to overwhelm the food. I think their distinctive wine or tea like taste had more to do with this roasting method than with the brewing method.
For the third round of testing, I decided to tighten the coarse grind setting just a bit and expose more surface area to water, and then do my traditional pourover preparation along side the hybrid. These results were very promising. The hybrid brewed cup was a consensus favorite. Tightening up the grind brought more clarity to the cup, without the bitter flavors present in the pourover. (Interestingly, I drank the pourover after it had cooled, and it was noticeably sweeter.) Here are photos from Test 3:

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(Pourover on left; hybrid cup on right.)

Photos from all 3 tests are here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/organize/? ... 3544315744

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another_jim
Team HB

#43: Post by another_jim » May 24, 2013, 5:28 pm

:? Maybe I'm getting this wrong

If you accept that clarity is about tasting the distinctiveness of the coffee; then habit will enter into it.

By this definition, a brewing method is clearer to you if you can pass a triangle test with it, whereas you fail the same test with the same coffees using some other brewing method. Now, if you are used to roasty flavors, but not tea like flavors, a very light roast and coarse ground brew of the same coffee, which is tea like, might be indistinct compared to a darker roast and finer ground brew which is more roasty.

People who cup get completely habituated to judging coffees that have been roasted light, ground coarse and steeped for four minutes. My own negative reaction to fine grind methods may have to do with that. In this case, confirming this preference by talking to other people who also cup coffee is not quite as objective as I thought.

The best tasters will be those who cup a lot of coffee. But that may be entirely due to their experience and inclination; and not to any inherently greater clarity of the institutionalized roasting and brew methods they use. My feeling was always that the roasting and brewing methods used by professional tasters would converge on something that is objectively most clear, simply as a matter of trial and error. This is true in the long run. But professional high end cupping is about eighty years old, and less than thirty years as a publicly discussed activity (rather than a trade secret); so there may still be a lot of room for improvement.
Jim Schulman

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Eastsideloco
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#44: Post by Eastsideloco » May 24, 2013, 6:35 pm

Yes, I see what you are saying. No doubt there is a clarity to the cups that taste like tea (to me) that I am missing. A softer water might help. (I'm using filtered local tap water, which tastes fine. But we're atop a limestone aquifer.) Mostly, I just need to find the ideal dose and grind.

Unless you're used to drinking a Scandinavian roast, you will always be accustomed to some roasty flavors in the cup. Heck, the cuppings I've been to even used commercially roasted coffees. So, yes, I'm not at all accustomed to tasting some of these subtle flavors and don't really have a vocabulary for them. But it is also true that cupping light coffees has a different end goal in mind than brewing coffee for drinking.

Fortunately, I'm on a wait list to take a brewing fundamentals class with a member of the Barista Guild this summer, which will help me put words to flavors and some science behind my observations. At the very least, my mental "reference cup of coffee" is a more complex now. I'm retuning my taste buds.

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endlesscycles

#45: Post by endlesscycles » May 25, 2013, 9:39 am

Proposed test for clarity of brew methods:

One coffee, varied brew methods, two water formulations, triangle taste single brew method at a time.

A second round could be had by making a third water formulation that is equal parts of the two, and so on.
-Marshall Hance
Asheville, NC

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Eastsideloco
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#46: Post by Eastsideloco » May 25, 2013, 12:35 pm

I'm sure you're right, but that's mostly Greek to me. I've read about triangle taste tests, but have no experience with them.

What I do have experience with are A versus B tests, just like the optometrist does when dialing in a prescription. And what I like about Jim's hybrid brewing method is that you can actually change one variable at a time without unintentionally changing other parameters, like draw down time. Using the hybrid "recipe" that tasted best yesterday as I reference cup, I brewed two cups today each with one variable changed. For Cup 1, I increased the coffee dose to 25 g, resulting in a ratio of 12:1 instead of 14:1, but kept the grind the same. For Cup 2, I decreased the grind size, but stuck with the 14:1 ratio.

While the results of the personal preference test were mixed—I preferred Cup 1 (more body) and my wife preferred Cup 2 (more acidity)—even I can pinpoint the difference that changing each variable makes in the cup when using this brew method

Anvan

#47: Post by Anvan » May 25, 2013, 1:51 pm

another_jim wrote:...My feeling was always that the roasting and brewing methods used by professional tasters would converge on something that is objectively most clear, simply as a matter of trial and error.
Assuming the task of the professional cupper is to describe and characterize, and clarity would be essential to such precise explication and differentiation, cuppers' roasting and brewing methods would have evolved to optimize such clarity. But that wouldn't dictate that a cupper's brew would be the most satisfying to drink. It might provide great beauty of an academic sort, appreciated by professionals attuned to such distinctions, but lacking the full (I would say hedonistic, but not in a perjorative sense) spectrum of favors, balance, richness or texture.

So it's interesting to think how habituation to an analytic style could cause one to actually prefer it. The cupping process indicates what the coffee can become, much like a wine professional tastes year-old claret out of a cask, predicting what it will be in 20 years. I wonder if they, too, come to enjoy these raw samples to the same extent as the full and mature product.

Perhaps this is not unlike a Mahler symphony transcribed for a small chamber orchestra. The architecture, line, melody and fundamental harmony might be beautifully presented with sunlight clarity, but absent the grand sweep and power that is that music's true and inherent nature, and how it was composed to be heard.

Then again, some coffees are "written" like a Mozart quartet, and the cuppers' treatment can yield perfection.

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endlesscycles

#48: Post by endlesscycles » May 25, 2013, 2:37 pm

In my opinion, the convergence on cupping was towards convenience, not clarity.
Roasting on the other hand, I do believe to have been towards clarity.

"The sample should be roasted within 24 hours of cupping and allowed to rest for at least
8 hours.
Roast profile should be a light to light-medium roast, measured via the M- Basic
(Gourmet) Agtron scale of approximately 58 on whole bean and 63 on ground, +/- 1
point (55-60 on the standard scale or Agtron/SCAA Roast tile #55).
The roast should be completed in no less than 8 minutes and no more than 12 minutes.
Scorching or tipping should not be apparent.
Sample should be immediately air-cooled (no water quenching)." -SCAA Cupping Protocols
-Marshall Hance
Asheville, NC

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Eastsideloco
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#49: Post by Eastsideloco » Jun 02, 2013, 12:15 pm

The chalk drawing that Marshall referred to in his original post is basically copied (lovingly, I'm sure) from Figure 4 (p. 11) of Scott Rao's book Everything But Espresso.

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And Rao's spectrum of flavor clarity versus body makes sense on its own terms. He draws a direct correlation between insoluble materials (fines and oils) and body. Therefore, Turkish preparation, French Press and Cafe Solo and so on will have the most body by virtue of the fact that they have the most insoluble materials in the cup. Filtered coffee will have more flavor clarity, and that clarity will be proportional to the filter medium (metal ---> cloth ---> paper).

But in my VERY LIMITED experience with cupping, where all of the coffees are rich with insoluble materials, I've heard the term body used differently, perhaps incorrectly. For example, the buyer for a local shop (with award-winning baristas) described an unwashed Ethiopian as having more body than a honeyed Honduran and a washed Costa Rican (or similar). While this made sense at the time, given the way that the natural flavors of the Ethiopian filled one's mouth, it makes me wonder if I misunderstood what body in coffee even means.

Are the terms body and clarity even relevant to coffee cupping? If so, do they have a different meaning in this context? Similarly, if you brew two different coffees via French Press or via Chemex does it even make sense to talk about the relative body or clarity of the coffee in the cup? In other words, is body or clarity simply a function of the brew method? Is it also intrinsic to the coffee in some way? Is it ever a result of the barista?

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another_jim
Team HB

#50: Post by another_jim » Jun 02, 2013, 12:23 pm

Eastsideloco wrote:But in my VERY LIMITED experience with cupping, where all of the coffees are rich with insoluble materials, I've heard the term body used differently, perhaps incorrectly. For example, the buyer for a local shop (with award-winning baristas) described an unwashed Ethiopian as having more body than a honeyed Honduran and a washed Costa Rican (or similar). While this made sense at the time, given the way that the natural flavors of the Ethiopian filled one's mouth, it makes me wonder if I misunderstood what body in coffee even means.
Body is the way the coffee coats the tongue, with low body is like water, high body like milk. Scott equating this with suspended solids is a simple hypothesis about the cause of body. IMO, it's a little too simple.
Jim Schulman