N00b coffee taste questions

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

#1: Post by FSRichardson »

So I've been drinking and generally enjoying my Nespresso cappuccino's (well "aeroccinos" anyway) for a long time and I got the feeling I was missing out. I generally go for the "Italian" roasts which work really well in a cappuccino and occasionally I'll have a straight shot later in day always paired with some homemade semi sweet milk chocolate.

Stepping outside this comfort zone, I went to a local espresso place which has a very cool looking machine - I think it was a Mirage. I'm guessing the barista was pretty experienced, I got the feeling he had worked there for a while. I asked the barista what he recommended and he suggested I start with the house blend. He pulled a shot for me - I stirred it and took a sip.

The first thing that struck me was just how sour the flavor was. I mean a really up front sour flavor (I guess "acidic" is the right way to put it) and the finish was pretty bitter. I really tried to detect flavor notes between those two, but honestly I couldn't - they were probably in the background somewhere. I should mention that this coffee place definitely seems to focus on single origin light and medium roast coffees which I guess are kind of a new world for me.

So, my question is this: is this just my palette needing to adapt to these new flavor profiles of single origin light/medium roast beans or was there something wrong with the extraction? Should I be leaning into the dark roasts if I want to stay in my comfort zone? Or maybe the barista's pull was off in some way?



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#2: Post by OK31 replying to FSRichardson »

I'd I had to guess more than likely has to do with the light/medium roast single origin. It took me almost 4 years to realize that the flavors I was after weren't fruits but more nutty chocolate robust taste and have switched to more Italian roast. I can't stand sour and would take burnt bitter over sour. Stay in the zone you like unless this interests you. Just my 2 cents.

chanty 77

#3: Post by chanty 77 »

I would also say 'stay in the zone' you enjoy......but only after tasting other lighter, medium roasts. I know that after pretty much sticking with dark roasts---incorrectly thinking (at the beginning of my espresso years) that one could only use dark roasts for espresso & espresso drinks. Then I started getting tired of the more bitter, roasty flavored dark roasts & geared towards the medium roasts. Don't get me wrong--there are some lovely dark roasts out there. I found I love 99% of the medium over any darker due to I love the fruit with the other notes (chocolate, nuts, caramel, etc.) as long as the fruits are in the middle to background. The fruit gives the drink more excitement to me than just one level of flavor.

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#4: Post by jrcdzn »

FSRichardson wrote:Stepping outside this comfort zone, I went to a local espresso place which has a very cool looking machine
Is never a bad thing. Kudos to you!

I would say one shot from one particular place is only the start. I can't speak to the quality, nor could I guess if there was something wrong with the shot. I have personally pulled shots where everything seemed fine from an output perspective, and the shot was undrinkable. I would explore and find other coffee places in your area, maybe even go back to the one you mention, and see if they use other blends or even beans from other roasters. I do enjoy local places that are roasting their own beans and making drinks with their own product, the alternative is to look for places using roasters known to have a good product (Stumptown, La Colombe, Sightglass).

One trick I like is to have my espresso with sparkling water. This helps clear the palette before your first sip. Pairing it with dark chocolate is always nice. However, if I really want to understand the coffee and whatever it's going to present, I tend to stick to the water and the coffee. If I enjoy a particular pull, I may go back and then know what to pair it with: a fruit pastry, nice dark chocolate, or just straight up. I will say I have had some single-origin light to medium roasts that are deep, rich, and sweet.

In the end, it's your journey, and you will find the range you like. Your palette may adapt, or it may not. Nothing wrong with that it's your taste and you can't be wrong. That is the fun! Don't give up on the exploration, and don't give up on single origin and light to medium roasts just yet.

Good Luck.

FSRichardson (original poster)

#5: Post by FSRichardson (original poster) »

I really appreciate all the great advice here!

I just picked up a Picopresso and a 1zpresso J Max grinder. I plan on practicing with those on a few different coffees to see what I can manage to squeeze out of the beans. And there is at least one other coffee place near by I'll try out (the one I went to today has the house blend and another bean that changes daily).


#6: Post by iyayy »

just an opinion.

unless you have tasted a rich and not bitter coffee.. you probably wont have any idea what a balanced shot would mean. just like the term sweetness in coffee.. shots pulled without bitterness will make any flavor or sweetness more obvious.

similarly if you have never eaten squid and octopus, you probably would think they both should taste the same..

10yrs ago i tried gesha beans, and it wasnt anything special. more on sour side.
granted im also very inexperienced back then, and my grinder was lousy.
i dismiss grinder can actually improve much.. until i got one and using it on the same beans that im used to. since i am used to that coffee, the difference is immediately obvious, and by no means small.
im not sure i can say the same people who drink it one off, but i am very sure they would still enjoy the one from better grinder even without knowing or understanding difference in taste.

anyway i'll just say i have had gesha that taste very sweet. i put it in the fridge, and it was even sweeter and more berry'ish. and nowhere is there even a hint of unpleasantness and far away from bitter.. sour yes, but its minimal and more of those fruity kind of sweet sour, ie more raspberry than strawberry. sadly i only had 3 drips packs of it to enjoy, and i did somewhat messed one of them (a bit lacking, but still enjoyable)

take ur time, the jmax and pico can give you lots of experience, and hopefully you will one day get to taste that fruits. do a lot of salami shots, and experiment.

also try sourcing from different roasters.. i feel those are more important than the origins. i had some roasters with 3 types of different origin beans tasting very similar, and also another with 3 types of washed ethiopian with totally different tasting cups.

good luck.

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#7: Post by another_jim »

I've been into coffee for a very long time, starting with Yrgacheffes bought at Zabar's in 1975. In the last five years, the trend has been to lighter roasts; and while many roasters are very good at this, many others are awful. Two of the formerly best roasters in Chicago, for instance, now produce almost uniformly undrinkable coffee. Moreover, just as when dark roasts became fashionable in the 90s, and Starbucks took over with an awful roasting style that was instantly recognizable; so those roasters producing terrible light roasts that are instantly recognizable may succeed with people who are looking for "iconic," "signature" and other marketing BS.

So before you try the espresso, try the brewed coffee. Does it tastes like a teetotaler's toasted grain beverage? Does it taste like lemon peel and Angustora bitters? If it does, you are running into some fool's idea of an iconic signature roast, and need to avoid the place. If the brewed coffee tastes delicious; then try the shots. If they taste extreme, only then is it likely that you need to calibrate your taste.
Jim Schulman

FSRichardson (original poster)

#8: Post by FSRichardson (original poster) »

I really appreciate all this great advice.

I honestly was pretty surprised that I managed to get a decent shot in my 3rd try with the picopresso and j max. The roast recommended to me is actually quite good.

Two more beans just came in from Red Bird Coffee. I was surprised that the first one I tried doesn't appear to work well at the same grind setting I used for those first set of beans I tried. The extraction was difficult, like the grind was too fine. I actually liked the shot though - pretty strong in a good way. I'll have to keep experimenting with it.

Anyway all of this really blows away my Nespresso - even the failures are interesting (except for the one that jammed my pico...).

Oh yeah, I know I really need to do a tasting using a pour over. Watched a few videos of Hoffman doing just that.