Can a little sugar completely transform taste?

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#1: Post by »

Hello everyone :)

I stopped adding sugar to my tea & coffee for the last 2-3 years. My espresso is usually too strong for me to drink straight, so I either have it in an americano or a cappuccino; always with no sugar. I usually taste my shots before mixing with milk or water...for reference.

The other day, I made an americano, with a 1-day-old SM Monkey roast, and added less than half a teaspoon of sugar to the ~4.5oz cup. The sugar completely changed how the drink tasted. Instead of slight acidity and other "coffee tastes", I got something that's very fruity, no particular fruit comes to mind, just a very fruity coffee tastes, no acidity, nothing that resembles coffee, it was an amazing experience! The change in taste was so dramatic that I though it could be because I'm not used to how sugar tastes. A few days later, again with a 1-day-old SM Monkey roast, I make a similar cup & get the same outcome! I get my wife (who uses sugar daily) to taste it and she agrees with my comments above.

Can anyone please tell me what's going on here?

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#2: Post by kinkbmxco »

Americanos are what got me loving coffee, and I used to put sugar and creamer in a 16 oz. Now I usually drink 6-8 oz americanos or cappuccinos both without sugar and my americanos usually without creamer. I thought it would be interesting to add a little bit of sugar to my americano a couple months back... for me it totally ruined the drink. I don't remember how much sugar I added, it wasn't a lot, but all I could taste was the sweetness, needless to say it pretty much ruined the entire drink for me. When I add creamer to my americanos it definitely changes the taste though. It tames it down and gives it more of a smooth taste. I should experiment with little amounts of sugar and see what sort of results I get. I am no expert, nor do I claim to be, these are just my experiences, observations, and preferences...

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#3: Post by another_jim »

Sugar is a flavor enhancer that works via the very old parts of the mid brain. Your taste buds mainly exist to distinguish what'll kill you from what'll feed you. Highly bitter and acidic foods, i.e. coffee, create a warning to stay away, since there's a risk of being poisoned. It's hard for most people to actually catch any flavors when these alarm bells are going off in the brain. Sugar overrides these alarms, since as far as that part of brain is concerned, getting certain calories is more important than avoiding a low risk of being poisoned. As I said, a very old part of the brain, and formed in very lean times.
Jim Schulman

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#4: Post by aindfan »

My short answer: yes.

During my first visit to Mercury Dime (in Manhattan, NYC round 5th st. and 2nd ave) this summer, the barista suggested trying one packet of white sugar in the shot to bring out amazing great fruit flavors. We had one shot without the sugar, and one shot with the sugar. The shot with sugar had some VERY vivid fruits (can't recall what they are now) and was much more interesting than the shot without sugar. I was impressed that the two shots were completely different, rather than one shot simply being sweeter than the other.

(As an aside, if you want some delicious espresso on the lower east side and you want to see a Faema Legend in action, you should definitely stop by Mercury Dime. They're really serious about their coffee there, with a great espresso blend from Stephen Schulman at Dallis Brothers.)

EDIT: I think peach might have been one of the flavors in the sugar shot.
Dan Fainstein
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PSA: Have you descaled lately?

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#5: Post by (original poster) »

Thanks guys :)