Is espresso not supposed to taste bitter? - Page 4

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
Howdy Mr

#31: Post by Howdy Mr » Feb 15, 2011, 1:39 pm

Earlier in this thread:
PeterG wrote:Bitterness is a flavor attribute found in all coffee, to some degree, along with acidity, sweetness, umami/savory, and lots and lots of aromatics.

Now then: coffee contains all of these bitter compounds and more. So bitterness is definitely a part of coffee's complex flavor. But, remember, coffee is complex: the bitterness may or may not be identifiable as a pronounced, forward flavor. When people say "this coffee is not bitter", they are saying that the bitterness has been balanced by the other tastes- sweetness, acidity, umami- even perhaps a touch of saltiness. Remember, chocolate, caramel, and many other foods also have bitterness as a component.
From my perspective, as a newbie, this was one of the most helpful insights I've been given regarding the taste of espresso. The complementary aspect of the flavors makes sense. My greatest inhibitor right now is lack of experience tasting such shots.

Technically, Dan's introduction to the naked shot, and the following linked pages, gave me more insight into coffee preparation than I ever knew. I've experienced a wonderful shift in my comprehension of what's taking place and how variables affect the cup. I'll definitely be rereading that gem.

My assessment of what I experienced was based primarily on what I learned from these pages. My assumption was that all were in agreement with Dan's postulations. Perhaps my assumption was presumptuous.

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howard seth

#32: Post by howard seth » Feb 15, 2011, 2:04 pm

The espresso bitters change dramatically when I home roast a bean blend to different roast levels: the bitter flavors at a 'lighter' roast, such as full city, will be enmeshed in a citrusy, fruity brightness, but the same blend roasted to a Vienna roast - will have a charcoal burnt 'dark' bitterness, with less, or no fruit bitters. The varying sensation of "bitter espresso" caused by just altering roast level is dramatic.

Howard
Howard Seth Miller

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aecletec

#33: Post by aecletec » Feb 16, 2011, 7:52 am

Spitz.me wrote:I'm not going to get into semantics or say much else other than that - SWEET in the espresso LORE is not the same sweetness someone WOULD expect.
Well, if you're happy to keep on stating absolutes in the face of contradicting tesmtimony, go for it.

I specifically ask specialty espresso neophytes (and not refined palates at all) what their previous experience with espresso is, they almost always say bitter and horrible.
When I take them to a reliable venue (not necessarily the best) and then ask them what they think... bitter never seems to comes up, even when I ask. The most negative thing I've heard is that the flavour is 'too intense/strong' and they'll describe it in the same sort of terms and ideas the more experienced do.
Perhaps I'm going to the wrong places? :roll:

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Spitz.me

#34: Post by Spitz.me » Feb 16, 2011, 9:10 am

That's because when they've had horrible espresso they've used the word bitter to describe the disgusting flavour in their mouth...because well... it is bitter and there are other horrible flavours surrounding it to accentuate the bad taste they're experiencing.

This is why I said I didn't want to get into semantics. People will use bitter to describe a BAD beverage if they consider the degree of bitterness they're experiencing to be bad. Espresso always has a bitter aspect to it, just because it's not the foremost flavour descriptor that you use in that instance, it doesn't mean the inherent bitters are gone, they've just been balanced nicely. As has been stated in this thread, different types of roasts, even preparation contribute to this on the grand scale.

You keep saying, essentially - It's NOT bitter, it's SWEET. Well, NOT bitter if what you mean is that it's a well-balanced tasting shot is a good description, but it doesn't lack it's bitter quality, it's just been balanced. I feel like we're hijacking this thread with this side argument and so I'm done with it.

I guess the use of the word in the topic can be seen in two different lights. Coffee is bitter, almost everything we do is to try to minimize the impact of the 'bitters' and to use them for good.

Am I wrong?
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.

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aecletec

#35: Post by aecletec » Feb 16, 2011, 9:14 am

Wrong? I thought you were done?
If my coffee doesn't have a bitter taste to it that I can detect then I don't call it bitter. That is how I roll.

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HB
Admin

#36: Post by HB » Feb 16, 2011, 9:16 am

Spitz.me wrote:I guess the use of the word in the topic can be seen in two different lights. Coffee is bitter, almost everything we do is to try to minimize the impact of the 'bitters' and to use them for good.
The term 'bitter' is frequently used to describe excessive bitterness. Lots of foods would be uninteresting without the contribution of bitter components. Chocolate, beer, and wine, just to name three obvious examples.
Dan Kehn

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Spitz.me

#37: Post by Spitz.me » Feb 16, 2011, 9:25 am

Thank you Dan. I was 'simply'? stating that bitter exists regardless of whether you say it's 'bitter'.

I don't know how that didn't get across...I'm pretty sure I made that point several times...
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.

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aecletec

#38: Post by aecletec » Feb 16, 2011, 9:29 am

So you're not done?
I acknowledged right at the start there are bitter flavour compounds in coffee... did you not read that?
If to your mind ALL coffee has bitter flavours then calling it bitter is not a useful adjective.
I cannot detect bitterness as an individual flavour (you know, 'taste', as in the topic of the discussion) in the espresso that I like. Therefore, to use the word as a useful discriminator, I don't call it bitter.
:roll:

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Spitz.me

#39: Post by Spitz.me » Feb 16, 2011, 9:34 am

OK captain :roll:
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.

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HB
Admin

#40: Post by HB » Feb 16, 2011, 10:13 am

aecletec wrote:I cannot detect bitterness as an individual flavour (you know, 'taste', as in the topic of the discussion) in the espresso that I like.
Indeed, sweetness/sourness/saltiness can mask the impact of bitterness; that's why the first and second round of the SCAA sensory skills test are easy for most while the last "mixed" round is significantly harder.

To put this in a concrete context, a vinaigrette has sweet and bitter components; a good chef deftly manipulates these contributors to produce a desirable balance. To have a more advanced discussion of flavor contributors in coffee, I distinguish between excessive bitterness and a desirable balance of sweetness/bitterness. It's true that the average Joe Coffee drinker doesn't make this distinction and simply uses 'bitter' as a shorthand for "I don't like it". That's certainly a valid way of describing their taste experience, but I don't find such broad descriptions useful.
Dan Kehn