The obsession with sweet espresso - a dogma in the making - Page 2

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another_jim
Team HB

#11: Post by another_jim »

SL28ave wrote:We actually cupped new samples of DP Yirg (highly recommended by the importer) and Washed Yirg today.

You could smell the "strawberry" of the DP from 10 feet away (from ferment, no question). This coffee had nothing to do with the elusive Yirgacheffe profile I'm after. (the descriptors of the other cuppers were used fairly negatively: cow manure, spoiled fruit, mushrooms).... that's at least how it showed on our table today.

One washed sample was amazing. A strong perfume and apricot (along the lines of Panama Esmeralda on a good day, but also subtley different). The big question is how to get it into the US without losing its uniqueness, which is a consistent question with Ethiopia. I'll be praying!
You must have had the "tastes like Harar" samples that Fortune cupped. Of course, since your description of every single DP coffee you've ever mentioned is the same; it's hard to tell. Be assured, the samples I'm taliking about taste exactly what one would expect a properly processed dp yrg to taste like. Bob Yelling tells me some of the ecafe DP Sidamos were even better.

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malachi

#12: Post by malachi »

SL28ave wrote:IMO, even the sweetest coffees aren't sweet in any substantial "sugary" sense. The sweetest coffees have some sweetness and this sweetness stems mainly from the beans at least being all ripe.
Some would argue it is mostly the result of processing.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

SL28ave

#13: Post by SL28ave »

PeterG wrote:Espresso blends are growing more complex, too. Ever tried Stumptown's Hairbender? It has a beautiful acidity to it, layered on top of a basic, fully ripe sweetness.
I'm verging somewhat off-topic, but:
I tried the Hairbender at Coffeefest too. Man it was good! The group I was tasting it with (some random baristas from across the US) had hesitations, which I think had to do with their preconceived notions of how espresso should taste.... integrated with what they're used to.... the far-from-dark roasted, ripe profile isn't activating those "lizard brain lights" enough, and I don't know what specifically to blame..... All I can do is carefully promote what I've carefully come to love. And I promoted the Hairbender that day.
another_jim wrote: You must have had the "tastes like Harar" samples that Fortune cupped. Of course, since your description of every single DP coffee you've ever mentioned is the same; it's hard to tell. Be assured, the samples I'm taliking about taste exactly what one would expect a properly processed dp yrg to taste like. Bob Yelling tells me some of the ecafe DP Sidamos were even better.
Of course I'd love to cup that DP Yirg you're speaking of.

In the past my opinions have been very different than others after tasting the exact same samples, which has happened to often correspond with the samples being DP. I think we all can admit that Yirgacheffe's coffees will be somewhat contentious. I was actually daydreaming yesterday of having a 10-year non-stop symposium at Yirgacheffe, with all coffee-lovers attending.... but I think we're stuck with some contention, at least for now :)

At least we all can admit we love Yirgacheffe coffees!

BTW, I have liked some DP coffees, though from halfway around the globe. Our Daterras are somewhere between DP and pulped natural, with some full naturals blended in. I've had late harvest Fazenda Cachoeras that were liquid honey. But these are perhaps different flavor profiles all together. If you can place any value on this at all: the closest Daterra flavor profile I've had to many "renowned" East African DPs is the "lowest quality" strip picked Daterra, where extreme fermentation is unavoidable.

I think we're both from the planet Earth, though we each sometimes think the other is from Mars. But I value your opinion very much. We need to keep tasting, tasting, tasting. :)
malachi wrote: Some would argue it is mostly the result of processing.
If you feel like the argument(s) is strong, I'd LOVE to hear it. I just don't know yet what value to put on processing or specific aspects of processing. But I think we can agree that ripeness is a prerequisite for sweetness (thus "stemming mainly", I suppose).

My educated guess is that the majority of "sugars" that migrate to the seed during DP are non-sweet starches. I can't say what the reasons are for how much sweetness, or perceived sweetness, makes it (or doesn't make it, or is masked) into the cup. I really doubt enough careful research has been done on the topic.

Side note: I have no qualms with the sweetness produced by the best washed Kenyas, Yirgs, Colombias, Guats etc.



My thought of the week: I think we ALL need to be careful. Are some looking for the DP or are some looking for a mutation of "strawberry-blueberry" mixed with a totally new kind of palate attack? Just food for thought.... which in other words is an "extreme fermentation".... mix that with some random coffee age..... a medium-dark roast..... mixed sometimes with a slight Yirgacheffe perfume, though usually lacking it....a new Yemen, all over again (you can say I'm generalizing), just with a better backbone...... but little to do with what I'm personally pursuing or the elusive profile that made Yirgacheffe so famous to begin with. I think it would be naive not to think that this concept (a new kind of instant gratification in the cup) could *potentially* hurt - if not erase - the specific perfume, apricot, ginger profile that's already there making some lots of Yirgacheffe so special. Thus the contention :?

I'll take my foot out of my mouth now, so I can at least taste all these coffees some more :)
"Few, but ripe." -Carl Friedrich Gauss

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mrgnomer

#14: Post by mrgnomer »

Abe Carmeli wrote:I think that reading Robusta's Rehab was the last straw for me. Sweet espresso has become so synonymous with the most desirable attribute in the small cup that it is now on the verge of becoming a dogma. This notion is very American to begin with and in the espresso space, it raises eyebrows in most of the world where espresso is consumed sweetened.

If you spent a week roasting and blending coffee you are probably able to figure out that to get sweet espresso, you may need to exclude many good coffees, and more often than not end up with a boring cup. I often feel all dressed up and nowhere to go when blending for sweetness. That inexplicable fear of adding ¼ teaspoon of sugar to your cup is beyond me. Think about this: Would you give up dark chocolate just because a little sugar was added to it? For my palate, most chocolates with less than 70% cocoa are no more than brown goo. It is the intensity of flavors fused with a relatively small quantity of sugar that transforms it. Lindt's 70% cocoa dark chocolate is a good example.

Yes I know, there are great sweet espressos out there; but I can count those on one hand and still have two free fingers to flip the bird. There could be many more great blends, if only adding a little sugar were not a Federal crime. Holding up sweetness on such a podium has a chilling effect on the development of espresso. Roasters are going after it because we are, and together, we are drawing the boundaries of our own development.
Ha! That's so interesting for you to say all that.

I'm no professional roaster and all I've got is an I Roast popper but I've been trying to roast/blend those elusive, you don't need sugar for the shot, sweet espressos.

I've hit a few times in the last months blends that could stand on their own if pulled just right. Otherwise most of the blends pull strong and need some sugar.

As of late adding sugar to a shot is something I'm not just conceeding to but I think is necessary for just the reason you stated. Right on! I'm with you. A strong blend with lots of character tastes better to me with some sugar.

Tsiros

#15: Post by Tsiros »

I have noticed that most people add small amounts of sugar to drinks that are naturally bitter. Chocolate, cocoa, coffee, tea, whatever... Adding a small amount of sugar as to help "bring out" the flavour is, of course, logical. All the original flavour is unspoiled and the bitterness, which to some people "gets in the way", is reduced.

But some people add spoonfuls of sugar to, for example, their chocolate drink. Not one spoonful, we're talking about 3-4...

Why do they order chocolate, if what they actually wanted is warm colored water with sugar?

It's like driving a Lamborghini and never switch to 2nd... like buying an ice cream and warming it in the microwave oven... Oh well... i have come to the conclusion that all the parallelisms in the world won't convince these people to even give it a shot... They are not freeminded. They are prisoners of their own fears.

Is it fair if i judge the mental capacity of people using these thoughts as a guide? Personally i am in favour of the opinion that all men have exactly the same cognitive/mental ability (otherwise, some people would be considered "better" than others, which is, by definition, racist) but sometimes this opinion of mine is mercifully attacked by the reality around me :/

I'm rambling, i should go to bed...

The_Mighty_Bean

#16: Post by The_Mighty_Bean »

another_jim wrote:I think of it like adding sugar to a dry wine.
Great thread and fascinating posts. I especially agreed with Jim and the Peters, G and L.


I find that sugar does not do a good job of sweetening espresso, even when pulled a la Cubano. It adds a sort of sweetness that, to my palate, does not integrate with the rest of the flavors. If the espresso was offputtingly bitter to begin with, then it will still have an offputtingly bitter finish, as soon as the sugar has passed off the front of the tongue. Only substances like milk or chicory are actually good at mellowing objectionable bitterness, as opposed to temporarily masking it.

So I think sugar in the cup is a very rough camouflage. It is okay when you just want to throw down your morning caffe while standing at the bar in Italy, before heading off to work. But that's like the morning cuppa joe is to your average American. It's fast, strong, and sweetened. The best part of wakin' up is Folger's in your cup!

IMHO, the quick-and-dirty fix of adding sugar does not belong in a third-wave discussion of well-integrated, artisan-quality beverages. All due respect to Abe.

Undoubtedly, pure espresso is for lovers of the bittersweet. "Hershey" palates, like those of my wife and nearly all of my friends, find near-perfect pulls to be horribly "bitter". If you can't appreciate chocolates like Amedei, Domori, Cluizel, Lindt 70% and up, then you're gonna be drinking milk drinks, probably sweetened.

I enjoy bittersweet flavors and have cultivated my palate to the point where I can appreciate and analyze chocolate bars at 100% strength. There, the bitters are more pronounced than in espresso. I find these chocolates interesting- the aromatics can be fascinating and the mouthfeel reveals the true nature and quality of the cacao. I love to nibble them from time to time. That is a certain form of enjoyment. But I sure don't want it all the time. It's bitter! Baby palate goes "yecch", lizard brain goes "Me want SWEET".

But man, when I hit the bar of Bonnat or Amedei Chuao at 75%... it's heaven. The balanced sweetness brings out flavors and complexities, the birds sing, the earth moves.... It's a godshot in a bar. It's so rich and flavorful that, like espresso, you only want a small serving size. And it is eminently satisfying. And it is teling that they choose to set the bar at 75%, not 85 or 90.

Parenthetically, I remember reading somewhere that M&Ms are specifically formulated to be just sweet enough that you keep wanting more and more and more of them without feeling like they've gotten cloying.

So, back to coffee,

Most "third-wave" espressos from reputable shops like Murky Coffee in D.C. or Spro in Baltimore have a subtle sweetness that approximates a chocolate bar at 80-90% strength. It's still too bitter not sweet enough to fully hit the palate's pleasure centers (a profoundly unscientific statement but read on) It's more bitter less sweet than just about all of the chocolates considered to be among the world's best. See http://www.seventypercent.com, where they talk chocolate the way we talk espresso..

When I think "godshot", I think of the shot that retains all of its exceptional complexity and balance, but takes the sweetness just one subtle notch up. Just enough to where your brain moves from "interesting and tasty aromatic beverage" to "ohmigawd Yum!"

It's hardly scientific. I would suspect that the amount of "sweetness" necessary (perhaps measurable in brix?) varies in proportion to the other flavors and aromas in the cup.

And hopefully finding this holy grail of sweetness in the bean does not have to come at the expense of aromatic complexity. The two should work symbiotically. I'm sure their are some blends which need to be aromatic and not sweet, and are brilliant. There's a place for them. But by all means, I think the quest for sweetness, through temp control and careful sourcing, is a very desirable path to explore.

Remember Schomer. It's gotta taste as good as it smells. By that standard, aromatics alone don't cut it.

Because, truth be told, coffee smells sweet!

~tMb

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RogerB

#17: Post by RogerB »

Abe Carmeli wrote: Sweet espresso has become so synonymous with the most desirable attribute in the small cup that it is now on the verge of becoming a dogma. This notion is very American to begin with and in the espresso space, it raises eyebrows in most of the world where espresso is consumed sweetened.

If you spent a week roasting and blending coffee you are probably able to figure out that to get sweet espresso, you may need to exclude many good coffees, and more often than not end up with a boring cup. I often feel all dressed up and nowhere to go when blending for sweetness. That inexplicable fear of adding ¼ teaspoon of sugar to your cup is beyond me. Think about this: Would you give up dark chocolate just because a little sugar was added to it? For my palate, most chocolates with less than 70% cocoa are no more than brown goo. It is the intensity of flavors fused with a relatively small quantity of sugar that transforms it. Lindt's 70% cocoa dark chocolate is a good example.

Yes I know, there are great sweet espressos out there; but I can count those on one hand and still have two free fingers to flip the bird. There could be many more great blends, if only adding a little sugar were not a Federal crime. Holding up sweetness on such a podium has a chilling effect on the development of espresso. Roasters are going after it because we are, and together, we are drawing the boundaries of our own development.
AMEN!

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welone

#18: Post by welone »

I second johns comments from another thread. here
RapidCoffee wrote:The Nectar was not roasted for espresso, but was the most interesting coffee: a rich tangerine bomb, quite tasty with a half teaspoon of sugar, but much too sour when sampled straight.
I had quite similar experiences with coffees that tasted bright/sour (through all the temps, doses and flow rates I tried). the addition of a little sugar brought out a whole range of pleasant flavours I couldn't detect before. and as I'm very limited in the range of good espresso roast's I can get locally (within a 3 days) this is an even more valuable effect to me.

The_Mighty_Bean

#19: Post by The_Mighty_Bean »

The_Mighty_Bean wrote:IMHO, the quick-and-dirty fix of adding sugar does not belong in a third-wave discussion of well-integrated, artisan-quality beverages. All due respect to Abe.
welone wrote:I second johns comments from another thread. here

I had quite similar experiences with coffees that tasted bright/sour (through all the temps, doses and flow rates I tried). the addition of a little sugar brought out a whole range of pleasant flavours I couldn't detect before. and as I'm very limited in the range of good espresso roast's I can get locally (within a 3 days) this is an even more valuable effect to me.

I will back off my earlier statement slightly. If you have an overly bright espresso, sugar might be more helpful.

However, I have tried to sweeten up plenty of bitter shots with sugar and it just doesn't seem to blend well. Abe, if you're still following this thread, can you relate to what I'm talking about?

Maybe using a simple syrup would work better. I am no fan of blind adherence to orthodoxy. I guess it's really up to the barista/roaster to decide that a certain blend is best served enhanced with a small amount of carefully chosen sweetener, be it turbinado sugar, honey, or simple syrup, etc..

That is an artisan's judgment call as to ideal flavor profile. Nothing wrong with that.

~tMb

P.S. I nominate this for HB quote of the year.
Abe Carmeli wrote:Yes I know, there are great sweet espressos out there; but I can count those on one hand and still have two free fingers to flip the bird.

CGP4

#20: Post by CGP4 »

I'm not sure of the eligibility requirements for H-B quote of the year, but that was from March 2006, when this thread began!