The use of the word "sweet"

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#1: Post by blutch »

It seems quite common for experts to use the word "sweet" to describe the taste of coffee. I just listened to JH's book on audible, The World Atlas of Coffee, and he must have used it 100 times. Although I prefer medium to dark coffee, I have tasted all sorts of coffees and rarely have i tasted the listed "notes" on the bag or what other people say they taste. I often roast and brew Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and only once have I noticed a very slight "blueberry" note, but i have never felt a "sweet" taste from any coffee ever. Perhaps I'm thinking too literally here, but unless coffee has frothed milk or sugar in it, I just don't see how it can be sweet. So, can someone explain to me why this word is used so much and what I'm missing... what are they REALLY tasting?


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#2: Post by another_jim »

Coffee contains a lot of sugars. The darker you roast it, the more of it caramelizes, turning it first into bitter-sweet, then just bitter. So, if you like dark roasts, you will rarely taste sweet coffees. Moreover, the riper the coffee, the sweeter it is and the more expensive it is (ripe coffees have to be handpicked, since coffee cherries ripen unevenly, randomly over the course of three weeks or so).

In general, roasters avoid roasting fully ripened and expensive coffees very dark; so you are getting unsweet roasts of unsweet coffees. The problem is that lighter roasts are not only sweeter, but also more acidic, which tends to muffle the subjective perception of sweetness. The way around this is to have slightly longer light roasts. My sense is that Dragonfly, Klatch and Gaslight roast in this style. There are others, but they stand out in my mind. If you want to taste sweet, I'd start with their light to medium roast offerings, perhaps choosing a low acid coffee like a Brazil origin, or Bourbon varietal to boot.
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#3: Post by Jeff »

One coffee that stood out to me this year for its natural sweetness was Brazil Daterra. At George Howells' lightest roast, it was surprisingly "chocolatey" without having the bitterness that I associate with darker roasts. If you enjoy "nuts and chocolate" espresso or coffees, you might want to try it.
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#4: Post by rmongiovi »

There's also just the possibility that you won the genetic lottery and you're a supertaster and just more sensitive to bitter flavors.


#5: Post by jevenator » replying to rmongiovi »

That doesn't sound like a lottery I want to win haha

I find flavors to be your perception of a type of flavor or acidity when you drink a cup of coffee. So when you say you taste blueberries or berries or grapefruit, etc. It's these things that come to mind when you drink the coffee. Same thing with sweetness. The coffee is literally sweet (at least to me).

Aren't all the tds measurements a formula based on brix which is just measuring sugar concentration?

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#6: Post by Jeff »

There's a convenient relationship between how coffee TDS and the refractive index of the coffee changes that can be measured with the same refractometer used to measure Brix.


#7: Post by jpender »

jevenator wrote:Aren't all the tds measurements a formula based on brix which is just measuring sugar concentration?
TDS can be related to Brix in terms of the effect on the index of refraction of the liquid. But the measurement literally means "total dissolved solids", not total dissolved sucrose. In the case of coffee the solubles include numerous compounds. Green coffee has simple carbohydrates like sucrose but I think most of those undergo change during roasting. The soluble carbohydrate content of a typical espresso, not all of which will taste sweet, is (according to Illy) about 17% of the total solubles.

I was prompted some time ago to do long insulated presspot brews (up to 40 minutes) and found that the coffee became sweeter with the longer than typical brew times. I don't pretend to know what was happening exactly but it was very noticeable.

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#8: Post by rokkuran »

There's a good Wendleboe video where he recommends cupping coffees against an instant coffee sample to get contrast (it's for Leaderboard). If you cup several light roasted coffees of different origins against some instant you might find some sweet coffees (and maybe some peach or blueberry too).

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#9: Post by Marcelnl »

I also am almost sure that sweet is quite relative, aside from a genetic factor your perception of sweet is shifted depending on how much sweet / sugar you consume.
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#10: Post by happycat »

I roast my own (Yirgacheffe) and my wife and I both perceive it as sweet. We've also tasted pineapple, almonds, hazelnuts, milk or dark chocolate depending on roast style and brewing temp and brew ratio.

Flavours shift depending on
- roast
- brew temp
- concentration (espresso vs americano)

I made a chart that showed flavour changes with diff variables

Try reading the chart left to right (roast diffs) or top to bottom (temp diffs and dilution diffs) to see flavour changes

I realize the chart is a bit confusing but it was meant for reporting flavours back to my greens seller (his request) vs here. It was a fun exercise to see what one coffee had to offer.

ml for volume of greens
1c and 2c refer to crack phases
10+ or 7.5A ref to amps on Quest power, etc.
ah refers to engaging autoheat for PID ET500F (vs 100% heater up to that point to put lots of energy into beans)

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