Balance in Espresso is Intense Bitter and Sour Cancelling Each Other Out - Page 5

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
tariqk

#41: Post by tariqk »

I will just pipe in with the following:

I am a relative newbie at espresso. I've been making shots at home for about a year. Until I read another_jim's post, I had trouble dialing shots in.

This post made the scales fall from my eyes. It has been the single most helpful paradigm for me in terms of being able to dial in great shots. I'm now able to rapidly and consistently calibrate shots instead of fumbling around. Who knows why this works - I suspect that some taste equivalent of the gate control theory of nociception is happening - but it really works.

Thanks Jim

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weebit_nutty

#42: Post by weebit_nutty »

Have you tried maintaining the preserving the same concentration levels when mixing bitter and sour? Perhaps the mere addition another equal quantity of fluid, be it with a competing or contrasting flavor, is simply a matter of dilution. Cancellation suggests some sort of chemical reaction taking place that neutralizes each other. Is that what is actually happening or only a matter of sensory perception?

I have done a similar experiment whereby I've mixed a sour shot with a bitter shot pulled on the same machines side by side.. I tasted no such cancellation, just a very bad shot that was overtly bitter and sour.

Many times I have had bitter melon soup (a south east asian recipe) that is as bitter as it is sour as well as sweet and salty. Flavors compete but I've never seen them cancel each other out in the way you state. I know certain things can neutralize flavors (such as drinking milk to neutralize heat_, but most of the time they actually accentuate each other. Like adding salt to fruits to improve sweetness.
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another_jim (original poster)
Team HB

#43: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

weebit_nutty wrote:Have you tried maintaining the preserving the same concentration levels when mixing bitter and sour? ... I have done a similar experiment whereby I've mixed a sour shot with a bitter shot pulled on the same machines side by side.. I tasted no such cancellation, just a very bad shot that was overtly bitter and sour ...
I'm not sure why the effect didn't happen for you. But dilution isn't the basis, as you found for yourself. The best way to test is not whether you like the mix better than the bitter or sour neat. Take the bitter and sour neat and find out how much sugar you need to make each palatable. If the amount of sugar is less than the average of the sugar levels of the two neat, then there is a cancellation that goes further than dilution effects.
Jim Schulman

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another_jim (original poster)
Team HB

#44: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

I repeated this experiment in simplified form at this year's Chicago Coffeecon. Instead of using unsweetened citric and gentian, I sweetened each slightly to roughly the level one gets in an unbalanced but drinkable espresso. I asked people to tase each, taste the mix, and rate them for like and for apparent sweetness.

There were roughly 60 people in the room: only three preferred the bitter, the rest were evenly divided between the mix and the sour. Almost everyone perceived the mixed as perceptually the most sweet. Almost everyone there had regularly drunk straight shots at third wave places (in itself a fairly stunning fact), so maybe the general preference of espresso hounds is moving towards the acidic.

Interestingly, about a quarter of the participants strongly preferred one version to both others. I commiserated with them, since their shot making would have a much tighter sweet spot than the others who were sort of OK with two of the options. On the other hand, I hope the tips I gave helped.

The room had a Rancilio Class 11 espresso machine, with individually adjustable groups. Blaise, a pro barista, was pulling shots (thanks) People who wanted to taste the difference could try a '195F and a 205F shot on for size. It was a lot easier than using a pair of Semis.
Jim Schulman