Confessions of a Coffee Connoisseur
A compilation with the ever knowing Coffee Connoisseur of Sonoma County Victor Hodgeson.
I have always been fascinated at the different ways to make coffee, but do you know all the different ways that effect the flavor of coffee. l only had small sips of information here and there and could not keep them all straight. So, I decided to sit down, research and ask my go to expert to put it all together and distinguish them once and for all. My friend Victor Hodgson is the manager of his family owned coffee house, The Barking Dog, in Sonoma, California. The finest cup of Joe you’ll ever find. He is a coffee connoisseur and my go to coffee question man. So, I started to do some research online on home brew methods, the different types, grind coarseness and how they affected flavors and then threw him some questions for clarification along the way.
Q: Can you choose a method to help release your desired flavor?
A: Yes, If you want to choose a method to match your beans profile you can.
For example if I have a brighter coffee such as a light roasted El Salvadoran with say pineapple notes I would want to use more of a v60 or Chemex to brew.
While a naturally processed Ethiopian with strong fruity notes would be better handled in a French press.”
(Want to know what methods and grinds? Click here: Brew Me Some Sweet Home Java)
Q: But how much does the method of coffee really matter?
A: What bean and roast you choose has more to do with personal preference than it does the brew method.
Take away: I found this all very interesting and very relieving. That means I can keep to my simple methods I already have and just choose a bean that best fits me! Each method of coffee can help release compliment flavors you desire but what’s most important starts with the bean itself and then it’s roast.
Q: So can I use the same method for different beans and roasts?
A: Yes, For, example my father and I both love French presses as a brew method.
He uses darker roasted Sumatran and Guatemalan coffees as he likes earthier, dark chocolate heavy, and full-bodied coffees. While I prefer fruitier notes and a smoother finish, so I prefer to use lighter roasted Ethiopians to get sweeter fruity coffees with a similar full body.
Take Away: Okay so some of that was gibberish to me too. How does coffee have a full-body? What the heck is the difference between an El Salvadoran and Ethiopian besides different continents? And why are Guatemalans more chocolaty than everyone else? More on that in a follow up article soon… the main take away is that you can accentuate the release of a coffee’s natural flavor by different methods if you would like, but it’s not essential to use different methods for different beans or flavors. You can use the same method for different coffees and still enjoy your desired flavors.
Q: How does the grind size, or coarseness of the grind affect the flavor? Do different grinds release different flavors?
A: It’s not so much that different grinds release different tasting notes. It’s more that different grinds allow more or less notes of flavor to be extracted from the coffee during the brew cycle. Those amounts extracted can make the resulting brew weaker or stronger, bitter or dry. Too fine of a grind can over extract the coffee, while too course will under extract.
Take away: You still want to use the proper grind for each method. You do not want to say use a French press grind setting (course) with at v60 as the resulting brew will be incredibly under extracted and sour. But there is some slight room for adjusting (depending upon how much micro adjustments can be made with your grinder) based on personal preference. For example a professional grinder has 40 grind sizes and there may be a range of 2 to 3 options that would work for a French press out of those sizes.
Q: Well, so what grinds do help release what flavors?
A: Brewing methods that utilize a finer grind size will allow lighter more citrus and floral notes to be pronounced. While courser methods allow the heavier notes to extract well, such as chocolate and fruity notes.
Victors overall advise:
Flavor profile in general has much more to do with the beans themselves (where they were grown, what the soil was, altitude, humidity of the region, etc.), as-well as the processing method for the beans, age of the bean and then the roasting profile the roaster uses than it does the grind or even the brew method.
So interesting! The grind size, method, roast, age of the coffee AND the bean itself have great importance together and can vary the flavor release in a variety of ways! Coffee is such a cool bean!
More on the process of growing, and choosing a roast that fits your flavor palate in an upcoming post but here’s a quick guide and fun factoids in the bean time:
Roast: the cooking process of coffee that brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee bean.
Body [of coffee]: refers to the mouth feel of the coffee.
Light Body: light on the palate. So, something that is light on the palate will be a light body but something that is heavy and fills the mouth, like syrup, will be full bodied.
Full Body: Heavy on the palate, fills the mouth. A buttery or even syrupy quality and tend to retain more of their flavor when diluted.
Medium Bodied: In between the two above
Main types of roasts.
Light, Medium, Medium-Dark and Dark.
Or in terms of a connoisseur you can get into specific names like:
Cinnamon, City, Full-City, Vienna, French, Italian… but lets dive into that more in another article.
In darker roasts you are tasting a lot more of the roasting process than a lighter roast.
Lighter Roast: have more acidity profile with more bright notes like citrus also prone to being more vegetal.
Medium: in between acidy and smooth profile and more chocolate notes
Darker Roasts: have a smoother flavor profile with smoky and pepper notes.
Lighter roasts are known to have more caffeine than a darker roast. Medium are in the middle. BUT according to Victor, “It’s also important to note that if you take the same beans and toast the both dark and light the caffeine content lost will be so minimal that it’s is not really noticeable to the individual. Everything else [bean, process of bean, grind, brew method] makes a bigger effect.”
Remember “Flavor profile in general has much more to do with the beans themselves (where they were grown, what the soil was, altitude, humidity of the region, etc.), as-well as the processing method for the beans and then the roasting profile the roaster uses”.
My take away of the hierarchy of flavor definition:
If the bean isn’t too old, age can affect the whole flavor profile too, but if your bean is fresh then:
The Bean itself
Processing Method of Bean
Roasting Profile the Roaster uses
Grind, Coarseness or Brew Method (depends how you wish to change the flavor profile)
According to Victor you can choose the bean that best fits your taste palate better then choose a brew method that brings out the desired flavor notes. But a proper brew method and grind size can help.
Use this Coffee Compass to guide you on the journey to the perfect brew.
And check out Victor’s quick guide to brew methods for some sweet home java!
More cool bean processing fun facts and helpful tips coming soon!