Hmmm. Maybe I should pull my aeropress off the shelf. I have to admit that, after a flurry of use, it's been sitting and I've simply been using my Valentina. Also must agree with the comments about cold-brew. This seems to be a hot brew into a cold container.
Sorry I am going to be off-topic here. Just a question for Mark. I wanted to ask your opinion on the value of some apparently rare Illy cups I got recently. I tried your coffeegeek email address without success. Any other way to reach you without creating a post?
Nice article - the Aeropress is a wonderfully useful device, and I use it almost daily. Your comment: "Why would you sweeten any cup of coffee?" finally got me to post a reply, after seeing this debated often in the forums. Just to preface my comments, I will say that I have been home roasting for years, and am completely familiar with various origins, types, and roast levels. I am experienced with espresso and with other methods of preparation. The issue is, simply, that I am quite sensitive to bitterness, and coffee - no matter how it is roasted or prepared - is bitter and unbalanced. Sugar brings all of the flavor elements into alignment and transforms it completely. The situation is exactly the same with chocolate - a complex flavor that is much improved with sweetening. Unsweetened chocolate or cocoa is unpalatable. I have often seen it commented, regarding a particular coffee or espresso, that "there was no bitterness at all." For me, that is not possible. This extends to other foods that might be bitter. 1/4 of the population are 'supertasters' - those with a higher than usual number of taste buds. This is not always an asset, since it can result in exaggerated and skewed taste perceptions. Another 1/2 of the population have an average perception of taste, and 1/4 are 'hypotasters', who have a relative deficiency in taste detection and discrimination. Keep in mind that taste is not the same as flavor (taste + olfaction). It may be, that among coffee drinkers who reject sugar, that a disproportionate number are hypotasters, and relatively few are supertasters. This would not be hard to study, and someone should undertake to do this, since it would be useful information.
Before anyone starts to type a message criticizing the above, keep in mind that the chemical senses (taste and smell) are highly individual, and extremely variable. This can be demonstrated objectively using chemical taste tests. I have seen many posts stating that coffee should not have sugar added, and the writers of these posts often take a superior position. Those who prefer sugar generally don't seem to look down upon those who don't use it. In summary, for many serious coffee drinkers, the only way to drink it is with sugar, and this does not indicate a lack of sophistication with regard to appreciating subtleties of flavor; it is a difference in physiology and perception, much of which is genetically determined.
On semantics - I was keenly aware, when writing it, that some would get confused by "cold brewed coffee". But this is a cold, brewed coffee ;) In other words, it is a brewed coffee that you drink cold. I worked around with the wording a bit yesterday afternoon, and found the apostrophe screwed with the flow of the sentences and might confuse some, so I removed it. I considered "iced coffee", "iced brewed coffee" and "brewed coffee served cold" but again, they either didn't work in some cases or screwed up the flow of the sentences.
On sugar - all brewed coffee has some level of bitters. For many people, there are good bitters and bad bitters. I think when coffee people say "it had no bitterness at all", they are probably (mistakenly) isolating on what they consider bad bitters. According to the SCAA / WBC test I did, I'm apparently a super taster, but I'm not personally (over)affected by bitter substances or elements in food or drink, though I can spot them a mile away.
I do notice the impact of sweetness at different temperatures. There seems to be a wave in the perception curve for me:
At 180F - some sweets hard to perceive (in very minute amounts, say 1-2ml slurped in a cupping spoon, cools rapidly) At 160-170F (edge of my ability to hold a hot liquid in my mouth at small amounts) I can perceive sweets much better At 120-140F - sweetness in coffee and espresso is probably at its zenith in terms of perceived taste. At 90-100F - can perceive max sweetness in milk. Once it is hotter than this, the lactose is burned off (mainly talking about milk foam here) At 90-120F - can perceive sweetness in brewed coffee and espresso, but not as well as at hotter temps. At 70F (room temperature), sweets seem to turn to sours for me in brewed coffee and espresso At 40F (warmer end of refrigerator temperatures), very difficult to perceive any sweetness in brewed coffee that was brewed hot; can still perceive lots of sweets in low-acid brewing methods like toddy and ice-drip. At 35F (serving temps with ice) cannot perceive sweetness in coffee brewed traditionally - and get less in low-acid brewing methods.
Mark I love this succinct write up and amazing photos of the process. Sadly I wished you would have included WEIGHT for water used. I tend to weigh everything these days as its more accurate in my opinion.
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