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Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
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tinpanalley
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Dec 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Paris
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Thu Dec 13, 2012, 4:59pm
Subject: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

This is my first post here. It seems the best place online to ask this question. I will keep this as simple as I can as I imagine it will draw out a wide range of answers.

I have spent the past 15 years purchasing, drinking, and preferring what is known in North America as "French Roast' "Italian Roast" and sometimes just "Espresso Roast". To a certain degree these are 'brand names' referring to a dark roast preferably used to make espresso. Thick, bold, nutty, light acidity... you all know what I'm talking about.
I was living in New York until 2 months ago where I would get my coffee at Fairway and Zabar's. When I did buy from a brand name, it was always either Illy or Miscella D'Oro both names that make an equally dark and nutty coffee like the generic ones roasted by Zabar's and Fairway. Before moving, I began to notice coffee places that were supposed to be real experts in the field of coffee brewing and roasting. Places like Irving Farm. Without fail, the coffee always tasted weak, fruity, acidic in a bad way, and with notes that were anything but nutty and a texture that was anything but rich. I started seeing people using hot water drips into paper filters using a japanese glass device that served as an analog drip machine. None of these coffees appealed to me and I very often had a hard time even finishing it. But take me to any Italian, French cafe and I could have cup after cup after cup.  

2 months ago, I moved to Paris. I first went to all the new coffee places that were the "best" in Paris. Some of them are thought to be among the best in Europe. They all served this "new" style of coffee, well new to me, that has those flavours I don't like. Not only that. I am repeatedly reminded that the coffee I like isn't brewed properly and too burned. I know perfectly well what burned coffee tastes like and the coffee I drink is not burned. I hear time and time again about how cafes, bistros, and bars in Paris serve horrible coffee and I find it perfectly fine. Not as good as the dark roasts I had my whole life but comparable. And far better than this "interesting coffee" served for way too much money (to me) in these new places that use terms like "first origin" which no coffee bean seller ever talked about to me before. I go to bruleries (places that are often referred to here as "old fashioned" and places that sell "bad beans") and I tend to get a better cup from them. I even went to an Illy coffee bar, had a regular cup of coffee and lo and behold, there was my perfectly brewed cup with the flavour I liked.

Finally.. the question... is the coffee I'm describing as the coffee I like to drink something that is bad? Do I actually have no taste for coffee and no palate for it? Have I been drinking what is commonly accepted as "bad coffee" for years and not known it? If so, how can places like Illy, Miscela D'Oro, not to mention Fairway and Zabars in NY ALL have bad coffee? Italians seem to agree with me. Are new coffee methods really better? I feel like all of a sudden, I've lost my palate.

Someone help me understand this dilemma!!
Thanks!
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yakster
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yakster
Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 1,033
Location: San Jose, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Factory / La Peppina...
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Posted Thu Dec 13, 2012, 7:41pm
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

de gustibus non est disputandum (In matters of taste, there is no argument)

 
-Chris

LMWDP # 272
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tinpanalley
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Dec 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Paris
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Fri Dec 14, 2012, 5:20am
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

yakster Said:

de gustibus non est disputandum (In matters of taste, there is no argument)

Posted December 13, 2012 link

I agree. But then, why is it that these new coffee places want to exclaim that a darker roasted nutty cup of coffee is brewed wrong. And it's not just coffee. I won't go off topic too much but liking traditionally prepared rustic food puts you on par with being an old fashioned snob who refuses to try anything new. Same with coffee. I've literally heard people say that the kind of coffee I like is not roasted properly because it's too dark, too nutty, and has no interesting flavours. I don't want "interesting flavours" in my coffee. I want a bold, rich cup of coffee.

Anyway... I agree. To each his own. But then why does it seem that so many recent trends in coffee and food bring with them a sense that to NOT do it their way is wrong?
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cerridwyn
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cerridwyn
Joined: 6 Jun 2010
Posts: 505
Location: Inland Empire California
Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Fri Dec 14, 2012, 5:50am
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

Compare it to the changes you find in craft beer for example. Today, if you go to get beer on tap from a small brewerly, it doesn't taste like Bud. Beer geeks don't drink Bud or Miller or Coors, but will get a light wheat beer, or a Hef or maybe they prefer a porter or stout. They look at the complexity of taste that's not cookie cutter but unique.

Coffee is like that too. Most of us here don't expect our coffee to taste the same if it is from Intelli or Handsome or Stumptown or whatever the east coast places are. We expect each roaster to start with the best that they can and to do something unique with it. The lighter roasts bring out different notes related, in some ways, to the terrior where it is grown, the varietal of bean, the type of processing, etc. We expect a Sidamo from Ethiopia to taste different from a Guatemalan Finca and we thrive on those differences.

What you like is not wrong, it's just not what we like. Just like the guy who wants his Coors is not wrong, but doesn't line up with the guy who buys from the Micro or Nano Brewery across town.

And like Bud or Coors, Illy and the other dark roasters blend their beans so that each and every can tastes pretty much the same.

Drink what and where you like and enjoy it. (If you go into a newer style coffee bar, see if they do french press. It's not as light tasting as pour over, and  you might find it more palatable to your likes.)

 
The world needs more outstanding coffee.

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tinpanalley
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Dec 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Paris
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Fri Dec 14, 2012, 6:09am
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

That has got to be one of the best explanations I've heard and really well put without leaning to any one side. You're one of the first people who's ever said to me "You're not wrong, it's just that we're looking for THIS" rather than saying "you're wrong because you're looking for THAT". So, thanks. It's just that the popularity of "THIS" makes it harder to find what I like these days.
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RoyceRuiz
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Joined: 31 Mar 2012
Posts: 117
Location: San Francisco, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Fri Dec 14, 2012, 12:12pm
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

A little more on the topic.  My coffee journey started about 6 years ago when my Grandmother bought me a Mr. Coffee blade grinder for Christmas.  This was the first step into the world of good (to my current taste) coffee.  No more Folgers or Maxwell House for me, now I could grind my own beans.  Realize that at this time in my life other than regular brewed coffee the only other coffee related drink that I had consumed was a Frappuccino from Starbucks.  Now I started buying Starbucks, 8 o'clock, supermarket dispenser coffee, etc.  While this coffee is something I have left behind it was hands down better than the Costco sized canister of Folgers I used to put through my Mr. Coffee programmable.  As time went on I started buying better beans from a local medium sized roaster.  I started drinking espresso drinks from Starbucks and the like.  A couple of years later I acquired a free french press, started reading about coffee, bought a cheap burr grinder for my french press.  All of this progress in my coffee but I was still drinking dark roasts.  I still preferred my coffee to resemble the traditional tastes that I grew up with, just better.  This continued for some time until I visited a shop that was passionate about coffee.  I was living in Greenville SC at the time and this shop used Counter Culture beans.  I started talking to the barista and began learning a lot.  It was there for the first time that I tried straight espresso, siphon brewed coffee, pour over coffee, etc.  And it was with these methods I began to experience the joys of lighter roasts.  From there I was fully sold on these fruity or acidic coffees.  I moved back to my hometown in northern CA sometime later and have only increase in my embrace of the lighter roasts.  I tell this story to say my wife went on the whole journey with me but, while she does appreciate a light or medium roast, she still prefers her coffee to resemble in some fashion that coffee that she grew up with.  She does not like what she calls "sour coffee" of fruity coffee.  She prefers hers more nutty or chocolaty.  She likes good coffee but not all kinds.  I have got used to going to my roaster and sampling the seasonal offerings to be sure that the roast is one she will like.  I would say that if you are just recently discovering this "new coffee" that you give it some time.  Go to a cupping or two and try to find one that you like.  I would guess that a good roaster will have something that tastes enough like what you want but roasted to perfection (as opposed to being over roasted).  If you find one that fits your taste the coffee will sing in the cup.  Maybe with time you will come to enjoy other types of roasts but with my wife as an example, you can probably drastically improve your coffee.  Even if you happy with what your doing, you might be able to improve.  All that said, I loved coffee even when Folgers was the best in my book so dink what you like and not what you don't.
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,734
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
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Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Sun Dec 16, 2012, 2:21am
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

tinpanalley Said:

That has got to be one of the best explanations I've heard and really well put without leaning to any one side. You're one of the first people who's ever said to me "You're not wrong, it's just that we're looking for THIS" rather than saying "you're wrong because you're looking for THAT". So, thanks. It's just that the popularity of "THIS" makes it harder to find what I like these days.

Posted December 14, 2012 link

This is pretty much the standard answer you will get here when there is a question of taste vs mechanics or methods.

Everyone likes what they like, some never move out of their comfort zone to try other things and some do.

The majority here do not like French roast or Espresso roast, most here stop and prefer coffee in the Full City roast or just a little darker but never to the point of the roast pulling the oils from the beans, our beans look dry after roasting. The beans when roasted this way DO have the flavors you do not like, the many different flavors of blueberry, chocolate, cocoa. A coffee roasted in this way will taste more like the coffee, not the roast. You can even tell the difference in coffee roasted on the same plantation but in the sun vs the shade.

The darker the roast, the more the brew tastes like the roast and not like the coffee it is made from, the subtle differences are lost and the darker the roast, the more of these flavors are lost to the point  that by the time you get to French roast, you have nearly only the flavor of the roast and not the beans. A lot of commercial coffee roasters will roast to this level as they can use poor quality beans which cost less and then they label the taste as "bold" etc.

As the first reply to you said, there is no right or wrong in the matter of taste. If that is what you like, then that is what you like, it isn't right or wrong, it is what you like.

Try this though, there will be so few of the beans unique flavors left at the French roast level, give inexpensive Robusta beans a try, as it is the roast flavor you like, you are wasting a lot of money on beans that are crafted for the flavor that you do not like and then you are roasting past the point that those small flavors get lost in the flavor of the roast.

You might like inexpensive beans just as much when roasted to that level and then you will have a lot more money too!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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tinpanalley
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Dec 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Paris
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sun Dec 16, 2012, 9:43am
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

Thank you all. Great help, great advice, good information. You are all being very diplomatic and nice about not telling me that you think I'm missing something in my coffee. That being said, RoyceRuiz, in saying "even if you happy with what your doing, you might be able to improve" you are still suggesting that there is something about my drinking that could be bettered and therefore the implication is that what I like is sub-standard.

Now... knowing that I like this kind of coffee can anyone suggest something in the realm of coffee you would like that I might enjoy? I like dark bold coffee, there's nothing I can do about that. But I'm willing to experiment with something closer to second crack (see.. I'm learning)  just to see how dark you guys would go without going into a dark roast.

I'm willing to try I just refuse to accept something as "good' just because it's what people are doing. I see a lot of non-coffee drinkers going to places here in Paris and saying how good a certain coffee is with no real palate to discern the difference between good and bad. Unfortunately, like with wine, there ARE people just attaching themselves to this socially for the cachet it provides. Just like wine tastings did in the 90s.
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Netphilosopher
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Joined: 14 Jan 2011
Posts: 1,602
Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Dec 16, 2012, 2:18pm
Subject: .
 

.
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,383
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
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Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sun Dec 16, 2012, 8:22pm
Subject: Re: Do I actually know anything about coffee? Help me find myself.
 

Hmmmm . . . reminds me of a discussion on CH.

tinpanalley Said:

Finally.. the question... is the coffee I'm describing as the coffee I like to drink something that is bad? Do I actually have no taste for coffee and no palate for it? Have I been drinking what is commonly accepted as "bad coffee" for years and not known it? If so, how can places like Illy, Miscela D'Oro, not to mention Fairway and Zabars in NY ALL have bad coffee? Italians seem to agree with me. Are new coffee methods really better? I feel like all of a sudden, I've lost my palate. Someone help me understand this dilemma!!

Posted December 13, 2012 link

Help me understand what the dilemma is?  "Some people love Brand X -- how can others love Brand Y?"

Everyone has their own taste buds inside their mouth.  You have your taste buds in your mouth; I have mine.  We have DIFFERENT tastes.  OK, so what?  As yakster said waaaaayyyyyyyy up above:

yakster Said:

de gustibus non est disputandum (In matters of taste, there is no argument)

Posted December 13, 2012 link

Now, of course you can play around with that:  "Eat $#|+ -- 50 million flies CAN'T be wrong!"  OK, but I doubt very many of us are going to run out and eat feces based upon the recommendation of I don't care how many millions of Musca domestica . . .

More to the point:  you drink what you like, and who can tell you it's wrong?  People can (and will) tell you, for example, "*$ is swill, you should drink _________!"  OK, tact might not be that individual's strong suit, but the bottom line is that they are actually trying to help you . . . but it's with their taste buds in mind, not yours.  It may turn out you agree with them, but it's really only them telling you to try what they like.

Speaking for myself, I have never liked Starbucks.  I drank Peet's and similarly dark roasted beans for as long as I can remember -- Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co., Graffeo's, Spinelli's (now defunct).  After all, light roasts in the 1970s were things like Maxwell House, MJB, Yuban, etc.  The only light(er) roast beans I ever bought back in the 1970s and 1980s was my first experience with Yemen Mocha and a Full City+.  But starting with my arrival here (and on HB) some seven years ago, I started hearing about lighter roasts, and began experimenting . . . now, I find I prefer them for espresso and other methods of coffee preparation as well.

tinpanalley Said:

. . .like with wine, there ARE people just attaching themselves to this socially for the cachet it provides. Just like wine tastings did in the 90s.

Posted December 16, 2012 link

Let's stick with the wine thing for a moment (something I know a little about).  In the 1970s and 1980s, loads of people loved California Chardonnays that were loaded with high levels of new oak.  Indeed, I remember going to tastings with the public where someone would say, "Oh, I can taste the oak; this is Chardonnay."  (Uh, no. You can taste the oak? That's OAK!)  Then winemakers began "backing off" the oak, and people in the 1990s bgan talking about terroir, about the place the grapes were grown.  OK.  Very simplistic:  oak = winemaker-added; terroir = Nature's flavor.

OK, equally simplistic:  the darker the roast, the more you taste the roast, and the roaster; lighter roasts mean you taste more of the natural flavors of the bean and its origins.  

With enough oak, it can be next-to- or downright impossible to tell what grape produced the wine; what you taste is the hand of the winemaker, or the "house style."  With a dark enough roast, it can be next-to or downright impossible to tell where the beans were grown -- Columbia? Sumatra? Ethiopia?  who knows!  You have the hand of the roaster at work.  This has led my taste to evolve -- as it has with wine -- to prefer less manipulated, less heavy-handed wines AND coffees.

Just food for thought . . .

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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