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What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 5:40am
Subject: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

So yesterday, I learned a few core things on Twitter about coffee, and technology used to make coffee better (I won't say "supposedly").

I learned that the refractometer is god. If your numbers are off according to collective refractometer / TDS / Mojo wisdom, your coffee is definitely off, even if it tastes good to you. If your numbers are bang on according to collective wisdom, but the coffee tastes bad, it is you that is ef'ed up, not the coffee. Because the refractometer doesn't lie. It is god.

I also learned that bright coffees = good coffee. Acidity = good. The more the better. If you don't like acidity in coffee, something is wrong with you. Or if you think there's too much acidity in a coffee, then you can't brew coffee correctly (see refractometer comment above for the only way to brew coffee correctly). You underextract. You underdevelop. Because no coffee can be too bright; only brewing methods are bad (and I guess some roasting methods, but none of the roasters I conversed with roast incorrectly).

Now if you can't tell, I'm saying all the above very tongue in cheek. I don't believe anything above this line, but I worry that some people do actually believe all of this.

What does bother me is that anytime I do say I always prefer a balanced coffee over an overly bright coffee (or for that matter, a flat, no acidity coffee), well, it's not the coffee, or the roaster, or the roast method at fault. I'm at fault. I haven't brewed it right. I don't know how to taste and appreciate coffee. Get your refractometer out. You're what's wrong with coffee.

Oh well. You learn something new every day. ;)

Mark

 
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Dayglow
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 5:47am
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

I was a bit shocked reading that until I saw your "tongue in cheek" comment. Breathed a sigh of relief and read on.
I completely agree that, for me, the enjoyment of coffee comes in the balance within. Certain roasts, coffees, regions, etc lend themselves to less rounded profiles, but in general some semblance of balance is key. I have often thought about taking out my refractometer to do some evaluations, but in the end I would rather drink the cup and decide for myself if I want to finish it.
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calblacksmith
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 8:22am
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

I caught on at the start of the second paragraph, I guess I need to go buy a refractometer  as I am not very fond of light, bright coffees, more of a lower acid and with more bass notes type of coffee LOL :D

I really want some right now but the thought of acid turned my stomach. OH WELL

 
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 9:19am
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

MarkPrince Said:

So yesterday, I learned a few core things on Twitter about coffee, and technology used to make coffee better (I won't say "supposedly")....

Posted April 9, 2014 link

Mark,

I've got a pretty good idea of out with whom you hung on Twitter.  

Oh well,
Rich
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 1:47pm
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

To me, coffee is best when it presents a balance. Heck, all food, drink, cocktails, booze, beer even does that. Lets take beer for a moment. There's a big trend (edit - in Vancouver) the last 3-5 years to go mega hops on beer. Having an IBU of 85 is a bragging point. There's tight circles of beer geeks and pros who all want to show how much hair they have on their chest by making and drinking ultra high hop beer.

Then there's the rest of us. Some casual beer enthusiasts (myself), some enlightened (my friend Rick) some new to beer (my buddy Brian). I like beer where hops is not the primary taste note, but a bare complement to the beverage. Brian can't stand hops at all - he likes white beers and belgian fruit beers only. Rick is a beer savant, likes hops, but thinks they can be completely overdone by the current trendy crowd.

Acidity in coffee. I like acidity in coffee. When it is there but in check, in balance with body and other tastes that don't have brightness or acidity as their characteristic. I like a beer that has a nice orange citrus balanced against a caramel chocolate - as an example.

What I don't like, and what I find many consumes and coffee enthusiasts don't like, is this race to mega up the acidity levels in coffee to the point where it's the predominant taste in coffee. I had a shot last week in a local cafe that literally made me spit out the sip, and reach for water to drink. I couldn't get the water fast enough. This was one of Vancouver's top cafes too, and I was in the middle of hosting a cafe crawl of the city.

Coffee is at its best when there is balance in the cup. Zero acidity coffees don't taste good to me. Mega acidity coffees don't taste good to me. Complex coffees with a balance of body, acidity, sweetness and (in the case of espresso) a syrupy texture taste best to me.

Right now, there's two trends in coffee I do not like: the race to the lightest roast (which is just as ridiculous as the want to roast as dark as possible) and this push of mega bright, high acidity coffees.

The love of acidity in coffee is cyclical. I've seen at least five cycles now in my world of specialty coffee: right now; 2007, 2004, 2001 and the mid late 1990s. In another year or two everyone will be raving about toffee caramel blackberry cherry coffees. Today, roasters are raving about lemons, limes, "sparkly" and (I saw this on instagram), fernet (!!).

I get that the cycle happens. But I don't change my likes and tastes; theres' specific things I value in coffee and they have not changed for a decade. That thing is balance.

Mark

 
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 1:57pm
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

boar_d_laze Said:

Mark,

I've got a pretty good idea of out with whom you hung on Twitter.  

Posted April 9, 2014 link

In all the discussion yesterday, there were literally dozens and dozens of people who either supported what I said, supported part of what I said, or at least supported my right to say these things.

There was a core of about 8 or 10 people who disputed what I had to say, in a variety of ways.

a) some were very respectful (as they always are) and debated me on these topics of brightness, acidity, and refractometers
b) some were not so respectful, (1 was actually insulting), but engaging me directly
c) a few on the sidelines were doing side tweets, not mentioning me directly or using my twitter username, but clearly doing their side room snigger talking ;) I'm used to these 2 or 3 folks doing this - it's their MO on twitter. I don't follow them (I block a couple of them in fact) because whenever I see their interactions, I think I'm back in high school.

Of course, we're talking about social media here. Many folks use SM for different reasons. I use social media as a tool to connect with coffee enthusiasts. I use it as a way to keep up on the news. And I use it to pitch ideas and theories that are encapsulated in 140 characters. Most of the folks I interact with (and certainly every person I follow) seems to use twitter this same way. The people in a) above seem to use twitter this way.

But others on Twitter use social media to bring back their glory days of high school (or they try to be the people they hated in high school), or so it seems. Those are the folks I refuse to interact with or follow... and I really try hard to be oblivious to their actions online, if for no other reason than my own sanity. The only times I do see what they do online is during big blowout discussions like the one last night, and them jumping on what they perceive as the "gang up on this guy" mentality.

They're basically bullies. I have no time for them, though obviously I've spent a few minutes here typing about them. If you participate regularly in the coffee community on Twitter, you probably know who I'm talking about.

Mark

 
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RoyceRuiz
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 2:42pm
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

I'm blessed to live in the Bay Area and I get to try lots of roasters, cafe's etc.  I'm cursed to live in the Bay Area and I get to try lots of roasters, cafe's etc.  I sympathize with the comment about the Vancouver cafe.  I love trying new coffee's but by doing so I end up trying a lot of coffees (espresso, pourover, however)  that I can't finish.  I generally don't buy bags of coffee blindly anymore.  If I can't try it I'm not going to spend $20 for 12 oz. of coffee so acidic it actually curdles my wife's half and half (believe it or not this has happened on several occasions with coffees from different Bay Area roasters).  I like acidity in coffee, I like a lighter roast, I don't like to drink vinegar and I don't like the taste of grass.  I know some claim to.  They remind me of the guy who always reaches for the hottest hot sauce, not for the flavor, but to prove that he can appreciate something that you can't.
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emradguy
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 2:52pm
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

sadly true about the twitter people.  I've gotten the idea that some VST fanatics are of that mindset, but fortunately, no one outright says ridiculous things about how it's the end all to discussion here on CG. I haven't bought one, but toyed with the idea.  I don't know if I ever will.  I think as long as I have simple exercises and can go back to basics to make continuous improvments in my preps I don't have a need for it.

The only point I'd differ on is the timeline of over hoppy beers.  Before becoming a coffee geek, I was a beer geek.  I'm a former Santa Barbeerian and have gone on several trips just for beer...England, Belgium, Germany for general beer touring mand I've attended the GBBF, GABFest, Toronado Barley Wine festival and several other "travel" festivals.  Stone Brewing Company was one of the first breweries I came across that got overaggressive with their hops, proudly producing beers with over 100IBU - which to me were atrocious.  and for me to call anything Stone produces atrocious is something, because it's otherwise one of my favorites.  It was maybe 10 years ago when Dogfish Head started with their timed hop addition IPA brews (the 60 minute, 90 minute and 120 minute).  Have you ever tasted the 120? It's so over hopped it's ridiculous...and to call it an IPA? wtf?  No way is that beer and IPA.

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your experience, Mark!

oh sh!& I gotta get back to work!!!

 
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 3:00pm
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

emradguy Said:

The only point I'd differ on is the timeline of over hoppy beers.  Before becoming a coffee geek, I was a beer geek.  I'm a former Santa Barbeerian and have gone on several trips just for beer...England, Belgium, Germany for general beer touring mand I've attended the GBBF, GABFest, Toronado Barley Wine festival and several other "travel" festivals.  Stone Brewing Company was one of the first breweries I came across that got overaggressive with their hops, proudly producing beers with over 100IBU - which to me were atrocious.  and for me to call anything Stone produces atrocious is something, because it's otherwise one of my favorites.  It was maybe 10 years ago when Dogfish Head started with their timed hop addition IPA brews (the 60 minute, 90 minute and 120 minute).  Have you ever tasted the 120? It's so over hopped it's ridiculous...and to call it an IPA? wtf?  No way is that beer and IPA.

Posted April 9, 2014 link

Good to hear this perspective (and what seems like a bit of history on mega hopping). My own perspective as a non beer geek (I like beer, I've made beer, but I don't consider myself a beer geek) is based on Vancouver and environs, and it seems the race to 100 IBU is a recent (like 5, 6 years) thing here.

I have never tasted a 100 IBU beer, or a 120 IBU for that matter, and don't ever plan to. The most I've ever had was around 85 or 90 just to see what it tasted like, and it was really bad to my palate.

Mark

 
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CMIN
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Posted Wed Apr 9, 2014, 4:10pm
Subject: Re: What I learned on Twitter yesterday about refractometers & bright coffee
 

emradguy Said:

It was maybe 10 years ago when Dogfish Head started with their timed hop addition IPA brews (the 60 minute, 90 minute and 120 minute).  Have you ever tasted the 120? It's so over hopped it's ridiculous...and to call it an IPA? wtf?  No way is that beer and IPA.

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your experience, Mark!

oh sh!& I gotta get back to work!!!

Posted April 9, 2014 link

Older 120 was better, newer batches to me are less hoppy but far far too sweet. DFH World Wide Stout is where it's at, about the same abv as 120 but tons more complex and tasty, that was an incredible beer. I have 1 more left, 1 I just had was aged 3 years. If you can find it i think it's like 10 bucks a bottle. I personally love Double IPAs/Porters/Stouts/imperials etc... can't stand anything wheat like or German style etc (just makes me gag), have a massive collection at the house, somewhere north of 300 bottles of beer lol. Stones pry my fave brewery, and their place in San Diego is awesome... actually have a Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard shirt on right now ha.

Def more of a comfort espresso/coffee guy, I don't mind some "bright" coffee's but I've had too many that were just tongue twisting disgusting as espresso or cup yet people would rave about them, I don't want to taste something that's like someone twisting a lemon straight in my mouth lol
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