The smallest particles in coffee grind are called “fines”. First fines was said to attribute bitterness and bad flavors to the coffee. Now fines are considered important to make coffee taste great.
How can fines end up giving opposite taste impressions ?
I have long suspected it had to do with how the fines were situated in the grind: The fines can either stick to larger particles – or to other fines.
Each result in a different taste: when fines are attached to bigger particles they act as part of the large particle in the extraction and do not over-extract as when they are separate where fines only stick to other fines.
When you get advice from other roasters … it’s important to know their taste preference.
What roast degree do they prefer ? Do they prefer clairity or a richer taste ? What kind of aromas ? How much acidity ? and so on.
We do not like the same things in coffee. But also; we don’t notice the same things. So much is going on in the taste of coffee – so we can easily get different experiences from the same coffee.
Some people immediately notice bitterness. If the coffee has any bitterness they don’t like it. Maybe they like a light roast with clairity and fruit/flowers aromas. And dislike the burnt flavours.
Others only like coffee with solid burnt flavours, but really don’t pay attention to bitterness. That’s in the darker roast range. They find the light roast thin and missing what good coffee should taste like.
This is Henrik and me (Therese). He loves very dark roasted coffee – like in the Italian coffee tradition.
I find it tastes like a car workshop and awfully burnt. I don’t like it.
Normally I roast quite light (from 45 sec to 2 minutes from 1st crack start). But I am not at the lightest end of the scale. Coffee roasters like The Coffee Collective here in Denmark and Tim Wendelboe in Norway are a bit lighter than me – and they like more acidity.
George Stavrinou from Australia has the same roaster as I (a Bullet R1). He asked me what I was trying to achieve with my roast profiles regarding to taste.
My taste preference in coffee
1) Avoiding bad taste
2) Balanced in the basic tastes. No strong acidity, bitterness or sweetness. A little is fine. It should be pleasant in the mouth.
3) A big aroma. In a light roast I get a certain kind of grand aroma that I can’t associate with a specific food/flower/whatever. I like deep aromas that stays as a pleasant aftertaste for a long time.
4) Taste the characteristics of the bean.
Photo by Ida Kofod from Kontra Coffee.
She took out a sample each minut during a 14 minute roast – to show the color change.
If you really want to learn how different roasting profiles affect the taste – then roast 2 batches on the same day with only small differences in the profile. And then taste them side by side in the weeks afterwards.
Here is an example of a good tasting and bad tasting coffee of the same bean. Much in the roast profile are alike, but not all the way. What causes the difference in taste ?
The bean is a washed arabica from Uganda. Fairly high grown at the Mount Elgon mountain on the border to Kenya.
The good tasting, 400 grams, by Therese
Taste: no burn flavour, no bitternes, nice round and big aroma.
I roasted it again 9 days later. First the curves were very close. But after 5,5 minutes the ROR levels differed. Here both curves:
The higher ROR level here gave an earlier FC; at 7 minutes in the second roast where as the first had 8:45 min.
This coffee didn’t taste good to me. It had bitterness and burned taste. And a weak aroma = boring coffee.
What could be causing this difference in taste ?
First the alike elements
The development-% was around 24% for both (the time after FC related to total roast time). And weightloss was about the same: 14,3 and 14,5%
Development time (DT) was 2:44 minutes for the good one. The bad with more burned taste you would expect to be roasted longer, but no, its roasted a bit shorter: the DT was only 2:19 minutes.
Possible explanations for the burnt taste I cant say for sure why they tasted like they did – because several things was different. But here are some thoughts:
(1) A higher temperature rise in the bad one: 12°Celcius (and BT ended on 181°C) … where as the good one only rose 6-8°C (to end-BT at 175°C).
(2) When entering First Crack the bad one had a ROR around 10°C pr min. Whereas the good one was around 5. I have heard a recommandation around 5°C per minute – and not as high as 10°C when entering FC and for the rest of the roast.
(3) The american roaster Rob Hoos talks about the importance of the middle phase: from yellow point to FC start (see his book “Modulating the flavor profile of coffee“). He calls it the Maillard phase. In these two roasts the drying phase up untill yellow point are not that far apart: 4:00 and 3:45. But the lenght of this middle phase is 3 minutes for the bad one, and 5 minutes for the good one.
A roast consultant told me he prefers 3 minutes, so thats not criminal in itself. But maybe it suits this particular bean better with a slower roast; a longer middle phase and lower ROR levels during FC.
(4) They flavours go up and down during the roast – so maybe the bad one here would have been better if dropped earlier or later at than 2:19 minutes from FC start.
Martin Kjeldsen roast of the same bean
Martin Kjeldsen lives in different part of Denmark, but we got the same bean – and the same roaster, the Bullet. The bean is from Uganda from Mount Elgon (on the border to Kenya).
Martin have also roasted the bean several times. This is his best tasting batch:
500 grams, preheat 185°C
Martins bacth was roasted 2 minutes from FC start to end-BT at 192°C. My good one was roasted 2:45 min and to BT 175°C. But our bean probes do not measure alike. Notice the difference in FC starts: Martin at 182°C. Mine at 167°C and 169°C.