Tasting Notes and Coffee Flavor
If you just started your specialty coffee journey with some new gear you might have a few questions. One common one we get is whether coffee includes additives based on the flavors mentioned on the bag. Let’s take a look at flavor notes!
Are there Additives?
The simple answer is: no. Except in very rare, clear circumstances, when you buy a bag of specially roasted coffee there are no flavor additives whatsoever. The tasting notes on the bag are there as a representation of what the roaster tastes from the coffee.
The exception to this rule is rare, but very occasionally, you’ll find coffee with chicory or chocolate added. This comes from an old tradition of using limited additives to get more out of less coffee. Today, the very occasional use of additives like this is for taste. When this is the case, the coffee will very clearly state that there’s an additive. At the time of this article, We offer one coffee with chicory - Coast Roast’s New Orleans Blend - and it is clearly marked as such. We do not carry any other coffees with additives.
One important fact to note is that we don’t carry any coffees with tobacco or alcohol as an additive, and it is in no way a practice to add tobacco to coffee. There are coffee varietals like “Pink Bourbon” that can be confusing, but this is just a name for the varietal of plant, not an indication of any added alcohol. This is true of tasting notes as well.
Why Can’t I Taste the Notes?
Coffee notes are very subjective. Typically, notes are determined through tasting sessions with roaster staff. Using a method of immersion brewing, roasters taste the coffee in a method that brings out the coffee flavor the most. With that in mind, what tastes like raspberry to one palate may taste like chocolate to another. This makes it difficult to really nail down tasting notes.
On top of this, brew method is key to getting flavors out of coffee. Pour over tends to bring out notes close to what’s on the bag, but not always. Some roasts taste the most like what you read via espresso or press brewing as well. Generally we try to recommend brew methods on the coffee’s page, but it’s important to know that it really does change the flavor of the coffee.
How Should I Pick Out Coffee?
While tasting notes are a fun and interesting way to select coffee, what we really recommend is sampling coffees from several different regions and roasters. Roasters all have unique styles for how their coffee is roasted, and regions have different flavor profiles as well. By sampling different regions and roasters you’ll come to appreciate your own palate. From there, all you can do is keep on tasting.
There’s nothing wrong with finding a coffee blend you like and sticking with it. With that said, if you view coffee as a journey and a hobby, developing your palate is a fun way to get more out of our favorite bean!