tasting

  • Coffee Testing

    One thing we don’t talk too much about is the way we taste test new coffees, and how that might help you experience a new roast. 

    As you’ve almost assuredly noticed, coffee tasting notes aren’t always perfect. There’s usually some nuance in there, which we’ve talked about in the past. As such, we don’t just look at the notes and decide whether or not to bring on a roast. We actually try everything we bring on to make sure we like it.

    Given that, you might wonder why sometimes your brew is different from what we describe on product pages. So much of this comes down to brew method and personal palate, but what are the ideal ways to try a new roast?

    Brew

    For brewed coffee instead of espresso, we recommend a pour over. This allows you to start with a small sample of coffee instead of a whole pot’s worth. You’ll also get the most definition in the coffee’s notes, which is important for the initial tasting. 

    For a recipe, we always stick to a 1:16 standard ratio of coffee to water. It’s good practice to use around 20 grams of coffee and 320 grams of water. We then brew with three pours, using around 106 grams of water in each, starting with a 30 second bloom. Spreading the pours out evenly like this can help to balance and settle the tasting notes, even if an ascending pour ultimately leads to better flavor.

    Once you’ve tried a pour over of your new roast, you’ll be able to understand the way the flavor will come out in a drip brewer or press. I’ll also give you the best baseline for understanding those flavors.

    Espresso

    We often receive roasts not explicitly marked for espresso that seem well suited for the brew method. For these roasts, we still taste them as a pour over as described above. After that, we’ll try dialing them in for espresso.

    Dialing in a shot can be very challenging depending on the roast. Many coffees just aren’t suited for the brew method. Some trickier single origins (or even blends!) really need a long pull rather than the standard 20-30 seconds you usually start with. By developing your palate and practicing with different espresso blends you should be able to use pour over brewing to understand a coffee’s flavor. Developing this understanding can make it much easier to dial in a shot, because you know what you’re looking for. 

    In any case, it’s always exciting to pick up a new coffee and work out all of its subtle notes. We highly encourage you to experiment with these different tasting methods to get the most out of your coffee too!

  • A Note on Tasting Notes

    Tasting notes can be a confusing thing. When you look at a bag of coffee and see that it lists things like chocolate, raspberries, and brown sugar, it’s easy to interpret that as actual added flavors or ingredients. This isn’t actually the case! Tasting notes are actually note added flavors, but to understand why they list what they do, you’ll have to get into the head of a roaster.

    Full of Flavors

    Coffee is a lot like wine in that it is full of different flavors. Every aspect of coffee production imparts some kind of flavor. The type of coffee plant, the soil, the elevation, the humidity and light amount, processing, roasting… All of it! It’s really why coffee is so exciting in the first place. There’s just so much that goes into every single cup. For roasters, explaining what coffee might be right for the right drinker can be tough. That’s why tasting notes exist.

    After roasting a batch, roasters will do what’s called “cupping.” Coffee cupping is a type of tasting where you use immersion brewing to allow coffee to steep right in the vessel it will be served from, similar to brewing tea. Then, tasters use special spoons to taste spoonfuls of the coffee.The tasters will then take notes on the kinds of flavors they get from the coffee. Again, this isn’t actual, added flavor, but an interpretation of what the coffee tastes like when brewed at its strongest. These notes form the basis of what ends up on the bag, though they may try the coffee in other brew methods before finalizing the notes.

    A Dash of Excitement

    One key element of tasting coffee is building a realistic profile of what the flavor of the coffee is like through the tasting notes. On the other hand, you can pull out flavors like chocolate and berries from lots of coffees. To help differentiate, often roasters will really dig to try to find the hint of flavor that makes a coffee unique. To an unrefined palate, two coffees might taste the same. Someone well versed in coffee tasting may find unique little elements to show how they differ.

    What this means is that you may need some practice before tasting some more interesting and subtle notes. That’s OK! The important thing is to keep trying, and keep developing that palate. The best way to understand flavor profiles of most coffees is as a pour over. So if you’re really interested in understanding the intricacies of different flavors of coffee, putting together a pour over setup is a good first step!

    Hopefully this sheds some light on those tasty coffee notes!

  • Video Roundup: 2/21/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time for another video roundup here at SCG.

    First up it's Allie with a Crew Review of the Ratio Six!

    Next we've got a Crew Comparison for the ages with the R Nine One Group from Rocket Espresso, and the GS/3 from La Marzocco!

    And finally, Allie and I brewed up some AKA Coffee to taste:

    That's all for now! We hope you enjoyed, go make some coffee you love this weekend!

  • Video Roundup: 2/14/20

    Hello coffee fans!

    It's time for another video roundup at Seattle Coffee Gear!

    We'll start with a look at some entry level "prosumer" machines with Allie!

    Next up, it's a look at the Rancilio Specialty RS1 with John.

    Gail gave us some thoughts on the Baratza Forte BG vs. the Eureka Mignon:

    And finally, Allie and I did a tasting of our Roast of the Month for February, Methodical's Ethiopia Nano Challa!

    That's all for this week! We'll be back soon with more video content. Have a great weekend!

  • Video Roundup: 11/22/2019

    Holidays are right around the corner and we're in high gear!

    If you haven't seen Gail's awesome picks videos, make sure you check those out. Today we'll take a look at all of the other stuff we've got going on over on YouTube.

    First up, it's John with a review of a commercial grinder:

    Next, Allie, Nicole and I tasted some amazing Smith Teas:

    Finally, Clementine tried a tasty chilled treat on this week's Coffee Collaboration!

    That's all for this week! We'll be back next week with more videos to share!

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