Coffee, Part V: Taste

Freshly picked coffee cherries, spread out and ready for sorting prior to processing.Welcome to this, the fifth and (for now) final instalment of my Coffee at Home sub-series looking at coffee. I started the series with the concept of direct trade, explaining why knowing where your coffee comes from is important. I followed that by considering blends, the art of combining different coffees in order to create a specific taste profile. In the third instalment, I introduced the idea that pretty much everything has an impact on how your coffee tastes, all the way from the farm to the roaster, before looking at what are, for me, the two biggest factors: processing and roasting. Which brings us neatly to this fifth instalment, how preparing and serving your coffee affects how it tastes.

At a very basic level, how you prepare your coffee obviously effects its taste. An espresso tastes very different from a pour-over, even using the same bean. However, the effects can be more subtle than that, which is what I want to explore in this post. It also goes beyond the basics such as preparation method. Almost everything changes how you perceive flavour, from the temperature of the coffee right down to the shape of the cup.

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Roasting Green Beans at Home

4 oz of unroasted, Finca Muxbal green coffee beans from Mexico, courtesy of Finca in DorchesterBack in November, I visited the delightful Finca in Dorchester. As well as being a lovely café, Finca also roasts all its own coffee using a bright-red, 1kg Genesis CBR-1200, which sits proudly on the counter. While I was there, the owner, Don, explained how he’d started roasting at home in a wok. As a parting gift, he gave me 4oz of green beans (Finca Muxbal from Mexico), plus a set of instructions for roasting them in Finca’s CBR-1200. Perhaps more relevant to me, the instructions also included a section roasting at home in a wok.

So, two weeks into January, the Coffee Spot Awards safely out of the way, I decided to give it a go. After reading and re-reading the instructions (that’s got to be a first for me), I set up the kitchen, opened all the windows and kept the door to living room (where the smoke alarm lives) firmly shut. As it turned out, there wasn’t much smoke, but it would have been enough to set the alarm off and I’m glad I ventilated the room. 30 minutes after roasting, a pleasant, slightly smoky smell still lingered in the kitchen.

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