Here are fascinating taste test results from Cook's Illustrated based on a survey of 8 premium coffees.
A group of taste testers at Cook's Illustrated tried fresh brewed coffee when it was black, and again when the same coffees had milk or cream added. The goal was to find out whether milk/cream changed which coffees the taste testers preferred.
And it definitely did.
When drunk black (no sugar or cream), half the coffees tasted bitter, rancid and harsh. These were the dark roast coffees. They got terrible marks by the reviewers. They hated the coffee. The light roasts did much better when drunk black.
But when the same coffees were drunk with cream, the formerly bitter, rancid, harsh dark roasts were now stars. Why? Because the milk or cream proteins removed much of the bitterness. The light roasts now tasted wimpy with milk / cream.
So what the lesson for gourmet coffee drinkers?
If you're drinking coffee without milk or cream, try a light roast. If you're mixing your premium coffee with milk or cream, try ratcheting it up with bolder and darker roasts than you would normally like. It might taste bitter when dark, but it may give a more rewarding mellow cup when you add the milk and cream.
Follow this link for my post on gourmet coffee.