Finely Ground Coffee Adjectives

OK.  Biscotti’s first post was well received.  Blessing/curse.  Now what should I write about this week?

Well, this isn’t a news blog.  My focus shouldn’t be the latest, behind-the-scenes corporate maneuvering at Starbucks, or its next consumer rollout.  Nor am I a coffeeologist barista cupper coffee expert.  I can’t authentically compare the body, acidity and aroma of the latest crop of Kopi Luwak to central/south american arabicasBiscotti’s focus is my our evolution from coffee lover to coffee connoisseur.  Great, sounds good.  Excellent elevator pitch.  But then what, pray tell, AM I actually going to write about !?!

Keep it simple.  Just keep trying new kinds of coffees, prepared by different methods, on different kinds of equipment, and describing my reaction to them until I get fired.

Great.  So.  Last week I tried my first single-origin coffee, Colombian, and wrote about that.  How about picking another one of those?  This week I chose Indonesian.  Honestly, I was not all that impressed.  The Colombian tasted like a wall of bold, full flavor that stamped “COFFEE” firmly on my brain.  To me, the Indonesian tasted…weak.  (And I don’t think it had anything to do with the amount of water I used in my drip coffee maker.)  But, there had to be more to Indonesian that THAT; I mean, it’s a major coffee-growing region and has millions of fans who prefer it to anything else.  So, I took a second sip, then a third, a fourth.  I tried to use a thesaurus my senses to more accurately describe what I was tasting.  It was pretty smooth….,refined.  Did I detect…nutty?  Maybe a little smoky?

[SIDEBAR: When the experts use these terms – “nutty,” “smoky,” “earthy” – what are they really saying?  What does it mean when someone describes a coffee as smoky – that the flavor is derivative or reminiscent of Beef Jerky?  Srsly.  Is a nutty coffee supposed to remind me of a Reese’s?]

I asked my good friend Google about this, and was directed to this no-frills page with definitions of coffee flavor terms.  It said “nutty” was used to describe “coffees that lack coffee flavor.”  A-ha!  I KNEW IT !!!  This Indonesian was definitely some nutty coffee.  “Smoky” wasn’t on that page, but I found it listed here.  Hmm, “a naturally occuring aroma of wood smoke, or a synonym for roasty.”  OK, so I was on the right track with the Beef Jerky thing – not literally, but with the wood/smoke/mesquite vein.  Taking this definition into account, the Indonesian I tried could not be considered smoky.  But, waitaminute – then I found this page, which had a different defintion for smoky: “coffee that has been dark roasted properly may take on this roasty, high-quality flavor.”  Well, using this definition, I would have to say – yes, the Indonesian did taste rather smoky.

Anyway, thanks to this exercise I have now discovered – with regards to coffee tasting – these terms have definite meanings.  I can consult these pages and improve my Coffeese to better describe my future tasting experiences.

I also want to offer another rant ask for your help with something.  I brew my coffee in a garden-variety drip coffee maker that has a reusable/permanent coffee filter.  When I buy beans and have them grinded (ground? grinded?), I’m asked how fine I would like the grounds to be.  I’ve never really been sure of the answer I’m supposed to give.  Are there different recommended grinding degrees when using a reusable filter vs. a paper one?  I like using the reusable, because it’s a greener practice, and also, I’ve been learning about how a paper filter can absorb much of the coffee bean’s natural oils, which are responsible for a lot of the flavor that reaches your cup.  But my experience has been that when the coffee is ground too finely and I don’t use an extra paper filter inside my reusable one, I end up drinking a lot of the grinds.  [see picture above]  *le blech*  But if I put an extra paper filter inside the reusable one, am I missing out on a lot of flavor?  Could my whole dilemma be solved by asking for my coffee to be a little less finely ground?

Whay say you, coffeeatti?

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