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Old 01-21-2005, 06:20 AM   #1
Mad Dawg
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Changing tastes in coffee

Before I started roasting my own coffee, I made the usual transition from canned crap to whole beans. Once there, I gravitated towards the darkest roasts I could find - French, Vienna, Italian. If they were black & oily, they were good. Well, they were better than canned crap....

Then I started roasting my own. The first batches I roasted went the same way - get well into (or through) second crack, right to the black & oily stage. And life was good.

Then I started reading up on what happens to beans as the roast progresses, and listened to excellent advice from people here: I started backing off on the roast. A whole new world opened up to me: varietal nuances, complex aromatics, all of the fragile components that are burned away in many varities of coffee by the time the oils start oozing out onto the surface of the beans.

My standard roast became Full City - stopped just before Second Crack starts, or at the first snap or two thereof. Lighter in some cases, almost never darker. Things about coffee that I'd never known became wonderfully clear to me, and my enjoyment of the morning ritual became deeper and more rewarding.

Thus began another transition. I started home roasting with a pronounced preference for deep-bodied, low acid coffees like Sumatras. I loved their earthy smoothness. I also liked Kenyas for their winey flavors, but ultimately learned that the darker roasts really muted their characteristic brightness.

And then along came the beans that have changed me yet again: Bolivian Organic, Cuban Turquino, Nicaragua Maragogype Laguna Verde, Rwanda Masaka Bourbon, Guatemala Organic Coban - SHB, and Indian Mysore "Nuggets." Those six coffees have, I'm afraid, changed my tastes for good. To me, these coffees all have tremendous complexity, excellent balance between body and brightness, wonderful aromas - everything I look for in a coffee. They also have one other thing in common - they are hosed if I let them go even 10 seconds into Second Crack. Some (Turquino, Bolivian) can take the darker roast a bit better, others (Laguna Verde, Coban) become bitter and disappointing even in so short a time. I've learned to watch my roasts like a hawk!

As these beans have taken over my rotation, my attraction to my old standbys has faded. The characteristic earthiness of Sumatras no longer holds as much appeal to me, and many excellent Kenyas now seem overly bright. I still enjoy them from time to time, but more often than not I reach past them to the big bags of my favorites when it's time to roast tomorrow's beans.

So that's where I am for now. I should point out that I am a brewed coffee person, and that all of the above is based on press pot and drip brewing methods. I'm working up to espresso, at which point I expect to undergo yet another transition.

I didn't start out to make this a giant tome, but the words just sort of spilled out on their own. I would be curious to hear from those of you who have been roasting for some time: how has home-roasting changed YOUR tastes in coffee. Beyond the obvious, I mean - none of us will ever go back to canned crap - but how have your tastes changed in terms of the varities you like best?

MD <----Sumatra Mandheling Special Prep this morning (good, but not knocking me out like it used to.....)
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