company - education - coffee

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The nose knows

Aroma of the bean, the ground coffee, or in the brewed cup. This is a tricky proposition. What we so often discuss as aroma in our coffee community is not necessarily a clear set of descriptions.

I have been schooled on aroma and I realize I have a long way to go still. I never believed in the generic coffee aromas we so often describe as 'smells like coffee' being a positive. That makes me strange enough already, but I learned to value the least coffee characters in coffee very quickly. Most stale bags of coffee off the shelf at your grocery store have some of this generic 'coffee' smell and at this point, it just isn't appealing to me. When I think of aroma, I like to think of the inherent origin characters, the floral tea like washed Yirgacheffe. The refined fruit floral in a solid Kenya and the sparkling sweet aroma present in a Huehue. The nutty jam aroma in a Rwanda or the honey pecan of a Brazil. Of course, I am speaking generically but the point is made. don't misunderstand me, I am not talking about acidity so potent, it cuts through the cup into the aroma. I am talking about an approachable cup with a potent aroma!

Origin aroma is the most elusive cup component. The washed coffees in particular are the most difficult to preserve unique aroma in. In a chain of events during roasting or brewing, it is quite easy to erase that aroma and leave only the acidity or sweetness. In fact, it is the natural behaviour of the beans during roasting to lose natural aroma and take on roast aromas without the user's active intervention.

Preserve is the key word here. Aroma is the first component in a bean to age away, followed by fruit character and then finally sweetness. If you accept this, it means only fresher coffees will have aroma inherent to their terroir.

A good vac pot brew may take you months to figure out, a good roast may take years, but the aromatic cup that floors you is really worth it. Now, to translate that into espresso...