What You Probably Don’t Realize About Coffee Complexity

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By Joseph Robertson / 03.30.2016

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Not long ago, Jesse (of Conduit Coffee) and I got it in our heads to do a series on the complexity of coffee. This was sort of made in the context of coffee complexity vs wine (following the publication of this article in WSJ), but our expertise with wine is somewhat limited. We are, however, quite versed in the delightful complex nature of Coffee.

Naturally we broke this up into a three part series, and then life procceeded to make things a bit challenging. Regular listeners of Coffee Lovers Radio might wonder where we’ve been – we plan to address that a little bit in an upcoming episode.  For now, I encourage you to enjoy our walk through the complexity of coffee, from green coffee, to roasted, to brewed. What is complex at each step? What do the roaster and the brewer want to keep in mind?

If nothing else, we hope to spark an interest in a subject that is deeply fascinating to us…

We began our series have a little bit of a chat about the complex nature of coffee and wine in general – though as previously mentioned our expertise is limited on wine. We decided to break the subject into three parts. Green coffee, roasted coffee, and brewed coffee, as well as influential steps in between.

You may have never thought about your coffee in its green coffee form. Coffee arrives at the roaster having been processed into this form – it’s the pit of the coffee stonefruit (often referred to as a cherrie). There are a variety of ways to remove the pit, and get it into its drier green coffee form. In this form the coffee has a very rich pleasing aroma.

It is very different from the aroma of the roasted coffee, but you tell very strongly from the smell what sort of flavors you may be able to coax out of the coffee. If you ever have a chance to smell the green version of the coffee you drink, I highly recommend comparing that original aroma to the brewed taste.

In the second part of this series, we wanted to highlight the incredible level of depth that a roaster brings to their coffee. They are taking the very special green coffee – which has it’s own layers of complexity – and applying large amounts of heat in very specific ways such as to create a specific experience.

This is an art just as much as it is a science. You really start to understand how special the process is when you can compare two or more different roaster’s versions of the same coffee. They can all be fantastically delicious. They can all taste completely different. Yet they will all share a core…

We rounded out our series by looking at one of the most delightful coffees that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy – the Nekisse, produced by Ninety Plus Coffee and roasted by Conduit Coffee. This is a very delicious coffee with a number of different experiences that can be found in the cup. We felt it a prudent coffee to bring a conclusion to this series (though it’s certainly a topic we will find ourselves enjoying again).

What do you think? Do you give much thought to the complex nature of your coffee? Does this make you look at your morning cup any different?

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