At the weekend, I finally got around to taking the Blue Bottle Coffee course about coffee on SkillShare. The course covers the science behind coffee, the equipment needed to brew a cup of coffee, and tasting, among other topics. I was most looking forward to the lecture on tasting and I was not let down.
The course only took a few hours for me to work through. I’ve downloaded the “tasting notes” PDF that accompanies the course. I think I’m going to use it as a guide for my tasting going toward.
I did not enjoy the video on coffee theory. It went into more depth than I needed. You could skip the video entirely and still get a lot of value from the course. I did not finish the video. If I had tried, I may have given up on the course prematurely.
The notes I took while taking the course are below. Most of my notes are about the course but some of them are personal scribbles. I would rate the course 5/5.
- Use a burr grinder – they are better for consistency
- Pouring kettle – pour water from boiled kettle into pouring kettle (if I am ever doing pour over)
- Two categories of brewing methods:
- Pour-over (Chemex)
- Steeping (i.e. Aeropress, French Press)
A bitterness can be caused by a grind size that is too small; over-extracted
Porelex burr grinder
Blend coffees are a mix of coffees. A roaster will go out and find coffees that, combined, create a particular flavor profile. A really nice, consistent cup.
Single origins are coffees that can be traced. They come from a single origin, either a country, a region, or a specific group of producers.
Single origin coffees give you a clear idea as to what you will be tasting; there’s only one coffee to focus on. Reading about the details of how a coffee is produced can be interesting. (Read about Union)
Within robusta and arbica, there are a lot of varieties of coffee that come from different plants. As I taste more coffees, I should try to learn about these different plants.
Slowly, coffee goes stale. You can use coffee that is months off its roast date but most of the flavor and taste will be gone. Always look for a roast date.
Within 10-12 days is ideal for a roast date. Don’t use a particular roast too soon. Days 2-4 is better after roasting. This is because gases are released at the very start.
Water is also important. Any water works but water does affect the cup. If the tap water is good – like mine – then no filtration is necessary.
Building a Recipe
There is no right or wrong.
I prefer stronger cups of coffee; I look for bolder flavors.
It’s easier to use weight. It gives you a more accurate recipe. Density is a factor. I don’t need to worry too much about this with my Aeropress. I may if I choose another brewing method.
15g to one cup (4 on the Aeropress) is my recipe. Single origins may need less beans because they can have more nuanced flavor profile. Although that creates a lghter bodied cup. Too strong may obscure a flavor.
Ratios can be different depending on the cup.
1:11 is a strong blend and 1:16 is good for light coffee
Brewing a Cup
Pre-heating makes sure my cup does not dramatically cool the coffee.
First cup of coffee with a new bag of beans will involve a lot of guess work. I’ll learn more about what I want in a cup later.
Shake Aeropress to make sure ground beans are level in the device.
The gas makes it difficult to extract. The bloom pushes that gas out. It is called the bloom because grounds are coming up to the surface and “blooming”. Bubbles come toward the end.
Coffee can absorb twice its weight in water. Give the coffee enough time to bloom; a slightly longer bloom is better than a shorter bloom.
Look at how the surface of the water reacts. There should be a consistent layer on the top. If some areas look really light and dark, my pour did not go over all the areas consistently.
Keep technique the same unless there are problems; other factors like beans and grind matter more.
I don’t need to get too complex with my flavor descriptors.
Five factors to consider:
- Like a nice sweetness or a bad banana
- Dishwater light body, good body
- Finish happens after the drink so you should reflect on a drink after
- Is the finish smooth, clean, how long does it last
- Acidity can bring a lot of flavors. Well-roasted coffee displays acidity.
- Fruit citrus is the best.
- This is where you make associations (this reminds me of X)
Look at each one in terms of quality and intensity. Flavors are usually flat when the ddrink is really warm. As the temperature drops, you can get more of the tastes from the cup.
Slurp the coffee. Roll it around in the mouth and chew it.
That helps get different flavors. I like darker flavors like chocolate. Fruitiness is nice but it’s best when it is accompanied with a darker flavor.
There are so many variables: type of roast, way I brew, recipe.
Experiment, try different things, each road is unique.