Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters is a Sacramento based coffee roaster and retailer that is dedicated to roasting in small batches for flavor and maintaining direct relationships with the farmers who grow their beans. The owners of Chocolate Fish, Andy and Edie Baker, often visit their farmers overseas to learn about their quality and farming practices first hand. Coffee is a fruit and, as a fruit, it is important to be fresh. Chocolate Fish coffees are purchased seasonally within the last 12 months. They roast to bring out the natural sweetness and fruit acidity in coffee, not just the color of the bean. Their coffee is grown on micro lots, and purchased exclusively by Chocolate Fish- no one else in the world can buy them.
Coffee Water Ratio-The Gold Cup standard is to brew a ratio of 16.6 parts water to 1 part coffee, this can be converted to grams or ounces.
Water Temperature should be 195-205 degrees from the spray head of your brewer before it hits the coffee grounds. If your water isn't hot enough, your coffee will be sour.
Grind-Always grind your coffee just before brewing. Use correct grinds size for your method of brewing.
Written by Edie Baker of Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters
"Fragrance, Body, Sweetness & Acidity may sound like we're tasting wine but we're not, this is Coffee Tasting 101. There are particular nuances found in coffee and if you'd like to take the time to explore your palate, you can become a coffee connoisseur while having fun at describing the flavor profiles in your cup.
HOW TYPE OF COFFEE INFLUENCES FLAVOR: First let's look at how those subtle flavors are present in coffee. Coffee is a fruit, a coffee cherry, and as such has intrinsic flavors. The flavors are influenced by many factors beginning with the type of coffee. Arabica is grown at high altitudes which allows more time for maturation of sugars to develop so it is sweeter. Arabica is most commonly used in Specialty coffee because of these attributes. There are over 100 different varieties of Arabica coffee. Robusta is grown at lower altitudes and tends to taste bitter. The Bourbon varietal adds sweetness and complexity. Pache helps with a good body and Typica adds history in the cup.
HOW SOIL INFLUENCES FLAVOR: The soil is another influencer of flavor. Volcanic soils can produce less acidity and more body, where clay and limestone produce more acidity, and less body. A climate of sunshine during the day coupled with cool nights allows the coffee cherry to mature slowly, developing lots of sugars. Rainfall gives the plant the nutrients it requires during the development of the fruit; but it can hinder harvesting and drying times during the picking season causing undesirable taints like moldy, sour or winey flavors.
PROCESSING & ROASTING TECHNIQUES: Coffee processing can have a huge affect on the outcome of the flavor of the coffee. Improper techniques in picking, sorting, de-pulping, washing, drying and milling can all ruin even the best coffees. Roasting is key to what ends up in the cup. There are many styles of roast in the market today and all lend themselves to changing the way coffee can taste. Lighter roasting styles are designed to bring out sweetness and acidity. By ceasing the roasting process while the sugars are at their sweetest, it highlight's the intrinsic flavors present in the fruit. Darker roasts will reduce that sweetness and lower the acidity. This is due to the increase in carbon content within the bean. Think of toast, when it is golden you are more likely to be able to taste the rye, or the wheat. If you accidentally burn it, you tend to taste more of a charcoal note.
Preparation is another deciding factor in how we perceive our coffee flavors. Using the correct temperature of water, size and consistency of the grind, brewing style, extraction times, and water to coffee ratios all play into the final result in your cup.
Now that you know the why's of coffee flavor, let's look at the coffee talk used when tasting:
AROMA/FRAGRANCE, as we just mentioned your nose is able to smell what your taste buds can't taste. There are 3 primary aromas in coffee which come from either the plant itself or the changes during the roasting process: (1)Enzymatic (think plant like)-fruity, flowery & herby. (2)Sugar Browning (Mallard reaction)- nutty, caramel, chocolaty. (3)Dry Distillation (roasting depth)- carbony, spicy & resinous.
Remember this is where you start and now you can break those aromas down further to find descriptors you are familiar with. The Coffee Cupping Wheel helps with more descriptors. Because we are having fun, we suggest combining your senses for the next part, smelling and tasting to recall memorized flavors.
SWEET- is the coffee sweet? If yes, what kind of sweetness? Chocolate, caramel, nutty, fruity? If it's chocolate can you narrow it down more- bakers, milk chocolate, semi sweet? Caramel can be honey like, maple syrup, or buttery candy. Nutty could be roasted peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, or it could be even malt-like or toast. Fruity sweetness like super ripe stone fruit, what kind?
ACIDITY in coffee is a good thing. Not to be confused with bitter or sour, it brings a balance with sweetness and adds a huge array of flavors to our palate. The two most common types of acidity are Malic Acidity (think green apple) and Citric Acidity (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes etc).
The BODY of coffee can also be referred to as mouth-feel and is frequently described as AFTERTASTE- what's left to your senses once the coffee has been swallowed. Although not technically a flavor, body is an integral part of tasting and describing a coffee. How does it sit in your mouth, what is lingering after you've swallowed? Body can be heavy or full, light or tea like, creamy, silky or just delightfully perfect. You can reuse descriptors from sweetness & acidity for the aftertaste or find new ones.
Now let's put it all together, a descriptor could sound like this "my coffee has an aromatic reminiscent of _________, a sweetness like ________ with a _________acidity. The body was ______. and it left a _______ aftertaste". Mix it up, you don't have to hit each category I've mentioned. Sometimes you might not be able to define one or the other so do your best and enjoy what you're drinking."