Wednesday, March 3, 2010

taste and over-extraction

Last Wednesday Coffee Catcher co-inventor Nate Jones joined Sarah Dooley of Visions Espresso for the most carefully prepped Coffee Catcher test we've set up so far.  Nate brought three Stumptown coffees from the three major roasting regions: a Kenya Gatomboya (bright and limey), an Indonesia Gajah Aceh (earthy and full-flavored) and a Peru Capacy (understated and balanced). All were roasted on the previous Sunday.  There was only time to try the Kenya Gatomboya before Visions closed, but it proved to be the right coffee for a one-off test. The Kenya's acidity and brightness responded well to the Coffee Catcher, and it was a good chance for Sarah to dial in a popular Stumptown roast with the Coffee Catcher.

Here is Nate's detailed look at the cupping:
I got the sense that we both would have enjoyed spending 5 or 6 hours really delving into the way the Coffee Catcher affects different roasts and flavor profiles, but Sarah's main goals were to do a carefully calibrated test so that she could experience the Coffee Catcher herself.  We tasted the top, middle and bottom of each press and we both had similar impressions throughout the tasting process. During the first minute of tasting (about 2-3 minutes after the coffee was poured), we both preferred the traditional french press. The floral notes really sparkled and the coffee tasted crystal clear, so that the coffee's complex flavors came through clearly.
I should note that [the flavor preference] happened only for the top portion of the french press. The bottom part of the press, in particular, started to over-extract almost immediately. During that first tasting, the Coffee Catcher coffee's flavors (especially on the top two cups) seemed shy and smooth, still blooming. Within 5 minutes of pouring, the extra dissolved solids in the traditional press coffee had started over-extracting the brew and the coffee began to taste flat. Meanwhile, the Coffee Catcher coffee continued to mature and blossom, showing a sweetness and smoothness that the other coffee never attained. The floral notes were all there, but they were more subtle, more balanced than in that first tasting of traditional press coffee.
The top two cups of Coffee Catcher coffee reached their full flavor in about 5-7 minutes, with the bottom cup maturing a couple of minutes later and showing slightly earthier qualities, with perhaps a hint of cedar. The mature flavor of the Coffee Catcher cups remained more subtle and balanced than the fireworks experience of the traditional press in its first minute or so, but all the complexity of the coffee was there. Without the extra dissolved solids, though, the Coffee Catcher coffee continued to taste true as it cooled, allowing the cooler, sweeter flavors to come through in ways that you would never get with regular french press coffee. Also, without the burst-collapse traditional press experience, I felt I had more time to explore the different flavors in the cup, which continued to evolve as the coffee aged. By contrast, the bottom of the traditional press was too over-extracted to be drinkable in less than 10 minutes, and the top, middle and bottom of the traditional press showed signs of over-extraction within 5 minutes.
I talked to Sarah about the development of the Coffee Catcher for 10 or 15 minutes while the coffee cooled. Then, at about the 25-30 minute mark, we did another round of tasting. All three cups of the traditional press were over-extracted and bitter by this time. The complexity of the flavor profile in the Coffee Catcher coffee had receded to an over-arching sweetness, and I could detect hints of over-extraction in the background (this was more pronounced in the bottom cup), but the overall effect was still very pleasant. By this time the coffee was near room temperature, but it remained sweet and drinkable without the bitter over-extraction that characterizes traditional french press coffee.

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