Misconceptions in the coffee world are a dime a dozen. You don’t have to go far to stumble upon opposing viewpoints about coffee… which can be insanely frustrating.
You’re reading one blog stating [A], and then 5 minutes later, you find yourself reading another online guide stating [B]. It seems like everyone online has a staunch opinion about the science of coffee, so how do we know who to trust?
Well, even amongst the saturated masses of coffee blogs, there are quite a few good sources out in the world. The SCA, Scott Rao, Ted Lingle, James Hoffman, Nick Cho, Matt Perger, Pete Licata, and many others (to name a few) have been influential authorities in the coffee industry. The science of coffee is being discovered and tested, and good information is getting easier and easier to find.
Regardless of the bounty of good information, coffee is still an alienated craft in the food and beverage world.
So today, we wanted to take a look at some common misconceptions. Maybe this will clear up some questions that have been burning in the back of your mind!
Misconception 1: Coffee is Bitter
Check out this graphic from Counter Culture Coffee:
This is an integral coffee tool known as the flavor wheel.
Roasters and baristas use this wheel to identify particular flavor notes in the coffees they use.
As you can see… not all of the flavor notes listed are bitter. In fact, there are more “sour”, “fruity”, and “acidic” style flavors than there are bitter ones.
These naturally occurring flavor profiles found in coffee are a result of their molecular makeup. Coffees contain sucrose, malic acid, chlorogenic acid, fatty acids, citric acid, cellulose fiber, and many other compounds and flavor solubles.
But not every coffee is created equal.
The flavor soluble compounds, molecular density, and other characteristics that define the general makeup of a coffee depend on quite a few factors:
- where the coffee is grown
- how the coffee is processed
- how the coffee is roasted
All of these factors affect flavor.
So if you brew an Ethiopian coffee, it may taste like blueberries and fruit tarts. However, if you brew an El Salvador coffee, it may taste like nutmeg, chocolate, and pecans.
And of course, all of this depends on how the coffee is brewed. If the coffee is over extracted, it WILL probably taste bitter. Brewing is an important step in maintaining flavor integrity.
Misconception 2: Coffee Doesn’t Go Bad
Oh, how wrong this statement is.
Coffee is an organic substance that is perishable. Once the coffee is harvested, processed, and roasted, it becomes subject to the harsh reality of oxidation.
After being roasted, coffee beans expel carbon dioxide, and the oxygen it’s exposed to begins to break down the chemical components of the bean.
Exposure to excess light, heat, or moisture will cause coffee to lose its flavor even faster. This is why we recommend storing your coffee in an airtight container - preferably a vacuum sealed one. Storing your coffee properly will keep it away from excess oxygen and other environmental hazards.
And DON’T pre grind your coffee.
The outer surface of the coffee bean is already 100% exposed to oxygen, but the inside of the bean is still somewhat unexposed. It’s protected in a way. When you grind your beans, the coffee’s aroma and flavor becomes a ticking time bomb. Now that the coffee is broken up into tiny particles, oxygen can more easily seep into every nook and pore of the coffee.
Coffee begins to lose its gusto at around the [two or three] week mark. However, if it’s stored correctly, the coffee can last a bit longer.
1) DON’T buy pre-ground coffee.
2) Store your coffee in an airtight container or bag - somewhere away from light or heat.
Misconception 3: The Grinder is Just Another Coffee Accessory
A lot of people buy a brewer, kettle, and measuring scale… then they just use whatever old grinder they can find. The grinder is viewed as a “one size fits all” necessity.
We’ve talked about this before. Your grinder is one of the most important pieces of coffee gear you will own.
It shouldn’t be just an afterthought when buying your coffee gear.
Because the quality of your coffee grind determines the balance and consistency of your brew.
A good grind will yield consistent brewing results and promote a coffee’s optimal flavor/body profile -- while a poor quality grind will yield results that are… less than tasty.
Here’s how it works:
The more a bean is divided and ground up, the more easily water can extract flavor solubles from the bean. The water will seep into the exposed particles of coffee and do work.
This is why a fine grind extracts faster than a coarse grind. It takes the water longer to “pull” flavor solubles out of a coarse grind since the water “touches” a smaller surface area of the bean.
So what if you have some coffee particles that are large (called boulders), and others that are small (called fines)?
Those large particles will extract slower than the small ones!
This yields a cup of coffee that is both over AND under extracted. The fines become over extracted, and the boulders remain under extracted. It’s not pleasant.
To combat this, you need a grinder with a decent particle size distribution. You can read more about this here.
Misconception 4: You Can Brew With Any Water You Have on Hand
Yes, technically you can brew with any water source you want to brew with, but it won’t always taste good.
Here’s a fantastic chart from Scott Rao’s book, Everything But Espresso:
TDS, pH, Alkalinity, and many other factors play a role in the taste of your coffee. After all, coffee is 98% water - the water’s taste is at least a little important, don’t you think?
But there’s no need to worry. Distilled, RO, filtered, or good tasting spring water is always acceptable. And if you want to take it a step further, you can always turn to easy water treatment.
This Conclude Misconceptions: Volume I
As time goes on, we’ll release more of these. Every misconception and coffee myth should be addressed and confronted.
Coffee should be fun and tasty.
These myths make it harder to get to the bottom of issues! We know that most of you aren’t here to become coffee experts. You’re here because you like easy, mobile coffee.
And to do that, you need to circumvent the misconceptions that lead to bad, unenjoyable coffee.
Until next time!
The KOHI+ team