Your Coffee Is Bitter. Ours Isn't.
This post goes out to all the frustrated baristas that have to deal with people telling them “meh, I don’t like coffee. it’s too bitter.” Or my favourite is people saying “it just tastes like cigarettes.”
Both of the above statements could well be true. However, I am going to argue that it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, we know that coffee has more tasting notes than wine.
If you are just finding your way in coffee this article might have come at the perfect time. Let’s say you tried a filter coffee in an independent and fell in love with its fruity, almost tea-like taste. There and then, you bought a grinder and Aeropress or V60 and some beans. You attempt replicating the coffee and it tastes better than most but wasn’t as perfect. An issue then arises when you come to buy new beans. How do you choose?
“Do I go to Tesco and buy what looks cool, or the most expensive bag they sell?” – Please don’t do either of these.
A large contributing factor to the first two (sadly valid) statements is the roast profile. Roast profile has many descriptors; Italian roast, European roast, light, medium, dark, light/medium, medium/dark – the list goes on and on.
The key thing to note is that the further along the roast profile [right] you go, the more you are going to taste the roast. The flavour of a dark roast is bitter, and in some cases does taste burnt. The further to the left you go, the more of the original coffee bean you will taste. This is where you can start to look at the regions of coffee and get picky with tasting notes (I think we will save this topic for another day though).
Why do people roast dark then?
Well, some people actually like it (my dad being one of those people.) It is often a case of people not knowing anything different. If you associate that taste with coffee, why wouldn’t you drink it?
It is a surefire way of providing a consistent coffee. If you are over-roasting every bean to the point of not tasting the bean origin but only tasting the roast, quality of the green bean is less important. So in essence you can produce a repeatable cup even if the beans aren’t particularly good.
It sells. People are used to it, and until more people are exposed to different coffees that won’t change.
There is good news though! With the rise of independent coffee shops offering lighter profile roasts it is forcing the large corporations to adapt. Starbucks have launched a Blonde roast; Costa offer a Paradise Street Roast which tends to be slightly lighter. This doesn’t mean you should start going to them – far from it. Stick to your local coffee shop who will be far more passionate and be able to teach you more. It does mean that when you have a 6-hour drive for your great uncle’s 84th birthday you don’t have to drink the remains of a stale ashtray.
Another reason your coffee might feature bitter notes is due to the extraction (or over extraction as would be). The two main features that dictate the extraction process are grind coarseness and extraction time. Water pH also plays a large factor so it is worth finding out what your tap is giving you. Your water provider will be able to tell you the details and head over to Coffee Forums UK where there will be plenty of people offering advice. Below is a link to a handy article from Perfect Daily Grind on how to control your extraction.
Hopefully this has helped you grasp why our coffee isn’t bitter (acidic perhaps) but not bitter. If you want any advice on beans then feel free to send us a message or look at the roasters we have posted about.