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Sweet Nutrition



What role does nutrition play in sensory perception of coffee or any food?

After reading a September 2012 article on 10 surprising dangers of vitamins and supplements, I stopped taking my usual daily calcium and multi-vitamin supplements only to notice a drastic change in my perception of coffee.

The Ecuador Organic Espindola that I’d roasted up and been enjoying suddenly tasted unripe with notes of unripe apricot where before the coffee had been sweet and balanced. Concerned, I stopped at a coffee shop to test my senses. The shot of espresso (Verve Sermon, I believe) tasted fine, but the V60 prep of the Verve Colombia Reserve El Faldon also tasted unripe.

This was confounding, where was the sweetness. My perception of salt, sour, and bitter seemed unaffected. I wasn’t sure if I were getting sick, possibly affected by allergies, or what was going on. In the back of my mind, I knew I’d quit vitamins a day or two before, but didn’t think it would make that much difference. At work, I noticed that a clementine I’d brought into work with me tasted sour, but I couldn’t be sure if it was unripe or just my perception of it so I sampled chocolate and Jolly Rancher candy and could get a sensation of sweetness, but the subtle sweetness of coffee eluded me.

This pattern continued another day or two until I resumed my vitamins, and the sweetness in the Ecuador coffee returned.  I’m curious if other’s have noticed this with their own taste perception?


Behmor Brazen


I’ve been enjoying putting the Behmor Brazen through it’s paces since it arrived this week.   I’ve been eagerly awaiting this since Joe Behm demonstrated this brewer in person at the SCAA Symposium in Portland. The Brazen is replacing a Bunn BTX brewer that I picked up years ago at a thrift store.   With four coffee drinkers in the house, I was not able to keep up with coffee consumption in the mornings, so I got the BTX out of the garage.  Still, I missed the great flavor and aroma from brewing methods such as the Chemex brewer with an Able Brewing company Kone metal filter.

The Brazen comes with a pancake shaped gold coffee filter and features precise temperature control (calibrated upon arrival and compensated for altitude) and a programmable pre-soak feature to allow your coffee to bloom before washing the solubles into the pot.  The Brazen is marked with 600, 900, and 1,200 ml fill lines and as
I’ve been using 900 ml water and 50 grams coffee with my BTX it was natural to start there.  After calibration, the temperature is set to maximum and the pre-soak time defaults to 15 seconds, fine for commercial or pre-ground coffee, but not ideal for specialty or home-roasted coffee.  Roastmasters threw in a pound of Willoughby’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe with the brewer and I also received two excellent bags of coffee (Rwanda Dukunde Kawa and Guatemala Antigua Bella Carmona) from Greenway Coffee and all the coffees came about a week off roast.  I set the pre-soak time to 45 seconds (what I use with the BTX) and the temp to 202°F for my first brews and brewed up a pot of the Dukunde Kawa.  I also coarsened up the grind from the BTX setting (pretty fine because the BTX brews pretty quickly) setting the Macro lever of my Vario about 3/4 down from Fine to Coarse.  When I brew my fresh home-roast, I’ll use an even longer pre-soak time, probably around 1:30 to make sure that the coffee doesn’t expand during the release of carbon dioxide as the coffee blooms and it the showerhead.

The Dukunde Kawa was very floral with great flavor and the full body of a metal filter, I was not disappointed.  I was happy enough with the resulting batch to pick up some four ounce jelly jars so I can pre-measure my 50 gram doses for weekday mornings (and maybe even show the rest of the family how to brew a pot if I’m not home).

This weekend, I also played with the manual release feature, which holds the water temp at the programmed setting for ten minutes and has timers for the release and pauses allowing you to manually brew coffee in a Chemex or in my case heat water to a desired temperature for tea.  I set the temp to 210°F (my max temp as I live near sea level) for my Lapsang Soushong strong black smoke tea and brewed up a pot.  I used a vintage Corning carafe and the base of the carafe was just the right size to fit in the centering indentation of the Brazen which made it dead simple.

Finally, I tried out an iced coffee recipe with the Brazen.  I love iced coffee prepared by brewing the coffee hot directly into ice which results in a bright, aromatic coffee.  I’ve tried to like cold brew, but to me it just tastes muted.  I know that’s personal preference, others will probably say hot brewed iced coffee is too bitter and bright.  I’ve created iced coffee recipes for the Aeropress, Kalita Wave, and Chemex so why not the Brazen?  In order to prevent over-dilution, I use a strong 12:1 water to coffee ratio (my normal ratio is 16:1) and 60% water to 40% ice.  Hearing from others that the Greenway Coffee Guatemala Antigua Bella Carmona makes a nice iced coffee, I used the following recipe.

  • 70 60 g coffee
  • 500 550 ml 202°F water
  • 1 minute pre-soak
  • 340 g ice


The resulting brew was great, like a caramel covered green apple.  There was quite a bit of ice left unmelted so the recipe could be tweaked with more water to ice and you could also adjust the 12:1 ratio with more total water+ice to coffee, but it worked out quite well as a test recipe. (recipe updated)

Overall, I’ve been very happy with the Brazen and am looking forward to trying out brewing different coffees at different temperatures to bring out the best from the coffee.



Iced Coffee Season ~ Aeropress edition

As Twitter and other social media has been reminding me, it’s iced coffee season again.  whether that means cold process, coffee with milk, ca phe sua da (vietnamese iced coffee) with condensed milk, or hot brewed coffee over ice (like I like it) it’s time to get your cold coffee on.

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HCR Cafe

Handsome Coffee Roasters opened their cafe today in Los Angeles and I was lucky enough to be able to stop by for a coffee on my way home.


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Portola Coffee Lab

I visited Portola Coffee Lab in Orange County yesterday and was very impressed with all the brew methods available, baristas in lab coats, and the wide selection of coffee gadgets and books for sale.

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Two Levers

When I scored my Gaggia Factory G106 manual lever, the FE-AR La Peppina was put in the garage.  This was for practical matters like not having enough room on the counter and also wanting to devote my time to learning how to use the manual Gaggia and work on texturing and pouring milk (still need a lot of work there) but it was never intended to be for as long as it’s been.  I’d intended to refinish a sideboard to make a home for both machines, but that project keeps getting bumped down on the priority list and it’s been about eight months since I’ve last used the La Peppina.

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Flavor Analogs a Crutch?


Recent forum discussions have me thinking about describing coffee with flavor analogs such as blueberry, chocolate, bergamot, etc. and when I picked up some fresh starfruit and was struggling to find flavor analogs for the fruit (celery, grapefruit) but missing the mark.

Further reflection leads me to believe that people who know starfruit probably just say it tastes like starfruit.  Are flavor analogs a crutch holding us back from knowing what a wet process caturra or a natural bourbon tastes like and really knowing the factors that affect the cup?

I know I’ve got a long way to go myself in this.

MyPressi Twist Case

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Liquid Amber Tasting

This post is an evaluation of different roasts of Sweet Maria’s Liquid Amber blend.  For those who are not familiar with this blend, it’s a mix of green coffee beans that includes robusta and monsooned beans, it’s strong enough to cut through milk, has lots of crema and the robusta and monsooned beans give it a little pleasant funkiness.

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Twist vs. Pod

March 4, 2011:  We moved upstairs this week at work, and because the new kitchen area isn’t plumbed in there’s no running water or sink so management provisioned the kitchen area with a Nespresso ES-100 Pro pod monster to fulfill our coffee needs. This is, no doubt, an upgrade from the coffee setup downstairs, but not exactly my idea of a good solution for personal coffee.

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