blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cupping Notes & Nez du Cafe Practice

On Tuesday afternoon, in honor of a visit from "Wiggles", a former Phoenix barista and coffee geek, in town for a couple of days from Chicago, we blind cupped four roaster's versions of Kenyan AA. Two were drum roasted, two were fluid bed roasted. Here are our cupping notes.

Bridgeport Coffee House, Chicago $12.00 per lb
From a small roaster in Chicago, roasts in a fluid bed roaster 5 or so kilos at a time. Fragrance was cocoa & toast, definitely the darkest roast in the bunch. Aroma on the break was pleasing, again, cocoa, chocolate. Flavor was pleasant, definitely smoky. Hard to distinguish as Kenyan, but totally enjoyable as a coffee. Easy to tell it was a fluid bed because it tasted a lot like our (Phoenix's) dark roast coffees.

Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago $21.00 per lb
Fragrance was fruity, cherries. Aroma on the break was delicate. Flavor in the cup changed a lot as the coffee cooled. Started with characteristic Kenyan zip, citrus. The last sip was a dead ringer for Campbell's Tomato Soup. I was able to identify this as an Intelly coffee even with the blind tasting; it was clearly a drum roast because the flavors are more singular and easier to pick out. Intelly has really perfected their ability to pull out certain things in the coffees. Doesn't always make for a balanced cup, but it does make for an interesting coffee experience.

Caribou Coffee, Minneapolis $16.99
The coffee from Caribou was old; it must have come from Wiggles' private stock, as in from the back of his kitchen cabinet. The fragrance was flat, smelled like musty oat grain, the trademark stale coffee smell. Flavor was flat also, any interesting acidity had faded. Not a fair comparison, because of the product's age. But it was reassuring to be able to identify it as old so easily in a blind test. We put this in as our "ringer" to keep us honest. Sorry, Caribou!

Phoenix Coffee, Cleveland $14.00 per lb
Fragrance was peanuts and a little chocolate, definitely characteristic of coffee from a fluid bed roaster. Pungent aroma on the break. Medium body and some citrusy acidity, but not as much as I would have expected. This coffee changed the least as it cooled. Most balanced.

After our cupping, we also played with our "Nez du Cafe" set, (developed by Jean Lenoir) which is a set of 36 vials, all of which contain distinct aromas that are often found in coffee.

Here are the 36 aromas and my notes about how a few of them actually smelled... like notes to myself... I am preparing to take my Q Grader test sometime in 2010, which will require me to be able to identify all of these aromas (and much more). The Q Grader test is the most demanding analytical sensory test that a coffee professional can take. I have lots of prep to do!

1. Earth
2. Potato
3. Garden Peas
4. Cucumber hints of paper
5. Straw
6. Cedar hints of daffodil
7. Clove-like
8. Pepper smells like the trapp family inn in monteverde, costa rica
9. Coriander seeds
10. Vanilla
11. Tea rose/Redcurrant jelly
12. Coffee blossom
13. Coffee pulp
14. Blackcurrant-like
15. Lemon
16. Apricot
17. Apple smells like sweet tarts or other candy
18. Butter totally sweet smelling
19. Honeyed
20. Leather
21. Basmati Rice
22. Toast also smells like rice, but jasmine rice
23. Malt distinctively repulsive
24. Maple syrup
25. Caramel
26. Dark chocolate resembles soy sauce smell
27. Roasted almonds smells artificial
28. Roasted peanuts
29. Roasted hazelnuts really smells like filbert nuts
30. Walnuts hints of urine
31. Cooked beef smells like the iron tablets i had to take when pregnant
32. Smoke
33. Pipe tobacco
34. Roasted coffee smells like skunk (?!)
35. Medecinal
36. Rubber

I am also hoping that we'll be hosting some "Nez du Cafe" sensory practice sessions in 2010, so stay tuned.