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Coffee Experiments with Zac and Ahmed

As a longtime coffee enthusiast, I tend to connect with and encourage other coffee aficionados like myself, so when Zac Parsons told me he was planning to open a coffeehouse, I invited him to join me in some exercises that would help sharpen our senses and coffee knowledge. There is nothing complex about what we’re doing, but it’s a rare opportunity for me to share my experience and gain more insight. I learned long ago that you really don’t know something until you are able to teach it to someone else, in part because sharing knowledge requires a common language and common set of experiences. Zac brought his friend Ahmed, and together, we began developing a mutual language about coffee through this experience.

Most recently, we compared one coffee, one brew method, 3 roasting styles. For the beans, I selected a Kenya bean, and we dropped the roasts at 30 seconds after 1st crack for a light roast, 2 minutes after first crack for our medium roast, and one minute into 2nd crack for our dark roast. Each of our coffees were prepared identically as an Americano with a 1.75 oz. shot and 6 oz. water to a TDS of approximately 1.5%. While the TDS was not identical in each case, we got it darn close using my Brix scale refractometer and targeting 1.7 Brix for each cup.

The results were generally predictable, with the lightest roast having tangy citrus notes, and a brightness that was barely noticeable in the dark roast, and the dark roast had a rich fullness that wasn’t at all apparent in the light roast. By comparison to both, the medium roast was somewhat flat, having some, but not enough of the best qualities in either the light or the dark roast, but it was pleasing nonetheless. I think we agreed that the medium roast would be a crowd pleaser, if the crowd was made up of people who don’t think much about the coffee they’re drinking. The light and dark roasts, however, would likely polarize coffee drinkers into those who are in love the 3rd wave style of roasting and those who developed their discerning taste for quality coffee during the pre-Starbuck’s era.

Ultimately, our shared experiment was a success, because it clearly demonstrated how one coffee, roasted to 3 different degrees, tasted vastly different from each other, when starting from the same bean. Sure, it makes sense, and it’s what all of the coffee books say, but to experience this first hand is a treat that is usually reserved for those in the roasting or coffee buying business. Being able to share the experience with friends is an even rarer treat for me. Thanks, guys!

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