The taste of Black Coffee

Considering switching to black coffee but feeling a bit apprehensive about trying it out? Wondering if it’s really as bitter as people say or if there’s more to it?


Black coffee may taste more bitter than coffee with cream and sugar but it allows you to savour the subtle flavours inherent in the coffee itself. Cream and sugar tends to overpower the natural flavour of the coffee and it can be difficult to appreciate the quality of the coffee and the natural flavour notes unique to its origin and cultivation. Coffee notes can range from sweet and fruity to nutty, citrusy, chocolatey, caramel and more. 


Here are some aspects that you’ll be able to experience better with black coffee, along with factors to consider when trying your first cup or selecting and preparing your coffee.


Quality

Black coffee is an acquired taste but when you add milk, cream, and sugar to the coffee, that’s all you’re really going to taste. The bitterness of the black coffee is masked by the milk and sugar and takes away from the entire experience of drinking coffee. Beyond the bitterness you’ll find the natural flavours and can taste the difference between different coffees. A high quality coffee can truly make a difference in your choice of beans and drink. 



Flavour Notes

Coffee flavours can vary greatly depending upon the ecosystem in which they are grown. This means that the different plants that grow alongside the coffee will influence the taste of the coffee. In this way, coffee grown in specific regions will have distinct flavour profiles based on soil type and micro climate and, of course, the genetic type - Arabica vs. Robusta. For example - coffee from India will taste different from coffee grown in Africa and even in India, coffee from different parts of India will taste different. 

In basic commercial coffee, you may find flavours of nuts or cacao. Coffee trees and cacao trees both thrive in the cocoa belt of South America, so that shouldn’t be too surprising.

Specialty coffee, grown in exotic places, is designed for quality and flavour. That means the choice of where to grow the coffee based on the soil type altitude and other plants that are around them. Coffee may be planted where the environment is already preferable, or other plants may be grown around specifically to influence the coffee.

This is why the origin of coffee is a big deal and why single origin coffee is usually praised as the best. So it is important to know where your coffee comes from and this plays a big role in the process of experimenting to discover your favourite coffees. 

Flavour notes are also enhanced and develop better based on how they are processed - they can be washed, natural, honey sundried, fermented and soaked and more. The process of roasting also plays a role in enhancing the developing the flavour profile as different roasters use different methods. 

It is easy to find a flavour wheel online that shows all the different flavour notes that coffee might have; some examples are citrus flavours like orange, lime, and tangerine, berry flavours,  roasted nuts such as walnuts, almonds and peanuts and even flavours of vegetables, spices, and flowers.

 

Different types of roasts 

Another major factor to consider when buying your beans is the roast type. There are four different degrees of roast identifiable by the colour of the beans. The reason that the roast type is so important is because the length of the roast affects how much flavour the beans retain, the acidity and the oil released - all of which contribute to the overall taste of the coffee. 


Light

Light roast beans are roasted just to the point of “first crack” where the shell has only cracked once.

These beans have as much of their natural flavour as possible. They have a higher acidity than other roasts. You will sense a lot of citric acid, orange and lemony notes. They tend to have baked, toasty notes which are mild on bitterness with a good sweet aftertaste. They are the best choice for first time black coffee consumers.


Medium

Medium roast beans are roasted until they have a browner colour than light roast beans but not to the point that oils start to come to the surface. Medium roasts are better at balancing flavour, acidity, and aroma. It’s the most popular roast as we can sense a lot of chocolate and caramel notes and the bitterness and sweetness balance each other, with lots of roasted nutty and berry like texture.


Medium-Dark

Medium-dark roasts are roasted until oil starts to come up to the surface of the bean. Since it’s roasted for slightly longer and higher temperatures, the flavours associated with the roasting process come out more than they do in lighter roasts.


Dark

Dark roasts are roasted until they’re very dark brown or almost black, to the “second crack” stage. At this point, a lot of the oil has come up to the surface of the beans, so they’ll look a lot more greasy.

This style of roast is the most bitter with a smoky woody and very dark chocolate like or burnt taste.


Which one of the above is the Best?

Light and medium roasts are preferred for black coffee because they retain the most natural flavour of all of the stages. Light roasts are more popular in specialty coffees.

Since medium roasts are more balanced, they’re a better place to start if you want to experiment with black coffee, but part of experimenting is trying different things to find what you like, so trying both would work just as well.


And Finally Thicker Grind!

If you’re looking to decrease the amount of bitterness in your coffee, one thing you can do is to use a thicker grind size of coffee. Rather than using a fine grind, which may over-extract the bitter flavour from the beans, try using a medium grind.

Don’t go too coarse though because you’ll get less flavour unless you brew them for longer duration.


With these considerations in mind, embracing black coffee may open up a world of exciting flavours and help you appreciate coffee on a whole new level. Feel free to experiment and find the best brewing methods and roast styles that suit your taste preferences.



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Brewing Tips

  • For light to medium roasts, brew for 4 minutes.
  • For medium dark to dark roasts, use a 3:30 minute brew time.
  • For very dark roasts, use less than 3:30 minutes.
  • To prevent coffee fines from entering your cup, wrap a thin cotton cloth around the strainer before pouring out the brewed coffee.
  • Alternatively you can use a coarser grind
  • If your coffee is too bitter, shorten the brewing time 
  • If your coffee is sour or salty, increase the brewing time slightly.
  • If your coffee is too watery or lacks flavour, add more coffee powder during the brewing process