24 Jun 2011

Norwegian Barista Championships 2011. Part 2b - seminar on coffee defects

In this third post from this spring's Norwegian Barista Championships I summarise the most interesting seminar I attended. It was hosted by former world champion barista Tim Wendelboe and focussed on tasting defects in coffee.

I attended two seminars by Tim Wendelboe during this year's event, and of the two the one mentioned here was definitely the most rewarding for me personally.

WORKSHOP/SEMINAR: Flavour defects in coffee
(by Tim Wendelboe)
I always tell my students that if a recipe warn them not to do this or that, they should deliberately try doing it at least once (e.g. don't get egg yolk in the egg whites when whipping meringue, don't open the oven when baking sponge cake etc.). If you don't know how things look or taste when they're failed, it's difficult to have any reference for what's successful. So, go ahead - be disobedient! Tim had indeed done so and collected coffees with various defects in which he brewed cups of defective coffee. The cups were brewed as he would have brewed any other coffee; to the best of one's ability. Not only so, he had also done his best effort to single out the various defects so that we could taste each type of defect separately. Elegant, interesting and very enlightening. The defects we got to taste were:

Faded coffee
(this paragraph has been re-written subsequent to a comment)
at least two reasons for this. The first is past crop vs. new crop. Past crop = coffee that has been stored for some while (e.g. last season's crop) before roasting and sale. This is a typical problem if you are served, say, a Costa Rica coffee this summer because the harvest season is August-December. The second reason for fading is a processing defect if temperature has been too high during drying (e.g. using closed greenhouse-like drying houses with too little airflow). The characteristic of faded coffee is on my palate more subtle and not that critical a defect, but results in lower fruitiness and more woody flavour. The acidity might still be there, but the fruit is more or less gone. So if you get a bag of great Kenya or Panama coffee out of season, don't be surprised if you can't taste all they claim it does on the description on the bag. Also, this defect is easy to get your hands on, even among speciality dealers. Get your hands on a bag of Indian Monsooned Malabar or some Old Brown Java Coffee from Indonesia. These coffees are deliberately aged at the green bean stage to develop a flavour which one would consider being a defect in most other coffee.

Unripe beans
many inexpensive coffees are being uncritically strip picked resulting in a mixture of overripe, unripe and ripe beans; everything is picked at the same time and nothing is thrown away. Characteristic defect flavour would be peanut, old nuts and unpleasant acidity. I would add that unripes also would give a pea-like or grass-like flavour (picture by courtesy of www.coffeeresearch.org).