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Thread: Impact of bean size on taste?

  1. #1
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    Impact of bean size on taste?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I have a simple question of new user ignorance. What impact on taste should I expect from a roast (SO) where the bean size is relatively small?

    I've had a couple of experiences recently where I've bought a SO from a local roaster (different one each time), and on opening I find that the bean size is small. For each one I had to dial the grind quite a lot finer and slightly updose, and even then blonding set in relatively early. My issue is that I find that the coffee is a bit thin. For one (Panama Don Pepe), the taste was a bit disappointing, whereas the other (Ethiopian Kolowa) was better but still too thin.

    Is this related to bean size, which seemed to be the common factor, or were these roasts just a bit light for my taste, or is a sample of two too small to say anything meaningful?

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    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    A sample of two of anything is far too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from and if you are finding your Ethiopians too thin I might suggest that it's probably more about your dosing, distribution and tamping than it is about the bean size. There are many smaller beans that yield superb coffees that are HUGE in body and the best way to learn what is what is to buy as many different beans as possible and to drink your homework. Have fun and enjoy the journey :-)

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    Thanks. Well, I'm trying to buy as big a variety as possible, but I'm getting a bit tired of not knowing in advance what I'm buying and then being disappointed. I have been working vary hard at grind / dose / distribute / tamp and I think I'm fairly close to the money. The flow rate through the dual spout is about right and the bottomless suggests that all is well, so it sounds like I've just been a little unlucky.

    What are the best options that Andy has that give good body (roasted, not green), other than WOW (which I've tried, liked, and will probably order again)?

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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    If you read Andy's notes under each coffee description, that is a good guide on what to expect...

    Mal.

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Coffee beans from the Yemen are very small, and some of the ugliest you will run across, however are very highly regarded, as are some of the peaberry's from Tanzania and New Guinea.

    Vinitasse pretty well hit the nail on the head.

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    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunda View Post
    What are the best options that Andy has that give good body (roasted, not green), other than WOW (which I've tried, liked, and will probably order again)?
    South and Central Americans are probably the best beans for body but, as Mal mentioned, the BeanBay descriptions indicate those with good body.

    Even if a bean doesn't have good body on it's own, you can blend with it to produce that style of coffee but still enjoy the flavour. Brazil and the similar Thai Chang Mai add both body and sweetness to a blend while allowing the flavours of other beans to shine through. A staple blend is 50% Brazil + 25% each of Ethiopian (Yirgacheffe) and Indonesian (Sumatran) but I prefer equal parts of each.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Yeh, the Colombian Volcan Galeras has plenty of body, and is available roasted in Beanbay.

    Gunda, I presume you have tried a slightly slower pour, lower brew ratio (brewed coffee / ground coffee) sort of thing?
    Last edited by Barry O'Speedwagon; 27th October 2014 at 09:27 PM. Reason: I'm an idiot

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    I got the message.

    I have read Andy's descriptions, but to me they didn't really communicate the differences between the roasts. I'll read again. Perhaps I'm still learning to comprehend coffee-speak.

    I've been trying to make the pour as slow as possible. Perhaps I think I'll grind those remaining beans even finer.

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    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunda View Post
    I got the message.

    I have read Andy's descriptions, but to me they didn't really communicate the differences between the roasts. I'll read again. Perhaps I'm still learning to comprehend coffee-speak.

    I've been trying to make the pour as slow as possible. Perhaps I think I'll grind those remaining beans even finer.
    I was only responding to your request for coffee with body. Taste is a different matter that can only come from YOUR experience; you can be told what you might expect but whether that meets your expectations is subject to a number of factors including quality of the coffee, your skill, experience and preference...and tastes change.

    You grind to what produces the best result. A smaller bean does not necessarily mean a finder grind. You learn to adjust your grinder for the beans you are using.
    A slower pour may produce a sour over-extracted flavour. I've had excellent brews from what shots that I thought poured too quickly.

    Be patient. While I agree with Vinitasse about working on dose, distribute, tamp, you are best sticking with one type of bean for a while (say, a month) to hone your technique. Once you are consistently pouring good coffee, try other beans. The next one may be lighter in body but more to your taste.

    Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. I've been at it for about 6 years now and still learning.

  10. #10
    Life-long Learner DesigningByCoffee's Avatar
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    Hi Gunda
    I think in answer to your OP - size is not overly important. The bean quality is - the roast quality is too.
    India MM is a huge bean - tastes great (when roasted well)! But the Maui Mokka is tiny - and the best tasting bean I've had yet (when roasted well). Andy's descriptions give a really good idea of taste - when the roasting is right! (and the brewing…)
    Cost can be a good guide too - good beans that taste better will often be a little more exe…

    But as mentioned above - keep trying and tasting!
    Cheers Matt

    BTW the other thing (that I'm learning more & more as my palette and tastes develop and widen) is that not all beans or roasts suit all brew methods. You might buy an amazing, expensive, lightly roasted SO Ethiopian and put it through through the espresso machine to have as a flat white with two sugars - and end up rating it poorly as the light florals and higher acidity disappear in that brew method. It might not cut through milk or be sour as espresso. Not a fault of the bean - just not what suits it best, so to speak. But for a long black drinker with no sugar this might be close to perfection!

    It's a matter of finding out what you like, and also playing with alternatives. A recent eye-opener for me was roasting a recent beanbay Tanzanian Machare slightly too fast for espresso (a little sour) and then on a whim making a strong aeropress with the same beans and the same grind - and it was absolute, cherry, syruppy bliss! I never liked longer black style coffees before this experience (as I had always tried with espresso roasted beans - and found them too bitter & 'toasty'), but I'm starting to play around with it now, by roasting lighter and keeping them for this purpose.

    So mainly a milk drinker? Espresso roasted Brazils or Columbians might be the origins that most float your boat. But love aeropress or filter or long blacks? A nice light Tanzanian might cause excessive drooling
    Last edited by DesigningByCoffee; 1st November 2014 at 02:02 PM.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    I regularly use Andy's Ethiopian Harrar Longberry - a small bean - and find it tricky to use but great tasting coffee when I get it right.
    It needs a very specific grind for my machine (which is very grind/dose/tamp sensitive anyhow) and then just the right smidgen underdosed and firm tamp to get it to pour nicely.
    With experience, I think you can separate your personal taste preferences from what is well-made coffee regardless of preference.
    The benefit of using quality bean that well roasted is that when my coffee is bad I know where the fault lies.

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    I was going to post again in this thread when I had had the opportunity to explore a little more, but given these posts I thought I should say something, lest I appear unappreciative.

    I've generally been very happy with the coffee I've been making, but had two instances of SO roasts where I wasn't, one more so than the other, and I was looking for a common factor. Given the comments it's clear that it's not bean size - that was the only common factor that I could initially notice.

    It's been suggested to me privately that one factor may have been the light roast of these two SO coffees, with the intention of preserving flavour. I think that's probably a large part of the reason. Certainly the Ethiopian had a nice taste despite its thinness, and if I grind fine and get a lower brew ratio as suggested then it was closer to the mark (and not sour).

    I've been getting some additional help from a CSer and may make more observations in due course.

    {I almost always drink an 18gm espresso, i.e. black.}
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  13. #13
    Life-long Learner DesigningByCoffee's Avatar
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by gunda View Post
    Certainly the Ethiopian had a nice taste despite its thinness, and if I grind fine and get a lower brew ratio as suggested then it was closer to the mark (and not sour).
    Love the 'low and slow' drippy Ethiopian pour
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