Things I don’t understand #3214

July 3rd, 2010

I am not particularly ashamed of the phrase “I don’t know” but there comes a point in the day when you’ve said it five or six times and you feel you really ought to do something about it.

The cause of my embarrassed ignorance:  the change in flavour when coffee cools.

The change in a coffee as it cools is familiar to anyone, especially those who’ve cupped a lot.  I think I might have made the rookie error of associating the change with the cupping process too much – the continued extraction, the constant slight agitation of spoons.  I hadn’t really thought much more about it until customers at Penny University started asking and I realised the change was independent of brew method, filtration type (metal, cloth or paper) and common to all coffees.  Clearly something else is going on here.

I understand a few things about how temperature affects taste – the classic example being Coca-Cola.  Cold Coke is (shamefully) delicious.  Warm Coke is too sweet.  The amount of sugar hasn’t changed, merely our tongues capacity to detect it.  Though with coffee it clearly isn’t simple sugars, and one also experiences changes in taste, flavour and mouthfeel.

Perhaps there is something in the books that I own and I may have missed it, or maybe there are some good archived discussions online I haven’t seen.  It just seems like this is something important in coffee that we all talk about, enjoy and appreciate but don’t really understand.

Links, insight, indepth technical explanations, invitations to seminars in exotic locations and casual abuse for my ignorance all welcome!

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