Archive for May, 2009


How sweet is your cup?


At Intelligentsia we believe that sweetness (taste sensation based on sucrose) is the key to coffee; the more inherent sweetness a coffee exhibits, the better.  This means that as roasters we have more to play with during the roasting cycle. We can, in part, manipulate sweetness to bring out either more fruit sweet or caramelized sweetness, accompanied by the overarching goal to hit the target flavor descriptors decided during the initial purchase process.

‘How do we perceive sweetness?’ I hear you ask.  Well, that is a great question. The SCAA describes sweetness as:

“Sweetness refers to a pleasing fullness of flavor as well as any obvious sweetness and its perception is the result of the presence of certain carbohydrates. The opposite of sweetness in this contest is sour, astringency or “green” flavors”.

Personally, the last sentence in above quotation really helped drive home the idea of sweetness in coffee; I find it to be a coating/ viscous sensation on my tongue. Astringency, which we find a lot of whilst cupping, is a drying sensation that leaves more to be desired.

As Carl Staub (Agtron) touched on, in the “Basic Chemical Reactions” during roasting, there are different types of sugars within coffee:

“In lighter roasts there will be more trigonelline, hence bitterness, but also less sugar caramelization. Caramelized sugar is less sweet in the cup than non caramelized sugar, so when properly roasted these two constituents form an interesting compliment to each other.”

Bitterness is a large, umbrella term and can be applied in a variety of ways to describe a sensation in tasting coffee. Some coffee-drinkers make the mistake of attaching the thought “bitter” to all roasts described as light. A lighter roast, in actuality, might contain more fruit sweetness rather then a more caramel sweetness.

For me when roasting, it’s like balancing act because we want our coffees to be as sweet as possible.  This, in combination with knowing what “target” flavors we are trying to bring out in the coffee itself will dictate how we will let the coffee develop during the roast cycle, which I will go further into this later.

There are many variables within and outside of the roasting cycle that we contend with when trying to capture sweetness in the cup. I will be going into as many of these as I can in upcoming posts, as well as a blow for blow account of our roasting process to better explain the ‘balancing act.’

Till next time.


Edited by Jared


Question for James Hoffman.


If I think back to a few frantic posts ago, I remember the post by James Hoffman, when he put out the following query in regards to competition. At which time the post seemed, oddly enough, to coincide with Intelligentsia’s success in the United States Barista Competition.

Whether or not Jame’s hand hovered over the enter key as the results of the USBC were called out, is not my question ( he implies it). Also, James was very forthcoming in his initial post with his estimations of cost, I am just wondering if there is more.

My question;

In light of how forthcoming Doug Zell was in his estimations to the cost of competition, would James extend us the same courtesy and divulge what he and Annette have spent each year (now that they have been tied up with the WBC winners since 07) on coaching, roasting/ cost of roasting and more importantly in time spent away from their business.

My post is not meant to be inflammatory at all, it is meant to be in the same context as Jame’s post.  I can’t help but wonder, what did they spend on Stephen Morrissey and the 2009 WBC champ Gwilym Davis?

Three years of producing winners has to have had some sort of toll on his hip pocket, or has it?

I don’t know.

Congratulations to Gwilym, James and Annette they really deserve all the accolades they recieve.