Are my tastebuds hopeless?

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Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby petikas » Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:26 pm

For the last year I've been desperately trying to taste some of the tastes people describe in coffee, but I can't seem to have any luck.
I tried drip, french press, espresso, cupping, and recently the aerobie aeropress.
I tried different grind settings, different water at different temperatures and different steeping times.
I can definitely taste difference in various coffee and some coffees turn out better tasting than others, but no matter what I do I can't taste citrus or strawberries or molasses or lemon zest in coffee. I can just taste coffee, a complex taste that I can't really describe. I can also taste the metal in the french press sometimes.
I'm also having difficulty discerning the difference between bitter and sour in espresso.
I'm using a Mazzer Mini E for all my grinding, which is not ideal I suppose but I'm guessing it should be sufficient.

Is everything lost, should I keep trying or should I just accept that my taste buds are not very good at tasting coffee.

HELP!

ps. when tasting food I don't have this sort of problem as I can taste the different spices and different ingredients used in the food.
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby CakeBoy » Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:07 am

Don't worry, it may just be the beans you are using or the roast style making it difficult. You already said that you can taste metal, so your tastbuds are working well enough. It might be worth 'cupping' a few very different coffees side by side having read the roasting notes. That way you can seek out the specific flavours on a level playing field. Remember, it's all very subjective and any flavours are only hints. As long as you are enjoying your coffee and drinking it exactly the way you like it, all is well. That is what it is all about. Enjoyment and fun :)

As for bitter/acidic/sour, they are easy to mix up. Bitter occurs at the back of the tongue, sour on the sides and acidity at the front. Sour usually causes a 'lemon sucking' reaction.

What beans are you using generally? :D
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby petikas » Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:29 am

When trying to taste delicate tastes in coffee I usually use beans from Hasbean, due to international shipping they usually arrive to me 4 days after the roast date. Is that too long for cupping?
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby fred25 » Wed Nov 05, 2008 10:05 am

It actually should be nigh-on perfect.

Further to what Cakey suggested you could try some coffee with very different profiles side by side, especially ones from different regions of the world, or with really differing attributes - like a bold, fruity and acidic Kenyan next to a smooth, chocolatey and creamy South American (El Injerto springs to mind); or an Indonesian coffee next to a whistle-clean, light-bodied and floral coffee (Rwanda?) .

More importantly though, and at the risk of sounding like 'I'm real dumb and I don't care' , I'd make a big difference between ability to taste and ability to describe a taste. You can read some really ridiculous description, with people trying to out-do each other in 'nailing' that taste with some unheard-of descriptor, like 'the lower end of the middle of the cup is reminiscent of lightly-toasted chumpoberi nuts, whilst the retro-olfaction brings fleeting notes of summer-dried hay steam, south-mexican tar bubble and ripe dexter calf burp'.

Enjoying a cup (or a glass of wine, and IMHO a lot of this... rather annoying behaviour can be seen in the wine world) has nothing to do with 'nailing' anything - I'd say enjoying the complexity is a mighty good start.

(Oh, and as can be inferred, this mentality really gets on my nerves. End of rant, and hope this was useful ;) )
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby petikas » Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:12 pm

I actually LOLed at the "...lightly-toasted chumpoberi nuts..." :)

The thing is that I'm not preoccupied with such rare and exotic descriptions but rather simple and distinct ones like berries, citrus, floral, or caramel.

I should try and taste vastly different coffees as per your suggestion and see if I can describe that difference somehow. Unfortunately right now I only have 2 Rwandas and 2 Ethiopians which I guess are pretty similar.
I added the suggested Injerto and the Kenya Kiriga estate auction to my cart for next time and will let you know of the results.
I will also try to tell where on the tongue the bitter/acidic/sour tastes are located (as CakeBoy says), maybe I should put a few drops lemon juice (sour?), vinegar (acidic?) and concentrated nescafe (bitter?) on various spots on the tongue, I think I'll need a few pasteur pipettes for this task. ;)
Last edited by petikas on Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby CakeBoy » Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:17 pm

Yeah, yeah Fred, just 'cos you cannot discern a Dexter calf burp from a spring lamb parp! ;) :P :lol:
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby Steve » Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:15 pm

I think you have to let go of exacts. When I sat something tastes like cow dung, I'm not talking of the gagging sesnation cow dung must invoke but a taste that reminds me of my experiances of smelling cow dung. Nothing is exact the same as in the wine world its reminders of such.

Also you have to let go a little and not worry is some one makes fun or disagrees, its what you taste, and what you have experienced in your life.

Everyone can taste and its fun.
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby dsc » Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:42 pm

Hi petikas,

don't worry mate, I'm having the same problem:) I even bought two completely different coffees (can't recall what it was now) and I could only taste slight differences between them.

To me most coffees taste like... well coffee:) I guess it's getting a bit better, because I can at least taste the blueberries in Harar, vanilla (in most coffees), nuts/chocolate in most blends, spices (something that smells like roasted peppers on a pizza, paprika and sometimes chilli) and of course lemon/citrus. I have yet to taste strawberries and some of the more 'complex' tastes.

I guess the more you taste, the easier it gets and you seem to remember similar tastes from the past. It's funny because the more I want to distinguish tastes the less possible it is, it's like my taste buds go blank the moment I think 'ok now let's try and find something taste-wise'. Also sometimes I taste something and think 'oh shit that was...hmmm...eeeehm...' and I cann't say what it was:) after a few seconds it's lost and even if I try to find that smell/taste again I usually fail. Another funny thing that happens to me is when I stick my nose into the cup I get a lot of aromas, I can't really say what they are and if I sit like that for a while my nose goes blank as well and I can only detect a funny chemical/fumes-like/CO2 smell.

Of course I'm still amazed with people who can give you a list of 8-10 tastes after just a few sips.

Regards,
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby Jasonscheltus » Wed Nov 05, 2008 4:14 pm

what helped me most at first was reading and re-reading "The Coffee Cupper's Handbook" - really straight-forward language, and lots of terminology explained. I think you can get it on the SCAA website.
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby dsc » Wed Nov 05, 2008 6:25 pm

Hi Jason,

thanks for the tip!

Is anyone on TMC a member of SCAA? I know members can get the book 10$ cheaper, it's not a massive discount, but it would be nice to buy it through a member:)

Regards,
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RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby anette » Wed Nov 05, 2008 6:55 pm

SCAE members can shop the SCAA site at the membership discount. We could organize a big shop to save on shipping I suppose, or just make Morrissey carry it back from LA.
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Re: RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby quoad » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:39 pm

dsc wrote:I can at least taste the blueberries in Harar


GREAT start IMO.

Though I find it hard to get Steve's Harar's sweet spot, when you do - goodness me. WELL worth trying :)
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RE: Re: RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby sicinius » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:27 am

A lot of this is because our English vocabulary for describing tastes and smells is rubbish. The French, who have been doing this with wine for centuries, have not really got much further. It's a difficult thing to do and saying something a has caramel overtones to one person who has Black Magic in mind and another who has Caramac can be misleading.

But you can't fault people for trying. I think 'Dexter burp' is very imaginative and I can smell it and it's an exact smell, but I bet it's not the same smell that it brings to mind to everyone else whose read this.

One of the gods and geniuses here coudl consider something like Gary Vaynerchuk's Wine Library on Viddler. By sticking at it, he has developed a vocabulary of his own that thousands of people have come to understand.
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RE: Re: RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby Steve » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:56 am

Veynerchuk rocks the house, my favourite descriptor he gave that it was like a little bit of sick in his mouth, I strangely didn't have an urge to buy that wine :)

But taste is so personal the black magic/ caramac one could be right for each person. But I agree that if you can keep drilling down in to exactly what it reminds you of then that has to be good. Taste can be so much fun.

So anyone for a strawberry dipped in cow dung :)
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RE: Re: RE: Are my tastebuds hopeless?

Postby Jaanus » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:51 am

whenever it`s possible taste different things, i`ve been around my backyard licking stones and tree bark and munched on some flowers i have there... one should constantly try to be aware of the tastes and smells that hover around. sometimes i find myself walking down a street and trying to identify different scents that are about.


on side note: Petikas, You must be rather envious at the caracter Jean-Baptiste Grenouille.
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