After finally getting the taste notes in your last bag of beans, you're deep down your flavor discovery. You’ve become familiar with the Guatemala you’ve been drinking and you decide to change it up a bit. You pick up a Kenya - citrus sweetness with complex bright notes. Or maybe a Sumatra - round heavy body and spice/malt combo. You grind at your usual setting that you’ve been successful with before, but something is off.
Maximize the Grind
Yes, grind settings are not permanent. You can find one that fits just right for your brew. But once you begin a true coffee journey, you may need adjustments to get the most of your tasting notes. Coffee bean type, roast profile, or more commonly a brew method can all require changes in grind to produce a fine cup. And that’s the beauty of owning a multipurpose Baratza grinder in the first place.
We have talked about how you can change up your grind to match your brew method already. In this article, we will explore other possibilities like - Age, how long has it been since the coffee was roasted. And flavor profile, where and how your coffee beans were grown and produced. Lets dive a little deeper into this last one. When you are brewing, the way you adjust your grind can enhance or diminish specific flavor notes. It’s all a matter of extraction.
Flavor Profile Roulette
Although coffee beans have unique properties that make them different from each other season to season, there are specific flavor traits that are identifiable by regions. These are flavor profiles. Each flavor profile has common characteristics that help identify the origin of a coffee bean. BEWARE: There are exceptions to this rule - micro regions, tricky blends, random transplants, and exotic varieties or processes to name a few.
When you jump from a Guatemalan to a Kenyan, you will likely enjoy a very different flavor profile. This also applies to the way they respond during extraction. So what happens when you adjust coarser or finer for a specific origin? We will focus on flavor profiles by common growing regions and the simple grind adjustments you can make to dial them in every time.
Hawaii & Mexico
These are two separate origins in the northern most part of the coffee belt. They tend to have light-medium body and usually produce clean and balanced cups with some fruit notes. This a good starting point to calibrate your grind and palate. Start with our suggested grind settings and you should be able dial them in fairly easy.
Because of the different mountain ranges and soil properties, coffee grows in different altitudes and mineral settings. That makes flavor profiles vary from country to country and even within a country itself. Central American coffees tend to be bright, juicy and full of tropical fruit notes and some florals. Some Honduran and Costa Rican coffees will be very clean and flavor intense and some Guatemalan or El Salvador coffees will be smooth and aromatic. If you adjust coarser to push the aromas and brightness forward, you'll bring up those florals. With finer adjustments, you will bring the sweetness up and get a heavier body. 1 or 2 clicks, coarser or finer will do it.
Colombia is probably the most popular region among coffee enthusiasts. The rich soil and mixed terrain produce a wide range of flavor experiences. Most commonly your adjustments will be similar to the Central American coffees. Go coarser for more pronounced complexity and aromas.
Brazil produces coffee from many different terroirs and processes. You can be surprised by a sugar sweet pop, but generally speaking, these coffees have heavy aftertaste, chocolate notes and low acidity. Adjust to the finer side, this will round up the flavors and give you a creamy smooth cup and filter out a little of the nutty aftertaste.
The holy grail of coffee enthusiasts (although some may differ). Ethiopia is one of the most diverse regions in the world. With more than 8,000 varieties, this place will make you start a whole journey through it. Again, do not fret. For the most part, high-quality single-origin Ethiopian coffees are bright and floral with deep sweetness and very complex notes. Do a minor coarse adjustment and taste. This will bring out the delicate richness of this origin, tea-like bodies with deep aftertaste.
This is another very special growing region. Kenyan coffees tend to be tart if not brewed well, so pay close attention to your grind adjustments and other elements in your brewing process. If done properly, Kenyan coffees will display beautiful sweet and citrusy flavor notes with deep candied notes and never-ending layers of mouthfeel. Grind finer - although it may sound counter intuitive because of the over-extraction probability, it is the most applicable adjustment for Kenyans. This coffee bean is particularly hard, meaning dense. Therefore, breaking it down to smaller particles allows you to extract the deeper flavors. Do not be afraid of a slightly longer brew time, slow it down a bit. Pro tip: Kenyans make great cold brew, grind very coarse and brew overnight.
Sumatra & Indonesia
This region is known for its rich, tobacco-like flavor profiles. Most often roasted at medium-dark levels. The caramelization produces round, smooth flavor notes and mouthfeel. With its low acidity but heavy body, this region will benefit from either coarse or fine adjustments. Coarser for a whiskey-like body and finer for syrupy chocolate notes. Your pick!
The Sky is the Limit
Remember: these are just general starting points for the sake of time and to give you a good base. Your coffee journey may take you elsewhere. You might prefer the richer flavor notes or the most subtle one. Find what you like and tune little by little to open up your palate experience. If you know your preference, and guide yourself with the roasters flavor notes, you will know when you’ve gone too far. Our hope is that this helps you be prepared to go further. We grind, you brew.
PRO MOVE: ROAST DATE
“Off roast” is a term in the coffee industry for how long ago the coffee beans were roasted, literally the time they have been off the roaster. Most commonly you will see this as “roast date” on your coffee bag. And you probably know how it goes, the fresher the coffee is, the more flavor it has.
This little piece of information is vital when you’re thinking about grind adjustments. Coffee typically holds high flavor notes 2-3 weeks, tapering off as time goes by. The trick here is to gradually adjust your grind coarser. You can also adjust your ratio or water temp, but since we are talking about grinding let’s focus on that. As days go by and your beans continue degassing (releasing CO2 produced during roast) adjusting to a slightly coarser grind and increasing your dose by a gram or two, will balance your concentration and keep a good extraction to compensate for the loss of flavor. Be careful, don’t go crazy and over-extract though. Micro adjustments can come in handy here.