What is a ‘dry’ tasting coffee?

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Well, it usually means I am ‘roasting’ a coffee in the noun sense of the word because it has been baked. Allow me to break down the lines between a great (aka well developed) and gross (aka baked or undeveloped) roast.

I frequently borrow Ralf Rüller’s motto of “sweet, juicy, and clean” to describe delicious coffee. My foremost goal for every batch is rich sweetness. It is the most difficult approach but ensures the elimination of the raw flavours of underdevelopment (broth, grass, herbs, hops, citrus peel, under-ripe fruit like green strawberry or rigid peach) and prevention of any of the notes of coffee pushed too far (spice, bittersweet, or char).

Roasting for sweetness also requires avoiding ‘baking’. I will turn to Scott Rao’s well-articulated description of this roasting fault. He writes, a temperature plateau during a roast “will destroy sweetness and create flat flavour reminiscent of paper, cardboard, dry cereal”. He continues, “the leading theory is that stall in the roast causes developing sugar chains to ‘cross-link’, which decreases sweetness”. A key way that I identify a baked roast is a quick, thin, flat, and dry finish in the cup.

Finding the line between over or under-development while preventing baking, means the roaster can then ‘profile’ or construct the cup flavours. Drawing upon past dispatches, I argue this means “developing and eliminating a range of sugars and acids to create a well-structured flavour profile”. I associate this with a ‘clean’ cup because it is not too angular or aggressive, disjointed or muddled, or an unusual combination of tastes like dark chocolate with grapefruit topped with bergamot.


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