We have spent the last couple of weeks contemplating specific flavours like floral, herbal, vegetal, and fruity. The connective theme for these varied posts has been how certain flavours (and tastes) work well in one form, say a glass of smoky and fruity wine, but mark disaster in another, like a acrid and winey coffee. I want to keep exploring this path with the often-reviled, yet historically crucial, taste in coffee: bitterness. BUT that will have to wait until next week because I received an excellent email question: “what is happening with all this UofT Science stuff?”

For those unfamiliar, the project’s roots date back to my early days as a roaster. I was finishing my PhD at York University, so I had access to the library’s journals and archives. I could not help but delve deep into the chemistry stacks. While I found a great wealth of well-researched publications, they all either failed to mention roast technique or were using dark roasts of unknown origin for samples. It was strikingly all out of step with with my daily work. Made all the more distant with key progressions at Cut, like when we shifted from pen and paper to real-time data logging with using software for precise air and heat application.

Thus the problem: my slowly improving roasting skills meant I could produce sweet coffee but I had no actual explanation of how or why any of it worked. I realized I needed a scientist! As luck would have it, Andrew Paton was a scientist … and he was in search of a roaster! Andrew was working on a project on green processing in the Philippines and seeking some expertise on sample roasting. Cue a few months later, our proposal for “Analyzing the chemistry of ‘Modern Coffee’ roasting techniques” was approved for NSERC funding.

So what is it? We are using Ever Ccorimanya Serrudo’s delicious coffee to figure out the chemistry behind my daily practice. Through comparison of what I consider a good roast to those with common issues, like underdevelopment or scorch or baking, we want to narrow in on the actual processes behind sweet, juicy, and balanced coffee. For more information (with pictures) we have a press release: read it here. And there is a short audio interview from Metro Morning: listen to it here. Andrew and I are having a great deal of fun and see this as step one. Our long term goal is to reimagine the types of information we gather while roasting in order to rethink the way we profile coffees. Science!