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Flavor Persuasion: The Manipulation of Coffee Beans

Flavor Persuasion: The Manipulation of Coffee Beans
What's a roaster to do when they want to mix things up? With so many different tastes and preferences out there, it can be difficult to please everyone. One way roasters are experimenting with flavor combinations is by manipulating the coffee beans themselves. For example, if you take two coffees that are nearly the same but one has been grown in a dry climate while the other was grown in wetter conditions, then they can have vastly different flavors after being roasted. This means that not only can roasters change their blends depending on what time of year it is or what region they're sourcing from; they can also play around with flavors to produce unique coffees that would otherwise never exist because of where and how beans were grown.

Coffee is traditionally thought to be a fairly simple beverage: it's roasted, ground up, and steeped in hot water. But many nuances make the coffee-drinking experience as unique as each individual who drinks it." There's so much people don't know about," says Kyle Menezes, a coffee roaster at Counter Culture Coffee in Washington, D.C., where he works with the company's Eastern team to produce beans for their cafes and wholesale partners on that side of the country."

The astute coffee lover has tasted beans from all over the globe, but once you have made your way around the world, what's next? That's where the creative minds of the adventurous roaster come into play. The experienced roaster understands how easy it is for a good batch of beans to be ruined, making personal tasting an essential part of the job. Coffee accidentally transported in the same truck as gasoline cans will be ruined.

Recognizing the influence the environment has on their beans has allowed roasters to use this to their advantage. Coffee can be left in port wine casks, rum casks, or even the Salty Sailor's Bourbon-Barrel Aged.

And the flavor combinations don't stop there. Coffee beans can also be mixed with spices like vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg to make a festive blend for Christmas; roasted with salt and pepper for a savory experience akin to salted caramel; steeped in different teas such as lapsang souchong that impart an earthy smokiness to the beans.

"It's about understanding that this is not just a commodity," Menezes says."And at its best, coffee is art."

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