• Less serious liquor problems

    Less serious liquor problems are difficult territory: very subjective and personal. What constitutes an acceptable or unacceptable liquor depends on the individual buyer's judgment, so it is vital to understand your buyer. Appreciate why the buyer takes certain coffees and not others - visit them and taste different coffees together, including your own.

    Fruity or winey are a good example of less serious liquor problems because, within reason, such flavours can add something interesting to a coffee. But the next step down is fruity-sour and then sour, which is undesirable. Winey can move through oniony to onion, which is a relative of ferment. Within reason these are not always necessarily reasons to reject a coffee. However, in coffee to be used for espresso fruity or winey are not wanted under any circumstances because the espresso process often transforms them into rather different, intense and sometimes outright unpleasant tastes. So these tastes can be viewed as positive or negative - it all depends on the intensity and on the buyer's judgement. See also 12.09.04 Tasting - traditional versus espresso.

    Ordinary, common or coarse tastes are strictly speaking not off-flavours. Just as there is a market for vin ordinaire, so there is one for café ordinaire. These flavour characteristics are usually caused by problems such as drought, serious stress or insect damage, or by processing or drying errors. Such liquors are therefore unlikely to find much favour in the quality market. But there are also disease resistant or high-yielding cultivars that present rather common liquors even though the coffee may be of attractive appearance and style. Sometimes such coffees may be upgraded through blending, perhaps by adding another coffee with an oniony, fruity or winey flavour. The result may not be a candidate for the exemplary market, but perhaps not a candidate for outright rejection either.

    A woody or aged taste is not unsimilar and is the direct result of the ageing of a coffee, usually accompanied by loss of colour. It is not at all uncommon to find woody tasting coffee at the retail end of the specialty business because it sometimes takes months before coffees are roasted. Poorly dried coffees age more quickly than do well prepared ones, and lose colour more rapidly as well. The coffee 'fades' quickly. For 99 out of 100 offer samples from origin, a woody taste or fading appearance suggests a risk of premature ageing during shipment and the time spent awaiting final sale.

    Grassy is a greenish taste that tends to obscure the liquor's finer aspects such as flavour or aroma. This taste is reminiscent of hay and is mostly found in early season coffee. Under-drying tends to accentuate grassiness. Bricky is a close relative in that it also reduces flavour and acidity. Usually this commonish taste is associated with (slight) under-fermentation.
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