What we look for in light roasted coffees
We take a lot of pride in what we’re building here at Angels' Cup. Subscribers to our coffee tasting flights and the people who use our app are the top 0.1% of coffee drinkers. But the roasters we feature are also in the top 0.1%. So how do we pick which coffees to ship when there are so many amazing options out there? Here are the other key things we look for:
1. Maximum sweetness. Coffee can be naturally sweet, and sweetness is always a good thing. We optimize for maximum sweetness and avoid starchy coffees.
2. Maximum complexity. As we sip a coffee, we search first for breadth and and depth of complexity. By breadth, we look for coffees that hit on different broad categories, such as fruit, floral, dessert, nuts, and spices. We then look for depth, for example does a fruity coffee just have blueberry, or does it also have apple, peach, citrus, cherry, raisin, etc.
3. Clearly identifiable flavors. This is probably unique to Angels' Cup. Because our subscribers are using the app to record notes, we really want people to pick up on the same flavor notes. So we have a strong preference for coffees that have very clearly identifiable flavors. For example, a nondescript "fruity" coffee wouldn't be as appealing to us as a coffee that clearly tastes like McIntosh apples and kiwi.
4. Balanced acidity. This is really the hard part of our job. While darker roasted coffees tend to be more bitter, lighter roasted coffees tend to be more sour. When people don't like light coffees, it's almost always because they're too sour. However, that sourness is almost always what gives exceptional coffees their interesting flavors, especially fruitiness. As a result, we find that some roasters actually optimize for maximum sourness in their coffees because it's highly correlated with quality. Our philosophy is a bit different. As a preference, we enjoy and appreciate acidity and sourness, BUT we only tolerate it to the extent it brings with it interesting fruit flavors and complexity. If a coffee is just plain sour, we don't ship it. We also demand that when the acidity is very strong that it's balanced with sweetness and other flavors. We think of acidity as the treble, dessert flavors and the bass, and then nut and spice flavors as the mid tones. Balance in a coffee is important to the overall enjoyment.
5. Origin variety. The final thing we look for is origin variety. We ship a lot of coffees from Ethiopia and Colombia, a bunch from Kenya, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. We find these regions most consistently satisfy the criteria above. But we're always looking to expand our horizons, and will give a slight bump to unusual origins.
What about medium and dark roasts?
The ideal medium. We find that subscribers who prefer medium roasts generally dislike lights because of the bright (sometimes erring on the side of sour) acidity and fruit notes. They dislike dark roasts because of the bitterness and how they sometimes taste burnt. So for our medium roast subscribers, we focus on all the same criteria mentioned above (sweetness, complexity, identifiable flavor notes, origin character and balance), but with a hard limit on acidity. That filters out all the bright fruity coffees, and what remains are generally well balanced, naturally sweet coffees that taste great without milk and sugar. The flavor profiles generally tend to revolved around dessert flavors like chocolate, caramel, ginger bread, amaretto, sometimes some berry, vanilla, florals, etc.
The ideal dark. By the time we're in the darker roasted end of the spectrum, it's more the roast that's imparting flavor, and less about the bean. The more a coffee is roasted, the more the flavor profile of every origin converges on a single dark roast flavor profile. That's why dark roasts tend to be blends, while single-origins (the opposite of a blend) tend to be lighter roasted. For dark roast subscribers our tasting flights focus on representing a variety of different roast profiles. Some very dark, some a bit more light, but never coffees that would present any trace of acidity. The flavor notes tend to be different types of grilled meats, woods like oak or sandalwood, maple syrup, sometimes vanilla, toasted grains, bruleé, and other words to describe the depth of the roast.