I’ll start of by stating that sweetness and flavour are not mutually exclusive. Most often they are both maximised at the same point in an extraction. What happens when they’re not though?
Occasionally I’ve found when dialling-in I’ve had to choose between getting more sweetness in the cup or getting more flavour. It’s rare, but it happens. It’s a difficult choice. I’ve heard many baristas say their technique for dialling-in is to maximise sweetness but I’m not convinced that’s always the ideal solution. I know I’ve had insane sweetness at very high extractions (24%+EY) but the drink often becomes muddled and worn out at that stage, tasting simply of sugar syrup.
Sweetness will make the drink more pleasant initially but alone quickly becomes boring. A flavourful coffee will be a more interesting drink but some people will only focus on the lack of sweetness and find it unpleasant.
Aside from brew recipes I often find some coffees as a whole will be one or the other. For example, right now Colombia and Rwanda are in season and I’m drinking lots of both. Although each lot is unique I’m finding most of the Colombians to be super sweet with a bright acidity and clean finish. Most Rwandans on the other hand are complex and full of rich flavours but lack the levels of sweetness and cleanliness (with a few exceptions) that I’ve had with the Colombians.
So which is better suited to the average customer?
Which would you choose for yourself as someone working in/passionate about coffee?
I know for me it’s all about the flavour. This is probably reflected in my choice of coffee for the UKBCs. A fully washed mix of Bourbon, Harar and Jackson grown by 1100 farmers of the Vunga washing station co-operative in western Rwanda. The coffee is medium sweetness at best, I love it though because it’s bursting full of complex rich flavours. My list of flavour descriptors is becoming ridiculously long for the coffee as I don’t tire of drinking it and just keep finding more and more. I can still perfectly remember how it tastes even now, a week after I’ve last had it.
Meanwhile I’m struggling to remember all the sweet Colombians I enjoyed today.