Coffee Talk with Tyler: On “Bold” Coffee

By Tyler Rovenstine, Roasterie Barista and Cafe Manager

Photo by Brian Kvidera

I love when our customers come to me with questions about our coffees. It shows that they want to educate themselves about what they are drinking, and I always love the opportunity to talk coffee with them. One of the most common questions I hear is, “Which of your coffees are bold?” This is a difficult question to answer because I am never actually sure what the customer means. Asking which of The Roasterie’s coffees are bold would be like walking into a candy store and asking to purchase their sweetest candy. This is a wonderful moment where I get to ask the customer to clarify. For many, this may be the first moment that they have ever thought of their coffee beyond whether or not it is bold.
The word “bold” as a coffee descriptor is purely a marketing term. Companies who produce lesser coffees have put the term on labels to make customers think that they are getting a coffee that “packs a punch.” You won’t hear many coffee professionals using this word to describe a coffee on a cupping table. Nevertheless, I have found that when a customer uses this word, they usually want a coffee that is either stronger, darker, or has more caffeine.

Strong Coffee

Let me first address strong coffee. Strong coffee really has nothing to do with the coffee itself and everything to do with how the coffee is brewed. To put it plainly, coffee that is too strong does not taste good. A correctly brewed coffee will have 98.5% to 99% water with the remaining 1% to 1.5% being coffee solubles (the flavoring agent). If there is any more than 1.5% coffee solubles in a cup, then you have an astringent and bitter flavor. Anything less than 1% and you get grassy flavors. So, there is a right and wrong strength to brew coffee.

Darker Roasts and Caffeine

I will address darker roasted coffee and coffee with more caffeine together, because customers tend to assume that they go hand in hand. This is not necessarily the case. Because a darker roasted coffee is in the roaster longer, there is more time for the caffeine within the beans to cook off. So there would be more caffeine present in one tablespoon of light roasted coffee grounds than there would be in one tablespoon of dark roasted coffee. Dark roasted coffee is also a bit lighter by weight though, so if you were measuring by weight, the ratio evens out. You would need a greater mass of dark roasted coffee to achieve the same weight as a light roast, which evens out the caffeine ratio. Regardless, the difference between a dark roast and a light roast is very insignificant when it comes to caffeine content.

If you like the flavor of a dark roast, that is a separate matter. You should ask for and drink that you think tastes best. But if you are in one of our cafes and ask for a recommendation, we would probably recommend a lighter roast. Many of the fruity and floral flavors that we love so much are lost in the darker roasts! Coffees tend to loose their distinctiveness as darker roasts, but that is another post not for today.

Up Next

Next week I will talk about how coffee professionals would describe their coffee.

Do you have a coffee question for Tyler you’d like answered on this blog? Write him at tyler@theroasterie.com and be sure to put “Blog Question” in the subject line.