Getting the Good Grind
I was inspired recently to write about how to find the proper grind size. This can be a daunting topic and something difficult to clearly define, but let's give it a shot!
There's a sweet spot when it comes to brewing coffee and that is the little area that the coffee hangs out in that provides you a balanced cup. Not too acidic, astringent, dull, harsh, etc. Finding that sweet spot can be tricky but here's a trick to help. Grind your coffee as fine as your brewer will allow without stalling or choking. Once you find this and taste the brew, you'll probably notice that it's quite bitter and over extracted. If this is the case, back off your grind a bit and try again. If you've backed off your grind too much, you'll likely notice that your coffee now tastes dull and hollow; time to tighten up that grind again. This process is considered "dialing in" and will differ from coffee to coffee.
Out of personal experience, I've found that coffee grown at a higher elevation (such as an Ethiopian Guji) will require a bit more coarse of a grind size due to the amount of fines that it produces in the grinding process. The alternative applies to lower altitude coffee.
There is nothing more frustrating than seeing tasting notes on a bag and not being able to produce those same flavors in your cup. One of the most important things in this whole process is to just use tasting notes provided on a bag as a framework of what to strive for in your cup. Everyone has a different perception of taste and will taste their coffee differently. How are you supposed to taste fig in your coffee if you've never had a fig before? Instead, this flavor might resemble something different and more familiar to you. If the bag says that you will taste raspberry or strawberry, you can probably expect that coffee to provide a taste similar to "berry" or "juicy" or "jammy". Using general terms like this when tasting is most often easier than trying to pick out specific flavors. On the other hand, some coffee does provide a very clear taste that you may be able to specifically define. I've even experienced some notes on the bag that more resembled a mouth feel rather than a specific flavor. For example, it might say milk chocolate on the bag but I could get the creamy texture in the body of the coffee that resembles milk chocolate but get none of the actual milk chocolate taste. It doesn't mean I've done anything wrong, but rather my perception is just different.
This is all just a long way of saying..
Just because your coffee doesn't taste like the notes on the bag doesn't mean you've done anything wrong! The only thing that matters is that the coffee tastes good to you! If you don't like the way the coffee tastes, continue to work on improving your brew recipe.
Continue working towards brewing coffee better!