Wine and Coffee

No, this isn’t about how well they go together. What I’m more interested in is how the trends of the two seem to be intersecting. I don’t consider myself a coffee connoisseur, but I’m generally aware that many in the high-end coffee community swear by very light-roasted coffee (more delicate, higher acid), as opposed to the over-roasted char that is sometimes all you can find at the big chains (and that they claim masks flaws). On a superficial level, this seems a lot like the old world/new world arguments we have on this board. To those more knowledgeable about coffee than I am, is this a fair characterization?

It is to me. Speaking only for myself, increased levels of roast are the equivalent of 27+ brix grapes and 100% new oak. Not necessarily bad but not the reason I spend money on good beans.

I’d say it’s a matter of balance. I don’t like very light roast coffee (e.g., some Blue Bottle stuff I’ve had in San Francisco). I find it way too acid and lacking in depth. But I don’t like really blackened beans, either.

Sort of. Most of the serious coffee people I know swear by light- to medium-roast, pouring over, etc. Having tasted with some of the, I’ve been inclined to agree with the results.

My wife and I were just having this conversation the other day. Years ago we were in the big bold red camp. Nowadays, 80-90% of our consumption is European - mostly Chianti, Brunello, Bordeaux, Chablis and some Barolo and CdP’s thrown in.

We both like our coffee very strong, typically dark Italian Roast, without cream or sugar. I like La Colombe and she prefers Illy. One of our local coffee shops refuses to serve any dark roasted coffees. I can’t seem to find one there that I really enjoy. Most are too tangy and light.

We were talking about whether we would migrate that way similar to how our palates have changed with wine, but I don’t think so. I like the earthy, bitterness in dark roast. Big oaky wines tend to be sweeter, heavier and richer.


Darker roasts for espresso and maybe Sumatran (which handles it well, but even there it shouldn’t be over done), pretty much everything else is better with at most a medium roast, and for some coffees a dark roast is pretty much murder. It’s actually worse than over-ripe, over-extracted, over-oaked wines: coffee’s flavor compounds are primarily in the form of aromatic oils, you literally burn away the flavor when you over-roast.

I do agree though that for some coffees a very light (aka blond) roast leaves them too acidic. But it is probably also the case that darker roasts are preferred for mass market because they are using mediocre beans that didn’t have good acid balance to begin with.

I agree that Blue Bottle is vastly overrated and too lightly roasted, giving off a sour profile.

It’s a bit more complicated than light = old world / dark = new world. Just like all grapes shouldn’t be treated the same, the same is true for coffee. A Kona bean really demands a lighter roast to preserve its delicateness. Guatemalan coffees (speaking generally, since there are unique microclimates) can stand a medium - medium-dark (City) roast. When it’s on the lighter side, the beans can have a floral note, but with a longer roasting, you can find a milk chocolate flavor that I find very appealing.

Darker roasts are best reserved for drinks that call for liberal use of milk.

Kona Peaberry !

The funny thing is that it seems that the really light roasts are being used for espresso. That’s what my Blue Bottle light-roast friends in SF make. And Six Depot Roastery in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts – which serves the best espresso-based coffee I’ve ever had – uses a quite light roast for that.

I don’t like either of these beans for drip coffee, though. Perhaps the espresso machine extracts those oils that you don’t get with mere hot water? Maybe you need more heavily roasted beans for drip coffee?

Guatemalan coffees (speaking generally, since there are unique microclimates) can stand a medium - medium-dark (City) roast. When it’s on the lighter side, the beans can have a floral note, but with a longer roasting, you can find a milk chocolate flavor that I find very appealing.

My favorites from various local roasters for both auLait and espresso drinks.

Yes, many roasters try to preserve a “sense of origin” these days, which means not roasting too dark. Just like the IPOB movement, its interpreted in many ways. Its called “3rd wave coffee”: Third-wave coffee - Wikipedia

My local coffee haven, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, definitely is a lighter roast than many of the big chains and its the first coffee that I actually enjoyed drinking black. Other than pour overs they offer both a medium and a bold option for regular coffee. Often the bold is a Sumatran which I really enjoy. I think the biggest take away for me was the various differences that can be noticed in small lots, etc. much like we look for in single vineyard designate wines. Their most expensive coffees are the Geisha from La Esmerelda Estate, Panama. Amazing stuff, but $11 for a pour over cup.


Amen to that! Best coffee I’ve ever had was an estate grown Kona peaberry.

But comparing dark roast coffee to boozy wine misses the mark.

Dark roast = less caffeine
Late harvest grapes = more alcohol

That is an interesting thought . . . . you could be right! Anybody have insight on this?

Interesting responses so far and I am not sure that everyone has the same definition for roast level. As I understand it City roast is right after first crack and is the lightest complete roast. At least that is what Sweet Maria’s says

I roast just about everything to city/city+ level, except for those random roast where I walk away at the wrong point in time. I don’t think this yields a coffee that is too acidic and I still get the chocolate notes out of the Guatemalan beans with a couple days rest. YMMV.

roasting darker drives more oils to the surface, making it more available for extraction. thats why burnt starbucks beans are shiny.

When I’ve seen City roast in a store, it’s darker than on the Sweet Maria’s site, which makes the terminology imprecise). Generally, I prefer most beans at Full City (using the SM guide)…I don’t think Blue Bottle gets there.

Had someone gift our office something similar and virtually no one in the office could stomach it. We tried it in French press and a percolator too, but it remained quite tart, lacking texture and balance. I found the style interesting, but I couldn’t imagine anyone drinking it in a conventional way. I dislike heavily roasted beans, but do appreciate the malty flavors of a well-roasted coffee. Solid acidity can give it a fruity character and liveliness, but it’s better as a counterpoint to something else, not the thing in itself.

What’s interesting is that sour beers have become increasingly popular. Whether they’re seeking something more serious, collectible or something unconventional within their circles I don’t know. There’s obviously a tradition (Belgian/Flanders), but there’s definitely something novel right now with higher acidity in beer and coffee. Just the pendulum swinging I suppose.

But does the steam of an espresso machine accomplish that so that less roasting is needed for espresso coffee?