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What’s your flavor: mellow, balanced or robust?

Coffee is meant to be savored and enjoyed through smelling and slurping to hit all the senses, and pairing with the right foods to bring out the notes and flavors in each blend
  • Starbucks coffee master William Nottage, a true coffee purist, is gung-ho about the French Press method that is said to be far more accurate, as all of the flavors of the oils and grounds are enhanced while the coffee is brewing.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jul 27, 2013

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William Nottage wants you to be excited about coffee — he certainly is. When you sip your cup, it may just be that to you, just another cup, but to Nottage it is so much more — it’s complex, with each cup or blend offering a different taste profile.

And in enjoying a cup of Joe, the Starbucks coffee master says it’s a beverage that is to be savored and enjoyed through smelling, slurping to hit all the senses and pairing with the right foods to bring out the notes and flavors in each blend.

To get the perfect cup Nottage says there are four fundamentals that come into play that people should think about — the quality of water, freshness of the coffee, how it is ground, which brewing method is used, and the measurement/proportion of coffee. Each aspect he says is important in delivering the perfect cup.

“They really don’t understand the complexities,” said Nottage who is also the supply chain and food manager for Starbucks. “But when people ask for a particular coffee, it’s usually indicative to what they like,” he said.

Starbucks’ taste profiles include the blonde roast that is subtle and mellow; a medium roast that is smooth and balanced and a dark roast that is bold and robust.

Whichever profile is your preference the coffee master said there is also an art to proper coffee tasting that he encourages people to go through at least once.

“The proper way to do a tasting is to smell it first. Get a cup of coffee, cup your hand over the top and take a good whiff. The next step is to slurp — and this is where it’s proper to aerate the coffee over your tongue and the palate to hit all the five senses on your tongue,” he said.

A full tasting is called a cupping, which allows you to taste all the flavors side-by-side, so that you can taste the difference.

Like a true coffee purist, Nottage is gung-ho about the French Press method that is said to be far more accurate as all of the flavors of the oils and grounds are enhanced while the coffee is brewing.

With the French Press, the temperature control is more precise, the coffee grounds steep in the water and allows the user to control the exact amount of time the flavor is extracted from the grounds and no filters are used. And you don’t use electricity. With a cup of French-pressed coffee, when you look at your coffee the drinker will notice a color gradient, with a lighter color on top that’s actually the oil which Nottage says you want to see, with some sediment on the outside.

Auto drip coffee makers allow coffee to stay warm longer and produced lighter flavored coffee. Drip coffee will filter out the oils and keep the coffee tasting much lighter.

“I look at coffee like wine and the French Press enhances it even more. It just brings out the oils and the flavors,” said Nottage. “For those who say they don’t know how to make coffee, I encourage them to purchase a simple French Press.”

For first-time coffee drinkers Nottage suggests they start with the Colombia, which he says has a neutral flavor profile, is balanced and not too strong. He said it has a bit of character as opposed to a house blend that he said is standard and the icon for Starbucks. People who like darker roasts he said aren’t so much on the average side and like deeper flavors.

When you purchase your coffee beans and have them ground, he said they recommend using within a week after opening, but to store in a cool, dry place.

He said, “We have three mediums — House, Colombia and Guatemala-Antigua. The Guatemala is a cocoa-soft spice, and I would pair it with the rum raisin scone. The spiced coffee cake would go well with the Guatemala as well because you’ve got the cocoa and spice as well.”

If you still don’t know how to make a cup of Joe, simply look on the back of the packaging, the directions are all there. And if you opt to use a brewing machine as opposed to a French Press, he said to simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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