Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sous Vide Coffee ..?

A few days ago I was trying to figure out what temperature I should try my first round of sous vide coffee at...I sat on the web for hours trying to find any bit of information on making coffee this way and...well I didn't find any. Ive already talked about how crappy my googling skills cut me some slack here. This caused me a bit of stress because there were an infinite number of variables...any temperature (above say...4.5 C) for any amount of time. So there I was trying to think of other things...similar enough to coffee that I could try to find some times and temps for. As I was doing this I was sipping a cup of coffee and I realized that it was a very nice temperature. Not super hot, still I stuck a probe in it and took the temperature....51.5 C (124.7 F for my fellow Americans). And with that I had my starting temp. 

For this round, the brew was the same for all cups - the variable was the time.

Brew: Standard, Sous Vide
Room Temperature: 24.7 C
Water Bath Temperature: 51.5 C
Grinds: 10.6 g, room temperature
Water: 171 g, filtered through a Brita, room temperature

Brew Time(s):
Bag A: 10 minutes
Bag B: 30 minutes
Bag C: 60 minutes
Bag D: 120 minutes
Bag E: 180 minutes
Bag F: 240 minutes

(*some bags stayed sealed at room temperature for a few minutes while I filled and sealed the other bags)

Bag A:
As you can see this brew is pretty clear. I decided on 10 minutes as my first pull because the water temp was...about half what a normal brew would be so...therefore it would take twice as long (logical, right...ugh). Really, I was having a particularly groggy I wound up guzzling the entire glass before realizing I should save some for a comparison at the end of the test. Oh well.

So what did I think of the 10 minute brew? Not bad, actually. It was a little...watered down. That is, the flavors were not very intense yet. It was mellow, nutty, roasty - had a sweet middle and was definitely not very acidic. 

Bag B:
Maybe a shade darker than Bag A? 

This brew had a slightly stronger flavor. It was actually a really good cup of coffee. Not very acidic, lots of darker flavors, the perfect amount of bitterness. I also drank this entire it was not present for the comparison at the end. I suspect this was my favorite brew but it may have been...

Bag C:
Getting darker..

Very similar to Bag B. Enough so its difficult to describe their differences...but I think this one was just a tad better. The finish seemed a little more bitter...and it was just slightly less sweet overall.

Bag D: 
Looks pretty dark now

So this one was the first brew that was opaque. As you can see, light was not passing through it completely. It also did not filter as easily as the others. It wasn't bad either...bitter up front that quickly dies into a mellow...sweet flavor..and then finishes bitter. Overall the flavor was starting to seem a little out of balance. Maybe a little too much bitter flavors here.

Bag E:
Hard to tell if its any darker than Bag D, but...well its dark.

This one tasted a bit...chalky. Is that a flavor? Kind of bland. I don't seemed odd.

Bag F:
Definitely the darkest of all the pours

This was...okay. A bit acidic now.

So in the end, I had kept some of Bags C, D, E & F in the fridge to see how they compared to each other.  Here's what I thought:
1: Bag D (120)
2: Bag C (60)
3: Bag F (240)
4: Bag E (180) - I thought this ones flavor was the most similar to the n2o cold brew I was doing, but it had a very strong bitter finish that kind of ruined the flavor.

Now..I drank these cold, and...if you don't already know - you perceive flavors differently at different temperatures. This is why you should always adjust seasoning after tasting something at the temperature you intend to serve it at. Initially, for the hot pours I thought that my favorite was either Bag B or Bag C, but cold I definitely liked Bag D more than C. So...a definitive line up is hard to give. Here's what Katie thought (she only tried the cold pours of Bags C,D,E, & F):

1: Bag F (240)
2: Bag C (60)
3: Bag E (180)
4: Bag D (120)

What does that tell me? We both liked Bag C? Hmm...yeah, but really its the same as before - all of this is totally dependent on flavor preferences...which can change at any time for any reason. If I ran this today my results could have been completely different. 

One conclusion I did make with this though? This middle temperature brewing kind of brought the best of both worlds (as far as I am concerned anyway). It wasn't too sweet, like cold brews have a tendency to be. It wasn't too acidic, like a lot of hot brews are. It had a very nice balance of both slightly sweet (cold brew)  and darker, more roasty (hot brew) flavors. I'm excited to explore it some more.