HELP! Washington Wine/Beer/Spirits reviewer in over his head!


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Jun 7, 2021
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For the last 30 years, I've been working in the adult beverage industry and for the past 14 have been writing a blog in, now a website called The Pour Fool. So, I am an old pro at tasting. BUT...I have never drunk coffee much at all and have certainly never studied it.

My wife is another matter. She is literally the Woman of My Dreams and I would do anything for her but she uses coffee for blood and I have flailed away for our entire twenty years together, trying to find her Perfect Coffee. What she wants is not complicated: she wants a full-bodied, assertive coffee that we'll buy in whole beans (French press users) and hand grind and that expresses what most people think of as "coffee flavors", that fat core of chocolate or cocoa, smoke, roasted nuts, dark caramel, a dash of baking spices, and maybe hints of cola and maple syrup.

I read a BUNCH of reviews from what I will charitably call "coffeegeeks" (I am a wine and beer and whiskey geek, so this is NOT a pejorative - in which they drool over coffees with notes of grapefruit and other citrus, vivid florals, exotic spices, pepper, herbal notes, etc. I have sometimes described certain New Zealana Sauvignon Blancs as having "cat pee" aromas and, in a certain context, that is NOT a fault but I totally get it why some people would go, "Ooh, ICK!" and skip the wine.

I'm not out on the edges with this: I'm hoping you coffee experts can recommend A) a coffee we can find; tiny artisanal roasters in rural Vermont or New Mexico do no good if I can't get the coffee on a regular basis, B) to quote a beer topic which drives me batty ("Beer flavored beer!"), Coffee-flavored with a vengeance, and C) dark-roasted because my wife has well-managed stomach acid problems and I don't want to get those activated again.

If that sounds like I'm saying "Tell me the Perfect Coffee, PLEASE!", okay, guilty. And I know that this will all be a matter of opinion but if you can offer suggestions, I'd be VERY grateful!

Steve Body
Steve - there are a lot of similarities in wine/coffee - each takes on flavors/mineral profiles of the geographic area they are grown in. You have 4 major growing 'areas' - Central America, South America, Africa & Indonesia. Followed by how they are fermented/milled and what we call in our business 'process' - typically washed, natural or wet-hulled. Most craft roasters myself will list varietal but most people can't tell the difference between varietals (not as significant as wine). From what I can tell, I would skip most African coffees - they are considered the 'best' but they are typically lighter in body and smooth drinking coffees. I would suggest trying a coffee from Sumatra - typically full-bodied, bold flavors with a slightly earthy/mineral taste. Most good quality Sumatra's are similar in flavor profile (keep in mind that's a bit like saying all Cabs taste the same.. clearly not but the flavor profiles are mainly similar). I would also try South American coffees - Brazil's are somewhat plain jain but are similar to what you describe as a flavor profile. Lastly - a good central - Mexico/Guat. For the Brazil's and Centrals look for a washed coffee. Natural coffees are much sweeter and fruitier.
Honestly, according to your description, Brazilian coffee would be the best fit. Brazilian coffee is soft, nutty, has low acidity, and offers a pleasant bittersweet chocolate taste. I'm sure your wife will like it. Although I have a small business with coffee, I also love beer, and I have tasted a few times beer that had the taste and aroma of coffee. My favorite is Breakfast Stout. The stout smells mainly of coffee and dark chocolate with slight hints of caramel and malt. It is also alcohol-free. It's a drink that everyone will love. I usually order from My wife loves it too.
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My opinion, a Sumatra Mandheling, which is available just about anywhere that good whole bean coffee can be purchased, would provide what you are looking for. It is the coffee I want when i am not sure what I want.
I find it difficult to recommend the perfect coffee for your wife because I see that she takes this drink too seriously. If she is still searching for the perfect coffee, then let her just try all the most expensive and well-known coffee brands she comes across. I am sure that she will be able to find what she needs after a short time. There just needs to be a lot of tasting. By the way, I can say the same thing about beer! Before I started brewing beer, I worked for about 5 months as a beer taster, and I liked the job, but they didn't pay me that much, so I left. However, I gained experience and decided to brew beer myself! And recently, I found a detailed beer abv by brewery article, so my knowledge has expanded even further.
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