Dark and caramelly roast? Not for me

Today my wife and I experienced some unexpected coffee tasting that showed us how immensely different two different types of coffee beans can be.

Everything started last Friday when we had a gathering with some friends at our apartment. Since we ran out of coffee and it was already late, I did a last minute run to Target to get a bag of Dark Espresso Roast from Starbucks. That night, we all had a great time but we ended having no coffee.

The next morning, to help me lessen the slight hangover I had, I prepared my usual latte with a double shot using the beans I just bought. When I took the first sip, I noticed a very strong burnt, bitter flavor that I did not like. I thought that maybe I did something wrong while preparing it. Did I put too much coffee? Did I press down too much while tampering it? However, I didn’t pay too much attention to this. On Sunday morning, once again, I prepared my latte but with only one shot each this time. To my surprise, I noticed again a strong burnt flavor and by now I was sure it was because of the beans. 
Double shot latte with Starbucks Espresso Dark Roast
Later that day, I bought a bag of San Francisco’s Sight Glass coffee and as soon as I got home I gave it a try.  As soon as I opened the bag, I knew that something great was about to happen. When I ground the beans, the whole apartment was filled with its delicious aroma.  With the exact same preparation as before, I got cup of coffee that I loved and that I would describe as sweet and with hints of chocolate.
Single shot latte with Sight Glass' Espresso Owl's Howl
This unexpected tasting where I got to try the two coffee beans on the same day, using the exact same setting, with the same machine, the same milk and the same barista (me) made me perceive differences that I was not able to perceived before. This is a very recommendable experiment. By comparing the two of them side by side you can clearly identify which side is more appealing for you.

Overall, there are three things that I would like to highlight:
  1. The importance of freshness. When I ground the Sight Glass beans the aroma spread through the house in seconds. On the other hand, when I ground the Starbucks beans the aroma was not as intense; I could only smell it around the kitchen. I  believe this is related to the freshness of the roasting and one of the reasons that people recommends that coffee beans should be consumed within the first one or two weeks after roasted. I know that the Sight Glass beans were roasted 5 days ago (it says it in the bottom of the bag). The Starbucks beans I have no idea since there’s no date on the bag.
  2. I learn that the smell and flavor of a darker roast is not something that I appreciate. Although I can perceive some sweetness, the closer thing I could use to relate the smell is burnt tobacco. There are obviously a lot of people that enjoy a dark roast. I just learnt that French Roast, Italian Roast and Spanish Roast are three variations of dark. For me, it seems that I am inclined to lighter roasts such as City Roast or Full City Roast. You can click the following link to see pictures on various types of roasts
  3. I think that both companies gave me exactly what I paid for: Starbucks gave me a more affordable (~$7) bag of very dark coffee beans that were not recently roasted, but that was convenient to get at my neighborhood supermarket at 8PM on a Friday night. Sight Glass, on the other hand, gave me a more expensive (~$16) bag of recently roasted coffee beans that were not as dark. The difference is that Sight Glass gave me also a great cup that was aligned to my preferences.
Here’s a picture of both bags and a sample of their beans. By zooming in we can easily appreciate the difference in roasting: The ones in the left are darker and caramelized as it says in the bag “DARK ESPRESSO ROAST, Rich and Caramelly”.

The journey continues...