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Drinking vs. Tasting: Syphon Silliness

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Why does a light-roasted, natural-processed Ethiopian often give off a great deal more of the herbal bitter notes, rather than the fruited notes foretold by the dry and wet aromas, when brewed in a syphon? This is one of those brewing conundrums that has been sitting around in my head for several months now. Take a batch of roasted coffee and brew it in a press or in a pour-over, and bam! you get tons of berry notes all up in your retronasals, you know? But just as often as not, that same roast will yield a syphon pot that is...just...lacking. It sometimes comes across as a tea with berry notes; while that's enjoyable, that's not the cup that I was expecting, and I find myself frowning in disappointment.

It's been noted by some -- Charles Babinski of Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, for one -- that the Central and South American coffees seem to give off a particular sweetness when brewed properly in a syphon. This stands in contrast with other brewing methods that don't seem to coax out the same level of exhilarating sweetness, be they press pots or pour-overs, from the exact same coffees. It's observations like these that make the world of coffee so intriguing and alluring; the constant cat-and-mouse game played by baristas and roasters and farmers alike to capture, in a demitasse or a diner mug, the very best and most delicious flavors is a demanding game that never seems to grow stale or lose its charm.

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