Coffee Expert Guesses Which Coffee Is More Expensive and Explains Why | Price Points

in this episode of 'Price Points', Epicurious challenges coffee expert Dillon Edwards of Parlor Coffee to guess which coffee is more expensive. Edwards breaks down roasts (dark roast vs light roast), processing, freshness, varietals, and source. For each element, the connoisseur looks at and tests each coffee before guessing which coffee costs more. Once the prices are revealed, Edwards explains why a specific coffee costs more and dives into specifics on how each coffee is made.

Released on 6/21/2018

Credits

Starring: Dillon Edwards

Transcript

00:00
I'm Dillon Edwards and I'm a coffee expert.
00:03
(upbeat music)
00:04
(slurps) It is actually horrifically terrible.
00:07
(woman laughing)
00:10
(bell dings)
00:14
With these two coffees the difference is starkly obvious.
00:17
Coffee A has a really dark, glossy surface.
00:21
It even smells somewhat pungent, just holding it,
00:23
whereas, Coffee B is cinnamony in color.
00:26
It sorta has a silver skin intact in each of the beans,
00:30
so it's definitely a light roast.
00:31
It's not necessarily a direct indication
00:33
of price difference, it is a personal preference.
00:36
Some people just really enjoy dark-roasted coffee
00:38
versus a light-roasted coffee, however,
00:40
a dark-roasted coffee generally is going to mask
00:43
a lot of the flavors in the coffee itself,
00:46
kind of like a heavy sauce.
00:48
It's gonna sort of just cover up all the sweetness
00:50
and all the inherent characteristics of the coffee
00:52
and really impart a carbony sort of smoky flavor,
00:56
whereas with a light roast, the nuances of the coffee,
00:59
the flaws, the good attributes and the bad ones
01:02
really do shine through.
01:04
With a light roast you're looking at, more often than not,
01:07
a higher quality coffee.
01:08
With a dark roast, it's a little bit hard to say
01:10
what the quality might be.
01:12
We will of course, brew them and taste them
01:14
and then see from there.
01:15
The first thing I'm doing is just rinsing these filters.
01:17
The reason behind that is, a lot of paper filters
01:20
will actually impart a bit of a papery flavor in your cup,
01:23
so you wanna really wash out some of that flavor,
01:25
discard it before you brew your coffee,
01:27
so you get a really clean cup of coffee.
01:29
Well, we have our filters rinsed.
01:31
We're gonna grind our coffee.
01:32
(energetic music) (grinder whirs)
01:37
First thing I always do is smell them.
01:39
Part of that is heat masks flavor,
01:41
you don't wanna drink your coffee when it's piping hot,
01:43
not only to not burn your tongue,
01:44
but also because it's really hard to taste.
01:47
That's why if you go to a gas station
01:48
when you're on a road trip and you have a really piping hot
01:52
gas station cup of coffee, you can probably get half
01:55
of it down without noticing it, but as it cools off
01:57
and is sitting in your cup holder, it's gonna taste awful.
02:00
(slurps)
02:02
Coffee A is definitely got like a really molassesy
02:06
texture, like almost the experience
02:08
of having raw sugar on your tongue.
02:11
It kinda leaves one with like an almost
02:13
bittersweet kind of sweetness.
02:16
The acidity is extremely muted here,
02:18
what I'm getting is overall
02:19
like a very velvety mouth feel general kind of one note.
02:24
(slurps) Wow, after drinking coffee A,
02:28
coffee B is like drinking fruit juice.
02:31
There's a clear kinda stone fruit acidity.
02:34
(slurps) And almost tastes like a sweet peach,
02:38
kind of nectarine flavor. (slurps)
02:42
Probably wondering why I'm slurping really loudly.
02:45
Slurping the coffee, taking some air in with your sip
02:49
is actually a great way to sort of aspirate your palate
02:52
and to incorporate lots of air as you're tasting.
02:55
We actually taste a lot with our nasal passage,
02:57
so as we're bringing air in when we're tasting,
03:00
we really activate our olfactory sense
03:02
and we really incorporate our sensory ability to taste.
03:05
I would say that sample B is the more expensive of the two,
03:08
just based on the transparency and the clarity
03:10
of the sweetness, whereas sample A is most likely
03:14
a cheaper coffee, let's see.
03:17
(dramatic music)
03:22
Aye, voila!
03:23
With darker roasts, the coffee itself isn't necessarily
03:26
inferior, however more often than not,
03:29
the darker the roast, the less and less you can
03:31
actually taste the origin character of the coffee.
03:33
With coffee A, like I said, I'm not necessarily
03:36
certain that the quality of beans are inferior,
03:39
but I can say that I cannot taste
03:42
the origin character at all.
03:44
I'm really just tasting a very caramelized, very carbonic
03:47
flavor that gives me a general impression
03:50
of roast flavors, whereas sample B is a very fresh,
03:55
very fruited, very clear, crisp flavor profile.
03:59
It definitely tastes like a unique flavor of origin.
04:03
(breezy music)
04:09
I see a pretty stark difference between A and B.
04:11
B is a fairly uniform-looking bean.
04:14
It has a really whole, clean kind of appearance to it.
04:18
The roast is a bit lighter.
04:20
All of the beans are fully intact.
04:22
They're a very uniform shape and size.
04:24
Whereas sample A here, there are some very misshapen beans,
04:29
some very small bits, broken bits.
04:31
There are even some of these pale-colored blonde pieces
04:35
and beans themselves which we refer to as quakers,
04:39
which are basically underripe coffee seeds,
04:41
that are picked too early.
04:43
I'm gonna say this is a specialty coffee
04:45
and this is a commercial grade coffee,
04:47
just based on the appearance.
04:48
(energetic music)
04:54
(slurps) Really, really bitter, almost kind of sour as well.
05:00
Honestly the aroma has kind of gone from just a roasty
05:03
smell to now it almost smells like kind of a wet newspaper.
05:08
(slurps) It's very bitter.
05:11
I instantly want to put a lot of sugar in this coffee.
05:15
(slurps) This coffee is clear, it's sweet.
05:17
It's a exciting coffee, has really great sweetness.
05:20
It has really good flavors.
05:21
This is the kind of coffee that I'd really wanna
05:23
just enjoy on it's own, black.
05:25
This coffee is the kind of coffee I'd expect
05:28
on most flights and I'd really only ask for it
05:31
if I was super desperate, let's see how much they are.
05:33
(dramatic music)
05:38
Wow, big difference.
05:40
Needless to say, these are very different coffees.
05:42
Every step behind this coffee had to have been
05:44
carefully managed for this cup to be so sweet and so clear.
05:48
This coffee is something that probably
05:50
grew at a variety of altitudes.
05:52
It's grown without a focus.
05:54
It was probably not even dried
05:56
carefully or milled carefully.
05:58
It probably came from a very volume-focused mill
06:04
and a volume-focused roastery that was really looking
06:06
to shave costs and to really just produce
06:09
a drinkable caffeine beverage
06:12
and not something that was really delicious.
06:15
(bright music)
06:20
These two samples are fairly average in appearance.
06:23
One of them has a slightly more developed roast.
06:27
I can see that there's a little bit of oil on the surface,
06:29
which is an indication that it was roasted
06:31
a little bit longer, whereas sample A does still
06:34
have the silver skin intact,
06:36
which is some of the cell material of the coffee seed.
06:38
This is more indicative of a lighter or medium roast.
06:41
However, these roasts are different enough
06:43
that I would lump one into the bucket
06:45
of dark roast and light roast.
06:46
These two coffees are probably of a similar caliber,
06:49
however, I imagine sample A is
06:51
probably just a little bit better.
06:52
We're gonna have to taste them and find out.
06:54
(grinder whirs)
06:57
The first thing that I'm doing when I brew a cup of coffee
07:00
is that I'm gonna hit each cup with a bit of hot water
07:03
and I'm gonna look for some off-gassing to happen.
07:05
It looks like one of these is already off-gassing
07:07
quite a bit more than the other one.
07:09
To me, that indicates a fresh roast.
07:11
This coffee here is bubbling up,
07:13
you can see multiple bubbles still coming up,
07:16
probably 30 seconds into this brew now.
07:18
This one here, is just sorta sunk in.
07:21
It's already sort of stopped any sort of action.
07:25
It's probably a little bit more of stale roast.
07:28
So fresh roasts cause bubbles.
07:31
Really it causes what we call the bloom
07:33
and that is because there is gas trapped inside
07:37
freshly roasted coffee.
07:38
Part of the roasting process is putting the coffee
07:41
through a really, a really wide array of chemical reactions
07:45
during the roast and what happens in that roasting process
07:48
is gasses are physically trapped inside the bean.
07:51
Slowly over time they will leak out of the coffee bean,
07:54
however, they do expediently leak out
07:57
once the coffee is ground.
07:59
This is one of the reasons you really want
08:00
to seek out whole bean, freshly roasted coffee.
08:03
It's gonna be a lot more lively and sweet
08:06
and vibrant when you get it and brew it at home.
08:13
(slurps) Sample A has like sort of a crisp,
08:16
almost like apple-like acidity, really refreshing,
08:19
really clear.
08:20
It's actually a very sweet cup of coffee.
08:21
It has sort of a almost a sugary character to it.
08:25
Reminds me of rooibos tea (slurps).
08:29
Yeah, it's very crisp, very light, very fresh
08:32
with mouthwatering acidity.
08:35
(slurps)
08:39
The predominant note here is a very tobaccoy flavor,
08:42
very kind of bitter, earthy, flavors that are
08:46
almost like heavy on the palate leaving one
08:49
with like a heavy kind of bitter aftertaste.
08:53
Overall, it's a kind of a dull experience.
08:55
That acidity that I was talking about in cup A,
08:57
I'm getting almost little to none
09:00
of that type of acidity at all.
09:02
Really, I'm experiencing mostly a very big-bodied
09:04
cup of coffee, something that would definitely
09:07
take a lot of milk and sugar quite well,
09:09
but on it's own, is not a very enjoyable
09:11
cup of coffee at all.
09:12
Based upon what I'm tasting,
09:14
I think A is definitely the more expensive coffee.
09:16
It has clear, expressive flavor, vibrant acidity,
09:20
good sweetness, it's very balanced, it's very crisp.
09:23
Coffee B, again, is very tobaccoy, very tired,
09:27
very muted in terms of it's flavor,
09:29
overall it just leaves kind of a heavy,
09:31
bitter flavor on the tongue.
09:33
I'm gonna assume that this is a commercial grade coffee
09:35
and it is the less expensive of the two.
09:38
We'll have to see.
09:39
(dramatic music)
09:45
Based on these prices, I think it's fair to say
09:47
this is probably a bottom of the shelf,
09:50
grocery store best buy coffee, whereas at $28 a pound,
09:54
you're probably gonna find this at your specialty
09:55
coffee shop, something that's freshly
09:57
roasted in small batches.
09:59
When you're looking for coffee in your grocery store,
10:01
you really wanna look for coffee
10:03
that has a roasted on date, not a best by date.
10:06
Roasted on really gives you a sense
10:08
of whether that coffee's fresh.
10:09
You really wanna look for coffee that's no older
10:11
than two or three weeks past its roast date
10:15
if you want to enjoy it at it's peak.
10:16
Whereas coffee that has a best by date
10:18
and no roasted on date will really not give
10:21
you any sense of how fresh it is.
10:22
That type of coffee is most likely commercial grade,
10:26
so probably cheaper and there is a reason.
10:34
We see all sorts of varieties when we're traveling
10:37
the world and sourcing coffees.
10:38
Varieties, just like in apples or wine,
10:40
in coffee we also have specific types of seeds
10:44
that produce specific types of plants.
10:46
If you're ever at your farmer's market
10:48
and you've seen the various varieties of apples
10:50
available for sale, the same thing is the case with coffee.
10:54
When we go to specific origins, like Columbia,
10:57
like Panama, like Guatemala, we will encounter
11:00
specific varieties of coffee.
11:03
I see two dishes which have very uniform beans in them.
11:07
Coffee A has really elongated beans which is an indication
11:11
of a few exotic varieties that I'm aware of.
11:13
The bean itself looks a lot like sort of an eastern
11:17
Ethiopian bean, a bean from Harrar
11:19
or a bean from even Yirgacheffe will have
11:22
sort of a elongated shape like that.
11:23
Whereas this bean over here has a very uniform,
11:26
sort of smaller kind of more round, oval shape.
11:30
Based on the way that these coffees look,
11:33
I'm gonna guess that coffee A has probably
11:36
a very unique variety behind it.
11:38
It is most likely a Geisha or Pacamara variety,
11:42
something that is very unique and exotic.
11:44
Whereas coffee B being kind of a dense,
11:46
smaller, more compact bean.
11:49
It's most likely a common variety
11:51
like a Bourbon or a Caturra variety.
11:53
We're gonna have to taste them to find out.
11:55
(energetic music)
12:00
(slurps) So cup B was really fresh, really satisfying.
12:05
It has a pretty big body, sort of has a character
12:08
of a really juicy kind of caramel-soaked apple flavor,
12:12
but overall, also just a classic flavor.
12:16
Sample A (slurps).
12:19
Sample A is so distinctive.
12:21
It's got a really, really apricot-forward
12:24
kind of flavor profile.
12:25
It almost tastes like a (slurps) like an Earl Grey tea
12:30
just doused with apricot juice, super light, super crisp.
12:35
It's a really exotic and really unique cup of coffee.
12:38
Based on tasting these two coffees,
12:40
I'm fairly certain that this is a Geisha
12:42
or something very exotic,
12:44
maybe a variety I haven't even heard of.
12:47
In any event, it has such clarity
12:50
and such pronounced clear, distinctive,
12:53
singular flavors that I would assume
12:55
that it's much more expensive than this cup.
12:58
This cup, cup B is still very sweet, very satisfying.
13:02
It has tons of fresh acidity, however the flavors
13:05
on the whole, are more of a caramely kind of classic,
13:08
predictable coffee experience in comparison to cup A.
13:12
Let's see what they are.
13:13
(dramatic music)
13:17
Whoa, yup, that is a rare varietal coffee at $86 a pound
13:22
and this one isn't bad either at $30 a pound.
13:25
Based on the price point, I'm gonna say
13:27
this is most likely a Geisha coffee.
13:30
Geisha trees are extremely scarce in the world.
13:33
The fact that this coffee is so sweet
13:35
and so clean makes me think it's probably
13:37
from one of the most famous farms in Panama
13:41
producing Geisha, however, I of course, do not know.
13:43
This coffee is fantastic too.
13:45
This is the kind of coffee, when you're going to splurge,
13:48
when you're going to spend a weekend at home
13:51
and you really just wanna treat yourself,
13:53
you buy a fantastic single, a single producer lot
13:57
or a great coffee from your local roaster
14:00
that they're proud of, it's probably gonna taste
14:02
a little bit more like this
14:03
and cost a bit more in this range.
14:05
(bright music)
14:11
With these two coffees it's pretty hard to tell
14:14
which of them is the more expensive of the two.
14:16
Coffee A looks like it may be a single varietal lot,
14:20
just based on the oblong, elongated shape of the coffee,
14:24
it looks like it might be a more exotic variety.
14:26
However, coffee B and coffee A are both really uniform.
14:30
They have no broken bits.
14:31
They have no quakers.
14:33
They really look like high quality, well-processed coffees.
14:36
Whether these coffees look so high quality
14:38
that I look forward to tasting them
14:40
and seeing what the difference is.
14:47
(slurps)
14:52
Both of these coffees are really good.
14:53
They're both very expressive.
14:55
They're both very sweet.
14:56
It's hard to say which of these is the better.
14:59
I think it makes sense to continue tasting them.
15:03
In fact, I'm gonna break out a cupping spoon.
15:08
A cupping spoon is a spoon that we use
15:11
for tasting coffee professionally. (slurps)
15:15
And it just helps us aspirate the coffee
15:17
when we slurp it, it allows us to incorporate
15:19
some air, really spray that coffee all across our palate.
15:23
(slurps)
15:26
As I'm taking a couple more sips,
15:27
I'm realizing that cup A is actually distinguishably
15:31
more juicy, it's got a lot of citrus,
15:34
really, really leaving me with a super crisp,
15:37
super lasting, sort of juicy flavor in my mouth.
15:40
With cup B, I'm getting a lot more (slurps)
15:44
sort of a general flavor profile, a more of a impression,
15:47
rather than a clear, distilled flavor.
15:50
That to me, makes me think that cup A
15:53
is probably the more expensive, however,
15:54
I imagine that they're probably pretty close.
15:56
(dramatic music)
15:57
Let's see.
16:02
Aha, so key takeaways, cup A is most likely
16:07
extremely specific, probably down to a single farm,
16:10
probably maybe even down to a single varietal
16:12
from a single farm, grown at a specific altitude.
16:16
Whereas cup B, more of a general flavor profile,
16:19
really good, really enjoyable, but getting more
16:22
of an impression and less of a singular flavor experience.
16:26
That to me, indicates probably something
16:28
that was grown in a general region,
16:30
not necessarily as expressive as cup A
16:34
and thus probably more of like a regional
16:36
lot type of coffee.
16:37
The great thing about this is,
16:39
one can enjoy fantastic coffees
16:41
that are traceable to a region while also,
16:44
for a little more money, enjoy coffees
16:46
that are really traceable down to a single farm
16:49
and get really specific with the tasting experience.
16:52
(upbeat music)
16:57
While you may not need all of this information
16:59
when you're just brewing your morning cup of coffee,
17:01
what I hope you will take away from this,
17:03
is that you can get well-roasted, freshly roasted
17:06
traceable coffee for less than $30 a pound,
17:09
which is ounce for ounce better value
17:11
than a good bottle of wine at your local wine shop.
17:14
(logo thrums)