Grassy/hay taste in coffee. Do some folks enjoy this?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
Milligan

#1: Post by Milligan »

When I first started roasting I had grassy/hay tasting coffee on occasion until I further developed my understanding of the process. I never cared for those tastes and associated them with a very underdeveloped roast or a roast that blew through the Maillard phase. Recently, I've had a few bags of coffees from small roasters (several, not just one) that had the grassy/hay taste. One was a Mexican Laja honey process while the others were central/South American washed. It wasn't a slap in the face flavor, but definitely noticeable.

What was odd is that the grassy/hay flavor of an obvious roast defect in my experience was typically accompanied with other underdeveloped defects such as being very acidic and often sour. These coffees didn't taste extremely acidic. One in particular had very nice body and texture with rich flavor (the Laja Honey.). It was a pleasant coffee other than the slight grassy note.

I don't care for it, but was curious to know if these are intentional flavors some roasters go for. I have to assume so because one of the coffees I had was at the roastery and the roaster prepared it for me and said he really liked that bean.

Is this a thing? Do you enjoy something similar to that flavor? Perhaps that is near vegetal/medicinal?

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Kaffee Bitte

#2: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

I sure don't like grassy flavors in my cup but have had a few bags over the years from light roasters where there was definite grass flavors. I always felt it was a defect and can't remember ever seeing a positive comment about it on HB.
Lynn G.
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another_jim
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#3: Post by another_jim »

Each roast level has its characteristic background taste; and if you are not accustomed to that roast level, you will misjudge that taste. To someone raised on medium and dark roasts, all light roasts taste grassy and sour. Eventually, you can tell whether there is enough sugar to offset the acidity, and enough development to turn the grass and hay into mild bready and toasty flavors.

But it sounds like the OP has enough tasting experience to tell the properly developed light roasts from eh undeveloped ones. Honey processed coffees are notoriously low in acidity, and roasters are tempted to finish them extra fast. That usually gets you a coffee that is both flat and green. Just as Starbucks trained roasters haven't a clue of any roast ahead of the second crack, there are now a lot of third wave trained roasters who don't know how to roast beyond the first crack. Whatever the coffee, they hit it with their one-size-fits-all technique.
Jim Schulman

Cybergirl

#4: Post by Cybergirl »

Yes, I like it very much. It's funny that it's only sold in one coffee shop in my town.

SutterMill

#5: Post by SutterMill »

I don't particularly enjoy the flavor, but it seems present in a portion on my roasts. Some friends I've given with this disclaimer have claimed to enjoy it. I can't tell if they are being nice.

ShotClock
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#6: Post by ShotClock »

I've certainly tasted this in my own roasts, but don't remember getting this particular defect in commercially roasted coffee.

I have had - on more than one occasion - commercially roasted coffee with an obvious roasty defect, that I'm fairly sure will be the result of a flick. My guess is that they probably know that they are turning out bad roasts, but the majority of their customers are brewing in such a way that the result is bitter anyway, so this is not deemed to be too much of a problem.

Any time i get a coffee with a defect like this, the roaster is crossed off of my list. Life is too short to drink junk.

Milligan (original poster)

#7: Post by Milligan (original poster) »

another_jim wrote:Each roast level has its characteristic background taste; and if you are not accustomed to that roast level, you will misjudge that taste. To someone raised on medium and dark roasts, all light roasts taste grassy and sour. Eventually, you can tell whether there is enough sugar to offset the acidity, and enough development to turn the grass and hay into mild bready and toasty flavors.

But it sounds like the OP has enough tasting experience to tell the properly developed light roasts from eh undeveloped ones. Honey processed coffees are notoriously low in acidity, and roasters are tempted to finish them extra fast. That usually gets you a coffee that is both flat and green. Just as Starbucks trained roasters haven't a clue of any roast ahead of the second crack, there are now a lot of third wave trained roasters who don't know how to roast beyond the first crack. Whatever the coffee, they hit it with their one-size-fits-all technique.
There is always something new to learn for me and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the grassy taste. I've had quite a lot of light roasts from specialty coffee roasters that are tea-like and very fruity without any grass or hay. I enjoy those coffees. I'm going to a cupping class soon so I plan to specifically ask the instructor about the grassy taste and if it is every not a defect.
ShotClock wrote:I've certainly tasted this in my own roasts, but don't remember getting this particular defect in commercially roasted coffee.

I have had - on more than one occasion - commercially roasted coffee with an obvious roasty defect, that I'm fairly sure will be the result of a flick. My guess is that they probably know that they are turning out bad roasts, but the majority of their customers are brewing in such a way that the result is bitter anyway, so this is not deemed to be too much of a problem.

Any time i get a coffee with a defect like this, the roaster is crossed off of my list. Life is too short to drink junk.
I agree with you that life is too short to drink junk, especially to my palette. My interest here is if this is a taste some folks enjoy and is intentional. I'm with you, I hardly ever get this flavor from commercially roasted coffee so I have to assume it was not intentional.
SutterMill wrote:I don't particularly enjoy the flavor, but it seems present in a portion on my roasts. Some friends I've given with this disclaimer have claimed to enjoy it. I can't tell if they are being nice.
I have the grassy note in my roasts as well sometimes. Typically when trying to go as light as possible. Those roasts go in the bin for me.
Cybergirl wrote:Yes, I like it very much. It's funny that it's only sold in one coffee shop in my town.
Thank you for your post. That is very interesting! So the grassy/hay taste is sold consistently at one of your local roasters? How is it advertised, such as, do they give tasting notes on the bag? Curious to know how the roaster presents the flavor.

Milligan (original poster)

#8: Post by Milligan (original poster) »

I took some time to figure this out a bit more. I got a hold of that roaster and asked more details on the bean. I was then able to order some from the same region in a washed variety. Specifically I ordered Mexico La Laja Washed SHG from Coffee Bean Corral. I roasted it on my 9 min basic Central American using an Ikawa Pro100 but went to a 14 on the roastvision (61 Antron, medium/dark) dropped at 420F. Phases looked like 40%/40%/20%. Should be plenty of development to lose any grassy/hay taste that was there. I let it sit overnight and tried it through an Aeropress the next day. Grassy and hay-like with medium body and a nice finish, nearly like what the roaster was serving but without the fuller body (I'm guess the honey process helps a bit there or a more refined roast profile.) Resting it longer would likely help a little as well.

Very interesting. I also did a Costa Rican bean through the same profile right after and tasted it along side the Mexican coffee. No hay/grass. So it is definitely something with that specific bean. I think next I'll try the same roast level but stretch it even further with an espresso profile to see if a longer drying and Maillard "fixes" the grassy/hay taste. Then maybe go right up to 2nd crack and see if it persists.

I also plan to let the coffee rest for a few days and try it again.

daveR1

#9: Post by daveR1 »

I was warned by the guys at Caffe Lusso a while back that with their roasts I needed to set my PID at 203-F. minimum or I might get some grassy notes. Occasionally I've tasted that in other coffees & bumping up a couple of degrees fixed it.

Milligan (original poster)

#10: Post by Milligan (original poster) »

Another update... I got back from a highly productive cupping course and tasted that flavor note in one of the coffees. The instructor said that particular coffee was from a year old harvest. After class I asked a little bit more specifics and I said I've tasted it in even higher roast levels with some coffees. He said unlike grassy/hay, it does not easily leave with higher roast levels. I asked if that taste is what is described as "baggy." He said exactly that. He described it as a combo of peanut shell, grass, and woody. So glad he included that fault in the cupping, it was very very informative. Thought I'd add that perspective here for future reference.