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June 26, 2017

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Hints of lemon: Discovering coffee's fruity side with light roasts

COLOGNE, Germany--Coffee in Germany used to be just differentiated by brands, but Europe's biggest nation is now discovering the subtle differences in taste between the world's growing regions.

From Ethiopia to Colombia, from Kenya to Vietnam; there's a coffee type to suit everyone's taste. After all, there are up to 1,000 different aromas locked inside every coffee bean. The trick is to get them out and onto your palate.

"For a few years, very dark and shiny espresso beans were popular here. They provided a very chocolaty taste and lots of crema on top," explains Hennes Fendrich from the gourmet shop Coffee Circle in Berlin.

But lately the trend, picked up from the United States and Scandinavian nations, has been towards lighter roasts.

"The beans are simply roasted for a shorter time," says Fendrich, who is in charge of roasting his shop's coffee beans.

High quality coffees are roasted in a steel drum, which takes much longer than industrially roasted coffee. Drum roasting provides a more wholesome flavour and allows the aromas to fully develop.

"We roast our coffees long enough for the aromas and fine fruit acids to emerge," explains Fendrich. The longer a coffee bean is roasted, the more acid is removed from it. So if a coffee blend is meant to taste fruitier, it needs a shorter roasting time.

Coffee dealer and sommelier Michael Gliss is an expert in all things to do with coffee and says shorter roast times were the rule when Germans drank nothing but drip-brewed coffee, before a fad for Italian-style espresso developed about a decade ago.

"Filter coffees have always had a short roasting time," he says. Water takes much longer to pass through filter coffee than with espresso. A long espresso-type roasting time would lead to too many aromas in filter coffee.

Coffee has been slowly developing a reputation as a natural product that needs to be enjoyed properly.

That has spurred several German manufacturers to add to their branded blends by making light-roasted coffees. "You can compare the variety of coffees with wine," says Annika Poloczek from Green Cup Coffee.

Coffee sommelier Gliss agrees. "It's the same with wine: you want to know what region it comes from and from what vineyard," he says.

Coffee from Kenya tastes different from that grown in Guatemala.

So-called single-estate coffees come into their own with slow-brew methods like filtering or the even slower French-style coffee pot with a plunger in it. In very light roasts, you can even detect subtle flavours suggesting lemon or orange.

Filter coffee seems old-fashioned to many Germans, but the new trends in coffee have underscored it as a good brewing method.

"Short-roasted coffees are very suited to filtering because they allow the aromas to come out of the coffee bean best."

Short-roasting is just one of the many ways to enjoy this wonderful beverage.

"The important thing is that the roasting method is the best one to suit the variety of bean," says Gliss. If you love coffee, you should make sure you always try new varieties out. You never know what aromas your taste buds may discover.

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