Oh Nuts

One question that we get quite a bit via the forum and otherwise is; What are some coffees with a nutty flavor profile? There are definitely coffees that have more of a nutty taste to them, but it would be very helpful to identify some specific types and/or reasons for this nuttiness.

Nuttiness can be the result of processing, either purposeful or otherwise. It can also be the result of bean density, or even the age and condition of the green coffee. Most commonly nutty is a result of roasting. Negative nutty attributes are usually tasted as a peanutty, fatty flavor characteristic in washed coffees. Peanut skin is also a common descriptor associated with an unpleasant astringentcy in a coffee.

Positive nutty attributes can be tasted as; almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, or candied peanut. Many coffees that have stone fruit flavors also have some almond-like flavors, especially when roasted more into the Full City range. Hazelnut is usually found in this similar fashion. Walnut is usually paired with a pleasant astringency, and is common in coffees with a slightly drier mouthfeel.

Some of the coffees that I would put into these categories are certain Maragogype/Maracaturra/Pacamara coffees roasted at the Full City range. The nicer coffees from Java, such as the Pitaloka, have a very distinctive sweet almond and walnut quality to them at most of the roast levels. At City +, the toasted almond notes pair nicely with cocoa and spice to give it a very complex sweetness that’s excellently expressed in a press pot brew. Coffees from Costa Rica can frequently show some of the sweet hazelnut qualities at a Full City as well.

Pulped-Natural coffees very frequently have a candied peanut flavor to them, especially the ones from Brazil. It’s important to note that this processing style can have quite a wide range; from having none of the mucialge removed to having just about as much of the mucilage removed as you would find on a fully Washed process coffee. In Central America these heavily demucilagized coffees can sometimes be identified as Machine Washed. Generally, the more mucilage that has been removed, the cleaner the cup profile is, and therefore the more fruited and less nutty the cup is as well. The coffees that have little of the mucialge removed are commonly called Honey or Miel coffees in Central America, but some other places as well. These Honey coffees are generally incredibly nutty, with loads of candied peanut butter type flavors.

Many of the coffees of Brazil have a distinct nuttiness that is usually paired with layers of cocoa, aromatic woods, leather, and spices. These coffees are the result of either Pulped Natural or full Natural Dry processing. In Brazil, selective picking is very rare, and separation of various qualities generally happen at the mill. This practice, as well as the practice of harvesting a range of coffee cherry ripeness all at once leads to this very distinctive flavor profile. Brazil was the first producing country to use the word Natural in reference to Dry Processing, and it more commonly refered to the practice of letting the fruit dry right on the tree. The Dry Processed coffees of Brazil are distinctively different that many of the more fruited Dry Processed coffees from Ethiopia or from some of the experiemental lots done recently in Central America where there is much more selective picking/harvesting being practiced.

If you are looking for the most nutty coffee, a Brazil will almost always be your safest bet. Pulped Natural coffees will also deliver a consistent sweet nuttiness at a City+ and deeper roast level, but don’t overlook the coffees from Java which might have more of the almondy character that you’re after. And if you’re looking for a little nuttiness combined with some cocoa and cherry or stone fruit, try your hand at some well developed Full City roasts of a Costa Rica.