In regards to the under roasted chocolate I made. So is this a case of where I could put it back in the premier and add some baking soda? If I eat more than a couple of pieces I get the feeling that I am burning the roof of my mouth with an acidic substance. So does the sourness equate to acidity and the same taste as I would get from under fermented beans.

Well, you could put it back in the melanger and add baking soda. That would indeed neutralize the acidity. Unfortunately it would also react with a whole host of other compounds in the chocolate leaving you with a rather flat tasting chocolate. Given that, it’s not something I would suggest. Instead I would consider either cooking with it or making it into milk chocolate. In either case you are basically applying ‘dilution is the solution’ to the issue. Actually, in both case there is a bit more involved. In baking you have quite a bit of other chemistry going on that affects the chocolate’s flavor and so we are used to this change. And in milk chocolate, there are compounds, for lack of a better term, that play well with acidic chocolate, converting many of the acidic compounds into ‘softer’ aldehydes and ketones, lending a nice depth of flavor to your ‘diluted’ chocolate.

As for sourness being acidity being the taste you get from under fermented beans…no. They are all different things. We American’s are typically very poor in our flavor descriptors. People tend to like to think in opposites. If it is not sweet it must be sour. If it’s not savory it much be bitter. If it’s bitter, add sugar to neutralize it. The problem is that none of these are fully accurate. Taste isn’t like electricity. Positive and negative. One rarely cancels the other. It’s not wholly like sound either. I tend to try and think of taste more like color. You have primary colors. Red, yellow, and blue. Red isn’t the opposite of either of the others. It just IS. But you also have a lot of colors that are well recognized that people tend to agree upon . Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple (indigo, violet). So just because something isn’t blue(sweet) , it does not follow that it has to be red (bitter). It could be yellow (acidic). But maybe is it a mix. Yellow and green make blue (fruity). All I am trying to say is that open your mind to a flavor wheel in the same way there is a color wheel. Once you do that, it isn’t that hard to understand that adding sugar to something (blue) does not make the bitter (red) go away. You just kind of don’t notice it any more.

Let’s try it this way. Look at the image below.


You have a spiral of three spirals. Blue/magenta, green/orange, and magenta/orange. Right? You know I am going to say no, don’t you? There is no blue in that image. It’s green. Have a look.


Changing the color labels from above, if ‘bitter’ is green, and you add magenta too it, the green does not go away. But suddenly you taste ‘blue’ with no green at all. But the green is still there.

That all said, the sour often pairs with acidic, but depending if we have with it (sweet, bitter) determines what we perceive. To me under fermented beans are astringent and bitter, but rarely sour. Under roasted beans tend to keep those flavors, but the addition of others makes us think sour. Sometimes though some flavors go away and what we then perceive is acidic. But if there is sweetness present, we tend to think fruity. And if we over roast, it goes bitter again, full circle as it were…except it is a different bitter.

In a way it’s like each of us having our own language of taste. It’s a matter of learning enough of each other’s language to get a point across and find common ground. Sound and light are easy. We have wavelengths that we can quantify and agree upon. I said red just “IS”. Well, what it is is 620–750 nm. A range that we have mostly all agreed upon as ‘red’, but it encompases an entire range of wavelengths. We don’t even have that with taste and smell. We are stuck with ‘like this’ and ‘like that’. I buy my green coffee from Tom Owen’s of Sweet Marias. Over the years I have learned that I should steer clear of coffees where he tastes apple. I don’t know what he is tasting, but when I taste a coffee that he has tasted apple in, I invariably don’t like it. The interesting part in this to me is that I both like apples and I don’t taste apples in the coffee. But I’ve done it often enough to know that in his ‘language’ of taste, I don’t like apple.

I’ve gone kind of far afield of the original question but I think it is a worth conversation. I guess that main point I have to make is that chocolate flavors (well, all flavors) are like a colored Rorschach image or Impressionist painting. Many of us will see similar images. And we can probably agree on what makes up parts of the image, but there is just no telling what adding another ‘splotch’ (baking soda) to the painting will do in regards to what you see or I see.

It’s why I try to go on and on with tasting note, and the new spider graphs and the like. I’m trying to give you enough of my language so you can make enough correlations to your own language so you know what I mean when I say ‘apple’.