Well, the title sounds like a big no-no for most people in the coffee scene. Typically fine specialty coffee is enjoyed without sugar. Even more it seems to be a capital sin to add some sugar to his beloved beverage.
As for me in times before my inauguration to specialty coffee I used to drink my coffees sweet … well, very sweet and often sweetened by artificial sweetener. For me coffee was a beverage based on expresso, extended with lots of (steamed) milk and mostly finalised with any kind of sweet sirup. I was a latte guy. I regarded filter coffee as a beverage from hell, mostly because I only knew the bitter and one dimensional black liquid everybody brewed and drank at home.
Then I was hit by the third coffee wave and I was faced with super cool Chemex, AeroPress and V60 pour overs. I bought myself a Chemex and a reasonable burr grinder and began my coffee journey. Of course I put any kind of sweetener (sugar and artificial stuff) into my brews but couldn’t really taste the fine flavours with wich the coffee were described by others. My first trip into the pour-over-coffee-world ended for me leaving my Chemex on the shelf and buying an espresso machine for making lattes and such stuff.
Then about a year ago I was hit again by the coffee bug. Not sure what exactly pushed me into it again but I saw myself using the AeroPress on a regular basis. At first I drank the brew sweet again but then I detoxed myself by using no sugar or sweetener at all in my coffees. It took months for me, to appreciate a coffee without any sugar! I learned to brew with a V60, managed to lower the bitter aromas of my brews and enjoyed them without sugar and milk. Finally I felt like being a full member the pour-over-coffee scene. ;-)
But lately I did something very stupefying … I sweetened my coffee again. No, I don’t experience a major relapse. I do this on purpose! But why?
Well, although I enjoy my brews, I remembered an approach which is very common in the whisky world to enhance flavors.
Some very strong whiskies have more than 50% alcohol by volume. These whiskies are called cask strength whiskies. The flavour of theses whiskies are often dominated by the very strong alcoholic flavours which overpower the other subtle aromas. To get rid of the alcoholic notes the alcoholic strength is reduced by adding some water. This opens up the whisky and releases more flavours again.
I adopted this approach to the coffee world not by adding water to the coffee but rather by adding a very subtle sweetness (neutral sugar) to my brews. I sometimes add only as less sugar to the coffee (about half a teaspoon) until the bitterness fades nearly completely away. In that way prepared coffee is not sweet at all, lacks of bitterness and releases more flavours.