I've been slowly going from certain kinds of beverage to another. About a year ago, I switched from drinking gallons of Lipton tea (literally, a two gallon brew with two cups of sugar, extremely unhealthy I'm sure), to loose leaf tea (usually a vanilla/hazelnut mix, either black or with a tsp. of sugar if blackberry). Given that I've really enjoyed switching to loose leaf tea, I figured I'd do what I've always wanted to and switch to a whole bean coffee.
So, I purchased a Hario Skerton grinder and an aeropress (I use the same kettle that I use for tea to boil the water, though I usually only go to about 180 F). The first coffee I purchased was a French Vanilla from CBTL (http://www.coffeebean.com/french-vanilla/d/1076_c_106_cl_624), I didn't realize at the time it wasn't whole bean (I didn't read as well as I should have), but I still really enjoyed it. I would make a cup and add a teaspoon or two of sugar and was quite pleased. For reference, before this I would drink Folger's French Vanilla with three tablespoons of sugar + milk (again, very bad, I'm sure). I've been assured that such an advanced amount of alteration shouldn't be needed.
Then, I purchased an actual whole bean, a Sumatra Mandehling Dark. I tried to prep it in much the same way as I did the French Vanilla (I used one aeropress scoop of beans to grind, then brewed from that), but I found it to be so bitter (black) that it was undrinkable. I tried to add some sweetener, but it was fruitless. The whole process was nowhere near as precise or measured as I usually am, (I do have a scale, but I sort of flew by the cuff on this one). Can anyone offer me some advice on water temperature, grind weight/coarseness (I used one revolution of the Hario's grinder), I'm completely at a loss. I'm sitting on a pound of very dark coffee that I'm not sure I'm going to enjoy much. It could just be that my tastes don't match up to what I have.
Ah, yes, this is probably more an issue of dark roast not playing nice with your taste buds in terms of flavour than any particular issue with your brewing process. I'm not a big fan of dark roasts either. You will likely see the biggest results from just switching over to a medium or light roasted bean. Since you enjoy sweetened coffee, I think light roast might actually be your best bet for a more subtle taste. No need to spend too much money when experimenting with different roasts. A sealed bag of local grocery store beans is plenty adequate for this purpose.
Regarding grinding and brewing, couple things you can do to get more consistent results:
1. Use your scale to measure the quantity of beans you are using as well as the quantity of water. General rule of thumb I use is about 20grams of beans to about 300grams of water (you measure both in grams just to make things simpler).
2. For aeropress, I like to use medium to medium coarse grind, sort of depending on the bean I am using, how quickly water flows through it etc. Here's a picture:
Nevermind the writing on the bottom, I'm just using this picture for reference sake. With aeropress, you probably want a grind size similar to the pile on the left or a little bit coarser than that. Experiment with it and you'll notice changes in taste depending on grind (all other factors being constant), then you can get a better idea what you're preference is in that regard.
Also look up the various aeropress brewing methods. They all produce slightly different sorts of flavour and texture.
Cool, thanks for the help! I presently live about four hours south of Chicago (I'll be moving up there in three weeks), so presently I don't have any shops around that sell coffee (an atrocious place, this is), but I'll be sure to get a light roast and try it out.
As for brewing methods, I presently use the inverted, but I'll experiment with that a bit as well.
Good luck on your brewing endeavours. :)
I personally blame Will for ensnaring me into the manual coffee brewing zeitgeist. One day I saw a video on Tested about the Aeropress and I ordered it just to see what all the fuss was about. Now a couple years later I do both aeropress and pourover and have a burr grinder and a scale and have become quite fussy about the freshness of the beans. Terrible rabbit hole this is.
I'm chasing the dragon because of you, Will! D:
The best coffee I've ever had has been in Melbourne.
The strongest coffee (6 times stronger than average coffee), tastiest, full flavoured with a little bit of milk. I think everyone should try this very strong coffee :)