I appreciate the replies, but I still believe there is much value in this exercise. I first tried it with hops, then with spices, with good success. IMO, knowing how malts really taste on their own is crucial to knowing how they react in a recipe. On the other hand, however, how they react with other malts has to be very important. Cumin, for example, to my taste works well with beef, but not so well with chicken.
My original question was about the caramel (crystal), let's just call them C malts, and why they taste so much like prune and molasses. I was really surprised by that. The other malts haven't taken me by surprise near as much as the C's. Maybe, that's just the way the C's are. If so, it probably explains why some of my early stouts tasted way too much like molasses. Come to think of it, I stopped using C malts in Black Ale and Lagers quite awhile ago. Maybe now I know why. Maybe there just isn't much true caramel flavor in the C malts.
I've shortened the process somewhat, to about a 1/2 hour steep and 15 minute boil, for speed's sake, and I like the idea of the French Press, but haven't tried it yet. Anyway, cheers!