Coffee drinking is part of our life. We might drink a cup first thing in the morning, on our lunch-break, or in the car on the way home. Few people really concentrate on tasting the coffee they drink, but once the start to notice it, their appreciation increases quickly. Here at The MoreFlavour Company, we are obsessed with helping you to get more from your coffee; and we’ll teach you how to taste a good cup of coffee.
Different coffees have different tastes, but generally the following are assessed
How much sweetness does the coffee have. This is a very desirable trait in coffee generally the more the better.
How acidic is the coffee is. A lot of pleasant acidity gives the coffee a crispness or juiciness. Coffee professionals tend to develop a high acidity for coffee. Generally denser coffees are more acid, so coffee tasters learn to associate high acidity with quality and interesting flavors.
Does the coffee have a light tea-like like mouthfeel, or is it a rich creamy heavy cup.
Is the mouthfeel dominated by one flavor? Do all the flavors occur together to create a great cup of coffee? Is one flavor more dominate than the other?
Many new tasters find this the most frustrating aspect of coffee tasting as it is not only the flavors being described but also how pleasant the coffee tastes
The value of professional tasters
Before the coffee reaches the final consumer, the coffee will have been tasted a number of times through the coffee industry. It might be tasted early on to detect any presence of defect. It will then be tasted by a roastery to make sure the roasting process was done correctly. It then it may be tasted by a cafe owner selecting a range they wish to stock. Finally it will be the consumer who gets to taste the coffee.
How to taste coffee at home
How professional coffee tasters develop their skills so rapidly, one would think that score sheets and large amounts of data would be the criteria. But in actual fact it is regular opportunities of comparative tasting.
You can do this at home quite easily
- Buy 2 different coffees. Ask your local coffee roaster for guidance. If you have one coffee you have nothing to compare it to.
- Grind your coffee beans to the right texture. Grinding your coffee beans at home will make an enormous difference to the taste of your cup.
- With your coffee making device of choice (such as the AeroPress, the Hourglass Brewer, V60, Chemex), brew 2 small cups of coffee.
- Let the coffee cool a bit. It’s much easier to differentiate flavors in warm coffee, rather than hot coffee. If the water is too hot, it will burn the coffee and become bitter. If you want to take this to the next level, you could use a temperature gauge to get the temperature right.
- Taste them alternatively. Start to think how the coffees tastes compared to each other.
- Focus on the textures first. How does the mouthfeel compare in the two coffees. Is one sweeter, or does the one feel heavier, or does the one have more acidity than the other? Avoid looking at the label description, and make your own notes on the taste of the coffees.
- Flavors are the most intimidating part of tasting, roasters use a wide variety of words to describe flavors and sensations. Any words you find that describe what you are tasting are specific to your experience, write them down as a reference or to keep it simpler select one attribute of the one you prefer over the other.
- When you have finished, compare what you have written down, as opposed to what the roasters description has detailed on the label. Often reading the label you will see that word you were looking for, actually describes the taste you were experiencing. This is part of the coffee-specific vocabulary building process.
- Describing coffee gets easier and easier, but remember the goal is being able to discover what you prefer and being able to describe it, even industry veterans still work on this.
So, you don’t need to be a coffee expert to make good coffee at home, but understanding the taste terms used by coffee experts will help you understand what to look for.