There are five different elements when we talk about coffee tasting. These are aroma, flavor, acidity, body, and aftertaste. Learning about coffee tasting is the next step towards truly enjoying coffee and understanding how to analyze the way a good coffee can affect your palette.
Aroma is how the coffee is received by your nose. It is the fragrance of the coffee beans after they have been ground and brewed. Before grinding, you should smell the beans as well, as it will give you an idea of how the coffee might smell after it is brewed. Try brewing a cup of coffee and take your time to inhale that aroma and get your senses working identifying the complexity of the coffee.
Once you have taken a sip of your coffee, the flavour will
resonate on your palette immediately. Flavour is the most
obvious element of coffee tasting.
Common coffee flavour elements include citrus, berry, floral,
buttery, chocolatey, nutty, smokey, sour, sweet, spicy, caramel,
vanilla, cinnamon, bitter, herbal, and earthy notes.
All coffee has acidity. Several different types of acid, such as
citric acid, can be present in coffee, but when cupping, we
aren’t really referencing the amount of acidity in the brew, but
the mouth feel that the coffee leaves after a sip. This includes
the brightness, dryness, sourness, sweetness, and oily
elements of a coffee. What kind of a sensation does the coffee
leave in your mouth after tasting? Is it bright and tart? Dry and
sweet? Or is it oily and bitter? Acidity is a bit more complex and requires practice to fully comprehend all of its complexities.
Acidity is essential to a good coffee. Without acidity,
coffee can be rather boring, and lacking in flavour. Coffees with
more acidic content are bright and complex, offering sour or
sweet notes that bring a fullness to the overall flavour. Coffees
with less acidic content allow other characteristics to come
through in the flavour, such as floral, earthy, and smokey notes.
Light roasts generally have more acidity and dark roasts have
Body is basically the texture of a coffee, and can also be
described as the way it feels in your mouth. There are full-
bodied, light-bodied, and no-bodied coffees. Technically, there
are not really any coffees with no body, but flatter, thinner brews
are described as no-bodied due to their lack of body or
mouthfeel. Common terms used to describe the body of a
coffee include full, light, thick, viscous, watery, silky, oily, syrupy,
The aftertaste, or finish of a coffee is the flavour that is only
noticeable after you have swallowed and allowed the brew to
mature or linger for a few moments. Full bodied coffees will
have a more pronounced aftertaste than lighter brews. Darker
roasts also tend to have stronger aftertastes than lighter ones.
Common terms used to describe aftertaste include smoky,
woody, spicy, and earthy. How does the coffee resonate on your
palette several seconds after you finish a sip? The answer to
this question describes the aftertaste.
Now you know the basics of coffee tasting why not put it to the test. Try experimenting with a few different types of coffee bean and follow the tips above to help identify aroma, flavour, acidity, body and after taste.