The world of coffee is just as complex as the world of wine or tea — if not more so. While knowing how to swirl and sniff your red wine is becoming more common (pinkies up am I right?), knowing how to taste coffee is still the wild west to most of us.
This is crazy! 64% of adult Americans drink coffee every day. You'd think that we would have figured out how to taste and appreciate the little things in everyday life by now, but that's clearly not the case. Today's post is here to help change that: next time you sip a cuppa joe, close your eyes, take a second to breathe in, and taste the flavors. Start your day on a positive note.
If you're trying to become a pro, you'll want to do what's called a "cupping" to more accurately compare beans and brew methods to each other. However, for this post, we'll focus on the basics to help you begin thinking about how to taste coffee and what to look for.
Before even taking a sip, before even grinding your beans, inhale. Then inhale again after grinding your beans. This will open up your nose to the flavors within the coffee. Your sense of taste is influenced by your sense of smell.
For the most accurate way to ensure all your taste buds properly get wind of the coffee you're tasting, you'll want to slurp rather than sip. This forces the liquid to spray across your tongue, hitting all the taste buds in your mouth. And once you've slurped...
Finish, Acidity, Body, Sweetness. These are the 4 traits you should think about when you're tasting your coffee.
- Finish is about the aftertaste. Is it bitter? Is it neutral? Neutral finishes tend to be "better" than bitter aftertastes.
- Flavor is about the actual distinct flavors you can taste. Do you taste watermelon? How about caramel? Or maybe pepper? You can check out a list of canonical coffee flavors on this flavor wheel.
- Acidity is about that brightness/dryness you often taste in coffee, which is often described by words like "sharp" or "smooth." To be clear, acidity is not about the coffee's sourness, which is typically a bad trait in coffee.
- Body is about texture — how does the coffee feel in your mouth? A full-bodied coffee feels heavier on the tongue, while a watery coffee will feel lighter and not oily.
- Sweetness is just what it sounds like. This is often combined with the flavor profile (e.g. "honey" or "molasses") but is about how sweet the coffee naturally is.
And there you have it! Tasting coffee is an individual journey — in the same way that we all have our own food preferences, what may taste great to you may taste terrible to someone else and vice versa. It's all about learning what you enjoy so you can continue finding new beans that your palate fancies.
If you have any questions about how to taste coffee, we're here to help. Feel free to leave a comment below. Happy tasting.