How To Become An Expert In Coffee Tasting

Wine isn’t the only beverage that has distinguishing qualities.

By Michelle Lin

Photo by Maeve Greeley

Everyone has heard of a luxurious wine tasting to tell what kind of wine it is, where the wine was made, and even when the wine was made. But what about coffee? What really makes the difference in taste between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee? According to an espresso and coffee guide on coffee tasting and the experts at Starbucks, here are some tips to taste coffee like a real pro:

1. Aroma

The aroma of coffee is pretty self explanatory: you just take a whiff. The initial scent can indicate how fresh the coffee is and its quality. The smell can vary from “ashy” to “floral” to even “winey.”

The ashiness can indicate the degree of the roast: light, medium, or dark. If the coffee is especially smokey it is highly likely that the coffee is roasted longer or possibly even burnt.

Floral and fruity aromas of coffee tend to be comforting to the nose. The resemblance of the aroma to certain flowers or plants usually means that the coffee is a mild blend.

Winey scents are similar to fruity ones, but are more acidic. These coffee roasts have flavors that resonate in the mouth like a classic red wine.

2. Body

The basic question to ask yourself when determining the body of a cup of coffee is: “How does it feel in your mouth?” A weird, yet necessary, question that shows the coffee’s consistency. The procedure to determine body is similar to wine tasting. Tasting the body of coffee involves swishing the coffee around in the mouth to effectively coat every part of the tongue.

Body is usually distinguished three ways: light, medium, or full-bodied and usually correlates to how many essential oils remain in the coffee after being brewed. The more essential oils left in the coffee, the more distinct the coffee flavor feels in the mouth.

3. Taste:

This part involves aroma, body, and acidity, which is the sharp aftertaste from the bitterness of the coffee. Analyzing taste is tricky since you have to pay attention to your taste buds. Taste buds’ receptors are divided into four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

Since coffee is naturally bitter, the bitter taste buds, located in the back of the tongue, will always be stimulated. To better determine the specific taste of a cup of coffee you should focus on the front and center of your tongue to see what flavors are specific to that cup of coffee.

4. Finish:

The finish of the coffee is essentially to the aftertaste, which is typically described as either “sweet and heavy” or “light and dry.” You can also figure out the pace of the finish as “quick” or “lingering.”

This aspect of tasting is particularly difficult to identify because the distinctions are subtle. The aftertaste is highly influenced by the aroma; certain flavors that were indistinguishable with the nose can be revealed later by the taste left in the finish.

So next time you have a cup of coffee, take a few minutes to notice what makes this cup different from the last one. While you’re at it, sip with your pinky up because you’re now an official coffee connoisseur.

Originally posted in Spoon University

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