How to Evaluate The Flavor of Coffee
Good coffee is like good wine. When you drink it and taste it slowly, only then will you experience the beauty of it.
If you are performing a coffee evaluation, no matter what kind of coffee you’re drinking, you shouldn’t swallow it. On the contrary, in order to get the full flavor, you should let the coffee stay in your mouth for a while. Allow your tongue to touch and feel the coffee substance. Use all five of your senses to discern the various flavors that are present in one small sip. It may take many years of study to master the art of appreciating coffee, but it’s worth it. When you train your taste buds to evaluate coffee, you will have the ability to truly enjoy the thousands of different coffee varieties around the world. (It is strongly recommended that you spit the evaluated coffee into a trash bin if you are testing a large number of coffee varieties. This way you will avoid ingesting too much caffeine.)
There is so much to learn about evaluating coffee, and I cannot fully explain the entire subject in one short article. So let’s start with three main topics, which are body, flavor, and aroma.
1. Evaluate the body
The body of the beverage is the “mouth-feel” that we experience when we taste the coffee. (Body is not equivalent to strength. Strength refers to how much ground coffee is used to brew the cup.) Body can also be referred to as texture. Body ranges from light or thin to heavy or full, and there are different subtle variations in between those extremes. These include light-medium, medium, and medium-heavy. This is my method of determining the body of coffee.
Feel the thickness of the beverage in your mouth. The thickness, weight, or viscosity of the drink determines the body. Heavier-bodied coffee is thicker and weightier than light-bodied varieties. In order to explain further, let’s consider comparing water with Coca-Cola. Compared to pure water, the cola has a heavier body. When compared with whole milk, cola has a lighter body. You can clearly distinguish the body of coffee when you taste two different varieties at the same time. If you still have problems determining the body of the coffee, try adding a bit of milk. If the coffee taste prevails over the milk, the coffee has a heavier body. If the milk washes out the coffee flavor, that variety has a lighter body.
Feel the weight of the coffee. Let a sip of the coffee stay on your tongue. Feel the texture of the coffee with your tongue, and swirl it against the roof of your mouth. The thickness of texture decides the body of coffee. The more texture coffee has, the heavier its body.
2. Evaluate the flavors
Our taste buds are extremely sensitive. Using different areas, the tongue can distinguish four distinct flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, and salty. What’s more amazing about this sensitive organ is that it tingles when it is stimulated. For example, some people may have the incorrect assumption that “spicy” is also a flavor, because they mistake the sense of pain (the stimulation of the mouth by spicy food) as a flavor.
Tingles are very important indicators. They tell you precisely what the flavor is. Since coffee can be bitter, try to ignore the bitter taste and pay attention to what the front part of your tongue tells you about the beverage.
The middle of your tongue responds to salty flavors. It can distinguish two kinds of salty: neutral and soft, depending on whether the tingle lingers on the middle part of the tongue. If it doesn’t linger, it is “neutral” salty. However, if it lingers for one or two seconds, it is “soft” salty.
The sides of your tongue detect sour flavors. Sour notes give your tongue the same stimulation that wine gives you. If your tongue’s sour area buzzes, it shows that the coffee contains sour notes. You may also have a “pucker” feeling if the coffee has a sour flavor.
3. Evaluate the aroma
Your nose plays the role of evaluating the aroma of coffee. Coffee has an enormous range of subtle aromatic notes, and each of them can be vastly different from the others. Common aromas are chocolaty, floral, fruity, and spicy. Different scents arouse different emotions. Let the smell of the coffee go through your nose to the roof of your mouth. This way, you can smell and taste the coffee at the same time.
At times, some aromas are very similar to one another and you cannot describe what the difference is between them. At this point in your taste-test, you may need the help of an essential oil whose flavor is close to the coffee. Inhale the scent of the essential oil, and then sip the coffee. This helps determine the aroma.
Coffee contains more than 800 subtle aromatic notes, which is 3 times more than those found in wine. It is no surprise that a coffee connoisseur needs many years of training and practice to discern these variations. Even picking out all the unique aromas in a single cup of coffee takes time to master.
As you make your way through the above processes, you can build up your coffee flavor profile for each unique cup. For example, you can have a full-bodied, chocolaty coffee with notes of tangerine. It suggests that this coffee is rich, and contains a mixture of sweet and sour flavors.
You will need to spend time and effort to train your nose and taste buds. This training will make your senses acutely aware of all the different flavors and aromas. The more various kinds of coffee you taste, the more experienced you’ll become, and the better you will be able to evaluate coffee.
For further study, you may like to read our article on the best coffee beans from all around the world.
Thank you for reading!