Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Coffee Tasting Information

While you are tasting the coffee, here are the major characteristics you should be paying attention to:

Acidity - The sensation of dryness in the back and under the edges of your mouth. This is a desirable quality and not to be confused with sour (which is considered a bad quality of coffee). Acidity creates a lively, bright taste which without it, the coffee would taste flat.

Aroma – Without aroma, we could only taste sweet, sour, bitter and salty. This is where we get the subtle differences such as floral, nutty or fruity.

Body – The way the coffee feels in your mouth, its viscosity or heaviness. The best way to describe it is the comparison to how whole milk feels in your mouth compared to water. If you are unsure as to the level of body in the different coffees, add an equal amount of milk to each one and the one with the heavier body will retain more of its flavor when diluted.

Flavor – This is the overall perception of the three characteristics above. Flavor can be rich (full bodied), complex (multi-flavored), or balanced (no one characteristic over powers the other.

Here are some terms used to describe DESIRABLE flavor qualities:

Bright or dry – highly acidic leaving a dry aftertaste
Caramelly – caramel like or syrupy
Chocolaty – aftertaste similar to unsweetened chocolate or vanilla
Earthy – a soily-like quality (sometimes unfavorable)
Fragrant – an aroma ranging from floral to nutty to spicy, etc.
Fruity – having a citrus or berry scent
Mellow – a smooth taste lacking acidity but not flat
Nutty – similar to roasted nuts
Spicy – an exotic aroma of various spices
Sweet – a lack of harshness
Wild – a gamey flavor rarely, but sometimes considered favorable
Winy – aftertaste resembling a mature wine

Here are some terms used to describe UNDESIRABLE flavor qualities:

Bitter – aftertaste perceived on the back of the tongue
Bland – neutral in flavor
Carbony – burnt charcoal flavors
Earthy – a musty, soily-like quality
Flat – lacking aroma, acidity, and aftertaste
Grassy – aroma and taste of grass
Harsh – a caustic, raspy quality
Muddy – thick and flat
Musty – slightly stuffy smell (sometimes desirable in aged coffees)
Rubbery – a smell of burnt rubber
Sour – a tart flavor such as unripe fruit
Turpeny – a flavor resembling turpentine
Watery – a lack of body
Wild – a gamey flavor

Tasting the Roasts

As coffee is roasted, it goes from a sharper, more acidic taste, to a smoother more full bodied taste, and finally to a full bodied, almost charred taste. Here is a breakdown of the typical roasts followed by the flavor characteristics.

  • Cinnamon or Light Roast (Light brown and dry surface): a bright, acidic, toasted grain taste.

  • Medium High or Regular Roast (Milk chocolate brown with a dry surface): acidic and bright but lacks the grain taste.

  • Full City or High Roast (Darker brown with a satin appearance): Slight bittersweet tang with less acidity.

  • French, Italian, or Espresso Roast (Dark chocolate with patches of oil): Very little acidity and noticeably bittersweet.

  • Dark French or Heavy (Almost black and very oily): Almost no acidity and very bittersweet.


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