Gourmet Coffee Tasting Tips
Body describes the “mouthfeel” of the coffee on your tongue, as if you were letting a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth. The body is the consistency and sense of richness which embodies the gourmet coffee’s flavor and aroma.
Acidity is sensed as a sharpness toward the front of the mouth and dryness at the back of the mouth and under the edges of the tongue—perhaps crisp and sparkling like a dry white wine. Acidity ranges from lively or bright to flat and dull.
A coffee may have full body, or a lively (high) acidity, but not both.
The darker the roast, the less the acidity. If acidity and body are well-balanced then the coffee is mellow.
A low level of bitterness nicely counteracts acidity, and thus is a desirable flavor dimension in a premium coffee. Bitterness may be sensed as a strong taste or twinge, or as an aftertaste on the back of the tongue.
A coffee’s finish, or aftertaste may be dry, crisp, light, heavy, sometimes sweet and lingering, and perhaps vibrant, bright, and zesty.
A gourmet coffee’s aroma is experienced primarily through the sense of smell (through the nose), and also retro-nasally after the coffee has been swallowed as volatile and aromatic compounds drift back up into the nasal passage.
Factors that affect a coffee’s bitterness
- Roast type
- Grind size (finer grinds exhibit more bitterness)
- How long the coffee steeps in the water
- Mineral content
- Temperature of the water used
- Brewing method
A drip brew will be less bitter than a French Press brew because the filtered drip brew has less soluble solids.
A medium roast will tend to have less bitterness because it has a higher acidity, fewer soluble solids, and a more potent aroma (all qualities that reduce bitterness).
Wet-processed coffee is less bitter than dry-processed coffee.
To reduce the perception of bitterness, some people add a pinch of salt, sugar, vanilla extract, an orange peel (citric acid), or even rinsed eggshells to the ground coffee before brewing.
Some bitterness in a coffee provides a nice flavor dimension that may be sensed as a pleasant and sharp aftertaste, counteracting the coffee’s acidity.