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.

CoffeeMan Dan says, “To appreciate these many fine qualities of premium gourmet coffees make sure and follow all the steps for Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee.

The Bitter Brew

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.

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