Drink in the Moment
Every coffee is unique, and there's a world of complex flavors to explore.
Take your time, practice, and have fun.
With so many different varieties and subtle nuances, coffee tasting is a lot like wine tasting. Some of the attributes and terminology can seem unfamiliar at first, but it’s an experience worth savoring for tasters of all levels. Your tasting skills can also be enhanced with a little guidance, some context around flavor characteristics, and regular practice. This overview is a great way to start, but join us for a free tasting event offered at our shop to learn more if you're serious about honing your palate.
The Four Steps of Coffee Tasting
Our sense of taste is directly influenced by our sense of smell. When tasting a coffee, smell it first. Place your hand over your coffee mug or tasting cup. Hold the cup close to your nose and inhale. What do you notice? Describe the aroma.
When tasting a coffee, it is important to slurp it. By slurping, you spray the coffee across your entire palate. This allows the subtle flavours and aromas to reach all the tasting zones of your tongue.
3. Locate the experience on your tongue.
As you taste a coffee, think about where you are experiencing flavours on your tongue. Note the weight of the coffee on your tongue.
4. Write a description.
Use descriptive sensory words to express the dominant characteristics of the aroma, the flavour and the way the coffee feels in your mouth. Your own past experiences provide great reference points. What food or other experiences can you compare it with?
As you taste different coffees from around the world, try to compare and contrast the coffees by identifying the four tasting terms for each coffee: aroma, acidity, body and flavor.
The way the coffee smells. Some examples of aroma are earthy, spicy, floral and nutty. These distinctive scents are directly related to the actual flavour of the coffee. Certain aromas can be subtle and challenging to recognise for the new coffee taster. Still, it’s important to begin each of your tastings by smelling the coffee because much of what we perceive as flavour is directly related to our sense of smell.
When we refer to acidity as a coffee-tasting term, we’re not talking about the actual pH of the coffee. We are identifying the lively, palate-cleansing characteristics of its flavour profile. You’ll taste and feel the acidity of a coffee in the sides and tip of your tongue, in much the same way that you experience acidity when tasting citrus. Coffees with high acidity are described as bright, tangy and crisp with a clean finish. Coffees with low acidity feel smooth in your mouth and tend to remain longer.
The “weight” of the coffee. Does it feel light or full in your mouth? This sensation is similar to what you experience when you compare the feel of whole milk with nonfat milk. A coffee with light body will feel light on your tongue and its flavour will not linger. In contrast, you’ll feel the weight of a full-bodied coffee on your tongue and its flavour will remain in your mouth for a while.
How the coffee tastes. This characteristic seems to register in different parts of the mouth. Citrus, cocoa and berries are just a few of the flavours you may taste in coffee. Some coffee flavours are bold; others are very subtle.