What are the things to taste in coffee? This post breaks down everything you want to know about tasting coffee, it's quite a long one. Let dig in!
Non-stop cupping, look at the all the coffees he is tasting 😯
There are a bunch of acids inside coffee beans. It’s also what makes coffee tastes interesting! (Rather than just a dark bitter cup right)
Acidity can be found in many fruits like green apple, orange and lemon. It’s also how we describe how the coffee taste like in tasting notes (eg. grapefruit acidity etc)
There is a difference between sourness and good acidity. Sourness is like biting an unripe orange that’s completely unpleasant and you'll pull your face off. Whereas a fully ripen orange will have good acidity and delightfully sweet!
Sourness is something like this 😆
Same goes to brewing! Under-extracted coffee gives an unpleasant long lasting sourness. Whereas well-extracted coffee has pleasant acidity and breaks into sweet aftertaste!
Generally, lighter roast coffees will have brighter (ie higher) acidity than darker roast coffee.
The acids in coffee beans evaporate during the roasting process, the longer the roast, the lower the acidity. That’s why you barely taste any acidity in dark roast coffees.
Of course, not everyone is into bright acidity coffee. Granny Smith apple is not for everyone that’s for sure. If you are not a fan of bright coffees, we recommend trying with Medium Roast coffees that are more mellow in acidity and well-balanced cup.
If your medium roast coffees taste very sour, a couple step finer grind will do the work (more surface area, more extraction!)
Coffee is bitter, or is it?
There are 2 types of bitterness, we like to call it ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ bitterness.
A good bitterness is like eating 70% dark chocolate, smooth bittersweet with a long aftertaste. Whereas bad bitterness is like eating burnt BBQ wings, harsh, woody and charcoal like, typically from over extracted coffee.
Dark roast coffee will tend to be more bitter than light roast coffee. Also, Robusta is more bitter than Arabica coffee.
We really enjoy the Dark Roast Liberica coffee in My Liberica, it’s a must-have whenever we visit Johor. Lovely smooth bitterness hits on the first sip, long bittersweetness & finishhhh. Absolutely memorable cup of coffee!
If your coffee tastes bitter and harsh, most likely you have over-extracted the brew ☠️
To fix it, just grind coarser will do the magic! We usually don’t mind a little bitterness in the cup, as long as there is well-extracted sweetness in the cup, it’s all good!
PS: if your coffee still tastes kinda bitter even with a coarse grind, meaning it’s time to clean up your grinder!
This is one of the key factors that separates between high quality and low-grade coffees. High-quality specialty grade coffees were picked only when the coffee cherries are fully ripened.
Ripe coffee cherries = sweet coffee
The sweetness in coffee is not like drinking teh tarik kinda sweet. It's more like eating an apple or ripe mango kind of sweetness, pretty subtle and delicate. 🍒🍑🍇🍎
If you eat something sweet (candy, cake etc) before drinking coffee, you probably can't taste any coffee sweetness but rather the sugar itself.
Of course, enjoy a black coffee is easiest to identify sweetness, certain milk can be pretty sweet too.
It's also a lot easier to taste the sweetness if you do low sugar intake. Many coffee professionals keep sugar intake as low as possible to keep palate sharp and correctly identify the sweetness of coffee. Well, low sugar diet is good for you too!
That said, you should totally skip adding sugar into your coffee. Taste the natural sweetness!
Btw, Gesha coffees are easily the sweetest among all coffees. That's why they are the World's Best Coffees.
Smell the dry aroma of ground coffee~
Coffee aroma is definitely one of the best scents in the world, especially when it's freshly roasted coffee!
There is also good and bad aroma for coffee. Good aroma smells super sweeeeeeeeeet like cherry fruits and floral like. Whereas bad aroma smells roasty, woody and can be really bad for old coffees.
Just like any food where freshness = delicious!
Also, few days freshly roasted may smell a little toasty, but definitely gets better after a week past roast date.
Smell whole beans?
You can immediately smell the beautiful aroma when you first open the bag. But this may be a false indicator as you are smelling only the aroma from the outer part of beans.
An easy way is to take a bean and break it with your thumb, smell the aroma inside the bean!
The best way is definitely to grind and smell the dry aroma of ground coffee! It’s the first thing of what we do in all cupping sessions.
Lastly, don’t forget to smell your cup of coffee before enjoying it! The aroma is part of the enjoyment of your coffee 😋
Btw, our all new Ground Pack seal in all the beautiful coffee aromatics! Just open the pack, smell, pour and brew. Skip the measuring and grinding coffee part =)
The tasting note is what we describe the coffee taste like (yes, it’s not any flavourings added to coffee).
Everything from the coffee tree, soil, climate, processing, roasting, brewing etc can affect the flavours of coffee.
If everything is done well, coffee should taste incredibly clean (free from defects), sweet and delicious!
Like vocabulary, the more coffees you taste, the better you get to identify flavours. Of course, it’s extremely subjective too.
The easy way to describe flavours is to first identify the general flavours, ie. fruity, floral, chocolate, nutty, spicy, herb.
If coffee tastes fruity, try to imagine what fruit resemble it eg. Berries, mango apple etc. If taste chocolate, is it like milk, dark or white chocolate? If nutty, like almond, hazelnut etc.
Also, some coffee professionals describe coffee in colour (like indigo for lavender or blueberry etc), some even include it on packaging to enhance the coffee experience!
Mouthfeel and Aftertaste ☕️
Mouthfeel (or tactile) is what we refer as the body of coffee, eg. light, medium, full-bodied, juicy, velvety etc.The easy way to describe is like ‘thickness’ of liquid!
Generally, darker roast coffee has more body than light roast coffee. Also, brewing with a metal filter will give a rounder body as compared to a paper filter. Yup, the coffee oil in your French Press coffee gives a velvety mouthfeel 😋
Aftertaste (or finish) is the taste and flavours that linger in your mouth after you swallow the coffee.
It’s also a good indicator to know about brewing. Usually under-extracted coffee have a short sour finish, whereas well-extracted coffee will have sweet and long aftertaste!
That's all about coffee tasting! Just like learning any language, the more coffee you drink, the more you get to know what you are tasting! Happy tasting ☕️
A coffee story of Jack, founder of Sabarica, Thomas & Michael from Ghostbird Coffee. Sabarica is the arabica coffee producer in Sabah ⛰ the proud of Malaysia 🇲🇾
Check out the Sabah coffee roasted by Ghostbird Coffee here🦉
Learn about coffee roasting & story about Hadi, founder & roaster of Aitch Coffee Roasters.
Check out more about Aitch Coffee Roasters here.