Stone fruit, brown spice, floral – yes it can be sometimes intimidating and confusing to see these flavour notes on the coffee bags but the good news is that you can get better at tasting coffee. You can develop an excellent palate and ascertain those nuanced differences between coffees.
1. Don’t just taste coffee
Pay attention to what you are eating. How can you recognise a flavour if you have never experienced it before? Add fruits to your diet and be mindful of the taste that you experience. Mithilesh, founder Corridor Seven Coffee and a Q-grader, suggests that you take out 15 random things from your refrigerator, blindfold yourself and try to find out how everything tastes.
2. You don’t have to perform cupping
In order to gauge the quality and consistency of coffee, professionals have developed a standardized tasting method called ‘cupping’. We don’t always go by this method unless we have too many different coffees to taste at the same time. We typically brew using a pour over or an Aeropress method. These slow brew methods bring out the best flavours of coffee. Cupping sometimes takes away the experience of drinking coffee.
3. Don’t forget to smell
Smell the beans, coffee grounds, wetting of grounds and your cup right before the first sip. Tasting isn’t just about the tongue. How is the aroma? Is it floral, fruity, grassy, nutty, caramelized, chocolaty, spice, smoky or fermenty?
4. Take notes
Every time you taste coffee, try asking these questions and note them down to refer to later:
Aroma How does the coffee smell? Intensity of Aroma
Acidity What type of acidity is it? IS it sharp or soft? Is the coffee too sour?
Body How does the coffee feel in your mouth? Is it heavy or light?
Aftertaste What is the after taste left in your mouth? Does it linger?
Sweetness Does it feel sweet or too bitter? You may get a bitter sweet cup and that’s ok.
Flavour What kind of flavours can you identify?
You may also study the SCAA Coffee Taster’s flavour wheel.
About the Author
A curious coffee drinker with an acute bent for finding the best cup of coffee around, she went all the way to Rome (the espresso land) to do SCA Level 1 Barista Certification. In the last 4 years in specialty coffee, she has trained Baristas, tasted more than 100 different coffees, interacted with all kinds of coffee lovers and made so many cappuccinos! Her favorites include coffees from Ethiopia and Indian naturals.