Coffee tasting, why and how is is done.




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  Coffee tasting, how to do it and what is coffee tasting all about.  


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Basics of Coffee Tasting

Experienced coffee tasters follow a fairly strict routine ritual when tasting coffee.

They deliberately slurp coffee and swirl it all around the surface of their tongue and mouth. This is so they can obtain the full experience of the coffee taste and the unique combination of coffee sensations in the nose, on the tongue and of course in their mouths.Coffee tasting was an art form in the past and is still an art today.

For the most part our sense of smell and sense of taste are inseparable. Without our sense of smell, our taste sensations are limited somewhat. The tongue detects four basic sensations: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Most of what we experience as taste depends upon our sense of smell.

The tasting experience begins before you brew - with the grinding. When you smell ground coffee, you experience the first impression of its flavor - its Fragrance.

Aroma refers to your first encounter with a coffee when it’s brewed - literally, the first contact of water and coffee.

Lastly, there’s a coffee’s Nose. Take a sip of coffee. As soon as it reaches your tongue, it stimulates taste and simultaneously releases aromas inside the mouth.

Follow the lead of the coffee tasting experts: allow your sense of taste and smell to mingle. Enjoy the tactile feel of the coffee on your tongue.

Now that you’ve taken a good whiff and your first sip, it’s time to let your tongue do the talking. Of all the facets of coffee, taste is the most complex to discuss.

  Most coffee tasting experts concentrate on the three important coffee elements of body, acidity, & balance.

Body: A coffee’s lipid or “oily” quality creates the tactile sensation of Body or “mouth feel.”

Acidity: Naturally occurring acids in the beans combine with natural sugars that produce a sweetness that gives certain coffees a sharp pleasing tang or piquancy.

Balance: Think of Balance as a harmony of the many sensations yielded by a fine coffee. A “balanced” coffee is one whose flavor characteristics are all at the proper level for that variety.
A quick note on coffee acidity, don’t let the term scare you. Acidity does not refer to pH levels discussed in high school chemistry class. It is not like hydrochloric acid or stomach acid. Instead, it is a basic taste sensation in coffee, especially those coffees grown in higher altitudes. You’ll notice a coffee’s acidity at every facet of tasting, but especially in a tingling sensation on your tongue. Acidity produces some of the pleasurable and distinctive sensations we enjoy when tasting coffee.

Now, back to coffee tasting!

After a sip is swallowed, the mouth and tongue retain a minute residue of coffee. This sensation produces the Coffee tasting normally requires that the coffee grounds remain in the hot water before coffee tasting begins.Aftertaste, the sensation that lingers on the palate. It is similar to the concept of “finish” in wine tasting. Aftertaste can vary considerably according to the coffee’s overall body.

We mentioned Body as a primary characteristic. You appreciate a coffee’s Body on the tongue and the roof of your mouth. It is a distinctly tactile sensation, and is sometimes called simply “mouth feel.” Another comparison to wine is helpful. Burgundies are sometimes said to be “heavier” than most other reds and whites. The difference is not weight. Rather, Body is the texture and consistency, the thickness or slipperiness of the coffee.

A good cup of coffee represents the collaboration of many highly trained artisans - growers, professional tasters and roasters all working together to create a fine product.

So, let all your senses work together to enjoy the fruits of their collaboration!

The coffee taste wheel:

The coffee tasting wheel helps determine exactly what flavor the coffee is and this is based on common coffee tasting terminology.

Just as wine tasters have created a wine tasting wheel to use an agreed upon terminology, professional coffee tasters use something similar called the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel to grade coffees. The coffee flavor wheel is designed for the trained pallet of a professional. These "cuppers" use the above coffee guide when buying coffee and for creating "taste characteristic profiles" of the various coffees. Most of us are much better off using the "Flavor Characteristics" coffee chart below. This chart is for use by the average "Joe". It is a very simplified method of charting your favorite coffee characteristics.

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Know thyself: what coffee flavor appeal to you?

Here are some specific desirable flavor characteristics of coffee and the types of coffee that are associated with those characteristics. Visit our coffee glossary for more information on these coffee characteristics and hundreds of other coffee terms.

Bright, Dry, Sharp, or Snappy - typical of Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Kenyan.

Caramelly - candy like or syrupy, typical of Colombian Supremo.

Chocolaty - an aftertaste similar to unsweetened chocolate or vanilla. Typical of Costa Rican, Colombian Supremo and the House Blend.

Delicate - a subtle flavor perceived on the tip of the tongue.

Earthy - a soily characteristic, typical of Sumatran.

Fragrant - an aromatic characteristic ranging from floral to spicy, typical of Costa Rican , Sumatra Mandheling and Kenyan.

Fruity - an aromatic characteristic reminiscent of berries or citrus.

Mellow - a round, smooth taste, typically lacking acid, typical of Colombian, Sumatra Mandheling, Whole Latta Java and Orgainic Mexican.

Nutty - an aftertaste similar to roasted nuts, typical of Colombian and Orgainic Mexican.

Spicy - a flavor and aroma reminiscent of spices typical of Guatemala Huehuetenango.

Syrupy - strong, and rich, typical of Sumatran.

Sweet - free of harshness, typical of Colombian.

Wildness - an unusual, gamey flavor, typical of Sumatran.

Winey - an aftertaste reminiscent of well-matured wine, typical of Kenyan, Guatemalan.





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