Tasting coffee has more depth than simply assigning a blend “dark” or “mild.” In truth the type of roast should be hardly noticeable. Great roasting brings out the best of each different coffee, highlighting the unique flavour nuances without leaving an overpowering roast flavour.
First: Be bold and drink it black.
Black coffee gives you the true unmasked taste, allowing the flavour, body, and acidity to shine through. As you develop your palate it will evolve to detect more flavour nuances, just like training a muscle.
Next: Identify the four basic elements that distinguish coffee.
- Aroma: Notice the flavours your nose can distinguish. Concentrating on to aroma enhances your perception of flavour when you drink the coffee. Do you smell nuts? Fruit? Spices? Chocolate? Flowers?
- Flavour:Every coffee has a different flavour profile, no matter what the roast profile. Flavours vary based on the growing region, processing method, species of tree and blending recipe. Some common flavour groups are nuts, citrus or stone fruits, spices, chocolate, and flowers.
- Body: Body refers to coffee’s “mouthfeel”. Forget about taste and pay attention to how the coffee sits on your tongue. Is it heavy and thick? Smooth and light? How is the texture? To understand body think of the difference between whole and skim milk.
- Acidity: Acidity gives a level of “brightness” to coffee. Think of the difference between a Granny Smith apple and a banana. The acidic sensation usually resonates in the back sides of your tongue.
Finally: The 3 S’s of coffee tasting; sniff, slurp, and swirl.
- Smell the coffee’s aroma with an open mouth to let more oxygen in.
- Slurp the coffee loudly into your mouth, so the coffee mixes with oxygen.
- Swirl the coffee in your mouth, covering your whole palate.
Repeat the S’s as the coffee cools as new flavours will become noticeable at different temperatures!