GUIDELINES ON HOW TO TASTE COFFEE
What is coffee ? In a nutshell, coffee is actually a cherry type fruit, which has two seeds inside. It is these two seeds inside that when dried out or washed, become green and when roasted become what people refer to as a coffee bean.
So, because coffee is a fruit, this means that it will have similar “aroma” molecules to other fruit, like raspberries, mangoes, blueberries, apricot, etc.
This basically refers to the smell of ground coffee and the finished brew i.e. before we taste the coffee, what smells do you recognize ?
Coffee can have low or high acidity and this is usually detected by the sharp taste you feel on the tip of your tongue when you taste coffee. A sharp taste usually means high acidity, typical of citrus type coffees, common to Central America, especially from Costa Rica.
Different types of sweetness can be detected in coffee like cane sugar, caramel (burnt sugar) or honey (creamy sweet) but not necessarily “pure sugar”. Well prepared coffee/good coffee should never be “bitter”.
How does the coffee feel in your mouth ? Is it heavy, light ? does it leave a dry, creamy, buttery, thin, oily or round feeling on your tongue ?
Does the coffee feel transparent (almost like water) in your mouth or is earthy (like the sediments at the bottom of hot chocolate) ? If coffee has been “washed” it will tend to have a clean finish, BUT if has been pulped natural, then it might have a more sediment finish.
What is the end result of your coffee ? A well roasted, crafted and great coffee should have a lingering finish, whereby, if you don’t eat or drink anything distinctive after your cup of coffee the taste will stay in your mouth for a while, like 30 minutes to an hour.
You should try and describe the flavour in a short precise manner. For example was it fruity ? If so, what fruit did it remind you of ? Was it chocolaty ? If so, like milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or pure cacao.
References: Tim Wendelboe’s Coffee Book, Lameen’s experiences and I’m still learning.