For most, gone are the days when we bought coffee in a can, added some water and gulped down that cup of joe without much consideration of the nuances of the coffee. It is just coffee, right?
Today, the appreciation can be compared to that of a fine wine. And just like wine aficionados, fine coffee connoisseurs are no less passionate about their drink of choice. For those who wish to dive a little deeper into their coffee mug, here are a few basic tips that will make your coffee experience even more enjoyable.
ACIDITY Acidity is a desirable characteristic in coffee. Just like wine, it is the sensation of dryness under the edges of your tongue and on the back of your palate. Acidity provides a sharp, bright and vibrant quality to the coffee. Acidity keeps the coffee from tasting flat, but it should not be confused with the characteristic of an unpleasant taste of being sour.
AROMA The aroma or smell of a coffee is like the prelude to a kiss. Because of smell, the anticipation can make or break the taste sensation. We taste with our nose, it is a sensation which is difficult to separate from flavor. Without the sense of smell we can only differentiate the taste sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Sense of smell helps us to discern good coffee characteristics such as fruity or nutty, if that is something you like, from bad characteristics such as musty or muddy. We will get into flavor characteristics later in this article.
BODY Body is the feeling of heaviness, thickness or richness that the coffee has on your tongue and in your mouth. To illustrate this, think of whole milk and skim milk. Not only does whole milk feel heavier, but it tastes richer as well. If you are unsure of the level of body when comparing several coffees, try adding an equal amount of milk to each. Coffees with a heavier body will maintain more of their flavor when diluted.
FLAVOR The flavor or taste is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma and body are all components of how the coffee tastes. Many elements are involved in order to create good coffee. It is the balance, richness and complexity that creates your overall perception of flavor.
DESIRABLE FLAVOR CHARACTERISTICS • Bright, Dry, Sharp or Snappy • Delicate: A subtle flavor perceived on the tip of the tongue • Earthy: A rich soily characteristic • Fragrant: An aromatic characteristic ranging from floral to spicy • Fruity: An aromatic characteristic reminiscent of berries or citrus • Mellow: A round, smooth taste, typically lacking acid • Nutty: An aftertaste similar to roasted nuts • Spicy: A flavor and aroma reminiscent of spices • Sweet: Free of harshness • Winy: An aftertaste reminiscent of well matured wine UNDESIRABLE FLAVOR CHARACTERISTICS • Bitter: Perceived on the back of the tongue, usually a result of over roasting • Bland: Neutral in flavor • Burnt: Carbony or charcoaly overtones • Dead: Flat • Dirty: A mustiness reminiscent of eating dirt • Earthy: Dirty • Flat: Lack of acidity, aroma and aftertaste • Grassy: An aroma and flavor reminiscent of freshly cut lawn • Harsh: A caustic, clawing, raspy characteristic • Muddy: Thick and dull • Musty: A slight stuffy or moldy smell • Rioy: Starchy texture similar to water which pasta has been cooked in. • Rough: A sensation on the tongue reminiscent of eating salt • Rubber: An aroma and flavor reminiscent of burnt • Soft: Bland • Sour: Tart flavors reminiscent of unripe fruit • Thin: Lacking acidity, typically a result of under brewing • Turpeny: Turpentine-like in flavor • Watery: A lack of body or viscosity in the mouth • Wild: Gamey characteristics