A long time ago, when I worked for one of the coffee chains that everyone loves, I learned a little bit about tasting coffees. I am not “cupper” (which is what they really call people who taste coffee for a living, and yes, I am actively looking for openings). Tasting coffee is a lot like tasting wine and there are some basic elements that you are looking for in each cup.
1. Roast: The roast refers to how dark or light a coffee is. You can normally tell the difference between a light, medium, or dark roast just by looking.
A lighter coffee is roasted for an shorter period of time. These coffees are going to have the biggest punch in the caffeine index without having a dark, bitter taste. Starbucks Veranda Roast is one of our favorite light roasts because there is not a lot of acidity in the coffee.
A medium coffee is where most of your roasts will live. A medium roast is going to be most of your African and South American coffees, and many of the single origin coffees that we taste are classified as medium roast. Dancing Moon Kenyan coffee is definitely one of our favorite medium roasts:
The dark roast is one of our favorite roast, when it is done correctly. It can easily taste smoky, burnt, or bitter. A good dark roast will have a deep color and a more developed flavor, and a low acidity. Here is one of our absolute favorite dark roasts:
2. Acidity: When you first taste a coffee, does it give you a “bite” behind the jaw? That is the acidity. That bite is the acid levels in the coffee. When you taste a highly acidic coffee and then a low acidity coffee together, you can clearly taste the difference!
3. Body: This refers to how a coffee feels in your mouth. A light body is one that will be almost watery in the way it feels. The heavier the body, the more you can feel the texture of the coffee on your tongue.
4. Flavor: While you can have flavored coffees like vanilla and hazelnut, there are actually many coffees that have essences of flavors in them. This is kind of like the flavors that people talk about when tasting wine. You will hear words like cocoa, citrus, earthy, spicy, or sweet when people describe the flavors of the coffee. These won’t be strong tastes, but subtle notes in the coffee that you will learn to distinguish. If you really want to taste the flavors, try a bite of dark chocolate with a coffee that has cocoa notes, or some lemon pound cake with. citric coffee. You will be amazed what you taste!
Keep in mind, the traditional filters that we use can soak up a lot of the oils in the coffee, so I strong suggest using a French press for making and tasting coffee at home.
How to use a French press: