When it comes to speciality coffee your sense of taste is really the most important tool. Taste will always differ from person to person, however, being able to distinguish if a coffee is over or under extracted and detect the presence of sweetness, acidity and bitterness in a cup is crucial. The more you experience speciality coffee the more awareness and acquainted your sense of taste will develop over time. When coupled with basic brewing knowledge your sense of taste can importantly allow you to adjust the brew ratio and other variables to ensure you get the desired cup profile.
Sweetness is considered the most sought after attribute in a cup of coffee. Generally the more the better, however to be pleasant it should be balanced with acidity and some bitterness.
To a relatively new consumer of specialty coffee the taste of acidity can often be perceived as ‘sourness’, however when brewed correctly the right amount can be an extremely pleasant attribute, helping contribute a enjoyable mouth feel and juicy character to the cup.
Flavour and taste notes are very difficult for a relatively new coffee drinker to distinguish. Describing first impressions of aroma and taste should be encouraged and discussed openly. No one has the exact same sense of taste, therefore it should be respected that in many incidences it is likely to be perceived differently from person to person. Correct language for describing taste experiences has been standardised to a degree with different flavour wheels.
Bitterness can be a dirty word in specialty coffee. It is what most baristas will endeavour to avoid having in their cup. Too much bitterness is unpleasant, masks flavour notes and can make a coffee feel heavy in its mouthfeel. Although it is not desirable it must be present in some capacity to help bring balance to the cup.
Mouth feel can be divided into light and delicate or heavy and round. For specialty coffee, it really comes back to individual taste as to what is preferable. For some, it may be more desirable to have a light tea like mouthfeel. However many beautiful coffees can be more rich and creamy as well.
Balance is a word used regularly by coffee professionals. It is really defined by the combination of different tastes and the presence of the sweetness, acidity and bitterness working together in harmony. If one aspect is too strong and overpowering, the cup can be perceived as unbalanced. Balance must be present in a well-executed filter coffee.
Taste is king when it comes to coffee. Building knowledge and awareness of the different taste characteristics will help you appreciate an excellent cup of coffee much more. To help with this, the following provides a quick and simple format to document and record necessary information related a coffee and your taste experience.