P Patrick Cotter

Coffee Tasting 101

Apr 17, 2024 · coffee · coffee 101 · education · pour over · video
Coffee Tasting 101

Many coffee drinkers see coffee as bitter, sour, or a combination thereof. You might at least expect some rich notes of chocolate or caramel. What you might not realize is that there’s actually an amazing spectrum of coffee flavors out there to enjoy! From fruity notes, to citrus twists, fo floral bodies, there’s so much in a cup of coffee to explore. But how do you find those flavors?

Best Brew Method for Tasting

The first thing you have to determine when you’re preparing to more intentionally taste coffee is pick a brew method. The best way to brew to really draw out those coffee flavors is a pour over. If you want to do really intense cupping you can, this is the method that roasters use to taste their roasts, but this method is also time consuming and challenging for a first timer. For developing your palate, pour over is a great place to start.

What to Brew?

For picking a coffee to taste you’ll want something with some clear tasting notes. From there, just try what sounds good! If you usually drink a richer dark blend, it might be worth trying out a floral or fruity single origin. That said, sometimes the best thing you can do is try out a coffee that you know to try to find some separation in the flavors. If you want to go the extra mile, you can brew a few different coffees for your tasting.

How to Taste Coffee

If you have a few coffees lined up it’s a good idea to include something to act as a palate cleanser between tastings. Tonic water or a neutral soda water/seltzer is useful for this. Before sipping you’ll want to breathe in the aroma of your brew. If you’re working with multiple coffees it’s good to do this with some quickness so that you can get to each coffee before it cools (more on this soon). Once you have an understanding of the aroma of the coffee, you’ll want to do a small sip of the hot coffee. Be sure to run some air over your palate as you sip in, similar to wine, to prevent a burn and separate the coffee flavors. Holding the coffee in your mouth, swishing, and washing it over your entire palate will help you to identify each flavor. 

When you do taste coffee, you’ll want to note any words, feelings, or ideas that come to mind as you taste. Even if you can’t place a citrus or floral note immediately, by associating the flavor with another word or thought you might ultimately refine it into the specific note. To assist with placing flavors you can use a coffee tasting flavor wheel, such as the one used by the Specialty Coffee Association.

After you’ve had a chance to taste each coffee at a higher temperature, go back through each brew (with a palate cleanser in between) and taste the coffees at a cooler temperature. As the coffee cools you will notice different tasting notes, and it will help you further place flavors. 

After you’ve tasted pour over a few times you can expand your tasting to other brew methods! We find that press brewing can be difficult to separate, but espresso and cold brew offer some excellent tasting opportunities.

Learn more about coffee tasting with Sean below!



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