Have you ever wondered if there is a process of how to taste coffee? Some people think that it is as simple as just putting the coffee in your cup, drinking it and then observing the taste. That may be true to some extent but did you know that there are professionals who regularly evaluate coffee’s taste – which is known as cupping? At a very high level you can imagine someone sipping coffee, swirling it around their mouth and (sometimes) spitting it out into a bucket. The cupping process normally uses tiny ceramic cups, but china or glassware can also be used. In that sense we can think of cupping like wine tasting for coffee.
Characteristics of a Good Cup of Coffee – It’s Not Just the Temperature of the Water
There are certain characteristics that taster’s look for in a cup of coffee. Let’s look at some of them below:
Normally we avoid things that are acidic but with respect to coffee it’s a good thing if you can say that your coffee has acidity. A coffee that is acidic can be compared to a dry wine. Acidity means a sharp but pleasant aftertaste in the front of your mouth combined with an underlying sweetness. Coffee that is high in acidity can be described as bright or pleasant.
Medium acidity can be described as smooth and low acidity can be described as dull.
The body of a coffee means the thickness or texture of a coffee when you swirl the coffee around your mouth. One thing to take note of is that how you brew your coffee can affect it’s body. For example using a drip coffee machine can result in thin body whereas brewing a French Press can result in a thicker body of coffee.
I remember in my first job, walking by the cafeteria and enjoying the smell of the brewing coffee. A coffee’s aroma can tell you if the coffee you’re drinking is fresh. The aroma can be described as fresh, fruity, nutty or smokey.
You can smell the aroma in twice in the brewing process; the first time when the coffee beans are ground and the second time when the coffee has brewed into your cup. You want to look out for a pleasant aroma.
The finish means how the coffee feels right after it is swallowed.
Common flavours include fruity, complex or multi-flavoured, and bland. Flavour is a term for everything we do not experience in terms of the categories of acidity, aroma and body.
No two cups of coffee are alike. The cupping process allows evaluators to judge coffee along a level playing field. While I still maintain that coffee is a personal choice – the cupping process can give someone a good idea as to how coffee will taste once it’s brewed.
What are the factors that you look for when you taste coffee? Is there one that is not listed above that is important to you? Do you think that you will look for these factors the next time you taste coffee? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.