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How to Taste Coffee

Jan 13, 2020

Even if you have been a coffee drinker for decades, you may not have learned how to distinguish the differences between coffee types. In fact, coffee tasting takes time and patience to develop. That just gives you more of an excuse to brew your next cup of java!

Below, we'll look at how to taste coffee more deliberately. Apply our recommendations and become the bean master of your home or workplace.

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Understanding the Coffee Flavor Wheel 

Have you ever noticed that practically every mug of coffee has unique characteristics? Some cups might seem more intense, while others have a lighter touch on the palate. Depending upon many factors, including the coffee's origin and the roasting method used, coffee can take on a variety of flavors.

To make your journey easier, start by only evaluating the flavors inherent in roasted coffees. Roasted coffee beans may taste light, like cereal, or a bit dark and burnt. The tone can even have a tobacco essence.

After determining if your roasted coffee is light or dark, you can apply terms to describe deeper flavors you encounter. For example, you might call a burnt coffee flavor smoky or somewhat acrid. On the other hand, your light roast might remind you of grains like wheat. These flavors are not likely to be bold. Instead, they contribute to the all-around palate experience.

What Are Common Coffee Terms?

As noted above, coffee lovers may use words like "acrid" and "burnt" to describe some aspect of their coffee tasting evaluation. The better you become at learning how to taste coffee, the more adjectives you will start to include in your vocabulary.

Some of our go-to favorites for people starting out on their coffee-tasting journeys, include:

  • Bitter. Usually, bitter coffee leaves a sour taste in the back of the mouth.
  • Bright. Does your coffee exhibit freshness and tang? This is what happens when a roast is "bright".
  • Caramel-Like. Do you sense a confectionery overtone in your coffee? You may have stumbled upon a caramelized brew.
  • Earthy. An earthy brew typically tastes ultra-fresh but may seem too green for some palates.
  • Fruity. Sometimes, coffee takes on a fruity scent that could smell like anything from oranges to pears to tropical produce.
  • Mellow. Not sure that your coffee has any outstanding traits? You may just have a mellow or middle-of-the-road blend.
  • Nutty. Plenty of coffee types take on nutty aromas. You may not be able to taste the nuttiness, but you can definitely smell it.

Using Your Nose and Mouth to Taste Coffee

Ready to get started with some coffee tasting? Begin by sniffing your cup o' joe. A few whiffs should offer you some clues into the flavors you are about to try.

After cleansing your palate by drinking a little water, take a sip or two of the coffee. When tasting coffee, don't add milk, sugar, or anything else. Otherwise, your taste test results will be skewed by the additional ingredients. Then, try to put words to the different tastes you encounter.

Next time, take a bigger mouthful of your coffee and let it linger a bit on your tongue and in the back of your throat. After swallowing your coffee, examine the flavors that stick around. Does your coffee have a rich body peppered with spicy, chocolate undertones? Or is it more of a light roast with a smooth finish and little aftertaste?

As your palate becomes more sophisticated, you can start to search out the best tasting coffee, like our Real Good Coffee Co. whole beans, based on your preferences. Plus, you can wow your friends, family, and coworkers by becoming the local coffee connoisseur.


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