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Coffee Tasting Cheat Sheet

When customers are trying to articulate what they are looking for in a great cup of coffee they often struggle to find the words.  Master the terms listed in the following cheat sheet and can talk coffee with the most seasoned coffee veterans.



How intense and pleasurable is the aroma when the nose first descends over the cup.  Aroma also provides a subtle introduction to various nuances of acidity and taste:  carbon tones, fruit, flower or herbal notes and the like.  Note:  Aroma is the smell of the coffee when brewed, fragrance is the smell of the ground coffee BEFORE it is brewed.



Acidity is the bright, dry sensation that enlivens the taste of coffee.  Without acidity, coffee is dull and lifeless.  It is not a sour sensation, which is a defect, nor should it be astringent.  At best it is a tart, often rich vibrancy that lifts the coffee and pleasurably stretches its range and dimension.  Acidity can be overpoweringly clear and wine-like, as in most Kenyans, sweet and delicate as in many Perus, low-toned and vibrant as in many Sumatras.  The darker a coffee is roasted, the less overt acidity it will display.



Body is the sensation of weight that gives power and persistence to taste.  Body can be light and delicate, heavy and resonant, thin and disappointing.  Body tends to increase with darkness of roast until it peaks at about medium-dark roast, then it begins to thin again in darker roasts.


Flavour and Aftertaste

Flavour and aftertaste include everything not suitably described under the categories aroma, acidity and body.  An assessment of flavour may invoke general terms like balanced, complex, deep, clean, rough or flat;  it may identify specific defects like grassy or fermented;  or it may praise positive nuances like winey, fruity or herbal.  Aftertaste reflects sensations that linger after the coffee has been swallowed and incorporates finish (how characteristics grow, diminish or change as the coffee remains in contact with the palate.)

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