How to Taste Coffee
Coffee Tasting 101 with Aveek Coffee Co.
Have you ever wondered how a coffee roaster decides on the flavor notes on each coffee label? Read on to discover the word of coffee tasting.
Learning how to taste coffee is complicated and simple all at once. Coffee tasting requires each and every sense, a wealth of experience, and even natural talent. That being said, coffee tasting is straight-forward and simple at the same time - all that is required is your ability to consume coffee.
Like tasting wine or whiskey, there is a particular process and skill set associated with coffee tasting. So, what exactly is that process? What is coffee tasting?
What Is Coffee Tasting?
Coffee tasting is the process of evaluating coffee in a professional or recreational setting. The specialty coffee industry regularly tastes coffee to enjoy it but also to understand it better. Before getting to the physical how of coffee tasting, let’s discuss the why.
Why Does the Specialty Coffee Industry Taste Coffee?
The specialty coffee industry tastes coffee in order to be able to accurately describe the coffee in a retail setting, to make purchasing decisions, to better sell their coffees in a wholesale environment, and even to grade coffees using regulated and standardized criteria.
Like with any product, the sellers of that product need a solid understanding of their own product and tasting coffee allows for that understanding. It’s much easier to sell something when you know it well.
Many coffee professional undergo a series of classes and an exam to be certified as a Q-Grader, or a Quality Grader, which is a similar style of certification to a wine sommelier. In order to achieve this sought-after qualification, you must learn how to taste coffee properly.
The industry term for tasting coffee properly is “cupping”. Cupping coffee involves a standardized process by which to taste and analyze different coffees after they are roasted. Essentially, every part of the process is completely uniform so that the only variable is the coffee being tasted. That means that no matter where the taster is in the world the coffee will taste the same.
Some of the controlled variables include the following: grind size, water quality, table height, physical environment, types of spoons, types of bowls, brew time, temperature, dosage, method and more.
As a method, cupping involves grinding a specific amount of coffee and portioning it into a small yet open bowl or cup. The next step is to smell the coffee dry and write down your assessment of the coffee and what aromas are present. Next, you add a specific amount of water at 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit to the bowl, agitating and wetting all of the grounds with the water itself.
After beginning the brewing process, you start to access the coffee again, smelling the aromas and taking notes. Once four minutes has passed, you must “break” the coffee crust with a special cupping spoon (almost like a soup spoon) and deeply inhale the aroma. Finally, you wait a few more moments for the coffee to cool down and then it is time to taste!
The tasting process in cupping is very involved and requires a little practice and a lot of confidence! To taste all of the flavors available, coffee professionals will use a cupping spoon, similar in style to a soup spoon, to scoop a spoonful of coffee out of the cup. They will then slurp the coffee as loudly as they can so that the coffee gets sprayed all over their taste buds in every corner of their mouth.
At-Home Coffee Tasting
Just because you aren’t a professional or have all the industry equipment, doesn’t mean that you can’t taste coffee at home! We’ve put together a few ideas on how best to taste your Aveek Coffee in your own home.
- Start slow. Next time you are enjoying a cup of Aveek Coffee take a moment to slurp your coffee out of your cup, spraying the coffee around the inside of your mouth. See if you taste any new flavors!
- Try new coffees. We all have a favorite coffee and it’s easy to return to the same coffee time and time again. Consistency and reliability in coffee is something everyone can appreciate, however, trying new coffees will help to improve your tasting abilities. Next time you place an order with Aveek, grab a bag you’ve never had!
- Small bags only. Get the smallest amount of coffee you can purchase! Rather than grabbing a bulk bag of beans, opt for 12oz bags. This allows you to purchase multiple different coffees and really expand your coffee horizons!
- Vocabulary is just words. Ever wonder how tasting notes are decided upon? There is a special vernacular for tasting coffee so all tasters learn to use a standard library of vocabulary to describe coffee. However, that can be intimidating! Unless you are studying for the Q-Grader Exam, there is no need to be worried about vocabulary - just describe the coffee flavors as best you can in as many or as little words as you need!
- Eat new foods. Describing coffee flavors requires real world experience with a variety of flavors. It’s impossible to describe the tasting note as “banana-like” if you’ve never had a banana in your life! So, make a point to try new foods especially fruits, nuts and other raw or natural products.
- Take notes. Record your findings when you taste. That can be as simple as jotting down notes on a notepad or as dedicated as using a special format to taste and describe your experiences. You can utilize coffee tasting forms from many resources or simply make on yourself!
- Keep tasting. Always be tasting! Even if it’s your first cup of coffee to wake you up in the morning, enjoy it and taste it! Whether you are brewing at home or a friend’s house, being served at a café or restaurant, always give yourself the time and space to really taste the coffee you are drinking.
At Home Coffee Tasting with Aveek Coffee
Aveek coffee has a number of delicious offerings that are perfect for you to embark on your coffee tasting journey with. You can curate a selection of blends or single origins or simply pick the coffees that strike your fancy!
Coffee tasting is always fun but it’s better with friends. Even better, invite your friends to bring a bag of their favorite Aveek coffee to share. However, when tasting coffee, make sure you keep your notes and thoughts to yourself initially. Sharing your tasting notes while folks are still tasting can influence what they experience. We want everyone to have unique and independent tasting experiences true to each and every individual. Once everyone is done tasting, it’s time to share your thoughts! Feel free to continue tasting after sharing your flavor notes.
Preferred Tasting Brew Method
At home tasting is a little different than professional tasting - we don’t have all the fancy equipment and supplies but that makes it simple and fun. Choose your favorite brew methods but make sure that you brew each coffee the same way so that you can accurately compare them.
Our preferred tasting brew method for Aveek coffee is a pour over! We love to brew small amounts of each Aveek coffee in our pour over devices and sip each one for their unique and exciting flavors.
You can certainly slurp like the pros at home - just grab a spoon and slurp away! Alternatively, you can absolutely aerate the coffee into your mouth by slurping the coffee directly from the cup.
A World of Flavors
Coffee flavors are so incredibly vast and far reaching that it can seem impossible to pin down each and every flavor. Thankfully, there are so many resources out there for coffee tasting both professionally and at the home brewer level.
Coffee Tasting Wheels are incredibly helpful and can guide your flavor analysis. With that in mind, you should always trust your gut and follow your instincts before checking in with outside resources. Your experience is valid, and the coffee guides are only there to help you put your tasting experience into words!
Good thing for you, here at Aveek Coffee Co, we love to talk coffee and will continue to publish exciting and educational article on how to taste coffee and so much more! So, grab a bag of Ethiopia Natural, Bali Blue or Signature Blend of Aveek Coffee and get your taste on!