How to Judge a Great Cup of Coffee
Do you love coffee? Do you know how to taste the difference between roasts and flavors? If you’re a coffee drinking Jedi (or interested in becoming one), it might behoove you to learn the ins and outs of how to take part in a coffee maker’s review. It starts with the fresh roasted aroma and ends with a lingering aftertaste.
Think you have what it takes to join the coffee makers’ review squad? Here’s what to look for when judging between a fair cup of coffee and a great one.
A Pleasant Aroma
Coffee tasting begins with a well-pleasing aroma. After all, our senses work together to taste what we smell.
This pleasant aroma is first revealed when the beans are freshly ground and again when the coffee is in your cup after brewing. The scent is a dead giveaway to the freshness of the coffee and a sign if any uninvited flavors exist.
Great coffee aromas can be described as nutty, fruity, floral, fresh, or smokey. These aromas can signify how recently the beans were roasted including the varying roast levels.
Great tasting coffee is made possible by the aroma, body, and acidity. If these parts are equally balanced, you’ll experience perfection in taste and flavors. Common flavor descriptions include fruity (like berries or citrus), complex (multi-flavored), or bland (a stale taste, possibly due to improper storing).
The body of the coffee refers to a heaviness or weight felt in your mouth. Some coffees may have a rich, heavy sensation which contributes to the coffee’s flavor. You may ask yourself: What is the consistency in my mouth? Does it feel heavy or thick?
Brewing methods can affect the body of your cup of coffee. Drip or filtered coffee machines remove flavorful oils while french press or espresso machines leave these rich oils intact from beans to brewing. You may notice an increase in thickness or body in these methods.
Perfect Acidity Levels
Acidity in coffee is a good thing. It’s fine yet complex and is a flirtatious element leaving roasters in search of the perfect levels. Keep in mind, acidity doesn’t refer to bitterness, sharpness, or the pH level. Acidity refers to a sharp yet pleasant aftertaste in the front of your mouth or a tingle at the tip of your tongue. Variations in acidity can range from bright or pleasant (high acidity), to smooth (medium acidity), or dull (low acidity). Acidity that defines a specific fruit or flavor means the roaster has hit the perfect match.
With naturally sweet coffee, we’re not talking sweet like table sugar. We’re talking about a sweet sensation that’s smooth and warmly welcomed by your tasting palate. Many may consider this the holy grail of great coffee. Sweet coffees lack harsh flavors and may taste fruity at the tip of your tongue.
A Smooth Finish for Days
Coffee may taste great going down, but everything could change at the lingering aftertaste. Is the aftertaste sweet and heavy? Light and dry? Is it quick or does it linger? Please, please say it lingers. A lingering finish is ideal and can be tasted minutes or even hours (if you’re lucky) after taking a sip.
To define an aftertaste, “bright” coffees are pleasant and sharp leaving a dry taste. “Clean” coffees finish smoothly without a decline in flavor.
Think you have what it takes to be a coffee tasting Jedi? Put your skills to the test at the Compak Golden Bean Coffee Roasters Competition and Conference September 16th-19th in Portland, Oregon. At World Cup Coffee, we’re proud to be submitting three entries for the coffee roasting competition. Sign up to become a judge by September 15th, 2015, and put your coffee tasting skills to the test. We hope to see you there!