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How to Do Coffee Tasting at Home

Updated: Jan 19


 

INTRODUCTION


Ever wondered how taste coffee in a professional yet easy way? Whilst SCA scores are given by rigorously trained Q-graders; coffee tasting experts, you can try a simplified version of SCA (specialty coffee association) coffee tasting, to really pinpoint the core pillars of what gives coffee its unique variety of flavours. As found in culinary arts as a whole, the five main pillars of flavour are sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. For coffee we're following similar foundation, except the focus is on sweetness, acidity, body ,aroma, finish and flavour.


Before starting coffee tasting, it's worth explaining what each of these mean, and draw points of comparison so your pallete is calibrated to spot each characteristic.


Sweetness - Simply the level of sweetness present inside the coffee. We're looking for the sens of real quenching sweetness from table sugar, or sucralose. And NOT the fake surface level sweetness derived from artificial sweetners like xylitol or stevia. Sweetness can be unpleasant with too much becoming overpowering, and too little sweetness can make the coffee taste far more savoury (in some cases a desired characteristic!).


Acidity - Acidity desirable in coffee can be described as a moderate amount you may find in a fresh crisp green apple acidity, or akin to more citrus type fruits.


Body - Body can be described as how heavy the coffee feels in the mouthfeel. Another way of describing this is mouthfeel. A highly filtered water that's very clean may be described as light, whilst a liquid more akin to thick cream may be described as heavy.


Aroma - The complexity of aromas smelled once the crust of the coffee is broken. We're all familiar with the classic 'coffee' smell, but in specialty coffee, such a wide variety of varieties, growing and roasting techniques all influence the aromas released. Some can be more fruity and floral, some can be far more savoury and smokey.


Finish - The lasting impression and aftertaste left in the mouth after drinking the coffee. Often times, the residual aromatic compounds on the tongue can develop over time, and leave interesting new flavours.


Flavour - In other words, tasting notes. In the world of specialty coffee, sometimes a very strong impression of flavour comes to mind both in smelling, tasting and the aftertaste of coffee. Something you simply can't ignore. These should be noted as more often than not you'll find agreement in the group you taste with. As strange as it sounds, I stand by 2 coffees I've smelled and tasted that have very strong flavours of strawberry jam, and tomato soup!



REQUIREMENTS


  • High Precision Digital Coffee Scales


  • 4 Cupping Bowls


  • 1 Rinse cups



  • 8 Spoons


  • Timer


  • Kettle and Boiling Water


 

METHODOLOGY


1: Using precision scale, fill the 4 cupping bowls with 8.25g of coffee per 125ml of water. Grind should be slightly coarser than a filter grind.


2: Fill cleaning cup with water.

3: Set your timer to 4 minutes, then add the 125ml of water to the selection of 4 coffees. The water should be just off the boil, 94-96 Celsius give or take. Also, filtered water should be used to mitigate any flavours of tap water or otherwise influencing the coffee taste.

4: Time the 'break the crust'. Take one small spoon to gentle stir the top layer of crust, whilst smelling the coffee for aromas. The aromatics will be strongest at this point. The coffee grounds will sink to the bottom. Anything floating at the top, scrape away with two spoons. Repeat for all 4 coffees.


5: Wait another 5 minutes. Reason being the aromatics take time to develop and as the coffee cools, the unique aromatic compounds are fully released. Begin tasting your coffee by taking a deep spoonful of coffee, and taking a light inhale and slurp so the coffee covers the tounge and surrounding area inside the mouth. Don't stress about noisy slurping! it really doesn't draw more flavour or improve the process.

6: Whilst, and after tasting, rate the quality and quantity of each characteristic. and any accompanying notes or flavours you notice. Finally, give the coffee an overall rating out of 10.



6: Between each coffee, don't forget to rinse your spoons in the cleaning cup!


Remember there's no right or wrong answer here. This is a subjective exercise to explore what are the fundamentals of coffee flavour, and pinpoint which characteristics and tasting notes you love or dislike in coffee. We hope you had fun and found coffees you really enjoy!

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