If you’ve ever been wine-tasting or ordered a flight of beer from a brewery, then you know the simple joy of expanding your palate by exploring new flavors. Well, the same thing applies to coffee! Hosting a coffee tasting party with your friends is an awesome way to try new flavors, refine your tastes and maybe even discover your new favorite blend.
• Three to four coffees. We recommend:
• Coffee grinder
• Kitchen scale
• Cupping bowls (between 160 ml–200 ml)
• Cupping spoons
• Electric kettle
• Water cups (to clear your palate)
• Receptacle (to collect used coffee grounds)
The Tasting Characteristics
All coffees can be differentiated based on four key characteristics: aroma, acidity, body and flavor. You might not be able to differentiate all of these right away, but soon enough you’ll be tasting (and sounding) like a pro!
The way a coffee smells. Sometimes subtle, aromas can be earthy, spicy, floral, nutty, etc., and are directly related to the coffee’s flavor.
The lively, palate-cleansing sensation you’ll feel on the sides and tip of your tongue. High-acidity coffees are described as lively, tangy and crisp.
The weight of a coffee on your tongue, described as light, medium or full. Light-bodied coffees feel lighter on the tongue and have a clean finish. Full-bodied coffees feel heavier and have lingering flavors.
The way a coffee tastes. Sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle, flavors can vary greatly between coffees–from citrus to cocoa to berry, to name a few–and register in different parts of your mouth.
As you learn to taste and compare coffees, start by focusing on one tasting characteristic. What stands out most of these four tasting characteristics?
The Preparation Process
At this point, you’re probably itching to get to that coffee, but before your actual tasting begins, just remember that this is about enjoying the process, savoring the experience and (literally) stopping to smell the flowers… or rather, coffee.
STEP 1 - GRIND
If your coffee is whole bean, grind out 9 grams (approximately ⅓ of an ounce) of each blend per person. Pour each coffee into its own bowl and use this opportunity to assess the dry smell of each coffee.
STEP 2 - HEAT
Heat your water up to 200°F, then pour 150 grams (about 5 ounces) of hot water into each bowl and start your timer.
STEP 3 - SCOOP
After 4 minutes, break the crust of each bowl with a spoon. Scoop the crust, foam, and any remaining coffee grounds into the spent grounds bowl. Wait 15 minutes for the coffee to cool, and then you’re ready to begin your tasting.
The Tasting Steps
Now that you know what to look for and how to describe it, it’s time to actually taste your coffee. This is where it all comes together because you can distinguish the individual taste of each coffee by comparing aroma, acidity, body and flavor.
STEP 4 - SMELL
Always smell a coffee before you taste it. Inhale deeply. Your mouth can distinguish five tastes–sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami– but your nose can differentiate a trillion different aromas!
STEP 5 - SLURP
A good, noisy slurp. Don’t be shy. This will spray the coffee across your tongue and palate, letting you taste all the subtleties.
STEP 6 - LOCATE
Think about how the coffee feels in your mouth. What is its weight or thickness? Where on your tongue do you experience the flavors?
STEP 7 - DESCRIBE
What words would you use to describe your tasting experience? The aroma, the flavors, how the coffee feels in your mouth. Do you detect much acidity in the coffee? What other flavors might you use for comparison?
After you've enjoyed your coffee tasting, end things on a sweeter note with a flavored coffee like Caramel Crème. Add milk and sugar to see how it changes the lightness and notes of the coffee.