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Pouring water onto coffee grounds


How to Taste Coffee

7 min


There’s an art to slowing down and truly tasting your coffee—from its aroma and acidity to its body and flavor. Here’s how to master it.

EXPLORING TASTE The Art of Tasting

When did you last stop what you were doing and take a few moments to fully taste the coffee in your cup?

When you pay close attention to your coffee’s many characteristics, a sensory world opens up. ​ ​


Many variables affect the flavor of coffee: where the coffee is grown, what type of coffee is grown, how the coffee is grown, how the fruit is removed from the bean, how coffee is blended and roasted and how coffee is brewed. And those are just some of the factors. ​ ​


Want to know how to hold a coffee tasting? Let’s explore taste and its many dimensions. One thing’s for sure: deepening your understanding of taste is a rewarding journey.

Four Steps

If you’re just exploring how to truly taste your coffee, it’s worth learning these four important steps: smell, slurp, locate and describe.



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 one trillion aromas.



Take a good, noisy slurp of your coffee. Don’t be shy. This will spray the coffee across your tongue and palate, letting you taste all the subtleties.



Think about how the coffee feels in your mouth. What is its weight or thickness? Where on your tongue do you experience the flavors? ​



What words would you choose to describe your tasting experience? The aroma, the flavors, how the coffee feels in your mouth. Does your tongue detect much acidity in the coffee? What other flavors might you use for comparison?


Your nose can pick up one trillion different aromas.

What to Look For

So, when you’re tasting your coffee, what should you look out for? Focus on and describe these four qualities—aroma, acidity, body and flavor—one at a time. As you’ll discover, these characteristics form a complete taste “profile” of a coffee.  ​


​ What does a flavor profile look like? Here’s an example, directly from Starbucks master tasters: “Well-rounded with subtle notes of cocoa and toasted nuts balancing the smooth mouthfeel.” And here’s one more for good measure: “Earthy and layered with notes of fresh herbs and a lingering spice.”​ ​


With a little practice, you can start devising your own tasting characteristics based on your personal, unique experiences of the coffees you taste. A good way to start is to read the tasting notes on a bag of Starbucks® coffee and try to locate those flavors as you taste the coffee.

Coffee Acidity

Acidity is the feeling on the sides and tip of your tongue. When tasting and describing coffee, acidity doesn’t refer to the pH content. It refers to the deliciously tangy taste of a cup. ​ ​


Acidity is prized by coffee drinkers because it’s an indicator of high-quality green coffee. Coffee can only develop acidity when plants are grown with the right combination of high elevation, good soil, cool nights and warm days. ​ ​


When you think of acidity, think of how the coffee feels in your mouth. To help you understand acidity, think about how, like bananas and oatmeal, coffees with low acidity offer a rounded, smooth sensation on your tongue. And consider how, like oranges and lemons, high-acidity coffees offer bright, lively sensation on your tongue.

Time to Taste
Girl drinking coffee
Next time you make yourself a cup of coffee, take a moment to sip, reflect and really notice the taste.​
Girl drinking coffee

Coffee Body

Body is the weight or thickness of the coffee on your tongue when you slurp it. It’s a characteristic you might not have considered before.  ​ ​


Here’s how to make more sense of the concept of body: like non-fat milk, light-bodied coffee is thin with very little texture or weight on the tongue. And, like whole milk, a full-bodied coffee has a heavy body—it’s creamy, thick and lingers on the tongue.

Citrusy Zest & Zing
Cup of coffee
Citrusy coffees offer a bright, lively sensation on your tongue, like oranges and lemons.
Cup of coffee

Coffee Flavor

Flavor is how a coffee tastes, and at first it might be hard to put it into words. When describing flavor, start with the basics. 

​ ​

Maybe the coffee tastes sweet like chocolate or caramel. Maybe it has a livelier, fruitier sweetness like a cherry or raspberry. There may be tangy flavors that make you think of lemon, grapefruit or even wine. You might detect flavors that are like nuts or vanilla.

Mix It Up
Cup of coffee
Brew the same coffee using two different methods and see how each cup compares.
Cup of coffee
Comparing Two Coffees

Tasting coffee is all about comparing and contrasting. Experiment with these four characteristics and think about how you’d describe your coffee. If you need added inspiration, remember to take a look at the tasting notes on your favorite Starbucks® coffees.  ​


​Another great way to deepen your tasting experience is to compare two coffees. Take coffees from two different regions, for example, then see which has more acidity, which has a fuller body and how their aromas compare.​


​​You could also compare the same coffee, made using two different brewing methods. You’ll soon discover that the brewing method you use contributes to your coffee’s taste characteristics.​


​​As you explore and experiment with coffee, it’s worth taking time to really taste what’s in your cup. Along your tasting journey, you’ll discover your own unique likes and preferences and learn to talk about what you love and why.

Veranda Blend Ground 22 s


Starbucks® Veranda Blend®

Our lightest roasted coffee with notes of toasted malt and milk chocolate. 



Hosting a Coffee Tasting <p>What is a coffee tasting? Much like wine tasting, coffee tasting is about the simple joy of expanding your palate by exploring new flavors. Hosting your own coffee tasting party with friends is an excellent way to try something different, refine your tastes and maybe even discover your new favorite blend.  &nbsp;</p> 4 minutes
Hosting a Coffee Tasting


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