COFFEE FLAVORS EXPLAINED
Do you enjoy drinking coffee and you want to start learning how to cup coffee? Or do you want to start learning how to appreciate the multitude of flavors in coffee? Then you have to develop your coffee palate and the only way you can do this is by knowing the different coffee flavors.
First, we are going to explain what a palate is. From the technical angle, the palate refers to the roof of your mouth, the one that separates the cavities of your mouth and nose. This is what the dictionary says, but there is another explanation for it. The coffee palate is a person’s appreciation of flavors and taste. So when you hear of the coffee palate, it means that you have mastered the ability to differentiate between the roast types, the origins of coffee, and the flavors. The best way to know this is by exercising your palate.
By doing this, you’ll be able to detect the subtle flavors and body of coffee in every cup you taste. It will enable you to enhance all the flavors you have experienced. As you continue drinking coffee, you can easily develop a palate that can either align or rival that of the coffee experts. The coffee experts you hear of don't have a fancy coffee machine or spoon that they used to cup coffee. They have only been able to do a comparative tasting of different types of coffee.
Before we start, we are going to tell you all the key areas to look into as you learn the different coffee flavors. We’ll show you how to smell coffee, some coffee terms you need to know, and the coffee flavor wheel.
HOW DO I SMELL COFFEE?
Did you know that your ability to smell properly has an impact on your sense of taste? Before you start drinking your coffee, you have to make sure that your nose is clear, so you can easily smell anything that passes your nose.
In other words, before you can know the flavors, you need to know the coffee aromas and how they are categorized. We are going to categorize them into 3.
Sugar browning is known as the chemical reaction you’ll see when sugar or amino acid comes in contact with heat. When you perceive these aromas it will remind you of cocoa or even toasted nuts. The smell may even make you feel like you are around a place where pastries are baking.
The coffees you buy will have different levels of this chemical reaction (sugar browning). But no matter how little the smell is, you’d easily detect it. So the next time you want to cup coffee or drink it black, try to find out the sugar-browning aroma that your coffee has.
The coffee beans that are being roasted come from the fruit of a cherry tree. So most coffees you find will have a fruity or floral aroma. It is these atoms that we call enzymatic properties. This is because the aroma is a reminder of the original plant where the whole coffee beans came from.
The fruity aromas range from melony to berry-like. For instance, if you taste coffee from Latin America, you'll notice that they have a sweet berry aroma while coffee beans from Kenya will have a tart smell. We have a question for you, have you been able to detect any enzymatic properties in your coffee? If Yes, which one?
Aroma Coming From Dry Distillation
This aroma is released when the beans are roasted. The coffee beans have fiber so when it is roasted, it will give you a unique flavor, this kind of aroma will remind you of wood. Some roasted coffee beans will even give you a clove-like smell. What this means is that the unique scents come out as a result of the roasting process, also known as Dry distillation.
These aromas will be stronger if the beans are dark roasted. The dark roasted beans roast for a longer period, so the heat will have more time to burn the beans, unlike the lighter roast. Some coffee fanatics may find the smell unpleasant, but you shouldn't see it that way, it's a coffee flavor you have to know. Besides, the dark roasted beans are used to brew a perfect espresso or really strong coffee.
KNOW THE COFFEE FLAVOR WHEEL PROPERLY
The Flavor wheel has been invented by the Specialty Coffee Association in America. It will help you to know the terms to use when describing the coffee you drink. It will be a great reference point when you want to start practicing the cupping session on your own.
We think you should keep the favor wheel aside and start tasting the coffee, later you can refer to the flavor wheels the coffee professionals used. It is better to do this because you'll be able to see the difference between the types of coffee on your own. Putting a little effort into it will help you to appreciate every cup of coffee you drink.
As your palate develops over time, you’ll rise to the level of the coffee experts. Below, is a glossary of the most common terms that are being used to describe coffee. Knowing all these terms will help you keep up conversations with professionals about coffee. They will be listed in Alphabetical order.
- Acrid taste: This is a harsh, sometimes soured taste that is used to describe coffee that is tart or sharp.
- Ashy: You’ll find this kind of flavor if you are brewing with dark roast coffee beans. This aroma can be likened to the smell that comes from a fireplace or ashtray.
- Baggy: This refers to coffee beans that are light roasted or beans that have been stored for quite some time. This coffee’s taste can remind you of mildew.
- Baked taste: If you taste this, it simply means that the coffee is dull.
- Bitter taste: This bitterness can be mild, or it can be really harsh, and you can notice this taste at the back of your tongue.
- Bouquet: This is the aroma of freshly roasted coffee that has just been ground.
- Bready: When any coffee gives a grain-like scent, it will remind you of fresh bread. This flavor can be found in coffees that have a sour taste or coffee that was not properly roasted.
- Briny: Have you ever reheated your coffee, and it tasted slightly salty? Then it means it had a briny taste. This occurs when you leave your coffee and the burner for a longer time.
- Bright: This is used to describe coffee with a tangy flavor.
- Caramel: A Coffee aroma or flavor that resembles different syrups like sugar that has been caramelized.
- Carbone flavors: Refers to a coffee flavor or aroma that has the taste of burnt wood. As we previously mentioned, this flavor is particular to dark roasted coffee.
- Chocolatey: This is a coffee flavor or aroma that tastes like chocolate.
- Fruity: Refers to coffee that has the aroma or taste of any citrus fruit.
- Earthy flavors: This is an aroma that is found in wet soil. The presence of this flavor can turn out to be good or bad, but it is mostly used to refer to coffees that have molds.
- Ferment: You’ll notice this taste from coffees that were allowed to ferment for too long. The coffee will have a sour taste too.
- Grassy: Refers to any aroma that reminds the taster of mowed grass. It is normally associated with coffee beans that were damaged by water.
- Herbal: This aroma is similar to the grassy aroma. It reminds you of herbs when you taste. It can be found in coffees that didn't fully dry during the tasting process.
- Hidey flavors: It refers to a taste that resembles leather. You can notice this taste from coffees from some countries in East Africa.
- Nutty: A refreshing aroma that resembles fresh nuts, not spoiled or bitter ones.
- Papery: You’ll notice this taste if you brew coffee beans that have been stored for too long in a paper bag or when you use a filter that is of low quality.
- Quackery: This flavor reminds me of peanuts, and it is a rest of brewing with unripe coffee beans. That is, the unripe beans were selected during the harvesting process, it was mixed with the ripe cherries.
- Scorched coffee: It refers to coffee that was roasted until it has burnt marks all over. We advise that you go for coffees that are not over-roasted and buy from reputable roasters like us that avoid this.
- Winey: It is a refreshing taste and smell of coffee that tastes like wine.
- Woody: Used to describe the smell and taste of old coffee.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TRY TO IMPROVE YOUR PALATE?
After knowing all we gave you, you may be wondering how often you should work on improving your palate? The answer we’ll give is that you should develop it as often as you can.
The more you put in more effort to know the coffee flavors and develop your palate, the better it becomes. With time coffee tasting will become easier for you.
So you want to explore most of the coffee flavors, and you don't know where to start? Then you should take a quick look at our page and check out the coffees we have with different flavors. You can explore from single-origin beans to coffee blends, you can share your experience with us.