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Tasting Terms

Tasting Terms

When tasting coffee a number of terms are used to describe the quality of the beverage. Here are some of the criteria most often used to judge coffee:

Acidity
Acidity in arabica coffees is almost always considered a positive flavor attribute, yet the term can sound unattractive as it gives a connotation of sour tastes. The acidity in good high-grown arabicas imbues the cup with a bright, vibrant quality. Coffees with no acidity can taste flat. Acidity is not about quantity, it's about quality, and good coffees have a complex balance of many types of acidity: citric, acetic, malic, phosphoric, quinic, to name a few ... and a whole range of chlorogenic acids that are very important to the flavour experience.

Acidity in coffee might be described by terms like vibrant, nippy, clean, winey, etc.  Acidity is to coffee what dryness is to wine, in a sense. Different coffee origins will possess different kinds of acidity; like the high notes of some African coffees versus the crisp clear notes of high grown coffees from the Americas.

Body
Associated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the oils and solids extracted during brewing. Body refers usually to thick or thin, heavy or light, full-bodied or watery. Indonesian coffees for example are typically full-bodied, earthy and syrupy. Mouthfeel is used to describe a much broader range of characteristics and textures.

Flavour
This is the overall impression of the coffee in your mouth, including the above ratings as well as tastes that come from the roast. There are 5 "Primary Tastes" groupings (Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Savory (Umami) and many "Secondary Tastes". As the primary category in taste evaluation it is of great importance.

Mouthfeel
A major component in the flavor profile of a coffee, it is a tactile sensation in the mouth used in cupping. It quite literally can refer to how a coffee feels in the mouth or its apparent texture. Mouthfeel can be directly affected in other ways by roast level as well, brew strength, and proper resting of the coffee after roasting. That is, espresso and dark roast coffees have noticeably different mouthfeel than the same coffees at lighter levels. Body is synonymous with mouthfeel, but the latter implies a wider range of possible qualities, whereas body traditionally implies viscosity only. Mouthfeel is perceived by the trigemenal receptors, nerve fibers that surround taste buds.