April 04, 2021

Love Is In The Air...And It Smells Like Coffee

By Scott Thomas
Image of a coffee taster tasting a spoonful of coffee with samples in front of her

Tasting and Describing Coffee

Coffee drinking is usually a ritual, like our morning coffee, work break coffee, or coffee with desert.  We rarely concentrate on tasting the coffee as our attention is usually focused on the conversation or newspaper.  Coffee is a complex food and contains over 900 flavor producing compounds.  So, let us take a journey into the tasting traits of coffee.


Professional coffee tasters score coffee based on the following tasting traits:  Sweetness, Acidity (Character), Mouthful (Body), Finish (Aftertaste), Balance, and Flavor. 

  1. Sweetness – we aren’t talking about added sugar, but rather you may perceive a chocolate flavor or perhaps red apple.
  2. Acidity (Character) – this may be described as fruity and juicy (favorable) to sour and tangy (unfavorable). The acidity refers to the sensation on your tongue and not the pH level.
  3. Mouthful (Body) – this refers to how the weight of the coffee feels on your tongue and coats your mouth. Does it feel light like tea or perhaps heavy like cream.
  4. Finish (Aftertaste) – this describes the length of time the flavor remains in your mouth. Does it linger or dissipate quickly?
  5. Balance – this is the assessment of how well all the traits work together with not one overpowering the other.
  6. Flavor – this is the combination of aroma and taste.  


How can you identify the tasting traits better? 

  1. Shake and Smell – shake and smell your ground coffee. Take in the aroma and focus on what smells you think about.  You may identify a sweet, nutty, or fruity aroma. 
  2. Slurp your Coffee – allow the liquid to cover your entire tongue. What do you taste … does it remind you of anything?  You may identify tastes of acidic, sweetness, bitterness or saltiness.


The process of tasting happens in our mouths and our noses.  For most people these two separate experiences are intertwined.  It gets easier if you focus on one aspect at a time.  Once you start to notice the taste of your coffee, your appreciation increases rapidly.

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