Does coffee really taste like anything but coffee?
Floral, red berries, chocolate, tea like, just some of the tasting notes you might see on a bag of coffee but what do they mean? If your someone who taste coffee and just get a general coffee flavour your not alone.
Is coffee tasting comparable to wine?
Well yes and no. Coffee taste notes are more subtle than wine, moreover coffee is served hot which inhibits your taste buds making it more difficult.
In the rest of this article I am focusing on filter coffee rather that Espresso based beverages (lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites). This is mainly because it can be hard to pick up anything really distinct from espresso through milk.
There are similarities between coffee and wine. The climate and soil give the coffee some unique taste characteristics. The variety, process, and the farming methods also all affect the flavour. Coffee grown in Indonesia (Java) often tasted earthy, chocolaty and nutty because of the rich, wet, tropical soil that it grows in. Coffee from Kenya is more fruity and acidic because of the light red volcanic soils.
Roasting has a big impact on the taste. In most cases the darker you roast coffee the more it has that ‘general’ coffee flavour (deeper, richer, burnt notes).
Bad quality coffee is often roasted darker to mask any unpleasant taste and take away some of the acidity. This is why more expensive coffees are likely to be roasted light to medium as their not trying to hide anything. In fact, often quite the opposite, by roasting light to medium roasters bring out the unique characteristics of the coffee. Often what makes coffee expensive is when it has a very distinct (pleasantly distinct) taste.
To start tasting coffee’s just focus on the basics, is it sweet, is it acidic, does it taste light and delicate or bold and punchy. Once you have this down you can start expanding your flavour language using the coffee flavour wheel. You can find out more on the SCAA flavour coffee wheel and how to use it here. Also As I mentioned coffee is served too hot to really it taste properly, let a coffee cool (almost to room temperature) and the taste will come alive.
There’s so much more to write on tasting but I hope this helps explain a little. Also if your tasting coffee try an avoid eating pineapple (dam bromelain) or
chocolate before hand.