It’s no secret that due to COVID and quarantine, we are now having more of the experiences we love from our own home, and of course this includes coffee. With more time to enjoy these little rituals, knowing more about how to differentiate the coffee cupping aspects comes handy when preparing your favorite beans at home!
We spoke to Julian, an expert coffee cupper from Medellin – Colombia who works on the TCP QC team, and he shared some ideas and tips with us so you can start identifying different aspects of the coffee without being a professional.
First off lets start by classifying coffee. We can classify the coffee based only on the origin, for example coffee from Támesis, coffee from barrio La Sierra… – but each origin can be further divided in different processes: honey, washed or natural. Further, there are different roasting degrees that are actually what highlight different qualities in the exact same coffee beans. So you can make a cupping from a natural coffee from barrio La Sierra, for example, but with 3 different roasting processes which will give you three different coffees to try.
The first experience you’ll have with the coffee at home will be the fragrance, this is the smell of coffee just grounded and without being poured in water. When coffee is grounded, the fragrance is very volatile but you can differentiate floral, some spices – like cinnamon or clove – or fruity notes. Then, after you put water on it and start the drink making process, you’ll experience the aroma. Aroma is very important since 75% of us subconsciously choose what to drink or eat based on its aroma alone. In this stage you can normally get chocolate, fresh fruits and aromatic notes. (To differentiate aroma vs fragrance, think about how it’s very different to smell flowers and fruits (dry) versus smelling a floral or fruit teas (wet)).
After coffee is served and you start drinking, you start to experience the flavour profile and well as its acidity and body. A trick to being able to pull out the “notes” of the coffee is that any flavour you experience is based on a memory of something that is or isn’t an actual flavour. For example, if you drink coffee and you can remember a specific moment when you were drinking hot chocolate (even if you don’t remember the actual flavour of it), you go to that memory because the coffee has chocolate notes. Specialty coffee normally has caramel, citric, red fruits and cane sugar notes.
The basics of the coffee body you can differentiate it in the texture of it, if it’s watery it’s a low body, if it’s a bit creamy or like milk it’s a medium body and if it’s as creamy as a yogurth is a high body.
Finally, the acidity has nothing to do to what we normally associate it that is heartburn, we have citric acidity (tangerines, orange and grapefruit), malic acidity (fruits in green stage like green apple, green cherries, green mango, passion fruit…), tartaric acidity that can be also found in wines, lactic acidity that can also be found in greek yogurt or similar beverages and phosphoric acidity that is kind of spicy or bubbly. The common ones are citric, malic, tartaric and acetic.
Going a bit more into processes: Honey processes normally have caramel, honey and molasses notes with citric, malic or tartaric acidities.Natural processes happen when the coffee bean is dried inside the cherry, and when this happens, red fruit notes start appearing, it also normally has acetic, tartaric or citric acidity. Washed processes tend to be more citric and have a soft and juicy sensation with citric or malic acidities.
As a conclusion, coffee tasting is completely related to everything a person has tried and smelled before, if you have never experience those things before, you won’t be able to identify them in the coffee, so you can start by trying different things and taking the time to “save” the tasting information in your mind and then it will be easy to identify it in the coffee.
Last tips are to try the coffee when it’s hot, warm and cold and if you want to go to the next level you can start using some tools coffee tasters use to learn like the coffee flavour wheel.
We hope all this information shared by Julian is very useful for your coffee tastings at home and that you start being more conscious of the whole world you can explore through coffee.