There are five elements of coffee taste – aroma, flavour, acidity, body, and aftertaste. I am sure any baristas reading this know them and are very familiar with them.
But now's a good time for those who don't know them!
But if you purchase a good, quality coffee and want to understand the taste beyond the point of "this tastes really good!" then read on.
Some of these you may understand right off the bat, and a few may need more explanation.
So here they are, the five elements of coffee taste.
When we talk about tasting coffee, we're talking about cupping. Cupping allows roasters to pick up on these 5 elements and assess coffee for its qualities and consistency.
The smell, scent, fragrance – whatever you want to call it – the aroma of the coffee is how it smells after it's been brewed.
We're not talking about the beans before brewing, although that also smells nice and can be part of it; we're talking about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and it's a critical factor in understanding the taste as taste is closely linked with smell. Does it smell fruity? Sour? Sweet? Fermented? Nutty? Sometimes the smell can be unpleasant or overly intense; sometimes, it can be very muted.
The most obvious characteristic of coffee is, of course, the flavour. More specifically, we mean the flavour notes that come through when evaluating the taste.
Does it have citrus, floral, berry, chocolatey, nutty, buttery, caramelly, smokey, spicy, sweet, sour, vanilla flavour notes?
The list of flavour notes and flavour profiles is extensive and can be very similar to the aroma. Although, the characteristics that come out with the aroma and flavour can be wildly different. So it's good practice to do both.
Coffee does have acidic content.
There can be at least a few different types of acids in coffee, for example, citric acid. But in this case, we're not talking about the acidity level or the acid types in coffee.
When we say acidity in coffee, what we mean for tasting is the brightness, and the dry sensation that brings out the flavour profile of the coffee, or on the negative side, the sourness or pungency of a coffee.
Many people don't like coffee that's too "acidy".
Body or mouthfeel refers to how the coffee feels in your mouth.
It has to do with the sediments in the coffee and how "dense" it feels, and it can feel full-bodied or be lacking in body where the coffee feels flat and thin in your mouth.
Also called the finish, aftertaste is the flavour that lingers after you've drank the coffee. More flavours will linger when there's a heavier or more full-bodied coffee. Some coffee will have a short or sharp finish where once you drink it, those flavours in your mouth disappear almost instantly. This is okay, although we generally enjoy coffee that lingers a little.
We hope you found this article helpful, please feel free to share any questions. Have fun with your coffee tasting!
If you’d like to explore coffee tasting and experience the five elements, why not try a sample pack.