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Coffee Connoisseur: How To Become The Coffee Version Of A Sommelier

When you want to get the most out of your coffee, it is important to get familiar with the different flavors and how to properly experience them. Believe it or not, there are certain techniques to tasting coffee and appreciating the flavor. If you want to become a coffee connoisseur and score your coffees in the future, be sure to check out the tips below.

smelling coffee is a big part of being a connoisseur

Coffee Connoisseurs know about cupping coffee

There is a process in the coffee-tasting world, which is referred to as cupping. Naturally, this is comparable to the process used by wine sommeliers, who also taste and score their wines. But how do you do this process for coffee tasting?

When you start the cupping process for coffee drinking, there are various aspects you will be evaluating. To ensure you have every aspect covered, we have explained each of the factors below.

Discover The Bean Origins

Regular coffee drinkers already know that the origin of the coffee bean can have a great influence on the overall flavor of coffee. You can get coffee beans from all around the world, and in some cases, you can get blends with different beans. Determining the source of those coffee beans will be your first step towards compiling a comprehensive evaluation.

How Are The Beans Roasted?

In general, there are three types of coffee bean roasts. Of course, there can be variants depending if the beans were roasted manually or automatically. In turn, this can have an influence on the flavor.

When coffee beans have a light roast, they have not been roasted for very long. This kind of roast is associated with sweeter and subtler flavors. However, they are often higher in caffeine content, this because the roasting process can reduce caffeine content overall.

Medium roast is one of the most popular bean roast methods and lies between the light and the dark roast, the latter we will discuss next. You also have the subcategory of medium-dark roast under this umbrella, which leans close to the properties of the dark roast.

On the other hand, most medium roasts are known for their balanced flavor. If the beans are going towards the dark roast, you will experience a more bitter experience.

Because of the time it takes to roast, the dark roast tends to be the strongest in the bunch. It is characterized by a lot of bold and bitter flavors, which is no surprise when you consider this kind of roast finds its origins in countries such as Italy and France.

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Coffee connoisseurs use their senses

Once you know some essential information about the origin and the roasting process of your coffee bean, it is time to start the tasting process. Of course, during this time, you will use your senses to evaluate your coffee.

Aroma

One of the things you will be evaluating is the aroma of the coffee; this is usually the first of your senses you will be using. Simply smell your cup of coffee and jot down the scents you can detect. Of course, the aroma can be either pleasant or unpleasant, which will affect the overall score of your cup of coffee.

Taste

This is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the scoring process. Of course, there is also a special way to taste the coffee, much like the way wine connoisseurs prepare their wine for tasting. Simply place a small amount of your coffee on a spoon; this will allow more oxygen to get in contact with the coffee and enable you to use the maximum of taste buds possible.

Aftertaste

While this is not common knowledge, it is important to know that the aftertaste can greatly influence the score of a coffee. While the original flavor may be great, this does not guarantee the aftertaste will be too.

Some of the more complex coffee beans tend to have quite a complex aftertaste; this means you will detect specific tastes during your first taste, but something completely different in the aftertaste. Naturally, this makes the coffee tasting process a lot more interesting and complex! It also makes scoring your coffee in the greatest details a little easier.

Acidity

If you regularly drink a good wine, you may have heard this term before when it comes down to scoring wines. When you drink coffee, you will also evaluate its acidity; this because acidity is one of the components that determines the overall flavor of coffee.

When you read about a coffee with good acidity, it means that the coffee tastes great. It hints at the presence of certain acids which influence the overall taste of the coffee. So, you will have to interpret acidity by how well you think the coffee tastes, how many tastes you can detect, and loads of similar aspects.

Body

Coffee will also have a certain texture and feel in the mouth; this is what is used with body. Your coffee can have a thicker taste, thinner taste, or even heavy and creamy. Even though you can have some preferences, the body should always be marked down to determine your overall score of a coffee bean.

Balance

While you would think that medium roasts always have the best balance; this is not always the case. There are a lot of different flavors in certain coffee beans, so these flavors combining one another in combination with the right acidity will play a major role when you score your coffee.

What Should I Deduct Points For?

Naturally, there are some instances where you will deduct points, because otherwise you would have a perfect-scoring coffee every time. To understand how to deduct points in the overall scoring system, we take a closer look at defects.

There are six qualities that are considered as “quite undesirable” where coffee is concerned. Changing fats and changing acidity in a coffee blend are undesirable. Coffee should not have absorbing tastes and odors either, which certainly influences it all in a negative way. Even worse, you could also deal with improper roasting or organic loss.

To evaluate the defects, you will take 10 points out of 100 points. When you encounter a defect in a coffee blend, simply deduct 2 points from the 10-point total. If your coffee does not have any of these defects, you can award the full 10 points.

How Many Points Are Distributed To Each Aspect Of Coffee?

Before we elaborate, we need to mention that coffee can be evaluated on a beginner and an expert level. The beginner level will evaluate less characteristics, while the advanced scoring system will include more.

The evaluation will include characteristics that are each worth 10 points. Once you become an advanced connoisseur, you will be evaluating the following aspects of your coffee: aroma, sweetness, aftertaste, complexity, bitterness, acidity, body, flavor, enjoyment, and defects. As mentioned before, each of these aspects is worth 10 points.

We already discussed that points can be deducted for defects. However, there is another characteristic that needs to be evaluated and can lead to point deduction, more specifically bitterness. Even though you can prefer a certain amount of bitterness, coffee can be too bitter or not bitter enough; this is the aspect you will be evaluating.

How Do I Evaluate The Coffee Bean?

As we mentioned a little while earlier, there are aspects about your coffee you will be evaluating that do not have anything to do with drinking it. Some of those aspects take place before you have your first sip.

One of the aspects you will be evaluation is the fragrance of the bean. Please distinguish between fragrance and aroma here. The fragrance is the aroma of the dry coffee beans, while the aroma is the aromatic aspect of your coffee bean once it is combined with hot water.

Do I Need Any Special Equipment?

Some connoisseurs use special equipment and it can be worth to invest in that equipment once you become more proficient at coffee tasting. Good examples of specialized equipment are a silver cupping spoon, cupping form, cupping glasses, and the like.

It is also important to remember that all your coffee-making equipment should be clean and free of any odors. If there are any coffee grounds or odors remaining, it undoubtedly ruins the aroma, taste, and aftertaste of the coffee you are trying to evaluate. So, cleaning your equipment the right way should be a priority.

In addition to keeping the coffee-making equipment clean and odor-free, you should also pay special attention to your environment. For example, if you are tasting a new coffee in a room with a strong air freshener, it will have an impact on your senses.

It’s also helpful to take a sip of seltzer water to neutralize your taste buds before tasting a second coffee.

Ideally, you want to do the tasting in an environment that is free of artificial smells. You could even consider a dedicated tasting room, since your kitchen may be susceptible to cleaning product and bleach-related smells. If this is the case, try and do the tasting in a “neutral” area.

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About Shabbir

Shabbir is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee In My Veins. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.

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