Expanding your coffee palate is as easy as 1, 2, brew! How to understand the taste of your coffee, without becoming a hipster.
Here in the Beanery, we sample new coffees all the time, and we've learned some tricks of the trade. Try these tips the next time you brew, and you’ll be on the way to finding your next favorite coffee.
Tip 1: The Nose Knows: Smell the whole beans, the fresh grounds, the “bloom” of the pour over, and the brewed coffee before you sip. Using your nose awakens your palate and gives a great initial impression of your coffee. A brew’s aroma will often stand apart from its other notes, and you can leverage aroma to help your brain make sense of more complex, layered flavors.
Tip 2: Let it Mellow: Let the coffee cool down before you taste anything. Hot coffee puts your tastebuds into defense mode, and flavors in coffee tend to emerge as it cools (which is why bad, bitter coffee is even worse when lukewarm). Wait a minute or two after brewing for optimal flavor. And even if you accidentally let your coffee sit on your desk for 30 minutes, taste it again before you write it off... you may be surprised at how the character of the coffee has changed.
Tip 3: It’s Polite to Slurp! Start with a tiny sip, followed by a more extended slurp into the mouth, aerating the coffee as it travels across the entire surface of the tongue. Take a tiny follow-up sip. Keep your eyes closed, and focus on your tongue. If you can’t identify specific flavors, try to put them into taste families: Chocolate/cocoa, Earthy/herbal, or fruit-like. Check out the Specialty Coffee Association's Flavor Wheel for a helpful nudge in the right direction.
Tip 4: It’s All Subjective: Our tasting notes often vary from the roasters’ “official” notes. We debate whether a roast tastes more like cookies or breakfast cereal. One person’s peach is another’s honeydew melon. Once, we all agreed that we tasted “french fries and ketchup” in a coffee. Consider it a fun experiment to see which flavors you agree on, and which, perhaps, only you seem to pick up on... you’re not crazy, we promise!
Tip 5: Run a Mini-Tasting: Sometimes you need a basis for comparison-- brew a couple different roasts and taste them next to one another. Our single origin sampler boxes are great for this, but you can do it with any coffee. You can even compare fresh coffee with not-so-fresh coffee (I think you can guess what the results will be). Another fun variant is tasting a single origin alongside a blend that includes it as a component. Can you taste that bean's influence within the blend?
Remember that training the palate takes time and practice... but practice has never been so fun, energizing, and delicious. Sip, savor, and enjoy!