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How can I learn to truly taste coffee?

Asked by R. Hatley

Topics: black coffee, selecting coffee, education, tasting coffee
You might drink coffee every day without thinking about it. Even more complex than wine, coffee has an incredible range of tasting notes and nuances developed by: where it's farmed, how it's processed, and roasted. Here a few quick tips to help you go from an average joe to a Seattle hipster.

1. Start with your nose
From the moment you grind freshly roasted coffee, the coffees aroma will set the stage for your palate. Put your nose to the grounds and breathe in, this will prime your palate and start to give you a sense for the notes and aroma you'll experience.

2. Allow your coffee time to cool
The first thing we tell anyone tasting coffee is to give the coffee 2-4 minutes to cool. You're a human built for survival. If you try to taste a scalding hot beverage, your body will protect you buy shutting down your senses and ensure your brain picks up the 'danger!!' signal first. Once cooled, you'll be amazed at the tasting notes symphony of tasting notes and aroma your cup of coffee can produce.

3. Slurp!
Yep, we're giving you permission to slurp your coffee. Slurping allows your whole palate to experience the coffee. Your taste buds will clue in on the flavor profile. You'll get a sense for how heavy or thin the coffee feels on your tongue. You'll get a sense of how the coffee tastes on the way in and how it finishes.

Coffee tasting will open up your eyes to the variety and range of great farm-to-cup roasts. To get more tips on coffee tasting, check out our blog post: How to Taste Coffee Like a Pro. Relax, have fun, and enjoy!
A few other suggestions to broaden your palate:

  • Remember, every cup has something to teach you.
  • Open your nose; it's as essential to tasting coffee as your tongue.
  • Drink less, savor more, and go for variety.
  • Slurping aerates the coffee, and helps with the tasting.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Avoid trying to taste espresso drinks until you're ready.
  • Next time you're at a farmer's market, open your nose and teach yourself how fruits, flowers, spices and other items smell.
  • Hold off reading the tasting notes until you've identified your own set of tastes, and then compare.

Coffee can be amazingly complex, so take your time learning what you like, and know that your own tastes will evolve over time.

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