Tasting terms for coffee

We’ve been in business since 2005 and in that time, we’ve managed to create a vast library of marketing materials, sales pieces, educational writings, and general clutter. Some things we throw out during our 5-year cleaning flourishes. Some stuff we keep. Some stuff, we don’t even realize we still have.

When we first started roasting, we gleaned so much information from a book by Kenneth Davids called Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival. Davids discusses the history of coffee roasting, the origins and varietals of coffee around the world, and general traits of coffees based on where they are grown. He discusses various home roasting methods and provides the reader with some very good reading about coffee’s aromatic and flavor traits.

Key Tasting Terms from Davids’, Home Coffee Roasting:

Body, mouthfeel: “Body is the sensation of heaviness in the mouth; it also registers as a rich, full feeling at the back of the palate … As coffee approaches a medium to dark-brown roast, body increases … As it passes into a very dark roast, body decreases” (page 59)

Acidity, acidy: “Neither acidic nor sour, acidy coffee is brisk and bright … coffees lacking acidity tend to taste bland and lifeless … The darker a coffee is roasted, the less acidy it becomes” (page 59)

Aroma: Taste and aroma go hand-in-hand. “Aroma is developed in very light roasts, peaks in intensity in medium to medium-dark roasts, and falls off in very dark roasts” (page 59)

Complexity: “A complex coffee allows certain strong sensations such as acidity and sweetness to coexist … at its peak in middle ranges of roast style … Most blends aim to increase complexity” (page 59)

Depth: Descriptive of the “resonance or sensual power behind the sensations that drive the taste of the coffee” (page 59)

Balance: Descriptive of coffees that have ample body/mouthfeel, acidity, etc. but no overwhelming characteristic” (page 60)

Varietal distinction, Varietal character: Descriptive of “qualities that distinguish one unblinded coffee form antother when the coffees are brought to the relatively light ‘cupping’ roast … Examples are the wine like acidity and heavy body of Kenyan coffees, the ringing acidy tones and clean balance of Costa Rican, or the low-toned richness of Sumatran” (pages 59-60)

We actively use these terms when evaluating and selling the coffees we offer and encourage anyone interested in home roasting to puchase Mr. Davids’ book.

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