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Smelling and Tasting Coffee

To grow beyond the basics of "I like" or "I don't like" a certain coffee, it is vital to learn how to properly smell and taste coffee. That knowledge gives you an insight as to how roasters select the beans they roast. Understanding these processes will allow you to start recognizing and picking out certain odors or flavor elements that make up your favorite brew.

The smelling process takes place by drawing in aromas. When odor molecules enter through the nostrils and mouth, they stimulate nerve cells located at the top of the nasal cavity. This stimulation shoots impulses to the brain. This stimulation works with our memory, telling us what we smell. The best way to smell coffee to capture all the flavor nuances is to lean over the cup and to breathe in deeply through both your mouth and nose - similar to cats when they are checking out something interesting.

Coffee tasting is typically rated in five different categories. Aroma, flavor, acidity, body and aftertaste. When tasting coffee, you sip it very abruptly, purposely misting it into your mouth followed by chewing on the coffee or swirling it around. This gets the coffee into every part of your mouth, affecting all the different sensation areas of your tongue.

  • Aroma is rated by preference and is how you prefer the scent, and how pleasing it is to you.
  • Flavor is rated by preference and is basically the flavors that shoot into your mind, such as chocolate or blueberry.
  • Acidity is rated by intensity. Basically, its the sharpness on the sides of your tongue, or how it makes you squint.
  • Body is rated on intensity and how thick it is, how it sits on the tongue, and whether or not you can feel it on your teeth.
  • Aftertaste is rated by preference and is what is left over, what lingers in your mouth after you swallow.


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Denver, CO 80204-3804 - 1-888-932-9264
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