How to Taste Coffee Like a Barista?
Almost every adult in the world loves to consume at least one cup of caffeinated beverage daily. The first sip of coffee, while inhaling its aroma, brings such enjoyment, which is not just a matter of taste, but an involvement of all five senses.
People are looking forward to their perfect cup of coffee, sometimes even spend a fortune to get one, and it is barista’s job to make their wish come true. Or with much learning and practice, they can gain the ‘barista’ title, and be one themselves.
Coffee can have many different flavours, from lemon to dark chocolate, due to its physical and chemical complexity, and learning how to taste it like a real professional can be a delicious experience.
Firstly, you need to improve your ability to notice the differences between different coffee flavours and origins, i.e. develop your coffee palate. The most certain way to do this is by trying different ingredients and lots of coffee. Actually, by tasting everything. This way, you get your taste refined, and you are on a good way to become a Master Barista.
The Proper Way to Smell Coffee
Before you start with the tasting procedure, you will need to learn how to smell the coffee in a proper way. It impinges on the taste. The coffee aromas can be divided into three main groups: Enzymatic, Sugar Browning, and Dry Distillation.
Regarding the first group, some aromas of the coffee can be floral, herby or fruity, which is a consequence of the roasted coffee bean, that in fact, is a fruit seed. These aromas are referred to as enzymatic properties, and they can vary.
An exposure of amino acids and sugar to warmth causes a chemical reaction, and as a result, you get aromas which are cocoa or cooked nuts lookalikes. These processes and reactions relate to the sugar browning category, which holds caramel, nut and chocolate types. And for you, the most important is to ask yourself what aroma does your coffee emanate.
The third group is about aromas which have a smell of wood or pipe tobacco (resinous, carbon, and spicy characteristics), and are a result of burning the coffee bean fibers during the coffee roasting. When the beans are got from a darker roast, they have an even stronger scent.
The Coffee Taste Wheel
As well as wine, the coffee can be difficult to classify. Even though it has a variety of flavours, it is not that hard to recognize bitter, or sweet. But, the experts do not stop here. They continue digging into the depths of a coffee bean to determine its classification more accurately.
The Special Coffee Association of America (SCAA), in collaboration with World Coffee Research, have set up standards for cupping coffee. They came up with a coffee taste wheel, to which you can compare the tastes of each cup and determine how they taste like. It can be a very helpful tool on your way toward refining your coffee palate. It is recommended to start training with and without it, so you will manage to affirm the exact taste of the coffee cup and be able to differentiate each of them. This way, you are moving up to the next level, and coming a step closer to becoming a real coffee professional.
Different Origins of the Coffee
Every coffee bean which comes from a different area has a different scent and taste, and only the skilled baristas, with only a drop of coffee, can determine where it comes from. There are different tastes of coffee, and they can be influenced by the following three factors: type of coffee, the place where it is grown, and the way it is processed.
Type of Coffee
When talking about types, among more than over 100 different species of coffee, Arabica and Robusta are the two types of beans which are cultivated the most.
Where It Is Grown
In addition, each area has its own climate which differs from the other areas, and it affects the growth and development of the coffee beans. Therefore, the beans which come from different regions, have different flavours.
How It Is Processed
Also, when the coffee is collected, it undergoes various processes to be prepared, and they can vary from area to area. As one of the largest coffee-producing regions, we can distinguish Central and South America, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia. So, you need to taste as many different types of coffee as possible from all over the world, to learn to notice the differences between them.
The next step is the process of tasting the brewed coffee, or in a professional coffee world – a cupping, which helps to evaluate the basic tastes, type and quality of the coffee. It is considered to be a science or an art, and on your adventurous journey toward expertizing cupping, you become an artist, whose mastery is expressed in a perfect cup of coffee.
Firstly, there is no need to filter the coffee in a traditional cupping, so you can get rid of all the machinery. You need manual burr or automatic grinder, coffee cupping bowls for each person, two cupping spoons per person, electric gooseneck or stovetop kettle, waste and washing bowls, tasting cards/SCAA flavour wheels, and of course, coffee.
When grinding different coffee, try to use various clean burr grinders, so that coffee beans do not lose their original characteristics. Once you grind the beans, the sooner you taste them, the better. Avoid leaving much time in between.
Smell the Aromas
Heat water using the electric gooseneck kettles, which will help you maintain the perfect temperature, 205 degrees Fahrenheit, throughout the whole process, and make sure there is enough water for each cup. After you set up the bowls, the spoons, and the cups, you can finally inhale the fragrance for the first time, and think about what you have smelled.
Further on, put the coffee into the cup, and then pour it with a few drops of the hot water to cover the ground. After a minute, fill the cup. Now, put your nose as close to the coffee as possible, and smell it again. Is the scent different from the first one? Think about it.
Then with the spoon, put the floating grounds aside, and analyze the third aroma you have inhaled.
Finally, separate the floating grounds from the liquid and put them in the bowl. Fill a clean spoon with the coffee, and lap it up slowly, so you can feel its savour with every inch of your tongue. Do it over with every different coffee.
In brief, the cupping is not just a procedure through which you evaluate the characteristics of different types of coffee, and the differences between them. It is an opportunity to discover a whole new world, a coffee world, which you would like to explore with your dearest ones, for sure.
At the very beginning, the coffee was just a caffeinated drink which helped you get through the days after many sleepless nights. Now, after you have experienced the odyssey which led you to finally becoming a Master Barista, it is more than that. It is a moment of absolute peace of mind and fulfilment. As it has been said, ‘coffee doesn’t go to the stomach, it goes to the heart.’
In Coffee Corner, I write about all things related to coffee and particularly coffee makers.
After being a self-admitted coffee addict for 20 years and as an experienced barista I would consider myself pretty well-versed on the subject. I will try to provide you as much information as possible about coffee makers and coffee in general, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us!