Ultimately, tasting is simply about comparing and contrasting. When you taste just one coffee at a time, it’s hard to do with no context to compare against.
But if you try two or three coffees, you can compare them not only in terms of your personal preference, but also in terms of aroma, acidity, body, and flavor. Here’s one tip though: When tasting more than one coffee, always taste lighter bodied coffees first and work up to fuller bodied coffees.
This is the first hint of how your coffee will taste. In fact, most of your sense of taste actually comes from your sense of smell – which is why coffee can smell so sublime and taste so satisfying.
In coffee-tasting terms, this doesn’t mean sour or bitter. Acidity means a lively, tangy, palate-cleansing property, ranging from low to high. Think of the range from still water to sparkling water, and you’ll get the idea. A Latin American coffee like Colombia Nariño Supremo is quite lively on the tongue, so we say it has a high acidity. In contrast, a coffee like Sulawesi is quite smooth and mellow – it has a low acidity.
This is the weight or thickness of the beverage on your tongue. Body ranges from light to full. To give you an idea, we sometimes use the wordy “syrupy” to describe a full-bodied coffee like Sumatra.
This is the all-important melding of aroma, acidity, and body that creates an overall impression. What does the flavor of the coffee remind you of? For example, drinking Kenya often reminds us of grapefruit. There’s just a hint of citrus to it. But when we say that, we don’t mean that Kenya is grapefruit-flavored – it still tastes like coffee. There are many different ways to describe the flavor of coffee, just as there are many different ways to describe snow.