Acidity is the feeling on the sides and tip of your tongue. When tasting and describing coffee, acidity doesn’t refer to the pH content. It refers to the tangy sensation on your tongue.
Coffee drinkers are sometimes confused about why they like acidity in coffee. Acidity is a sensation you’ll likely find in some of your favourite high quality coffees.
When you think of acidity, think of how the coffee feels in your mouth. To help you understand acidity, think about how, like bananas and oatmeal, coffees with low acidity offer a rounded, smooth sensation on your tongue. And consider how, like oranges and lemons, high-acidity coffees offer a concentrated, lively sensation on your tongue.
Body is the weight or thickness of the coffee on your tongue when you slurp it. It’s a characteristic you might not have considered before.
Here’s how to make more sense of the concept of body: like non-fat milk, light-bodied coffee is thin with very little texture or weight on the tongue. And, like whole milk, a full-bodied coffee has a heavy body – it’s creamy, thick and lingers on the tongue.
Flavour is how a coffee tastes, and at first it might be hard to put it into words. When describing flavour, start with the basics.
Maybe the coffee tastes sweet like chocolate or caramel. Maybe it has a livelier, fruitier sweetness like a cherry or raspberry. There may be sour flavours that make you think of lemon, grapefruit or even wine. You might detect flavours that are like nuts or vanilla.
COMPARING TWO COFFEES
Tasting coffee is all about comparing and contrasting. Experiment with these four characteristics and think about how you’d describe your coffee. If you need added inspiration, remember to take a look at the tasting notes on your favourite Starbucks® coffees.
Another great way to deepen your tasting experience is to compare two coffees. Take coffees from two different regions, for example, then see which is more bitter, which has more body, and how their aromas compare.
You could also compare the same coffee, made using two different brewing methods. You’ll soon discover that the brewing method you use contributes to your coffee’s taste characteristics.