It can be a challenge to convey what you enjoy about your cup to friends. “The cornbread nose leads into a full-bodied, heavy mouth feel, with decadent notes of hazelnut crème brulee garnished with grapefruit and arugula” can leave the uninitiated confused and doubting their ability to trust their taste buds. It becomes a scenario like the emperor’s new clothes. Everybody wants to be in agreement, but we’re really not sure it’s there at all. The flavor profile and quality is what separates craft coffee from the ½ gallon jug of coffee flavored dust in the grocery store. Most specialty coffees will give you some flavor notes on the bag.
They see me rollin’…
Take a fruity sweetness for example. We all know what fruit tastes like and everybody can tell sweet from sour. So if you look at a coffee like our Homestead Ethiopian we offer this description: “Bright & Vibrant with Notes of Blueberry”. Blueberry is the instant take-away. Now that is what you are looking for—a blueberry flavor, and it is there! Had we not pointed it out though, it could just come across as sweet or fruity. Or perhaps a flavor unknown. Ah good ol’ mystery flavor. It all boils down to how specific the roaster is trying to convey the flavor, as well as your skill as a taster. The more you taste, the better you will get at nailing down flavors. On a broader stroke we could simply call it a Fruity coffee. To fine tune and get fancier a roaster could say it’s a Blueberry-Granola flavor with Hints of Grapefruit. There is a sweet grain flavor—like granola or cobbler—and there’s also an acidity that could be denoted as a citrusy flavor, like grapefruit. But now we’ve touched on a dirty word. The A word. Acid. We’ll dive into that later. Let’s focus on how we can describe what we taste.
Wheel! of! Flavor!
The flavor wheel above was created by Counter Culture Coffee and is an incredible tool for describing what we taste. Start from the center and work your way out. If we were sipping our Homestead coffee you would taste fruit. Now we can narrow it down to some kind of berry, and finally pin the tail on the coffee-donkey as blueberry. There are other flavors as well, but what do you taste? You might notice the brightness or acidity and that could lead you to the citrus part of the wheel. Perhaps you experience a very floral flavor like Jasmine or Lavender. What we are saying is yes there are distinct flavors, but from within those you may find a unique way to describe it. This is one of the fun parts of sharing a cup with a friend and chatting about it! Now that we’ve looked at flavor notes there are other areas of the coffee to consider.
RIP Jerry Bear
Back to the A word. Acid usually triggers thoughts of clutching the armchair under the strain of heartburn. Or pondering “we’re all here cuz we’re not like all there man”. Acidity is not a bad word, but some folks are more sensitive to it, and for them the lighter coffees should be consumed sparingly. Terms such as “vibrant” or “bright” are often used to describe the acidic flavor. Every coffee has some level of acidity. This acidity can come across as various fruit and vegetable flavors or even a tea or honey taste. It’s a pleasant part of the brew and an important aspect to describe. The best way to tell the difference is to brew a few different roasts. Taste from light to dark and you’ll notice the acidity decreasing.
My skin was tired
Ok onto the body. Not literally…well, maybe. We have covered flavor notes and acidity, and now we’ll talk about the body of the coffee. Think of your tongue like a scale. How heavy does the coffee feel in your mouth? Something lighter like Homestead will feel very light, smooth and just flow over your tongue very gently. A darker coffee like our Prospect will feel heavier and rich and feel like it’s moving slower as you swallow it. The lighter coffee would be described as “light-bodied,” while the darker roast would be “full-bodied”. I would say all our coffees are full-bodied, but some are heavier than others. Our coffees increase in body from lightest to heaviest in the following order: Homestead, Settler, Pioneer, Liberty, Frontier, Prospect, and finally our Italian Roast Buon Giorno (the heavyweight champ). The body or mouth-feel of your coffee is a descriptive term to share with your friends. So using those 3 variables and applying it to our Homestead coffee we would say it’s a Lighter-Bodied, Acidic, Fruity coffee.
Ok, sip sip pass
The take-away here is don’t be afraid to share what you taste! Gather around the fireside with your family and friends. Explore the flavors and chat about the brew . It’s a very fun hobby and like anything else, you’ll get better the more you practice. We look forward to hosting tastings at our café once we open. Be sure to follow us on www.facebook.com/thrashercoffee for news, giveaways and more!