While tasting coffee, you should try to discern whether the flavour, body, acidity and aroma of the coffee is pleasant, or unpleasant. Here are the criteria that most tasters use to judge coffee:

Acidity is a desirable characteristic in coffee. It is the sensation of dryness that the coffee produces under the edges of your tongue and on the back of your palate. The role acidity plays in coffee is not unlike its role as related to the flavor of wine. It provides a sharp, bright, vibrant quality. With out sufficient acidity, the coffee will tend to taste flat. Acidity should not be confused with sour, which is an unpleasant, negative flavour characteristic.

Aroma is a sensation that is difficult to separate from flavour. Without our sense of smell, our only taste sensations would be: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The aroma contributes to the flavours we discern on our palates. Subtle nuances, such as "floral" or "winey" characteristics, are derived from the aroma of the brewed coffee.

Body is the feeling that the coffee has in your mouth. It is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness, or richness that is perceived on the tongue. A good example of body would be that of the feeling of whole milk in your mouth, as compared to water. Your perception of the body of a coffee is related to the oils and solids extracted during brewing. Typically, Indonesian coffees will possess greater body than South and Central American coffees. If you are unsure of the level of body when comparing several coffees, try adding an equal amount of milk to each. Coffees with a heavier body will maintain more of their flavour when diluted.

Flavour is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma, and body are all components of flavour. It is the balance of these senses that create your overall perception of flavor.

The following are typical flavour characteristics:

•Richness-refers to body and fullness

•Complexity- the perception of multiple flavours

•Balance- the satisfying presence of all the basic taste characteristics where no one over-powers               

Typical specific desirable characteristics:

•Bright, Dry, Sharp, or Snappy- [typical of Central American coffees]

•Caramelly -candy like or syrupy

•Chocolaty- a fiish similar to unsweetened chocolate or vanilla

•Delicate- a subtle flavour perceived on the tip of the tongue [typical of washed New Guinea Arabica]

•Earthy- a soily characteristic [typical of Sumatran coffees]

•Fragrant- an aromatic characteristic ranging from floral to spicy

•Fruity- an aromatic characteristic reminiscent of berries or citrus

•Mellow- a round, smooth taste, typically lacking acid

•Nutty- an aftertaste similar to roasted nuts

•Spicy- a flavour and aroma reminiscent of spices

•Sweet- free of harshness

•Wildness- a gamey flavour that is not usually considered favourable but is typical of Ethiopian coffees

•Winey- an aftertaste reminiscent of well-matured wine [typical of Kenyan and Yemeni coffees]

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