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A. Sniff the coffee to look for aroma and to activate your oral sensors.

B. Using a spoon (a soup spoon works well), enthusiastically suck in or slurp in, a thin layer of the coffee. The slurp process is such that it should coat the entire surface of your mouth, thereby experiencing the taste throughout one’s sensory glands.

C. Assess the different characteristic of the coffee and allocate points to each criteria from 0-5.

0 = Of poor quality, unpleasant. Consider over-roasted; burnt; under roasted/flavourless/lacking character.

1 = Something there, but not much, not particularly pleasant, lacking character.

2-3 = Not bad/acceptable/fine. There is nothing wrong with it but not a particularly strong element.

4. You definitively found what you were after and enjoyed this characteristic of the coffee. It was distinct and pleasing to you.

5. This is what you’re after in a coffee. The highest level that you can expect from any coffee and you are 100% satisfied with the standard of the element you are adjudging. A distinct and clearly superior characteristic.

Some typical descriptive words: Wet fur; sweat; leather; urine, rotten; peaty; charcoal; burnt/smoky; chemical; metallic; chocolate; cereal; toast; earthy; floral; fruity; grassy; nutty; rancid; rubber; caramel; tobacco; wine; wood. Is it inviting, are you looking forward to the taste?

Note: Most testers (like the writer) prefer to go from one cup to the other looking at only one criteria, some prefer to do one at a time. It’s your call.

(i) Aroma. Breathe in slowly through your nose and look for a typical coffee aroma, one that is full and not weak, a pleasant aroma that makes you want to taste the coffee. What does it smell like to you?

Then slurp up a thin layer of the coffee, off a spoon, quite vigorously, coating your flavour buds and hold this in your mouth for a few seconds to allow the flavour to be appreciated. Option: A spittoon if you would prefer not to swallow.

(ii) Texture or body, is it full bodied. A strong and pleasant mouth feel. No thinness such as oiliness. Think about full cream milk versus thinner light-bodied skimmed milk.  Note: Due to the mixture ratios, expect the coffee to be slightly thinner than what you might be used to. Remember that you are comparing against each of the coffees in front of you, not your normal brew.  

(iii) Taste. Look for sweet versus sour; try and find some acidity (pleasant/puckering like an orange) and a hint, not too much, of bitterness, a sweet/bitter balanced combination. A little salty perhaps but you don’t want a sourness akin to that of vinegar; a carbon-like burnt flavour or a flavourless coffee. Did you like it, was it pleasant.  

Coffee tasting…this is page 2

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Coffee Tip: Did you know: That most Italian roasters end (or drop) their roast when the bean is at what is called a medium roast. Despite this, the darkest roast that you will find, one that has lost a lot of flavour and generally tastes rancid and carbonised, is called an “Italian Roast.”

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