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The similarities between coffee and wine drinkers are striking. Both love to evaluate their libations unadulterated. Let’s face it, how may wine lovers do you know drop ice cubes into their glasses and how may coffee lovers do you know load their cups with cream and sugar. Hopefully not many. Both indulgers take their time to drink their libations. Coffee drinkers take serious time to brew their coffee to perfection with the ideal roast and grind. Wine drinkers take their time decanting their wines and drink in the appropriate glasses. Both love to smell the aromas and pay attention to the flavors. The lingo to describe the flavors and characteristics of the liquids are similar as well. The preparation is key as well as the presentation. Coffee drinkers prefer porcelain cups not Styrofoam. Wine drinkers prefer good crystal stemware, not plastic tumblers.
Presuming most of you know how to describe wine and taste it, here’s a little primer on coffee drinking and the way to evaluate it-called Cupping (source ):
- Grind each coffee to a medium-course ground similar to course sand or raw sugar. Do not grind coffee too fine or it will become over-extracted and taste bitter.
- Fill cup with 2 heaping tablespoons of the ground coffee.
- Add 6 oz. of nearly boiling water (about 200 degrees)
- Steep for 2-3 minutes. The coffee should form a crust or “cap” on top of the water. While steeping, check the coffee for any sour smells. Sour smells are bad and could indicate old or rancid coffee.
- Gently break the crust with your spoon by pushing the grounds back exposing the water. You should notice a fine-celled foam. If there is no foam, the coffee may not be fresh. Again smell the coffee because much of the fragrance is trapped under this crust. Pay extra attention to the fragrance because it is so important to the taste. As you continue to break the crust, the grounds will sink to the bottom of the cup.
- Fill your spoon with the brewed coffee avoiding the floating grounds.
- Slurp the coffee into your mouth with some force. This will mix air with the coffee and disperse it evenly throughout your mouth.
- Swirl the coffee around your mouth to get a good feel for the overall flavor.
- Spit the coffee out and rinse mouth with water before tasting another.
Now for the characteristics that describe the coffee you should be able to describe:
- Aroma: Sweet, sour, salty,nutty, bitter.
- Acidity: describes a sensation of dryness in the back and edges of your tongue. This is a desirable quality and adds to the liveness and brightness of the coffee.
- Body-weight of the coffee.
- Brightness: very high acidity leaving a dry aftertaste. Typical of Costa Rican coffee
- Chocolate- similar to unsweetened chocolate. Typical of some Ethiopian.
- Fragrant-spicy, nutty, floral. Typical of some Sumatran and Kenyan.
- Earth- soil like. Typical of Sumatran
- Mellow- lacking acidity.
- Sweetness-lacking harshness.
- Winy-resembling an aged wine. Typical of Guatemalan
As coffee is roasted you can now describe the different roasts. The coffee now goes from an acidic taste to a much more mellow, smoother taste with more body. Very similar to good aged wine. The different characteristics should be noticeable:
- Cinnamon or light roast- bright acidic flavor. Light brown in color. Toasted grain taste.
- Medium or regular roast- acidic and bright . Lacks the toasted grain taste.
- Full City Roast- Dark brown appearance. Slight acidity with a bittersweet tang.
- French, Italian or Expresso Roast- Dark chocolate appearance with oils. Bittersweet with little acidity.
- Dark French: Almost black and very oily. No acidity and very bittersweet.