You don’t want a coffee with a flavor profile that’s either too over-the-top or underwhelming. No, you want a coffee that’s perfectly balanced, providing the right mix of natural aromas and acidity. But that’s just some of the things you should look for when you’re brewing up your next batch of beans or stopping by the local coffee shop for a cup of joe.
If you’re trying to graduate from coffee novice to coffee master, then a good place to start is by educating yourself on the important characteristics of what makes a good pot of java – let us key you in on the secrets.
1) Flavor Of Coffee Beans
The end result of the flavor coming out of your coffee starts with the quality of beans you used to brew with. Experiment with different roast levels to find the taste that hits you just right. In general, you can expect light roast to carry a more floral, bright finish, while darker roasts will have a more robust, smoky flavor. A coffee’s tasting notes can be described in a number of ways, such as tangy, citrusy, winey, chocolatey or nutty. No matter what’s attractive to your palate, great coffee has balance and no noticeably overpowering single flavor.
2) Level Of Brightness (Acidity)
Overly acidic coffee tastes sour and harsh, and is hard to slug down. It also leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, known by the moniker, the “liveliness of the coffee”. Although some may prefer stronger or weaker levels of acidity, it should never be overly dominant in one way or the other. A little acidity is great for bringing to life complex flavors, while lower acidity coffee offers a mellower drinking experience. When sipping on your next cup of coffee, pay attention to the front half of your tongue. If it’s noticeably lively with a sense of crispness, your cup has a stronger level of acidity.
3) Full-Bodied Coffee vs. Light-Bodied Coffee (Viscosity)
Body refers to the mouthfeel of your coffee, and identifies whether it’s oily, thick or foamy, for example. This is one of those characteristics that is dependent on your personal preferences. However, you shouldn’t have trouble identifying which type your coffee is – full bodied or light bodied. Light-bodied coffee is thinner with very little texture left behind on the tongue. Many people who dislike strong coffee and prefer an easier-sipping brew tend to like lighter-bodied coffees. Plus, it brews quicker, making it great for those who like to drink their coffee on the go. In contrast, it’s hard to mistake a full-bodied coffee, which can almost taste textured.
4) Coffee’s Aromatic Presence
Like any food or beverage, the smell of your coffee will give you an idea of what it will end up tasting like. These aromas are strongly tied to taste and can make or break the amount of enjoyment you get out of each cup. If your coffee is giving off fragrances that are sour or bitter, reach for something else. Beans that smell too burnt or smoky means that the bean was roasted too long, while beans that smell raw weren’t roasted long enough. Normally, your first instinct is best – if it’s an attractive-smelling coffee, then it’s probably worth a try. If it smells unpleasant, move on to the next bag of beans.
5) Coffee Finishing Notes
While aromas are like the symphony of the coffee brewing process, the finishing notes are what draw the applause from the audience. A coffee’s finish refers to the effect it has on your senses each time you take a sip. Some coffees develop a more complex finish that can cause the nostrils to flare and your mouth to water, while you’re consumed in pleasant notes of chocolate, berries, mint or any other type of comforting fragrance.
6) Coffee Brewing Method
The brewing method is another big factor in whether or not your batch of coffee ends up being a good one. From cleanliness to water temperature to grind size and other crucial steps in the preparation process, you need to ensure that you’re following best practices when brewing coffee. Some of the brewing methods that will produce consistently high-quality results (when done correctly, of course) is pour-over and french press coffee. Both of these methods produce a coffee that tastes as pure as possible.
7) High Quality Additions
Beyond just the coffee itself, what else are you adding to your mug either before, during or after the brewing process? Perhaps you enjoy a dash of sugar to sweeten up the batch before immersing it in water, a hefty splash of cream once it’s ready to consume. Regardless, pick up some organic sugar and dairy to make sure all aspects of your coffee retains its quality.
Watch for these characteristics with your next batch of coffee
If you’re trying to become a skilled barista, make sure to memorize the above characteristics and you’ll be able to identify a quality cup of coffee with every sip. Just watch for some key things, including the aromas, body, bean quality and brewing method, among other things, in order to craft a delicious batch of good coffee. Find the right balance of flavors at the right strength, and never pour another cup of coffee down the drain again!
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