The characteristics of coffee are not always the same but it often gets difficult to recognize high-quality coffee from a low-quality one.
Drinking coffee can become real art, and lovers of the black drink know that there are some fixed points to consider when sipping coffee.
In some sectors, such as wine, some professionals can distinguish the origin, the type of product, the wine cellar, and the year of production from the first sip. This ability, which can turn into a job, can also be developed for coffee.
So, if you are wondering how to drink a good coffee at the bar and how a good espresso stands out, you are in the right place.
In this article, we will explain to you what are the senses involved in coffee tasting, what characteristics you should evaluate to tell if a blend is good or not and we will give you some indications on Etiquette at the bar and at home.
In fact, you can start this journey in search of the perfect coffee taste even at home, by practicing recognizing a first choice coffee powder and evaluate the roasting of the beans.
Sometimes you find yourself drinking bad quality coffee without even being able to distinguish it. Or it turns out that you have taken a very rare, very expensive, and exotic coffee without having fully appreciated its characteristics.
To learn to recognize the type of coffee you are drinking, follow our instructions and slowly you will become a real expert.
What are the characteristics of coffee you need to evaluate
To learn how to recognize coffee and appreciate its taste, you can start organizing real tastings.
At first, it will not be easy to distinguish aromas, smells, the infusion method, and the type of roasting, but over time you will see that your skills will improve.
Take some time to go to the roasting and start by learning about the types of coffee they offer. Try to buy two types with very different characteristics so as to easily understand what distinguishes them. If you have a coffee grinder, we recommend that you buy the beans, alternatively, the powder is also fine.
To enhance the taste, the best preparation method is the professional coffee machine. However, if you don’t have one yet, you can start with the traditional Moka.
Also, if you are a real coffee lover try to taste it in different places. Or, if you have a favorite coffee shop or bar, instead of drinking coffee on the go, start enjoying your espresso carefully. Note the shades of color, feel what kind of aroma diffuses in the air, and then drink it. Also note the details in the percolation process, the movements of the bartender, and the cups used.
Each step is essential for a perfect product.
And now take a look at our little manual to understand how to taste coffee.
1. How important is the infusion method?
Although we are purists of coffee prepared with made in Italy coffee machines and we cheer for the classic method, we can say that in the tasting it is also possible to leave the preparation method in the background.
When it comes to tasting, also called cupping, the difference is made by factors such as:
- type of water used;
- freshness of beans;
- grinding on the spot.
So, if you are used to using methods such as Aeropress or French press, you can also do your tasting sessions using one of these.
2. In addition to the palate, use the sense of smell
In cupping, one of the most involved senses is the sense of smell. Taste is not felt only on the palate but is a whole formed combining gustatory and olfactory stimuli.
So, before moving on to the actual tasting, you need to smell the coffee deeply and take a few moments to identify the type of blend you are about to drink and its aromatic notes.
The perception of smell consists of four phases:
- Smell the coffee beans from which the espresso was extracted.
- Smell the fragrance they have after grinding.
- Try to perceive the smell released by coffee as you pour it.
- Before drinking the coffee, tilt the cup and breathe in the smell.
At each step, you will perceive a different type of aroma but, overall, you will be able to get a precise idea of the organoleptic characteristics of the coffee type you are tasting.
Even when you’re not doing a professional tasting, you can put these tips into practice. In reality, the key to tasting coffee is to drink it carefully and dedicate a few moments to the perception of the sensations it gives you.
3. Learn to distinguish the characteristics of coffee
Understanding coffee flavor and trying to describe it in standard ways is not easy. Taste is a completely personal thing. However, there are some popular methods to understand the characteristics of a cup of coffee.
Coffee, like wine, can be described in many ways (burnt, caramelized, fruity, spicy, woody, and so on). To start, however, try to identify these types of characters:
When we talk about the sweetness of coffee, we do not absolutely mean to speak of sugar. Even if you prefer to drink bitter coffee, your cup of coffee may have sweet notes reminiscent of brown sugar, molasses, honey, or caramel.
Some types of coffee have a citrusy characteristic which gives them a high acidity. This peculiarity, also known as “brightness” makes you perceive tastes reminiscent of citrus fruits, blueberry, strawberry, watermelon, or tomato.
Typically a coffee that exhibits these attributes is described as fruity.
Is the coffee you are drinking rich, watery, heavy, light, or smooth?
There are some stages of coffee preparation that influence its taste in a very intense way. It involves some roasting types and the choice of various coffee types.
To describe this feature, the best way is to evaluate the sensation that remains in the mouth after drinking coffee.
Have you ever noticed that some types of coffee leave their flavor on the palate even after swallowing?
When the taste persists, it means that you have drunk a hard, sour, bitter, or smoked coffee. While, if the palate remains neutral, it means that you have just had a clean coffee. Usually, this aspect is linked to the consumption of fine coffees and is also influenced by the method used for the bean roasting.
4. Evaluate roasting quality
The most remarkable, exotic, or expensive coffees have some particularities that make them unique. To notice and recognize them it is necessary to have a trained palate and ask yourself some questions during the tasting:
Are the flavors easy to distinguish?
When the coffee flavor is harmonious, and the notes marry well with each other, it means that the beans are well roasted.
Does taste explode all together, or does it have various phases?
Generally, an indicator of the goodness of coffee is having different flavors that are perceived one after the other.
The taste must not end immediately after finishing the coffee. Great coffees have a progression of flavors that you can taste slowly.
How does coffee change when the temperature changes?
As the temperature changes, the flavor of the coffee changes. Generally, a good coffee retains its interesting characteristics even if it begins to cool. Indeed, at times, the cooling process enhances some of its notes.
Coffee that is too hot should be avoided, as the palate cannot capture its defects, such as the tar, bitterness, or acid tastes. These kinds of flavors come out during the cooling process.
How to drink coffee at the bar
If you want to become a coffee professional, it’s not enough just to distinguish the powder, the roasting process, or the attributes you can use to describe the various types of coffee. A real expert knows how to move even on social occasions and knows etiquette and coffee well.
In front of a coffee, there are bon-ton rules that cannot be ignored, whether it is drinking coffee at the bar or enjoying it at home.
Let’s see what the coffee etiquette says about the bar:
- Greet when you enter and when you leave: on entering the bar, the first thing to do is say hello to those who work. This is a form of respect for who is there to offer you a good service, which is not only about making coffee but also about cleaning and responding to any of your needs.
- Learn how to drink coffee: consider that an experienced barista will serve you coffee on a saucer, with the cup handle facing to the right. The teaspoon must be on the same side. When you drink, you should hold the saucer with your left and take the cup with the other hand. Hold the handle of the cup with two fingers and bring it to your mouth.
- Do you know how you should stir? First of all, the coffee must always be stirred, forget the bad habit of waving the cup. The spoon must move from top to bottom and, once the operation is complete, it must be placed on the saucer.
- Drink discreetly and avoid making noise both when mixing coffee and while drinking. Also, never lick the foam, not even the cappuccino!
Now you know how to drink coffee at the bar, let’s see how it’s done at home.
How to drink coffee at home
If there are very specific rules of conduct for the bar, even to drink coffee at home you must follow the coffee etiquette.
Before reading you the rules of bon ton, you should know that coffee must be served on time. Generally, it is offered at the end of a meal and never at the table. If you want to make this moment more elegant, you can invite your guests to sit on the sofa where, next to the coffee, you can offer suitable liqueurs, chocolates, and water.
But let’s get to the rules:
- The sugar should be placed in the cup by the host and given to the guest who mixes it.
- If you use a coffee machine, make a few cups at a time and bring them to the table before they cool. A little secret to keeping coffee hot, from the kitchen to the living room, is to heat the empty cups in the oven so that it reaches the guest in optimal conditions.
- As for the bar, the cup is given to the guest with the handle on his right, where the spoon is also placed. Regarding this step, the guest also has rules to respect. He should not turn the spoon quickly and should not lick it even if the foam looks really inviting or there is sugar on the bottom.
- The guest should not make any noise either while sipping coffee or when mixing it. The cup must be taken with the right hand and brought close to the face. The saucer remains on the table if the coffee is served after the meal.
Being a perfect host requires specific skills even in the case of drinking a simple coffee. And if you want to make a good impression, try to combine your skills in tasting with good manners.
Many people are used to drinking coffee on any occasion and run away. This does not allow them to notice some details that distinguish a special coffee from an average one.
To enjoy coffee like a professional, it is important to learn some basic rules to distinguish the specific attributes of each cup of coffee.
Tastes are tastes and everyone has their own personal opinion on which type of coffee they like most. However, to distinguish the organoleptic characteristics of coffee, you can first rely on the sense of smell. By smelling the coffee, you can discover new characters that prepare you for real tasting.
When you taste coffee, you must learn to distinguish its aroma, acidity, body, and aftertaste.
In addition to knowing how to recognize a good coffee, always remember to follow the rules of bon ton, both for coffee at the bar and home coffee.
To drink quality coffee every day buy a Pontevecchio lever machine, in this way you can always enjoy a perfect coffee as at the bar.