Having a group of friends over? Want to learn how professionals taste coffee? Coffee tastings are a lot like wine tastings. There are specific ways to brew and drink the coffee. There are certain characteristics of coffee you are looking to experience. There are also different foods that pair well with coffees from certain regions. The next time you are having a gathering, use the following guidelines to wow your friends with a coffee tasting.
Whenever you tasting coffee you need to have the right hardware to brew your coffee. While a coffee maker may be the easiest thing to use, it is best practice to use a french press. This is because a french press brings the most flavor out of coffee when you brew it. The paper filter in a coffee machine will soak up most of the oils that are produced when brewed. These oils are what gives coffee the flavor, body, and acidity that is unique to each bean. A french press allows the oils to stay in the coffee while keeping the grounds out of the mixture.
When you have completed brewing your coffee you can place it in ceramic cups for serving. Start by cupping your hands over the top of the cup and smelling the coffee. Ask the people with you to describe what they smell. Some coffees have a floral aromas, while others may smell spicy or nutty. Slurp the coffee into your mouth by spraying it into the back of your mouth and tongue. The flavors will hit your tongue and you will be able to differentiate the characteristics of the coffee. When you are tasting coffee you are looking for certain characteristics like:
Body: Every coffee has a different body based upon where it comes from. When I say body I am talking about the feel of the coffee in your mouth. Coffee can either be full bodied or light bodied. When talking about body I always use the texture of milk as an example. A full bodied coffee leaves a kind of heavy taste in your mouth when you taste it. I ascribe it to drinking half and half. If you drank just half and half it would leave a heavy film or aftertaste in your mouth. This is the same with full bodied coffees. Light bodied coffees have a very light or fleeting taste. This would be comparable to drinking skim milk.
Acidity: Like food coffee can have differing degrees of acidity based on where the coffee is from. You should be able to taste this acidity or lack there of when drinking coffee. If you are doing a tasting, start with a coffee that is based out of Latin America. These coffees are usually acidic and will give you a reference point when you taste coffee that is not as acidic.
Flavor: Yes, certain coffees from certain regions have natural flavors to them. These flavors come from the soil in the region. They can be passed from the soil into the beans and you can really taste them. Latin American coffees tend to have almost a nutty flavor to them. African coffees tend to be more floral or fruity in taste. This is why African coffee make such good iced coffees. The flavors can stand up to being put over ice. Coffees that are from the Sumatra regions of the Pacific and Asia have almost a spicy and earthy taste to them. These characteristics will definitely be apparent when you know what you are looking for.
Lastly, try pairing your coffees with certain foods that accentuate its flavor. As I said earlier, Latin American coffees have a nutty flavor. Try tasting these coffees with foods that have chocolate or nuts in them. I would suggest a banana nut bread or a chocolate chip cookie. African coffees pair well with foods with a fruit or floral taste. A lemon bar or some kind of pastry with berries will go great with this kind of coffee. Asian/Pacific coffees have a spicy taste to them. They pair well with foods that have an earthy taste. I know this may sound crazy, but try tasting these coffees with mushrooms. You will be surprised at how much the tastes compare.
Baristas at your local coffee shop are encouraged to taste the coffees they sell daily. It helps them to describe the coffees to customers in terms that they can understand. I have personally led many coffee tastings for individuals who wanted to taste new coffees, and learn how to properly taste coffees on their own. Wow your friends the next time they come over and lead them in a coffee tasting.