Seven Tasty Coffee Drinks Without The Coffee Taste. Taste кофе

How to Taste Coffee Like a Barista

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Do you love coffee and look forward to enjoying a cup, but you wish that you had a better appreciation for the multitude of subtle taste differences and experiences? Then you need to develop a more refined coffee palate.

So what is a “palate” exactly? Technically speaking, it’s “the roof of the mouth, separating the cavities of the nose and the mouth in vertebrates,” according to the dictionary. But another description is:

A person’s appreciation of taste and flavor, especially when sophisticated and discriminating.

Quite simply, a coffee palate is the ability to taste the differences between different roasts, origins, and flavors of coffee. When you have a well-exercised palate, you can detect even the smallest hint of flavor and body in each cup of coffee. This greatly enhances the flavors that you experience.

As you continue to drink (and think about) coffee, you can develop your own sophisticated palate that will rival the “experts.” Coffee professionals don’t have special spoons or fancy brewers, they simply have more opportunities for comparative tasting.

Before we start tasting coffee, we have to educate ourselves what to look for when we start sipping. We’ll dive into some key areas of proper coffee tasting, such as:

  • How to Properly Smell Coffee
  • The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel
  • An Epic Glossary of Coffee Tasting Terms
  • Taste The Origin of Coffee
  • How to Perform A Coffee Cupping Session

How to Properly Smell Coffee

Our ability to smell greatly impacts our sense of taste. Before you begin to do your taste testing, be sure your nose is free and clear, and you can breathe and smell everything around you easily.

Before you can learn to detect the different aromas associated with coffee, you need to know how to categorize them. The smells of coffee can be divided into three main categories:

1. Enzymatic

The coffee bean that we roast is actually the seed of a fruit, similar to a cherry. Because of this, many coffees include a floral or more fruit-like aroma to them. These aromas are described as enzymatic properties that may remind you of the original plant life state that the coffee bean came from.

These aromas can vary greatly, from berry-like to citrus, and even oniony and melony. For example, many coffees from Latin America have a sweeter berry aroma to them, while coffees from Kenya smell a little tart. How many different enzymatic properties can you detect in your coffee’s aroma?

2. Sugar Browning

This category refers to a chemical reaction that occurs when amino acids and sugars are exposed to heat. These aromas will often remind you of toasted nuts or maybe even cocoa. Some of these smells may even fool you into thinking there are pastries being baked.

Different coffees produce different levels of sugar browning, but more than likely you will be able to detect it. The question is, what kind of sugar browning aroma does your coffee produce?

3. Dry Distillation

During the coffee roasting, the fibrous bean material is literally burned in the roaster. This brings its own unique aromas that will remind you of wood or maybe pipe tobacco. Some coffees even give off a clove or leather smell. These aromas are referred to dry distillation as the roasting process is what creates these unique scents.

Dry distillation scents become even stronger when the beans are from a darker roast. These roasts take longer than lighter roasts meaning there is more time for these scents to be burned into the beans. Many find these rather unpleasant and consider them a burnt smell. But try not to look at that way and associate it with pleasant aromas in your life.

Study the Coffee Taste Wheel

SCAA Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

The folks over at the Specialty Coffee Association of America have developed a coffee taste wheel that you see above, which can help you describe how each cup of coffee tastes. This can be a great reference while you practice on your own.

I recommend practicing both with and without it on your journey toward developing a truly sensitive coffee palate. That way you can begin to formulate exactly how a coffee tastes to you while also understanding how many coffee professionals refer to the different taste experiences offered by some of the world’s best coffee.

After awhile, you will find that you are better able to discern the differences between each cup of coffee that you drink pointing out different aspects of what makes that cup of coffee special from all the rest. With a little effort, you will find that you are better able to appreciate and enjoy each cup of coffee you drink and as your coffee palate continues to develop, you will soon rise to the level of many coffee professionals.

The Glossary of Common Coffee Tasting Terms

This is primarily a tasting glossary and not a complete glossary covering every term used when discussing coffee. Let’s take a look at many of the most commonly used coffee tasting terms that will help you keep up with the conversation when it turns to coffee.

  • Acrid – A harsh, sour taste often described as tart or sharp.
  • Ashy – A type of coffee aroma usually found in dark roast coffee. This aroma gives off a fragrance that is reminiscent of the smell of an ashtray or fireplace.
  • Baggy – Refers to coffee that has been stored too long or light roasted coffees with qualities that remind the taster of mildew.
  • Baked – Coffee that is flat, dull and very boring.
  • Bitter – A harsh, sour and even unpleasant taste that is noticed mostly in the back of the tongue.
  • Bouquet – The aroma of coffee that has been freshly ground.
  • Bready – Coffee with a grain-like aroma that reminds one of bread. Usually found in sour tasting coffee or coffee beans that have not been sufficiently roasted.
  • Bright – Refers to pleasant tasting coffee with a tangy flavor.
  • Briny – A slightly salty taste in coffee that is caused by reheating or by coffee that has been left on a burner for too long.
  • Caramelly – A flavor or aroma that resembles candy or syrup such as sugars that have been caramelized.
  • Carbony – A flavor or aroma that has the characteristics of burnt food or wood. These flavors usually accompany darker roasted coffees.
  • Chicory – An herb used to flavor coffee or even as a coffee substitute.
  • Chocolatey – A flavor or aroma that resembles chocolate.
  • Citrusy – A flavor or aroma of citrus fruit. This can often be found in coffee as coffee beans come from the cherries of coffee.
  • Earthy – An aroma of fresh earth or wet soil. Can be considered both good or bad but sometimes refers to the presence of different types of mold.
  • Ferment – A sour or oniony taste from coffee that has been allowed to sit and ferment for longer than is necessary.
  • Floral – An aroma of fresh flowers that can often be found in coffees with a fruity or herbal flavor or aroma.
  • Fruity – An aroma and taste that resembles different types of fruits.
  • Grassy – An aroma that reminds one of mown grass that is usually associated with beans that have been under roasted or damaged by water.
  • Herbal – Refers to an aroma of freshly mown grass and herbs and is found in coffee that has not been fully dried when it is processed.
  • Hidey – Refers to an aroma or taste that resembles leather. Often found in some east African coffees.
  • Malty – An aroma of malt or grain similar to the aromas of freshly baked bread.
  • Mellow – A balanced and mild coffee that doesn’t have any strong tastes or aromas.
  • Nutty – An aroma resembling fresh nuts. This term is only used when recalling fresh nuts and not bitter or spoiled nuts.
  • Oniony – A flavor that reminds one of onions. It is often found when stagnate water is used for processing using the wet method.
  • Papery – A taste that results from storing coffee in paper bags or prepared using a low quality filter paper.
  • Quakery – A flavor that reminds one of peanuts resulting from using unripe coffee beans.
  • Rubbery – An aroma or characteristic found in fresh Robustas that refers to the taste and smell of hot tires or rubber bands.
  • Scorched – Coffee that has been roasted until it receives burn marks due to roasting too hot or poor tumbling during the process.
  • Sour – A biting and unpleasant flavor found in coffee.
  • Spicy – A taste or aroma that resembles cloves, cinnamon or other spices.
  • Tobacco – The aroma and flavor of fresh tobacco. Not always negative and can be found in many coffees around the world.
  • Winey – A combination of taste, smell and feel in the mouth of coffee that resembles that of wine.
  • Woody – A taste and smell of old coffee.

How to Taste Where Your Coffee Comes From

Each major area of coffee production brings its own unique flavors to the world of coffee, and experienced coffee cuppers can identify the region just by taking a sip. You can, too, with a little practice.

Before we examine each region, let’s stop for a second to take a look at the three main factors that influence the taste of coffee.

  1. Type of Coffee – The two main species are Arabica and Robusta.
  2. Where It’s Grown – Different areas have different climates and make use of different growth processes. These factors impact the overall flavor of the coffee just like any crop.
  3. How It’s Processed – After coffee is harvested, it’s processed (washed or natural) and roasted. There are many different processes out there for preparing the coffee and they can vary greatly from region to region.

Let’s take a closer look at several of the major regions of coffee production and some of the unique coffee tastes you will find from these regions.

Central America

Central America is a large contributor to the coffee supply, particular here in the Americas. A majority of the coffee you find here in the States comes from Central America, and it has greatly shaped the coffee tastes of millions of Americans.

Because of the growth and processing techniques, most of these coffees have a degree of acidity to them, much like an apple, while still including a sweetness that will remind you of a soft chocolate or pastry. You may still detect a hint of fruitiness as well, although that taste is more a backdrop and there to compliment the other flavors.

South America

In most cases, when we talk South America, we really mean Columbian coffees. After all, they are one of the biggest contributors from that continent. Though you will find other countries that produce even better quality coffees than Columbia. In most cases, you will find that Columbian and other coffees from South America will be less acidic but include a caramel sweetness and a nutty undertone that can’t be beaten.


You may be wondering why Brazil isn’t included in South America. The reason is two-fold. First, they are a huge producer, and second, their flavors vary from the rest of the continent. The Brazil natural coffee, as it has come to be known, has a strong nut flavor to it compared to other coffees from South America. These coffees even have a hint of chocolate to them and tend to linger in your mouth, making them great options for espresso blends.


This coffee can be a bit trickier to identify. You see, in Ethiopia, there are more species of coffee grown than anywhere else. Many of them are wild species that haven’t even ben cataloged. They also use two different processes for preparing the coffee. In the first, “natural process,” the cherry is dried around the bean before being removed. The second, “washed process,” sees the fruit get stripped as soon as 12 hours after being picked.

The naturally processed coffees tend to have a very berry flavor that may even remind you of a strawberry or blueberry. However, the washed coffee tends to give you a hint of jasmine or lemongrass and are often drier and lighter on your palate.


Coffees produced in Kenya are grown in areas without shade, and the processing uses a post fermentation soak that can last over a day. This results in a sweet flavor characteristic to the coffees. In some cases, this results in a more tomato-like acidity, while in other cases a tartness that you will detect immediately. It’s a tropical taste that many coffee experts admit is their favorite.


Indonesian coffees are yet another that are impacted by the climate and the processing used to prepare the coffee. Often these coffees are very dark and have a meaty earthiness to them when tasted. In some cases, you will also note smoky and toasted flavors present as well.

How to Perform a Coffee Cupping Session

Cupping: it’s not just for presumptuous tailors. A good coffee cupping session deepens your understanding and appreciation of the subtleties and nuances of great coffee. It fosters whatever community of javaphiles you’re a part of. Most of all, it’s enjoyable, which is the entire point of coffee.

You can chair the session yourself, or you can reach out to more experienced “Master Tasters,” which is totally a thing. These are usually cafe owners and/or employees whose experience is invaluable, but not a requirement.

The good news is that in a traditional cupping, the coffee isn’t filtered, which means you don’t have to worry about any presses or machines. All you need besides the coffee are:

If you can, use multiple burr grinders (we don’t recommend blade grinders) so that you can grind each different coffee in a clean one. Grind the beans immediately before your fellow tasters arrive, or as they’re arriving, leaving as little time as possible between grinding and tasting.

Set up enough hot water for all the cups you’ll be making. We recommend electric gooseneck kettles for this, as the exact temperature (205 degrees Fahrenheit, ideally) can be monitored and maintained throughout the cupping.

Arrange tasting “stations” for each guest (and yourself) with enough cups, saucers and spoons for everyone to have a clean cup for each coffee. Also, each station should have a bowl in which to dispose of grounds. Have small containers (such as dipping bowls) filled with each different coffee at each station, arranged in the order in which they’ll be tasted so that everyone is tasting the same thing at the same time.

Tip: A good idea is to make cards describing the coffees being tasted, with space for guests to record which ones they like best and make brief notes. Also, visit for a detailed “flavor wheel.” This handy chart has one important purpose: to promote a standardized vocabulary through which everyone can share their impressions.

Decent coffee is almost always good, but it helps to know if it’s good in a leguminous way or a medicinal way. Or both. Or whatever.

1st Smell

Once everything is set up, the coffee is ground, and the guests have arrived, simply guide the proceedings. Say a few words about what everyone will be tasting, and invite everyone to smell the first set of grounds. Encourage discussion of what each person smells- no right or wrong answers.

2nd Smell

Next, have everyone pour the first grounds into their cups. Come around with the hot water, and pour just enough to cover the grounds at first, then let a minute elapse for the “bloom.” Next, come around again and fill each cup. Set a timer for 4 minutes.

Once the timer goes off, invite everyone to smell the coffee. Encourage everyone to share their impressions and descriptions. Don’t be afraid to smell from the closest possible range, almost touching your nose to the liquid.

3rd Smell

At this point, it’s time to take the spoons and push the grounds that are floating on the surface out of the way, releasing yet another level of aroma for analysis. Through all three of these smelling stages (of the grounds, of the pour, and of the pour under the grounds), new levels of complexity will come through.


Finally, it’s time to scoop all of the floating grounds off the surface and discard them into the bowls. Then, get a (clean) spoon full of coffee, and sip (slurp, really) slowly, allowing the coffee to move across the entire tongue to pick up every level of flavor. Savor it. Discuss it. Enjoy it- together. Repeat with each different coffee.

Above all, remember that a cupping, like coffee, is first and foremost about pleasure and enjoyment. It’s not a competition of palates or a championship of pretentiousness. The purpose of a cupping is to learn, to share interpretations, and to widen your coffee horizons in the company of friends. With that in mind, no cupping can go wrong.

How Often Should You Work On Your Palate?

So how often should you work on developing your coffee palate? Well, the answer is as often as you can. The more that you can work on developing your palate, the faster it will develop. When you do follow these steps, you need to make sure you have adequate time to perform all the steps accurately in order for it to actually help you develop your palate. In time you will find that describing the different tastes of coffee becomes easier and easier making the process even faster than before.


Recommended Reading
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Learn to Make Barista-Level Coffee From The Comfort of Your Home

The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Tasting

This coffee tastes like Thai basil and yellow peach.

This coffee tastes like being shaken by the collar and thrown into a New York snowbank.

This coffee is substantial, without being inelegant.


You might have heard people describe the taste of coffee like this before. And you might have found these descriptions intimidating, because they're interpreting coffee's most complex feature: its flavor.

Despite this complexity, I’m here to tell you that there are only two prerequisites for tasting coffee: You must have functional tastebuds, and you must be curious.

As a part of our training at Blue Bottle, we focus on simply getting people comfortable with talking about coffee. This takes time and continuous practice. Before they ever serve their first cup of coffee to a guest, our new baristas have spent time thinking about how every coffee tastes. Tasting something thoughtfully is a simple practice that brings a great deal of joy, but it's also a skill that most of us need time to develop. 

Tasting as a Reflexive Practice

So, how do you cultivate this practice? In a perfect world, you could taste coffee in a quiet space with no distractions, because the best way to begin tasting is simply to slow down and pay attention to what’s right in front of you — in our case, a cup of coffee — not email, not the news, not the many methods of distraction we’ve devised for ourselves. This is about you, your coffee, and these questions: How does this taste? Why do I like it, or why don’t I?

Our Green Coffee Coordinator, Carly Getz, at a cupping

Write down your answers, or don’t. The goal is to notice things you didn’t notice before and develop your own sensory spectrum, as well as your own methods for keeping track of it.

There’s no wrong answer to these questions, but there are some useful concepts and a vocabulary to help you create a more specific answer. In our training labs, we break the tasting experience into five categories: sweetness, body, acidity, flavor, and finish.

Ways of Coffee Tasting

When you start out tasting coffee, I recommend choosing one of these five categories and paying close attention to how a particular coffee expresses itself through it. Below, I briefly define the categories, and suggest some simple exercises you can try at home to deepen your understanding of them.

Sweetness: This is an easy one to start with. How much do you detect a sugary quality in the coffee? What kind of sugar does it remind you of? Is it a maple sugar sweetness, or a hard-candy sweetness? If you have sweeteners at home — molasses, honey, brown sugar, or white sugar, for example — try tasting them in sequence, and think about what makes them different. They’re all sweet, but in their own ways.

Body: This category is for pondering the weight and feeling of the coffee on your tongue. If you’re a beer drinker, you might notice a difference between the heavier body of a stout and the lighter body of a pilsner. Milk is also a helpful example for thinking about body. Take sips of whole milk, skim milk, and nonfat milk, and notice how they feel heavier or lighter, thicker or thinner, in your mouth.

Acidity: Acidity has many common associations, and not all of them are positive for most people. But a complex acidity, or “brightness," is a hallmark of some of the most sought-after coffees. Practice thinking about acidity’s spectrum of positive qualities by comparing grapefruit with lemon and lime. Yogurt also has acidity—that tangy sensation of lactic acid on your tongue.

Flavor: Here’s where you let your imagination run wild. The key thing is to build up a library of flavor references. Try wines. Taste chocolates. Pick up strange-looking produce at the farmers market. Take notes on memories that certain foods and smells evoke for you. If a taste reminds you of the frosting on a birthday cake you had as a kid, or of your grandfather’s smoky motorcycle jacket, you’re doing great.

The creamy "Mokaccino" Milk Chocolate + Blue Bottle Coffee 70g bar by TCHO might be a good place to start.

Finish: This category is a question of what happens after your sip of coffee is “done.” What taste or feeling lingers in your mouth? What’s your last impression of it? I like to compare a shot of Hayes Valley espresso with a shot of Opascope espresso: Hayes Valley ends with a sweet note, while Opascope dissipates quickly. Practice thinking about finish with dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Which one has a long, coating finish? Which one leaves a dry feeling?

Go Deeper with Quality and Intensity

Each of these five categories is represented in every cup, and within each category we can also assess how present and pleasant they are. Not all sweetness is enjoyable, and not all acidity is unenjoyable. Asking yourself whether a characteristic you’ve observed is positive or negative — and to what degree — is a powerful part of tasting.

Paying Attention and Falling in Love

The best part about these five categories is you can apply them to anything you can taste. Honey. Olive oil. Apples. Fried chicken. It’s about figuring out what works for you and putting it into words. Now, the next time you’re in a cafe, you’ll be ready to tell the barista what you like, and they’ll be able to make a new recommendation for you and help you find the next coffee you love. That’s one of the beauties of coffee: The more you pay attention and learn about what makes you love something, the more you discover to love.

Come practice tasting coffee with us on Sundays in Oakland. All are welcome to attend.

Taste of Coffee - Types of Coffee Drinks and Varieties

Coffee is a great beverage one thats been used over the years and also has a fair share of romanticism attached to it. But the next time you decide to gulp down some caffeine be it to stay awake before an exam, to get back to piled up work, to improve athletic performance on the track field, or just to get a high do it in as healthy a way as possible. Most people when looking at the menu in a coffee house have no clue on what to order and have no idea of the difference between a cappuccino from an Espresso or an Americano. The list below will help you appreciate the menu better and also help you decide what is best for your palate Coffee can be had on its own as in Espresso or with added milk, lemon or brandy.


Espresso has no milk, just pure coffee. Most traditional coffee recipes revolve around a single or double espresso shots. If you are a coffee connoisseur then you should try and learn how to make one.

It is generally made from a single 1 oz shot of coffee made with 7 Gms of finely ground coffee extracted at between 18 and 25 seconds. There are many recopies and this is small selection to choose from

Americano (American) This is espresso shot that is diluted to taste with hot water. The name was given to insult Americans who the Europeans believed were not up to drinking full espressos.

Black coffee: Coffee served with no milk.


Cappuccino usually consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. All this makes the coffee taste more diluted and weaker. Some coffee shops will sprinkle cinnamon or flaked chocolate on top and other will add more milk than others. All shops make some variance to suit the taste of regular customers.

Dry Cappuccino

This is a regular cappuccino but without steamed milk and small amount of foam.

Flavored coffee

These are made to taste and more a local tradition. A great variety exists in different parts of the world. The flavor can be either a mix of syrups, spices (eg. cinnamon), flavorings or nutmegs that are added to the coffee and give coffee a different taste.

White coffee

A black coffee with milk added.

Cafe Latte

Cafe Latte has more milk than a cappuccino. It is one part espresso with at least three to five parts ofsteamed hot milk with a small amount of froth on top. Latte in Italian means milk, so be careful ordering one when in Rome.

Cafe au Lait

Similar to Caffe Latte with an equal milk to coffee in the ratio of 1:1, It is made from brewed coffee and not from espresso. The taste is milder and less intense due to it consisting 50% milk.

Cafe Breva

A cappuccino made with half and half milk, instead of whole milk. The theory is that the mix gives a richer, creamier flavor. You should be aware, before trying this for yourself, that half and half is much harder to foam.

Cafe Macchiato

A shot of espresso with steamed milk added. The ratio of coffee to milk is approximately 4:1.

Cafe Latte Fredo

It is a type of cold coffee. Cafe Latte Fredo is an espresso mixed with cold milk in similar proportions as a Cafe Latte that is usually shaken well with ice in a cocktail shaker.

Cafe Mocha

Quite popular with the ladies or after dinner coffee. It is one part espresso with one part chocolate syrup and two or three parts of frothed milk. You could also ask for some whipped cream. Mocha was the popular coffee port route in the 17th century.

Espresso con Panna

Another espresso that is topped with a small amount of whipped cream.

Espresso Granita

A kind of cocktail coffee! It is one shot of espresso that is mixed with a teaspoon of soft brown sugar and on this is added a splash of brandy. It is then frozen, crushed and served in a parfait glass with whipped cream.


This is a cold espresso and popularly ordered in some cafes in Europe and Latin America during summer months. Generally prepared using 1-2 teaspoons of instant coffee with sugar, water and ice. The brew is next placed in a long glass with ice, and milk turning it into a big coffee milkshake.

Turkish Coffee or Known also as Greek Coffee

A different preparation from the usual coffee. It is thicker and made usually made in an cezve which is a long-handled, open, brass or copper pot. Finely ground coffee and water are boiled together to making a mix of muddy and thick coffee. Once it is made it is served in smaller cups called Demitasse cups. Sugar and sometimes cardamom pods or spices (more Arabic) are added before it is brewed and all this is left for sometime to allow it to settle before it is sipped. In Greek coffee Chicory is used and cracked cardamom pods to Turkish coffee.

Indian (Madras) filter coffee

The popular South Indian filter coffee is made from fresh ground, dark-roasted coffee Arabica or Peaberry beans. It is left for a few hours to drip-brew in a traditional metal coffee filter. It is served with coffee to milk ratio of usually 3:1.

Instant coffee (or soluble coffee)

These have become very popular over the years due more to convenience and some people are not even aware that there are so many other tastes to try out and when served the real coffee fail to appreciate the aroma and its taste. The coffee is available in packets as granules or soluble powder.

Hammerhead or Shot in the Dark

This is a mix of espresso and drip coffee in a regular-sized coffee cup. Many cafes rename this drink further to their own names or as per to their needs.

Iced coffee

This is a regular coffee served with ice, and sometimes milk and sugar.

Cuban coffee

Cuban coffee is a type of espresso, which is sweetened with natural brown sugar as it is being brewed. A common method for making Cuban espresso is to add few drops of the espresso to the sugar and mix vigorously till it results in a creamy, light brown paste. The remaining espresso is then added to the light brown paste creating a light brown foam layer, atop the coffee.

Arabica coffee

Coffee Arabica also known as mountain coffee is a species of coffee that is believed to produce the finest coffee beans. The beans from this plant contain less caffeine than any other coffee plants. Coffee Arabica has aromatic tones that offer a smooth, pleasing taste.

Irish coffee

If you want to have whiskey with coffee try this coffee. It consists of coffee that is spiked with Irish whiskey, with added cream on top. Best suited for a cold winter night to keep you warm.

Kopi Tubruk

If you visit islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia you can try this coffee. It is similar to Turkish or Greek coffee as it very thick.


This is 2-3 shot of espresso and has more water to pass through coffee grounds.


The name means restricted. It is like Lungo, but exactly the opposite as it has less water with 0.75 oz espresso.


Coffee with honey. Made by using coffee that is mixed with 1 teaspoon of unsweetened powdered cocoa and drizzled honey. It can be served with cream.

Vietnamese Coffee

Uses more and like south Indian coffee uses a metal mesh. Hot water is dripped through the metal mesh and after this the intense brew is poured over ice and sweetened with condensed milk.

If you are a heavy coffee drinker and wish to reduce the number of cuppa, there are also several coffee substitutes available in the market. These include green tea, licorice tea, black tea, ginseng tea, or even decaf. Some have negligible caffeine content while others (like decaf) have much lesser caffeine constituency than regular coffee.

Tasting Coffee: How to train your palate and build your coffee tasting vocabulary

Have you ever been at a loss while trying to taste the flavor notes printed on your favorite bag of coffee? While these notes are helpful to experienced coffee tasters, the everyday coffee drinker is often flat out confused what it means when a coffee is going to taste like mandarin oranges, raspberries, and almonds. My goal is to break down this barrier of understanding and help you decode tasting notes into practical and approachable flavor expectations.

Being a good taster means being aware and, like any good skill, lots of practice. It comes down to intentionally tasting and comparing foods, drinks, and coffee constantly to build a frame of reference of all kinds of flavors to develop your palate and be able to understand what these tasting notes mean.

Building a Mental Flavor Catalog

Think about what you are experiencing every time you eat or have something to drink, it doesn’t matter what it is. Make mental notes about different flavor experiences: Is it sweet, bitter, acidic or savory? Is it more than one of those things? Think about the mouthfeel, is it heavy or light? Does it have an effervescent sensation or does it linger on your palate? How do these aspects interact with each other? Do they work together harmoniously? Do you like it? Why or why not? What personal experience or memory does it remind you of?

This will require you to be deliberate and thoughtful when consuming, which might be a difficult task for some. This part is absolutely key to helping you become a better overall taster, regardless of the application.

Building a mental archive of these flavor experiences will help you to develop a frame of reference for tasting coffees or foods in the future and will help you be able to identify these unique flavors more vividly.

Practice, Practice, Practice

No one becomes an Olympic athlete, artist, or doctor in a single day. It requires a lot of time and dedication to delve into a subject matter and become good at it. In the case of tasting, you’ve got it pretty easy, compared to the few examples above. Other than simply being aware of what I eat and drink every day, I like to practice by working on certain flavor families one at a time so that I don’t overwhelm myself. Go to the store and buy a whole bunch of citrus, like limes, lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruits. Taste and smell them side by side. How are they similar to each other? How do they differ? What experience or memory does each one remind you of? Then next time, buy all kinds of berries, like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Do the same exercise. How are they similar? How do they differ? What memory do they remind you of?

Try this same technique for:

Chocolate – milk chocolate, baker’s, semi-sweet, dark, cocoa powderNuts – almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnutsBaking Spices – nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star aniseSugars – caramel, butterscotch, toffee, honey, brown sugar, molassesApples – Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, FujiGrapes – white, green, red, concordStone Fruit – cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricotsDried Fruit – golden raisins, raisins, dates, prunes, dried cranberriesTropical Fruit – pineapple, passion fruit, mango, papaya, coconutMelons – cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelonHerbs – oregano, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, mint, dill, sageVegetables – beets, mushrooms, peppers, squash

This isn’t a comprehensive list of every flavor found in coffee, just a handful. Each flavor family is quite large and can be easily overwhelming. I recommend starting simple and go with a few items rather than all of them at the beginning. Maybe just taste one type of apple, one type of grape, and a lemon next to each other, and compare and contrast the acidity and sweetness of each. Light and medium roasted coffees often have a vibrant acidity with lots of varying acids and sugars that can taste like any number of fruits, so this will help build a context for you to consider when tasting these coffees.

I also like to think about memories and experiences that these flavor and aromatic sensations recall, because we all have memories tied to food or smells. These can be quite powerful and when tasting coffee, it can be much easier to think about a memory that it reminds you of, and figure out what you are tasting from there, rather than trying to deduce the flavor alone.

Lastly, coffee and food pairings can be really enlightening as well. Look at your coffee package and buy the foods that are listed as the flavor notes, tasting them alongside the coffee think about the flavor pairing. Do the flavors in the coffee become more intense? Can you pick up the note or are other flavors accentuated instead? This can be really helpful to learn what each flavor translates to as a coffee flavor.

Context is Everything

Remember that identifying sensory experiences of taste and smell depends entirely upon context. Learning to taste and identify different flavor attributes in coffee is quite difficult when tasting one coffee without any reference. This is why a mental catalog of different flavor experiences is helpful to determine exactly what it is you are tasting. However, until you have built up your personal memory of these flavors and aromas, it’s quite helpful to give yourself an immediate context to compare and contrast with.

In addition to tasting various flavor families or pairing food with coffees, I recommend tasting multiple coffees side by side, which gives you a context, and helps give your sense of taste a frame of reference for what different origins or processing methods might taste like. Tasting them one at a time, they might taste, well… like coffee. Introduce a few more coffees and instantly one might taste more chocolaty, while another one suddenly tastes more tart or acidic and the other tastes earthy. Tasting a few coffees side by side is one of the best ways to develop a sense of what flavor profiles you enjoy in coffee, and even what it means for a coffee to have notes of fruit or caramel or nuts. Often times, coffee shops will offer free public tastings or cuppings and these are great opportunities to taste different coffees side by side and further educate your palate.


Coffee Tasting Resources

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) just released the first update to the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel for the first time since it was released 21 years ago. This new wheel was a multi-industry collaboration with input, research and design from a multitude of sources doing truly amazing work. If you want to learn the basics of how to use this incredible tool to help develop your palate, I recommend you start here for a simple and approachable guide. You can read all about how these organizations and universities worked together to create it here. For the seriously science-minded, you can learn about the intensive research from some incredible folks at UC Davis here. If you are a coffee professional or just want to be able to understand the wheel better and use it appropriately, the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon is the foundation of the new wheel and quite useful for understanding coffee sensory experiences at a deeper level.

“It just tastes like coffee”

Remember that these flavors rarely jump out at you right away and that coffees generally still taste mostly like coffee (whether your local baristas admit it or not). The ultimate goal should be to develop a vocabulary that helps you to relate what you are tasting and effectively communicate it to others. The notes on the label or the bag aren’t always the only flavors found in each coffee and there certainly won’t be a test on it. It’s important to remember that different flavors often come across in varying levels of intensity, so don’t be discouraged if you easily pick up notes of chocolate or citrus, but have a hard time finding the notes of jasmine or flowers in the aroma.

How you grind and brew a coffee, how fresh the coffee is, and even the water you brew with can affect how a coffee might might taste, and it might be quite different than what someone else with the same coffee might experience. Try not to take it too seriously and remember that it’s all about making your coffee enjoying experience that much better.

Soon enough, you’ll be a coffee tasting master and you’ll want to host a coffee tasting party for your friends or tell your local roaster that what they taste as “home made cherry cola” actually just tastes like strawberries to you.

Seth Mills

Seth is a husband, dad, and self-proclaimed coffee nerd with a decade's worth of experience in the coffee industry. He has a penchant for mixing delicious cocktails and cooking exceptional food when not brewing the newest coffees from one of our awesome roaster partners. While he sometimes likes to get technical, making coffee brewing easier and more approachable is his main aspiration.

Coffee Terms - Cupping and Tasting


Acidity, used as a coffee term, refers to bright, tangy, fruity, or wine-like flavor characteristics found in many high grown Arabica coffees. Coffee with high acidity is described as acidy, which has nothing to do with amount of acid, or pH. Coffee actually has a relatively neutral pH of between 5 and 6. When green coffee is stored for more than a year it will have a perceptible loss of flavor and acidity. Also, acidity is reduced as coffee is roasted darker.  


A harsh sour taste. An acrid coffee can be described as tart, sharp, or acerbic.  


The taste of brewed coffee vapors released after swallowing. Also called "finish", aftertastes can be chocolatey, burnt, spicy, tobaccoy, tangy, etc.  


The taste term "alkaline" describes a dry taste sensation mostly at the back of the tongue. While somewhat bitter, an alkaline taste is not necessarily disagreeable and is characteristic of many dark roasts and some Indonesian coffees.  


Coffee aroma is the fragrance of brewed coffee and is closely related to coffee flavor. Without our sense of smell, flavor would be limited to the tongue senses of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Many nuances of a coffee are reflected in the smell, or "the nose". Subtle floral notes, for example, are experienced most clearly in the aroma, particularly at the moment when the crust is broken during the traditional cupping process. Typical coffee aromas include floral, winey, chocolatey, spicy, tobaccoy, earthy, and fruity. Coffee aroma is also experienced after drinking the coffee when vapors drift upward into the nasal passage. This "retro nasal" aroma is responsible for much of a coffees aftertaste. A coffee's aroma is highest shortly after roasting and then declines rapidly. Coffee freshness, including aroma, can be maintained for months if placed in proper storage immediately after roasting.  


Coffee odor similar to that of an ashtray or fireplace. An "Ashy" aroma indicates a dark roast, and is not necessarily a negative attribute. Ashy coffees generally have a carbony flavor.  


Drawing coffee brew into the mouth by vigorous suction to spray it evenly across the tongue releasing vapors. Aspiration helps cuppers attain a better sensory evaluation of a coffees nuances.  


A dry, sour, salty, and generally disagreeable sensation detected mostly at the sides of the tongue.  


A taste characteristic of coffee stored too long in burlap (jute) bags, causing the coffee beans to acquire a straw-like coffee bag flavor. Also used to describe light roasted coffee with mildewy qualities.  


Flat, dull, and uninteresting coffee. A baked flavor may be caused by roasting too slowly. Coffee roasted in a drum roaster for much more than about 17 minutes will likely be burnt or have a baked flavor.  


A balanced coffee may be complex, but does not have any overwhelming flavor or aroma characteristics. For example, Yemen Mocha is typically bold and flavorful, but is also well balanced. In contrast, Kenya AA, generally has a dominating wine-like fruity flavor. A well balanced coffee has flavors that can be sensed evenly across the tongue. Blending several different coffees together, if done correctly, can create a flavorful and balanced coffee. Balance, however, is not necessarily a positive taste attribute, since some people prefer coffees with particularly strong flavor distinctions.  


A harsh, generally unpleasant taste detected mostly in the back of the tongue. Bitterness is characteristic of over-extracted, defective, or extra dark roasted coffees.   


The physical mouth feel and texture of a coffee. Full bodied coffees have a strong, creamy, and pleasant, mouth feel. A coffees body (light, medium, or full) is its thickness due to the amount of dissolved and suspended solids and oils extracted from the coffee grounds, and may range from thin and watery to thick and creamy.  


The aroma of freshly ground coffee.  


A bread-like, or grain-like, aroma. Insufficiently roasted, sour tasting, coffee will often have a bready aroma. Bready coffees may also be described as "green" or "beany".  


Coffees with a pleasant, almost tangy, flavor. Bright coffees may also be described as having a wine like acidity.   


A salty taste often caused by continuously heating coffee after brewing is complete. Brewed coffee that sits on a burner overnight is likely to taste briny.  


A flavor and aroma characteristic of candy or syrup in which sugars have oxidized and become caramelized. Coffee beans contain sugars which caramelize during roasting and, if not burned, may be detected as caramelly notes in the cup.  


The flavor and aroma characteristic of burnt food, or burnt wood. Carbony flavors and aromas are often used as an indication of roast degree when cupping darker roasted coffees. Also called "burnt" or "smoky".  


An herb used as a coffee substitute and to flavor coffee. Chicory, or Cichorium Intybus, has been used as a coffee additive for centuries, both to enhance flavor of coffee and to stretch coffee supplies. In New Orleans, Louisiana, many have developed a preference for chicory coffee.  


The taste or aroma of chocolate. Coffees rarely have a very strong chocolatey flavor or aroma, but some Central American and Yemeni coffees have a distinct chocolatey aroma and a slightly bitter-sweet chocolatey taste.  


The aroma and taste of ripe citrus fruit. Citrus notes are often found in coffee, which is not surprising considering the fact that coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherries. Coffees with flavor characteristics of unripe citrus are described as "sour".  


Flavorful, but without any pungent or unusual flavors.  


The array of flavors and flavor shifts experienced when smelling and tasting a coffee. While not necessarily a positive attribute, complexity can sometimes be gained by blending one coffee with another or by blending a dark roast with a light roast. Some excellent single origin coffees are by themselves both complex and balanced, but agreeable complex flavors are most often achieved by blending two or more complimentary single origin coffees.  


The layer of saturated coffee grounds that floats to the surface when cupping (tasting) coffee. As part of the traditional coffee cupping method, called "breaking the crust", the grounds are agitated to release trapped vapors allowing the cupper note the coffees unique characteristics. The crust is then scooped out with a spoon before tasting the brewed coffee.  


The aroma characteristic of fresh earth, wet soil, or raw potatoes. While not necessarily negative characteristic, earthiness may be caused by molds during the processing of harvested coffee cherries. Earthy notes, for example, are commonly found in semi-dry processed coffees from Indonesia.  


A sour and oniony taste characteristic of over-fermented coffee. After de-pulping coffee cherries, which removes the skin and some attached mucilage (pulp), the separated beans will still have a significant amount of pulp attached. The remaining pulp is often loosened by fermentation, allowing it to be washed away prior to drying. If fermentation is not stopped as soon as the remaining parchment (husk) is no longer slimy, and has a rough texture, the coffee may acquire a ferment flavor.  


Lacking flavor and aroma.  


The scent of flowers including honeysuckle, jasmine, dandelion and nettles. Mildly floral aromas are found in some coffees and are generally perceived along with fruity or herbal notes.  


The aroma and taste of fruit. Many coffees have fruity notes, which is not surprising considering that coffee beans are seeds of a fruit (coffee cherries). A coffees acidity, or wine-like brightness, is often related to fruit, or citrus. Professional cuppers are careful to not use the term "fruity" when describing the aroma of unripe, or over-ripe, fruit.  


Aroma associated with freshly mowed green grass, herbs, green foliage, green beans, and unripe fruit. A grassy aroma, also called green, herby, or herbal, is characteristic of sour tasting under-roasted coffee beans and under-dried or water damaged coffee beans.  


Pungent and disagreeable, such as a low quality bitter Robusta.  


An aroma associated with freshly mowed lawn, green grass, herbs, green foliage, green beans, and unripe fruit. Herbal characteristics are typical of coffees not fully dried to the usual 10% to 12% moisture content during processing. An herbal aroma is also called green, grassy, or herby.   


The smell or taste of hide (leather). Hidey notes, for example, may be found in some east African coffees.  

Instant taste

A taste characteristic of freeze dried instant coffee. Many find the taste of instant coffee objectionable. Ironically, instant coffee is commonly served in Colombia and Brazil, both large volume coffee exporters.  


The aroma of malt. Often used together with Cereal and Toast-like to include the aroma of cereal, malt, and toast. "Cereal", "Malty", and "Toast-like" describe grain-like aromas and flavors of roasted grain (including roasted corn, barley, or wheat), malt extract, freshly baked bread, or toast.  


The smell of medicine, or iodine. A medicinal flavor with notes of iodine which can result from cherries drying while still on the coffee plant. Medicinal flavors cannot be hidden well by blending.  


Balanced and mild, without strong tastes or aftertaste. Medium roasted, low grown (less than 4000 feet) Arabicas, for example, generally have a mellow flavor.  


Neutral coffees do not have a predominant taste sensation, but may still have a pungency felt by the tongue and are often used in blending. Coffees from Brazil and Colombia, for example, commonly have a neutral flavor.  


The aroma and taste characteristic of a coffee sensed by the nose, especially when exhaling coffee vapors after swallowing.  


The aroma and flavor characteristic of fresh nuts. Coffee cuppers are careful to avoid using the term "nutty" when describing coffee with taste or aroma characteristics of rancid nuts or bitter almonds. Coffees from South America commonly have a nutty flavor.  


Flavor characteristic of onions, and often associated with the use stagnant water when processing coffee by the wet method. Oniony characteristics are often avoided by recycling the pulping water during processing.  


A taste characteristic of coffee stored in paper bags or prepared using low quality filter paper.  

Past Crop

Coffee from a previous years harvest. Past crop, old crop, old, or oldish are also used as a taste terms to describe coffees stored for more than a year. Past crop coffees tend to have a woody, strawy, or hay-like flavor and less acidity.  


An unpleasant bitter taste similar to fresh green peas.   

Primary tastes

Professional coffee cuppers may describe flavors detected by the tongue (primary tastes), and flavors detected through the nose (secondary tastes). Primary tastes are salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Taste buds are located on our tongues, and while many subtle tastes can be recognized, there are only four distinct tastes (salty, sweet, sour, and bitter). Each taste bud contains between 50 and 100 taste cells, and each taste cell has receptors. While receptors are capable of recognizing all tastes, some tend to recognize sour foods and are usually located around the sides of the tongue. Sweet and salty foods are usually tasted best near the end of the tongue. Bitter foods are usually tasted at the back of the tongue. The middle of the tongue usually has no taste buds.  


A peanut-like flavor that results from processing unripe or underdeveloped coffee beans.  


The terms "rancid" and "rotten" are used to describe characteristics of decomposing coffee. Professional coffee cuppers are careful to not describe a strong and unpleasant aroma as "rancid", if there are no other signs of deterioration.  


The aroma and flavor characteristic of hot tires or rubber bands. A rubbery characteristic, while not always negative, is highly recognizable in some coffees, especially fresh Robustas.   


Roasted coffee with burn marks caused by inadequate tumbling or by roasting too hot. Also called "tipped" or "charred". Scorched beans may look completely roasted, but are likely to have soury and bready flavors.  


A taste characteristic of balanced coffee without any pronounced tastes or aftertastes. Also called round, rounded or soft.  


An excessively sharp, biting and unpleasant flavor (such as vinegar or acetic acid). Sour or soury flavors are sometimes associated with the aroma of fermented coffee. A sour taste can be caused by overripe or already fermenting cherries, or by improper fermentation where yeasts and alcohol form vinegar-like acids To avoid this defect, coffee still in its parchment (husk) is washed immediately after fermentation when the parchment coffee is no longer slimy and has a rough texture. Soury flavors are often confused with acidity, which is the slightly tangy sensation associated with bright coffee flavors.  


The aroma of sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. The term "spicy" when describing coffee does not include the aroma of savory spices such as pepper, oregano, and curry.  


An unexpected off-flavor not clearly defined by usual taste categories. Too much pulp in fermenting parchment, for example, will produce tainted coffee.  


The aroma and flavor of fresh tobacco in brewed coffee. A tobacco-like taste is not necessarily disagreeable and is found in various specialty coffees throughout the world. A tobaccoy taste or aroma should not be confused with characteristics of burnt tobacco (ash).  


The combined sensation of smell, taste ,and mouth feel experienced when drinking wine. A winey taste is generally perceived along with acidy and fruity notes. Often used incorrectly to describe a soury or over-fermented flavor.  


A taste characteristic of old coffee. Woody coffee has a smell of dry wood, an oak barrel, dead wood, or cardboard. This defect results when beans are improperly stored for an extended period of time. Coffees stored at low altitudes in high temperatures and humidity (as in many ports of shipment) tend to deteriorate quickly and become woody. All coffees can become woody if stored long enough.

Seven Tasty Coffee Drinks Without The Coffee Taste

While most people enjoy eating, fewer of us enjoy cooking.

One of the major challenges that came along with moving off campus and relinquishing my meal plan was trying to feed myself "real" food. Trying to find quick, simple recipes that didn't require 20 ingredients and 10 spices I'd never use for anything but one dish was time-consuming.

This was the main reason I decided to stick to the basics and postpone exploring the culinary arts until a later date.

Here's a list of 10 tried-and-true food items college students who struggle to throw meals together (or just hate cooking) should always keep on hand.

1. Eggs (or egg whites)

There are so many options here -- omelets, poached, scrambled, boiled, etc. They can be eaten as a meal, paired with salads or burgers, and are also needed for most baked goods. Unless you have an allergy or dietary restriction, they're a must.

2. Bananas

Eat them plain or throw them in a smoothie. Once again, the options are limitless. My personal favorite is throwing a frozen banana into the blender and stirring in almond butter or adding a few strawberries for banana "ice cream."

3. Oatmeal

OK. This may not be popular, especially for those of us with texture issues, but oatmeal is worth a try. It's so cheap, easy, and filling. If you can't handle hot oatmeal, try one of the many overnight oat recipes plastered all over Pinterest -- so easy and nutritious.

P.S. You can make a healthy pancake alternative (like the ones above) by combining ingredients one-three on this list.

4. Nut butter

Peanut, almond, cashew butter -- give them all a try. They're delicious and nutritious in moderation. These are also a great way to spice up overnight oats or drizzle on top of the banana-oatmeal pancakes mentioned above.

5. Pasta

If you can boil water and open a jar of Ragu, you can feed yourself. (Try whole wheat varieties for a more nutritious option.)

6. Rice (or quinoa)

This follows the same idea as pasta. Boil some water and voila! You can also add these to wraps with vegetables and/or meat for a homemade burrito, or make your own quinoa bowl by combining all your favorite fresh ingredients.

7. Beans

Black beans are my personal favorite. I like to combine a can of beans with one can of corn, a can of Ro*Tel tomatoes, one cup of cooked quinoa, and an avocado. Stir in some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and store in the fridge for an easy lunch-on-the-go.

8. Lean meat

Buy a pack of pre-cut chicken, fish, or turkey and freeze individual servings in Ziploc bags. Let the individual serving thaw in the fridge while you're in class during the day, and come home to an easy dinner option.

9. Spinach

Make a salad, add to an omelet, cook and serve as a side. This is, by far, my favorite green vegetable to keep on hand.

10. Potatoes

It doesn't get any more diverse than the potato. Pop one in the microwave, throw thin slices under the broiler for homemade fries, or boil and mash. Don't forget to venture out and try some different varieties. Learning to work the potato is the only reason I made it through Whole30.

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