Not being able to function properly until you’ve enjoyed your morning cup of coffee is a common theme for many people. What is it exactly about coffee that we love so much? Is it when we get the first whiff of our favourite brew? Is it the familiar taste washing over our tongue that signals the start of the day? Here we’ll take a closer look at some of the sensory perceptions of coffee and see what’s really going on.
First, we’ll look at some of the ways in which we describe coffee to get a better understanding of the experience.
A Coffee’s Body
When we talk about the body of a coffee we are referring to how the coffee feels in the mouth (mouthfeel), the texture. This can be influenced by the coffee’s oiliness, acidity, sweetness, and also the aftertaste. Tasters also discern whether the coffee is grainy or watery.
For the average drinker we might not consciously be aware of many of the nuances of each particular drink, but as we swallow our first mouthful we are usually aware of whether we like it or not. Professional coffee tasters will let it settle on different parts of the tongue and swish it around their mouth to gauge the body before spitting it out.
The body of a coffee is usually described in one of three ways, light, medium, and heavy. While a lighter body is usually associated with coffee beans grown at lower altitudes, the brewing method can also affect the body. Brewing coffee using a paper filter can remove some of a coffee’s oiliness and graininess, giving it a lighter body.
A medium bodied coffee sits in the middle. If either of the other two are too extreme for your taste buds, then a medium bodied coffee will offer a good compromise as a daily drinker.
A heavy-bodied coffee usually has higher amounts of fat, protein and fibre. It’s stated as a positive attribute in many cases, but there is no right or wrong, just personal preference. Full-bodied coffees are normally associated with coffee beans grown at higher altitudes and often in shade.
While body is considered an important characteristic of coffee, it really does come down to personal preference. While some will prefer a heavy bodied coffee, others will prefer a more watery and smoother taste.
A Coffee’s Aroma
Aroma is one of the first things we experience about a cup of coffee. It’s also one of the most variable from cup to cup. The aroma of a coffee is normally set during the roasting of the beans.
A beautiful aroma helps us to anticipate a lovely cup of coffee, while a bad aroma is probably going to have the opposite effect. Whether the aroma of a coffee influences how we perceive the taste, and if so to what degree, is often discussed. With psychologists recently stating that the colour of the cup you drink from changes your perception of taste, it’s highly unlikely the aroma wouldn’t have an even bigger impact on our perception.
Whatever your personal preferences are, most would agree the aroma of coffee is an important part of the sensory experience.
‘To me, the smell of fresh made coffee is one of the greatest inventions.’
A Coffee’s Taste
Most of us would presume this is the most important characteristic of any coffee. The taste of a cup of coffee is the result of many factors. While the overriding factor may be the coffee bean itself, the brewing method, brewing time and temperature can all have an effect. In coffee circles, taste and flavour can be two separate things. The taste is the sensation of sweetness, sourness, bitterness, or saltiness experienced solely by the tongue.
A Coffee’s Flavour
Although we would often think flavour and taste are virtually the same, in the coffee world flavour is defined as a combination of both the taste and aroma. A coffee’s flavour is often defined by the brew and extraction process, in fact, these can have a bigger impact on flavour than the beans themselves.
A coffee’s aroma is made up of hundreds of different compounds, but only about 40 of them count for the bulk of the outcome. The most flavoursome part of the coffee bean is the oil, which only accounts for approximately 10% of the bean.
If you want to test this theory and start refining your own senses to the individual characteristics of a coffee, you can always brew the same bean using two different methods and then note the differences between the two. How does the aroma, taste, body, and flavour vary between the two?
A Combined Experience
When we first crawl out of bed a little bleary-eyed not many of us will consider these factors. We just want to get ready for the day ahead, and see our morning coffee as an important part of the routine that gets us bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to face the world.
This begins with the routine of making the coffee, which suddenly becomes well worth it as we get the first whiff of the aroma. This builds an anticipation for the drink to come. It’s not long before we are sipping at our favourite brew and feeling a whole lot better for it. Every sense has been engaged and awoken.
Most coffee beans and brewing methods are going to produce a decent cup of coffee. If they didn’t then they wouldn’t still be around. However, discovering a cup of coffee that’s a great fit for your personal preferences can feel like winning the lottery. Experiment with different beans and brewing methods to refine your experience of coffee. When you get it right it will be worth it.
Get In Touch For Further Advice
You don’t need to be a coffee connoisseur to know what you like. Get in touch with us to discuss how you can enjoy an even better cup. If you’re unsure of anything then remember at CoffeeClick we are coffee lovers too, and we’re always happy to help. Whether you want to know the attributes of a coffee, or the best type of brewing method to suit your preferences.