The experience of drinking a fine cup of coffee can be likened to the experience of drinking a fine glass of wine – there’s a noticeable difference between high quality and poor quality in both cases.
Coffee, much like wine, is a visceral beverage. When you taste a good cup of coffee, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, your mouth starts to grin, and for a moment, you can do no wrong; you are a very happy person.
Conversely, drinking a bad cup of coffee causes the opposite effects. In order to protect your tastes bud’s interest, below you will find tips on how to evaluate coffee bean quality. You’ll notice that coffee bean quality is determined by examining a few factors: body, aroma, flavour, and aftertaste.
The body of the coffee is best explained by the tongue and taste buds. While it is true that every beverage is a liquid, different liquids, much like people, have a different body!
The most obvious example I can give you is comparing a glass of water, a milkshake and a can of soda. From a distance they are all the same: a beverage in a cup. However, as we’ll see, the bodies of these three beverages are completely different.
The “body” of water is very light and free flowing, the “body” of a milkshake is very thick and very creamy, and the “body” of soda is somewhere in the middle – it’s not as light as water and not as thick as a milkshake. Evaluating the body of quality coffee requires acute observation.
High quality coffee(beans) feels rich in your mouth – it’s not watered down and it’s not syrupy. You can taste the full flavours, and the coffee feels like it belongs on your tongue. With time and observation you’ll be able to evaluate the body of the coffee.
Aroma is the smell that coffee emits. The best way to explain high quality aroma is to think of the cartoons of yesteryear. Do you remember in the old cartoons when a fresh pie is set down to cool on the windowsill and the aroma of the pie lifted a hungry, unsuspecting character into the air and carried them to the pie?
That sensation is similar to smelling the aroma of high quality coffee and high quality coffee beans. High quality coffee beans smell absolutely wonderful. These are the beans that smell so good that the top of your mouth can physically taste the smell. Typically coffee beans give off aromas that can be described at nutty, fruity, spicy, chocolaty and flowery.
Make no mistake, much like how you can tell if a person smells good or bad, you’ll be able to tell if the coffee beans are good by using your nose.
The flavour is where any person can tell a good coffee bean from a bad coffee bean. This is rather straightforward but a good coffee bean produces good flavours, bad coffee beans produce bad flavours.
When you taste good coffee, your body immediately knows it. For starters, you’ll likely remark to yourself that you’re drinking a good cup of coffee and you’ll be able to taste the full flavour of the bean – aromas and all. The flavour will taste balanced and you will know that it tastes good.
Conversely, when you drink a bad cup of coffee, you’ll taste that the beans may have been burnt, moldy or they simple don’t retain much flavour.
Don’t over think it, you know the difference between a good cup of coffee and a bad cup of mud.
Sometimes you take a sip of coffee and the coffee “stays” in your mouth and gives your taste buds a big hug. Other times you drink a sip of coffee and the bad coffee taste stays in your mouth and hold your taste buds hostage.
Coffee beans of poor quality will leave an aftertaste that “burns” in your mouth. Usually the bad coffee beans tend to be a bit more acidic and you can taste the bad coffee bean flavour in the back of your mouth.
High quality coffee beans tend to have more of a sweet aftertaste, and generally leave you wanting more.
Evaluating coffee beans is truly a matter of perception and people tend to over analyze the taste. A good rule thumb you can use is this: if the beans look good, smell good, and taste good; you probably have a good cup of coffee. If the coffee beans look off, smell off and taste off, the coffee is usually going to be bad. You’ll be able to tell the difference, have confidence in yourself.