When tasting coffee, there are several key elements to consider that shape the overall experience and understanding those elements (listed below) can enhance your appreciation of coffee as well as help guide you in finding the brews you enjoy most.

The Sweetness:

One of the first things you can easily detect when tasting any new coffee, or one you’ve been drinking for years, is the sweet, sugary quality of your coffee. The sweetness level could perhaps remind you of white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, or even candy. Lighter roasts tend to have sweeter notes than darker roasts.

The Acidity:

Another first impression of a coffee comes down to its acidity which can be polarizing depending on your tastes and sometimes complex to describe. When looking for acidity, it should be a pleasant taste best described as “bright”, “crisp”, or “tart”. The acidity might remind you of something tart like lemon or tangy like yogurt.

The Body:

Describing the body of a coffee might sound difficult, but it really is about the texture of the coffee - specifically the weight or thickness of it. Similar to beer, coffee can vary greatly by how light and watery to how thick and heavy it feels. You might enjoy some textures more than others depending on the time of year and knowing what body you prefer might help you find other similarly enjoyable coffees or even more preferable brewing methods.

The Flavor:

While the sweetness, acidity, and body of a coffee are all part of how a coffee tastes, there are specific flavor profiles you can try to detect. Similar to wine, some might have fruity or floral notes while others could remind you of various spices, chocolate, or nuts. Some are subtle and some are vibrant. At the end of the day, go with what you enjoy.

The Finish:

This refers to the aftertaste of a coffee as well as how long those tastes linger. After consuming, do you still detect a certain sweetness, acidity, body, and/or flavor? For how long and does it remain pleasant? Coffees with tastes that rapidly disappear have a “quick finish” while those that linger are described as having a “long finish”. Aftertastes that are overly earthy and bitter can be described as a “dirty cup” while crisp, pleasant flavors are a “clean cup”.