mike868y Senior Member Joined: 12 Feb 2014 Posts: 5 Location: Baltimore Expertise: Just starting
Posted Wed Feb 12, 2014, 7:05pm Subject: Tips for developing palate/knowledge
I've been getting more and more into coffee brewing and drinking the past 3 years or so. Started with a hand grinder/french press and currently use a caspresso infinity with a french press or bialetti (college student so not a ton of money to spend on gear right now. looking to pick up a gaggia classic with my tax return). I also work at a cafe where we use a rancilio classe 8 and brew ceremony roasters destroyer.
Anyway, I'm looking to further develop my palate/ability to taste the nuances of different coffees. I've been trying various blends in my bialetti and enjoying comparing them. A local coffee shop also offers weekly cuppings so I'm going to start attending those as well. Any other things I could do? Books to read? Roasts to try in the bialetti/french press?
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 2,061 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Thu Feb 13, 2014, 12:55am Subject: Re: Tips for developing palate/knowledge
Welcome to CoffeeGeek!
Cupping coffee or wine and whisky tasting is an aptitude that can be learned. What we call flavor is a complex sensation composed of taste (salty, sweet, bitter, sour), smell (aromas like caramel, fruity, chocolate, etc.) and mouthfeel (hot, oily, watery etc.), but it's mostly your nose that needs to be trained to identify those aromas.
In order to learn wine tasting, for example, you can get vials of the most common aromas found in wine like berries or peach. You start by smelling those until you can identify them. Then you progress to smelling and tasting wine and try to discover those aromas. By then, it's usually fairly easy to identify frequent and predominant aromas like blackberry or tannic acid. It's basically all about activating our nose memory.
For cupping coffee it's basically the same. The coffee taster's flavor wheel can help to name your sensations. Maybe this Beginner's Guide to Cupping can help you as well.
However, taste is highly subjective.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
Ryebread119 Senior Member Joined: 30 Jul 2013 Posts: 21 Location: Maine Expertise: Pro Barista
Espresso: Elektra Sixties Grinder: Mazzer Mini Drip: Chemex
Posted Thu Feb 13, 2014, 6:38am Subject: Re: Tips for developing palate/knowledge
I've found that cooking has helped my cupping. The more spices/dishes/fruits you use, the larger your vocabulary gets. Challenge yourself to try at least one new thing each week. That way, when you cup a Kenya Kirinaga, you can say it's more similar to a Campbells tomato soup as compared with a Progresso tomato soup. Or, determine that a washed Costa Rican coffee tastes more like a Cara Cara orange than it does a Grapefruit. (I think you get the idea)
...And I know it might sound weird, but when you're in a new place, smell everything. I wouldn't have been able to fully describe the aroma of a Vietnamese coffee without having entered a tire shop and smelling a stack of new rubber tires.
Good luck, and enjoy!
Listen to the steam, the sign of a good drink is in it's acoustics.
masonjer Senior Member Joined: 17 Feb 2014 Posts: 15 Location: United States Expertise: Pro Roaster
Posted Wed Feb 19, 2014, 11:43am Subject: Re: Tips for developing palate/knowledge
I think it helps to taste as many coffees as possible from as many different countries as possible. Eventually you begin to build a reference for certain flavors. Not sure there is a ton that helps other than constant cupping/tasting. I know a lot of roasters use sensory evaluations with actual fruits/vegetables etc., to build a knowledge of what actual food items taste like and the ability to pick certain flavors out. This flavor wheel is also a tool i use that was just made available by counter culture. Click Here (counterculturecoffee.com)
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