Whether you’ve just embarked upon your coffee journey – or you’re a seasoned pro – you probably have come to the realization when you taste your coffee… It’s complicated.
The coffee you drink comes from a plant, and a number of factors affect the way that plant grows. Roasting adds another level of complexity to how a coffee will taste, and of course there are multiple variables at play when brewing. It can be seriously challenging to wrap your head around all of it, and turn that into “great coffee!”
You took the first step in the coffee journey – buying great coffee. The second step is where we come in – using an awesome grinder.
From there, it’s all about mastery – from mastering your preferred brewing method to learning more and more about extraction and the tools you need to succeed.
Tools like a burr grinder, brewing equipment, and great water are all important to getting the most out of an awesome coffee, but one tool that you may have overlooked is your sense of taste. And that’s too bad, because it may be the most useful tool you have!
The goal in making great coffee is, of course, enjoying a tasty beverage. But your sense of taste (or palate) can do more than just enjoy the end result – it can help you get there faster. Here are a few tips on how to best use your palate to brew better coffee more efficiently.
Taste your coffee!
Sometimes, a brew bed might look “silty” or uneven. Maybe water takes a little too long to draw down. These are sometimes good indicators of brew issues and it’s good to keep them in mind, however they don’t give you the whole story. Coffee has a lot of variables, and one factor won’t necessarily make or break your every-day brew.
Don’t assume that a cup of coffee isn’t great just because it looks a certain way. Taste it and find out for sure! Tasting your coffee might save you a potentially wasted cup.
Close your eyes
If you find that it’s hard to focus on what you’re tasting, it may be due to sensory overload. Music or background noise, food smells wafting in, even looking at things around you can all distract from the sensory experience you’re trying to have. A common trick that coffee pros will use is to close their eyes. This blocks out one of the senses (sight) and allows your sense of taste to take greater focus in your mind.
If you ever have a hard time tasting as intently as you want – try just closing your eyes!
Don’t be afraid to get noisy
Another common tasting tip used in the wider beverage world is to get a little air into a sip by slurping, rather than just sipping. This really helps to open up flavors and give you a more accurate picture of how your coffee tastes. By slurping coffee, you spray it inside your mouth which means coffee hits more taste buds. It also helps encourage “retronasal olfaction” which is just a complicated way of saying “taste.”Slurping might be considered rude at dinner, but when dialing in an awesome brew don’t be afraid to make some noise and slurp away! You might find it makes coffee a little more fun.
Distinguish between concentration and extraction
For those looking to get serious about using the palate to dial in a brew, we suggest taking a more focused approach to what you’re tasting. Specifically, discern between concentration and extraction.
Knowing what each of these tastes like, and how changing them will affect overall flavor, is a powerful tool in brewing the perfect cup. Once you unlock this skill, you can avoid extra trial and error because you’ll have a clearer image of what needs to change in your brew.
In the end, the goal is to taste delicious coffee. There are many tools available to help accomplish this goal, but in the end the most valuable tool is the one you had from the start – your sense of taste.