The main aspects of tasting coffee are body, acidity, and overall taste. All three of these aspects will be enhanced the better the coffee is brewed, but each can play their own role in any type of brewing device.
Acidity is (surprise) from the acids that naturally occur in a coffee bean. These acids change with the roasting process and can be individual to each roast. As my friends at Driftaway Coffe say, “As green beans undergo chemical reactions in the roasting process, the concentrations of specific acids change. Most acids degrade at higher temperatures, but some increase. Generally speaking, the roasting process tries to bring out the best mixture of naturally occurring acids found in a specific coffee, as these are the compounds that give the coffee its unique characteristics.”
The acidity of a cup of coffee can lead to flavors like peaches, apples, or plums (Malic acid) or grape and winey flavors (Tartaric acid). As these acids change based on the roast here’s a good rule of thumb for understanding the types of acidity in most coffees: lighter roasts tend to boast tangy, sharp, wine-like notes while the darker the roast gets the more chocolatey or smokey the beans will be.
Body refers to the way the coffee feels in your mouth. Does it feel think like milk or hot chocolate? Or is it more watery? How does it leave your mouth feeling? In short, it’s the texture of the coffee.
The body of a cup of coffee is created by the unique mix of solubles and insolubles. This is a result of everything from the bean to the roasting process to the brewing method. Although some coffee verities are prone to have more body than others, the most important aspect of maintaining the body within your coffee is the brewing method. If you (or your barista) are doing your job right then the body should naturally compliment the flavors of the coffee.
Taste is the overall flavor of the coffee which is achieved by the acidity and body as well as the coffee varietal, farming processes, sucrose within the bean, and roasting process. Sweetness within a coffee is a result of the amount of sucrose or fructose in the coffee, which tastes like chocolate, fruit, or caramel. This sucrose or fructose comes from the process of removing the coffee bean from the coffee cherry. This will be done in one of three ways: natural process, wash process, or a mixed process. A natural process involves allowing a coffee cherry to dry out and naturally detach itself from the coffee bean inside. This process allows the sugars from the cherry to seep into the bean resulting in a sweeter cup of coffee. A washed process is just the opposite, it uses water to get the bean out of the cherry quickly, highlighting the flavors of the bean itself. And a mixed process will use both processes, natural for the sugars and washed for the efficiency.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to try some coffee! The best way to learn what you like is to taste as much coffee as possible. Like fruitier, sweeter coffee? Start with an East African bean (natural process). Just want a classic cup of coffee like your mom always made? South American coffees, especially Brazil, will give you that (especially when roasted darker). Ready to be a bit adventurous? Try a Geisha or Kona Coffee for some unique flavors. As you try new coffees, take note of their roast, process, and region. All of these will help you to hone in on the exact types of coffees you enjoy.
Ready to expand your coffee experience with Prosper? Try our Colombian coffee which brings together a mellow acidity, medium body, and strong caramel sweetness with a nutty undertone. Or try our Brazilian coffee for a traditional “coffee” tasting coffee. Brazil beans have the most recognizable coffee flavor to most North Americans as they are one of the top coffee suppliers in the world.