For a novice coffee lover, the name of the variety or country of origin may simply sound like exotic words, but will not immediately be associated with certain tastes. Learning to differentiate coffee flavors, especially in the specialty coffee industry, requires developing your palate and paying attention to different sensory aspects.
Methods to start with include bean temperature, processing methods, and roast level. Understand how these factors affect the overall flavor profile of coffee. Discover the diversity of coffee varieties, origins and processing methods. Attend cuppings, coffee tastings or try different single origin coffees.
Next, you can move on to using a coffee-flavored wheel. These visual aids classify and identify the different flavors of coffee. Use the wheel to adjust your tasting experience and identify specific notes such as fruity, floral, nutty or spicy. When tasting, consciously focus on certain flavors. Pay attention to aroma, acidity, body and finish. Note any distinctive characteristics that appeal to you.
When tasting coffee, keep a tasting journal: write down the definition of coffee, degree of roast, brewing method and your impressions. Pay attention to aromas, flavors and any subtleties you may want to change. This practice helps strengthen your ability to recognize and express different tastes.
Do a side-by-side comparison of different coffees that will help you discern the differences and similarities between the components. Compare coffee from the same region with different processing methods or bean shapes with different roast profiles. You can roast specialty green coffee yourself for experimental purposes. Experiment with brewing methods to see how they affect the flavor. A French press, pour over, espresso or Aeropress can handle different aspects of coffee. This experiment deepens your understanding of which extraction methods suit your taste.
Developing your ability to differentiate coffee flavors is an ongoing process that requires patience and practice. By actively immersing yourself in the world of coffee, experimenting with different beans and brewing methods, and continually refining your palate, you can learn to identify and appreciate the rich characteristics of specialty coffee.