TASTE | Introduction + How to Properly Smell Coffee

TASTE | Introduction + How to Properly Smell Coffee

You see, the first step to enjoying coffee is actually knowing what you are actually tasting. For example: you can be served the most expensive wine or beef, but you would never know the value of it if you were never exposed to other types of wine or beef.


For the most part of my life, my perception of coffee was based on what I was exposed to. Back then, I had only choices of $0.50 from a local coffee house, and $5.00 which was Starbucks for me. I had honestly enjoyed the $0.50 more than I did Starbucks because it had a stronger aroma.  
There were cafes (I didn’t know it was speciality coffee back then), they were priced within $3.00 - $4.00, but they didn’t taste much different than Starbucks honestly.


It wasn’t until I tasted my first cup of coffee in Melbourne, it blew my mind, and I just started exploring from there. Before I digress further, taste! Knowing what you taste! And just keep tasting more! The key word is here is “palate”, you have to taste to educate your tongue what different things taste like.


Technically speaking, it’s “the roof of the mouth, separating the cavities of the nose and the mouth in vertebrates”. But another description is: A person’s appreciation of taste and flavor, especially when sophisticated and discriminating.


At the end of this article, I hope it gives you an idea, or an ability to taste the differences between different roasts, origins, and flavors of coffee. When you have a well-exercised palate, you can detect even the smallest hint of flavor and body in each cup of coffee. This greatly enhances the flavors that you experience.


As you continue down the rabbit hole of coffee tasting, you would develop your own sophisticated palate that will rival the “experts.” Coffee experts don’t have special spoons or fancy brewers, they simply have more opportunities for comparative tasting.


There are some areas that contributes to tasting, and we will dive into some of these key areas:

1. How to Properly Smell Coffee

2. The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

3. An Epic Glossary of Coffee Tasting Terms


How to Properly Small Coffee


Did you know that our smell greatly impacts our sense of taste. The taste of what you eat or drink is typically predetermined what the nose smells first. For example, you would know how sweet your milkshake would taste by just smelling it. So, before you begin to do your taste testing, be sure your nose is free and clear, and you can breathe and smell everything around you easily.


Before you can learn to detect the different aromas associated with coffee, you need to know how to categorize them. The smells of coffee can be divided into three main categories:



    The coffee bean that is roasted is actually the seed of a fruit, similar to a cherry. Because of this, many coffees include a floral or more fruit-like aroma to them. These aromas are described as enzymatic properties that may remind you of the original plant life state that the coffee bean came from. 
    These aromas can vary greatly, from berry-like to citrus, and even oniony and melony. For example, many coffees from Latin America have a sweeter berry aroma to them, while coffees from Kenya smell a little tart.



      This category refers to a chemical reaction that occurs when amino acids and sugars are exposed to heat. These aromas will often remind you of toasted nuts or maybe even cocoa. Some of these smells may even fool you into thinking there are pastries being baked. 
      Different coffees produce different levels of sugar browning, but more than likely you will be able to detect it.



      During the coffee roasting, the fibrous bean material is literally burned in the roaster. This brings its own unique aromas that will remind you of wood or maybe pipe tobacco. Some coffees even give off a clove or leather smell. These aromas are referred to dry distillation as the roasting process is what creates these unique scents.


      Dry distillation scents become even stronger when the beans are from a darker roast. These roasts take longer than lighter roasts meaning there is more time for these scents to be burned into the beans. Many find these rather unpleasant and consider them a burnt smell. But try not to look at that way and associate it with pleasant aromas in your life. 

      Reading next

      Single Origin Coffees | Introduction
      TASTE | The Coffee Taste Wheel