Coffee has intricate, complex flavors, so maintaining proper palate-cleansing protocol is crucial for a successful tasting. Let’s dive into how to cleanse your palate for coffee tasting. The best thing to cleanse the pallet is the best thing for cleansing the body, both inside and out – Water. Seltzer, carbonated or sparkling water will further help break down the residual oils left in the mouth from the coffee tasting.
As refreshing as iced water is to drink, taking big gulps of cold water is not recommended. The cold shock can cause muscle cramps and tightens the lining of the intestines. This inhibits nutritional absorption.
Coldwater has a similar effect on the mouth, tightening the skin of the tongue. This tightening reduces the effective surface area of the taste buds. It has a negative impact on your ability to taste. Lemon hinted water would have a similar effect. It is best to serve your palate-cleansing water without garnish at room temperature.
Tips on How to Cleanse Your Palate for Coffee Tasting
Firstly forget everything you think you know about coffee. Those who know everything don’t learn anything.
Before arriving at the coffee tasting venue, remember you are on a mission, and you need equipment. Bring a pen and pad with you to take notes, or you can take notes on your phone. A flavor wheel or chart is a useful tool to help you pin down the individual subtleties that are identified by your tongue.
Eat something light beforehand, but stay away from strong flavors like garlic and raw onion. Fragments of peppercorns or chili seeds can get stuck in your teeth and will completely ruin the experience. While it might be nice to stop for lunch on the way to a tasting, depending on the time, it’s best to wait until afterward to eat a full meal.
Author Note: Drinking lots of coffee on an empty stomach can lead to digestive discomfort. You are there to taste the coffee, not drink it – don’t feel any obligation to finish every cup. Bananas are great to settle empty stomachs and are often made available at the intermission of a cupping.
Wait at least 30 minutes after a light meal, or an hour for something more substantial, between eating and tasting. It is important to allow your food to settle. Gas can spoil the flavor of a coffee bean, just as easily as it can disrupt an expert’s description of it!
Smokers should abstain from lighting up for at least 15 minutes. Ideally, 30 – 45 minutes, or as much as your addiction allows, before attending a tasting event. Whatever you do, don’t have a quick smoke in the parking lot before you go in.
The strong flavor of tobacco smoke has a great impact on your ability to detect the more subtle taste of the beans as well as the smokey aromas from different roasting techniques. Consider those around you too. If you have just come from smoking a cigarette, the smell will also impact others’ tasting ability who have come to enjoy the event.
Recent research has shown that your nose is actually far more reliable than was previously suspected. Leslie Vosshall, an olfaction specialist at Rockefeller University, has conducted studies that suggest humans are capable of differentiating over 1 trillion different smells.
How to Taste your Coffee like a Pro
Remember we are tasting coffee, pure and unadulterated – leave cream and sugar outside. If you have the guts to ask for a decaf, salted caramel, mint chocolate, rice milk frappuccino with a sprinkle of cinnamon… expect to be frowned upon.
First, give the brew a quick stir to release the aroma, then lean over your cup and inhale deeply through your nose. Do this in 2 or 3 stages and take a half-second between each sniff to figure which direction the flavor is taking you.
The olfactory sense is the one most closely linked to memory. If the smell sparks a feeling of nostalgia, take a moment to explore the memory and honor your emotional reaction.
Top Tip: Have another deep inhale of the aromas to get you back on track for analysis and make a quick note. If necessary, include a personal note of any specific emotions or memories.
Coffee can be surprising. The aromas can lead you to believe that you will taste one thing, and then what you get is something else altogether. These contrasts between flavor and aroma can be quite fun in a guessing game.
Next, take a small quick sip, allow the initial flavor to penetrate the lingering aroma, and quickly swallow. Take a second to analyze the flavor on the tongue before exhaling to unlock the aftertaste.
Take Notes of the Flavor
Make a note of acidity, weight, flavor, and the intensity of the roast.
Next, take a bigger slurp and allow the air almost to atomize the coffee as it passes your lips. It doesn’t make a very ladylike sound, but it spreads the coffee finely all over the inside of your mouth, allowing you to taste all that rich, dark complexity of flavor.
The tongue detects different flavors in different areas, so it is important to get it fully coated in coffee to define the more subtle tones successfully.
Focus this time on defining the flavors, sweetness, spice, hints, and aftertaste.
One of the beauties of coffee tasting is that there is no “right” answer. Something that tastes like citrus to you may taste earthy to your wife and woody to someone else.
Just like vision, taste is subjective. Colors can smell like different textures for different people!
A Coffee tasting event will usually offer a number of coffee varieties from around the world, with different roasting techniques and levels of flavor intensity. Maybe different ways of preparing a cup of Joe, and even *cringe*, what flavor syrups best compliment your soy latte.
Cupping is the professional art of coffee tasting, and the approach to preparing the coffee is far more scientific. The roasted beans are precisely weighed or measured before grinding to the specific coarseness required for each brew. The temperature of the water is monitored, and the brewing is timed with almost Olympic accuracy.
A Cupping event will often choose a subject for discussion and go into great detail analyzing various aspects. Studying flavor profiles from identical species grown on different farms in the same region. Even taking into account the nutritional composition of the soil and the prevailing direction of a hillside.
Author Note: A professional cupping may concentrate on a variety of roasting machines, and the different flavor profiles each impart during the roasting of a particular bean. Roasting times will be rigorously monitored, as will the “degassing” period that follows the roast.
Degassing or Off-gassing
When coffee beans are roasted, there are gases that build up inside, primarily carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide takes time to fully escape from the bean, usually just a few days. But, some sommeliers insist on waiting as much as two weeks before packaging and sealing their product for the market.
It is important to allow the CO2 to disperse because when the ground coffee has water poured over it, the CO2 forms tiny bubbles that cling to the surface of the ground coffee. These microscopic bubbles reduce the surface area of the ground coffee and limit the amount of flavor that is extracted by the hot water.
Ground coffee beans release the CO2 much more quickly but introduces another problem – oxidation.
Oxidation and Stale Coffee
Even instant coffee drinkers will notice that the fresh smell when you first break the seal quickly loses the intensity of its intoxicating aroma within just 2 or 3 days. The reason for this is oxidation.
As soon as a roasted coffee bean touches the air, the flavor begins to degrade as oxygen attacks the chemicals that provide the distinctive taste. The more contact the air has with the coffee, the faster the coffee loses its flavor intensity.
The reason whole coffee beans that have been freshly ground taste superior to pre-ground coffee of the same brand is due to the surface area. Ground coffee has a much larger surface area than whole beans. Very finely ground coffee can have as much as 10,000 times the surface area of whole beans.
What are the Benefits of Grinding Your Own Coffee?
Using the previous example, we can theorize that ground coffee goes stale 10,000 times faster than whole beans, but it is not just the flavor that suffers.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction between oxygen and another element, resulting in the element trapping an oxygen molecule. The reaction can also leave an unpaired electron behind. When this happens in the body, the instability of an unpaired electron can produce “free radicals” that are said to be partially responsible for the aging process.
Part of the benefit of coffee is its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are a type of chemical that will oxidize when coming into contact with oxygen. The reaction is said to be inert as the freed electron remains stable. Antioxidants sacrifice themselves to inhibit the oxidation process in other nearby chemicals, reducing the production of negative free radicals.
The more stale coffee gets, the more of these antioxidants have become oxidized by the air, thereby losing the health benefit that they would have accomplished inside the body. We hope you enjoyed this article on how to cleanse your palate for coffee tasting.
Stay caffeinated friends!