We usually assess the general taste or flavor of anything we ingest based on our experience with food. This makes perfect sense, when you think about it. For our ancestors of long-ago, beverages were probably a no-brainer. The main source was water. Their main concern revolved around food, and with assessing the taste and safety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and animals they consumed. In nature, sweet equaled energy and desirable; sour or acid often meant poison, avoid!
When it comes to coffee, such terms as “balance” and “body” immediately make sense even for the novice; “acidity,” however, is another story. Lemon and puckered lips generally come to mind. This. For coffee, is far from accurate. Acidity is a good thing for your brew.
Let’s examine the three most misunderstood coffee terms, acidity, balance and body. Re-framing their significance often gives coffee enthusiasts who are not otherwise well-versed in coffee science a renewed appreciation for their favorite brew, and increased interest in trying Coffee Blends or Single Origin Coffees they have not sampled before.
Three words will suffice to clarify this oft-misunderstood coffee attribute. Picture if you will clear, bright, clean. Acidity in coffee is akin to the quality of a good, dry wine. It is utterly satisfying. As you might imagine, coffees from different growing regions or plant varieties will offer different depths of acidity. A high or well-defined acidity is evident when you can distinguish that snappy, bright, wine-like undertone that is the tell-tale of a good coffee. We bet you know exactly what we mean as you read this and bring to mind your favorite beans.
Coffees from different regions have different attributes. These include acidity, aroma and flavor. Tasting coffee (or food for that matter) involves our sense of taste as well as our sense of smell. All the attributes that are perceived through these senses come into play with every sip, and we are quite refined when it comes to perceiving the balance between them. You will recognize a well-balanced coffee in that no single attribute overpowers the others. One may stand out slightly, but you are still able to single out the distinct aroma, taste and acidity. And this is where slowing down with every sip becomes all the more important. In fact, it is pure meditation.
The palate, or roof of you mouth, is the instrument you rely on to assess body. And milk is a good analogy when attempting to describe body. Skim milk is lighter on the palette than whole milk. Thus, coffee with a lot of body will feel heavier than coffee with a light body. Variety, roast and brewing method come into play. For example, Espresso feels heavier since a high volume of oils remain in a small quantity of water. A light body does not necessarily mean a bad coffee. Most often, it is a clue that an error was made during the grinding, measuring or brewing process.
Understanding acidity, balance and body provides sound guidelines for choosing, tasting and preparing coffee, and it enhances the pleasure of drinking it.
We raise our cup to you!