Espresso tasting: Learning to differentiate

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
Eldar

#1: Post by Eldar »

Hi, I'm searching for resources and tips on how to learn/train to recognize and differentiate tastes in espresso. Do you have any tips to share?

pizzaman383
Supporter ♡

#2: Post by pizzaman383 »

Taste every shot before adding anything. To get the best comparison between shots taste the same way for each shot.

I like using a small spoon like an iced tea spoon because it is not too big or small. After the shot is pulled and I have dropped the puck and cleaned the basket I give the shot a quick stir and take a small spoonfull and taste it.

Then finish any other preparation and enjoy.
Curtis
LMWDP #551
“Taste every shot before adding milk!”

User avatar
Kaffee Bitte

#3: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

The information you want is kind of everywhere on HB. You won't find just one thread with the helpful info, you will find many but interspersed throughout. Use the search feature. I bet you will find a bunch of threads with helpful hints.

A good place to start is probably trying Single origin coffees. The big commercial blends tend to even out all the coffees blended together. Single origins will each have their own character. It makes it easier to try to get specific flavors to come through. It can be more frustrating than the blends because they may be harder to dial in but you get origin flavors that won't come through a blend.

Mostly though it all comes down to taste. Don't just taste coffee. Try fruits you haven't tried. Get the memory of those fruit flavors fresh. If you read the coffee tasting notes and there are fruit notes, remind your tastebuds by eating or smelling that fruit before trying your coffee. Then try to get that fruit flavor in the cup. On my gear fruits are highly temp dependent usually more to the hot end.

Sour and bitter are the hardest to get a grip on. A good way is to get two very different coffees. One dark roast and one light. The dark can show you the bitter and the light will highlight sour. Maybe just get a small amount of each.

The following thread has some good diagrams to help guide decisions.

Espresso 101: Flavor adjustment diagram
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110
____________________

Milligan

#4: Post by Milligan »

Kaffee Bitte wrote:Sour and bitter are the hardest to get a grip on. A good way is to get two very different coffees. One dark roast and one light. The dark can show you the bitter and the light will highlight sour. Maybe just get a small amount of each.
This is where to start IMO. Many folks struggle to differentiate between sour and bitter, including me when I started. I found that I had not been very razor focused on taste throughout my life until I took coffees more seriously. It was either "tastes good" or "tastes bad" without much reflection. So it was almost like a back-to-basics relearning of my tastes. Sour and bitter was the first thing to untangle and it didn't take long. I'd recommend pulling a purposefully fast shot to taste sour and then pull an over extracted, too fine of a long shot to taste bitter. I'd do these experiments with something off the shelf like illy classico because it is an easy one to dial sour and bitter without many other notes getting in the way.

Also include others in your tasting. My wife seems to pick out notes a bit better than me and my mom is like a blood hound with sour/bitter.

Go cafe hopping and be deliberate with your tasting to try to pick out the notes they describe. Lastly, a cupping class can help a lot if you want to go down that route. Just know it is a life-long process to enjoy :)

User avatar
Kaffee Bitte

#5: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

Milligan wrote: Also include others in your tasting. My wife seems to pick out notes a bit better than me and my mom is like a blood hound with sour/bitter.

Go cafe hopping and be deliberate with your tasting to try to pick out the notes they describe. Lastly, a cupping class can help a lot if you want to go down that route. Just know it is a life-long process to enjoy :)
Milligan is right about getting the sour/bitter down first. It opens up the fruits and floral once you can discern it.

But the biggest tip you gave was always ask a woman to go tasting coffee with you.
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110
____________________

Eldar (original poster)

#6: Post by Eldar (original poster) »

Thanks - great answers. :)