Analysing by taste - taste calibration

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.

#1: Post by CrazyDTM »

In order to analyse espresso by taste, effective communication is essential to enable accurate discussion.
It's challenging to calibrate taste descriptors that enable a more synchronised communication level - eg, when you say tomato, I say capsicum. Does anyone have any insights, or links to resources that accurately describe the different tastes within coffee, that help match up different perceptions?
another_jim wrote:Fortunately, these flavors can be grouped into a few large families, so that all the members of a given flavor family extract in similar ways. This work was done by Ted Lingle, who grouped the flavors by molecular weight, with the light weight ones dissolving quickly, and the heavy weight ones dissolving slowly:
  • Fruit acids have fruity or floral aromas and flavors, crisp tastes in sweeter brews, and sour tastes in less sweet ones.
  • Maillard compounds have the aromas and flavors of toasted grain, wood, tannins, or nuts; and tastes which are sharply bitter in less sweet brews, and warm, round, and malty in sweeter ones.
  • Caramels have caramel, vanilla or chocolate flavors and a sweet taste. Since almost all sugars in green coffee are caramelized during the roast, these are the primary source of sweetness in coffee. Dark caramels, which taste bitter-sweet, dissolve more slowly than light caramels, which taste more sugary.
  • Dry distillates are reduced (burnt) caramels and maillard compounds that become dominant in dark roasts. They have the aromas and flavors of clove, tobacco, peat, or turpeny, a dully bitter, ashen taste in less sweet brews, and a bitter-sweet molasses taste in sweeter brews.
This flavor classification provides a road map to a balanced coffee extraction, either for brewing or in espresso. While describing the taste of coffee both accurately and in detail is an art; it is fairly easy to sort the tastes and smells into these four broad groups.

From Some Aspects of Espresso Extraction
How can I calibrate my taste, to accurately describe all these sensations? I'm struggling to understand the differences, and it seems I need someone to put a range of different shots in front of me and tell me how the taste of each one is described accurately... time in the saddle helps obviously...

CrazyDTM (original poster)

#2: Post by CrazyDTM (original poster) »

Just found Another_Jim's info in quotable quotes...

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#3: Post by another_jim »

It helps to compare the same coffee brewed and as espresso:
  • the flavors are usually easier to tell brewed,
  • the shot and brew should have the same flavors and balance. If they don't, improve your shot making
The list of tastes I've given is from the coffee tasting wheel. You should try to become comfortable with identifying the most general taste categories along the inside of the wheel; these falvor categories represent the real chemical properties of the brewed cup. The very specific tastes on the outside are mostly analogies rather than anything based on coffee chemistry; and you are free to make up your own words.

You can also get the various books on cupping and coffee preparation here.
Jim Schulman


#4: Post by SJM »

Is that flavor wheel available as a wall poster?
I need one I don't need to print out myself....and bigger than my printer handles....


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#5: Post by Marshall replying to SJM »

Los Angeles

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#6: Post by another_jim »

I've seen Ted Lingle's wheel as a wall poster many times, and it's available for $12

I don't know about posters for the new and improved Counter Culture version; but there are places that print photographs up to about 24 by 16 that could print the PDF.
Jim Schulman


#7: Post by SJM »

How "improved" do you think the Counter Culture wheel is?

Darn. Guess I'll have to look at them both side-by-side (as PDFs) first.
Thanks for the help.
I'm sure I can get one or the other of them in my own face for reference.
I had just been pondering an undertone of "cardboard" in a recently roasted Burundi, and "old" makes sense since it came with my Behmor ...and didn't get vacuum sealed.