If you're someone who's relatively new to the world of coffee or simply wants to explore all the different arenas of coffee, I've got some tips for you!
Unlike the bitter taste of instant coffee, which does the bare minimum of waking you up, there's a whole world of flavors, consistencies, and types of coffee. Yes, you can always go to your nearest coffee chain and try out the over-sweetened and milkshake-in-a-cup with a hint of coffee, or you could actually explore specialty coffee or even coffees with citrus aftertastes!
Here's what you could do:
Start drinking coffee!
Pretty basic, right? But did you know there are over 1500 different varieties of coffee you could try? Also, every geographical location could have a different recipe for you to try. The filter coffee from India or the Vietnamese coffee from Vietnam, gotta try em all!
While making your coffee, especially if it's some great coffee, avoid adding too many things into it. Some might even advise against sugar; I'd say go ahead, but stop at a little sugar and maybe ice if you like it cold. Adding too much milk and sugar can overpower the delicate notes in your cup of coffee.
Try to identify the notes.
Coffee usually has 5 basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory-ish). Next time you take a sip, try to identify what you taste (given that your coffee does not have too many additions in it). Eventually, you'll be able to tell which flavor is the boldest in your cup. For example, some may have a chocolate aftertaste, while some may taste sour and lemony towards the end.
To get into the facts of it, according to the Sensory Foundation Course, here are the following solutions you can train yourself with when it comes to identifying notes:
Sweetness: 24g sucrose per liter
Sourness: 1.2g critic acid per liter
Saltiness: 4 g of salt or NaCl per liter
Bitterness: 0.54 g of caffeine per liter
Umami: 2 g of monosodium glutamate per liter
Eat more, taste more
Coffees these days can be customized to have an aftertaste of fruit, desserts, and even umami. So how would you identify them? By tasting these flavors in other food items! Try different cuisines, exotic fruits, and jazz up your flavors every now and then.
You can also check out the sensory lexicon, which has a plethora of different flavors you might experience in coffee. With intensity scales and flavors, it's a great option to improve your sensory skills.
Another tool is the coffee flavor map, which contains aromas and smells of around 100 coffee flavors! You know how the nose is connected to taste on a significant level; that is where this tool proves to be beneficial. Coffee professionals actually use this tool to accurately label and identity various scents!
Pay attention to the details.
When you buy coffee, you'll find flavor profiles on the packaging. Read up and see what you can expect. You can find many different flavors in the market at various price points for you to try and experiment with. Start reading coffee can descriptions too – you'll be surprised at what you find.
Try out recipes and brewing methods
Now, this may not be common knowledge, but the way you make your coffee affects the taste on every level. Coffee must be brewed according to its roast type and to a specific temperature. Even using a French press versus an AeroPress will give you different flavors. Try experimenting with all and quiz yourself based on taste on smell to familiarize yourself.
Make a little journal.
"Dear diary, today I tasted an acidic roast with a bold nutty flavor and an earthy aftertaste."
This is something you'll be writing in a journal once you get into the bold notes, aftertastes, and acidity levels of different types of coffee. Mix it up with fruits, chocolate, or even cheese on the side (reminiscent of bulletproof coffee) and let the flavors dance around on your tongue. No wrong answers!
Finally, my advice would be to try everything. Host coffee parties, go on dates to cafes, and pick out books to go with that cup of coffee, make it fun. Coffee is one beverage industry that is still unexplored by many. Pro tip: Try out a subscription on Era Of We for all types of coffee based on your preference!