First, prepare the samples
and equipment needed: identical cups (ideally) for each coffee to be
tasted; the coffee samples and a coffee measure; another empty cup; a
spoon (silver is traditional) about the size and shape of a soup spoon,
or shallower; a glass of water in which to rinse the spoon between
coffees; a glass of room-temperature water (or a water biscuit or
cracker) for clearing the palate; a jug (pitcher) or spittoon (garboon
is the specialist term); and a kettle of very hot water, just under
Steps to evaluate the coffee flavor :
Plan to taste at least two coffees, as
a frame of reference.
Grind should be medium ("cafetiere/percolator"
grind). If the coffees are ground in succession in the same grinder,
start with a clean grinder and wipe out the grinder between samples.
If the tasting is a true comparison,
the degree of roast should be as much the same for all samples as
possible; if tasting is simply to choose a preferred coffee, taste
every coffee in whatever style or roast it comes supplied. The
lighter the roast, the more the true unique flavor of the coffee is
exposed; the darker the roast, the more all coffees begin to taste
the same, and the easier it is to hide the flaws. In a darker roast,
the coffee tastes less acidic, but since acidity is the main
indicator of altitude, quality and price, it is a shame if the
expensive acidity disappears in the roaster.
Measure out the same amount of dry
coffee into each cup, about 8g / 1 heaped tablespoon to 150 ml cup
of water. Sniff the dry coffees. Write down any noteworthy
observation about the dry smell. It is always advisable to arrange
the coffees in an orderly row for tasting, placing those which may
be the strongest - particularly if any robustas are to be tasted -
at the end.
Pour water just off the boil to the
same level in each cup. Do not stir. Wait a couple of minutes, then
bend over each cup and smell the surface, which is a mass of
Break the crust (the grounds floating
on the surface of the cup), by inserting the tasting spoon through
the surface flotsam, again while bending over the cup and inhaling
the aroma at very close range. You could spoon up and smell some of
the grounds and liquid from the bottom of the cup - this action will
probably help to settle the grounds as much as anything.
With the spoon, lightly skim any
remaining grounds off the coffee's surface, and sling them into the
extra empty cup. (Dipping the tasting spoon into the glass of
rinsing water will get rid of any grounds left on it).
Get a medium-full spoonful of coffee,
place it against the lips and virtually inhale it, with plenty of
air and into the mouth, slurping noisily, attempting to get some of
it all the way to the back of the mouth immediately. Swish it around
the mouth, and after a few seconds, spit the liquid out. Make some
notes for later comparison, rinse the spoon and go on to the next
Try to taste all the coffees at the
same temperature and in close conjunction with each other. As the
coffees cool, go back and taste them again, as the flavors may