Gourmet Coffee Bean Characteristics & Terms

by That's Coffee on May 19, 2012

Do you think it’s weird to describe your cup of coffee as acidic, balanced or complex? There are a number of coffee characteristics used to describe the flavor profiles that can originate from the variety of coffee bean, the processing method and the roast. The combination of these factors generates very different flavor profiles in gourmet coffee beans. Take a few minutes to expand your coffee vocabulary.

Acidity Levels of Gourmet Coffees

Just like wine, acidity refers to the bright or lively sensation of coffee as it sits on the tip of your tongue or roof of your mouth. The acidity can be affected by both the variety of coffee bean and the roast. The acidity level is reduced as coffee beans are roasted; a dark roast coffee is less acidic than a light roast coffee. When you taste a coffee lacking in acidity it will seem flat and many times lack a palate-cleansing aspect. When you taste a coffee high in acidity it will seem as if the moisture is pulled from your palate. Many Kenyan coffee beans are highly acidic.

Aromas of Gourmet Coffee Beans

The aroma is inherent in the coffee variety and is also developed during the roasting process. A dark roast coffee is often more aromatic due to the caramelization of sugars. As we all know the smell of coffee plays a large role in its overall taste – just think of how good that aromatic pot of coffee that pulls you out of bed tastes first thing in the morning.

Balanced Gourmet Beans & Blends

The balance of a coffee is not a single characteristic but rather the unique combination of a variety of characteristics, so that one characteristic is not overpowering another. A well balanced coffee will be pleasing in all attributes and is often the standard gourmet coffee Roastmasters strive for.

Body of Gourmet Coffee Drinks

The body of coffee can be understood when you consider the difference between water and whole milk. Milk is much heavier in your mouth compared to water. A heavier body coffee bean contains texture and a certain fullness. Roasting has the largest effect on the body of a coffee bean – with dark roasts have a heavier body – but the variety of coffee bean can also affect the body. It is important to note the difference between the body and the thickness of certain brewing methods such as espresso or a French press.

Complexity & Profile of Gourmet Beans

Much like a balanced coffee a complex coffee will feature multiple characteristics. In order to create a complex and well-balanced coffee gourmet Roastmasters will blend multiple origin coffee beans together, playing off the desired characteristic of each bean. The end profile is highly desirable and often unobtainable by a single origin coffee.

As with all food and drink these flavor characteristics are highly subjective. A well balanced coffee to one connoisseur may be rated differently by a second connoisseur. The best way to develop your own preferences towards these characteristics is to try multiple varieties and blends of gourmet coffee beans.

“Coffee Characteristics”
courtesy of
your online coffee bean store:
Gourmet Coffee Beans

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