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“Nice body” and other weird coffee descriptions

Making sense of the flavour description on your bag of coffee

When it comes to describing the taste, mouthfeel and flavour of coffee, sometimes it can get a little weird. It may sound like I’m grasping at cool sounding words to sell my product, but there’s actually some science behind this, lemme explain.


Your mouth picks up 5 main characteristics, sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (broths, meats etc), this, combined with sensory input from smell, creates a flavour that our brain can input and save.

Hopefully that makes sense...

So when I say that a particular coffee tastes like green apples, it's because my mouth has picked up the sour sweetness that’s reminiscent of a green apple, as well as my nose picking up a dry, winey perfume that reminds me of a fresh green apple. It's my responsibility to guide someone on this flavour journey, someone else may try it and taste something totally different, and that's ok! But for someone whose palette is less experienced, I imagine that having a flavour placed on the bag can help them appreciate it a bit more.


I have a love and hate relationship with this word. There's no better way to describe how a coffee feels and lingers in your mouth than ‘body’. Body is basically the roaster's input into the coffee, when green coffee is roasted, natural sugars caramelize within the bean first and after extended roasting, oils are released from the center of the bean. This is why dark roasted coffees are usually more shiny. These oils are hard to remove even with a paper filter, and they usually end up in your cup of brewed coffee, thus giving you a thick almost velvety feeling. Some like it, some don’t. It all depends on the coffee itself, the body of coffee can’t be brought out if it never existed in the green coffee to begin with.


This is pretty much the opposing flavour and feeling to body, while body describes the weight and texture of a coffee, brightness is the “spark” of coffee. It’s the first thing your tongue picks up, it’s the fruitiness, nuttyness and citrus flavours that are found in specialty coffee. A bright coffee doesn't linger on the tongue, it’s smooth and leaves little aftertaste after giving you a clear idea of the coffee's main flavour. Brightness / acidity comes through on light and medium roasts, coffee is a fruit, and it’s my job to respect that, a mango chow should taste like mangoes, not seasoning after all.


This is a complicated one, sweetness should be straightforward, but it's not the case with coffee. While it’s true that coffee beans have their own natural sugars, these aren't necessarily “sweet” sugars, they carry the coffee’s scent mostly and can be transformed into brightness or body depending on the level of roast. I like to think of it like this, sweetness, like a sugar doughnut, is like your lover telling you “i love you” its straight to the point and you understand. Sweetness in coffee is your lover holding your hand, and simply smiling at you, while nothing was said, the love was implied and you still understand fully, heartwarming.

I hope this clears things up if you were at all confused with how the hell I threw words on a bag. It's science people!


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