How to Taste Coffee Like a Pro

The art of coffee tasting requires understanding the multi-sensory experience provided by delicious coffee beans. Let's look at these attributes, and how they affect each sip of coffee you take, no matter the brewing method.





Sweetness describes your perceptions of the coffee's sweetness, and it may be influenced by the coffee origins and the roast level. Coffees with a honey to reddish-brown look typically have sweeter profiles than dark roast beans, and a sugary aroma may be present before grinding. In fact, because this sweetness occurs due to fermentation during processing and caramelization during roasting, you may notice more sweetness in the aroma than in the taste. All in all, sweetness usually presents as hints of caramel, honey, brown sugar or toffee.



Acidity refers to how bright and vibrant the coffee tastes after siping it. A lively aftertaste likely follows cups of coffee with beans that have fruit notes in terms of aroma — especially citrus, but also peaches, apples or berries. You typically experience the acidity of coffee beans on the sides of your tongue, just like you experience the tangy aftertaste when you eat fruits like oranges, limes and lemons. Most types of coffee, however, aren’t quite that tart due to their balance with other elements. Note that all coffee is acidic, so noticing an acid aftertaste isn’t a bad thing. The key is finding brews that taste pleasant on your palate.


The thickness of brewed coffee and its heaviness on your tongue is what’s referred to as body. Also known as mouthfeel, this element of the art of coffee tasting requires determining whether the brew feels thin and light, medium and even or heavy and creamy on your tongue. Sense the body of your coffee beans by savoring a sip on your tongue to determine how each element in the coffee tastes, then glide your tongue around your mouth to see how it feels overall. Whether this texture slips away quickly or lingers often depends on the brewing method and coffee origins.flavor


The flavor of coffee beans comprises the numerous notes you detect in brewed cups. To really appreciate the flavor, first inhale the steam emanating from the cup to test the aroma — you may find surprising notes from flowers and fruit to nuts and chocolate. Next, take a sip of coffee to detect the complex flavors that dominate the cup. Spicy and earthy elements often shine through when testing coffee beans for subtle flavors.


The impression that a sip of coffee leaves behind in your mouth after swallowing defines its finish. For instance, your brew may leave behind a fresh, sharp or lingering aftertaste in your mouth. You may also notice underlying flavors in the finish that change how you think about how the coffee tastes overall.

Have Your Own At-Home Coffee Tasting

Having your own coffee cuppings offers a sensory-rich experience for you and your guests, letting you savor the nuances and flavors of different coffee beans with friends and family. Use this step-by-step guide to recreate the routine coffee professionals go through daily.

Gather Supplies

You need some supplies to fully enjoy the art of coffee tasting. These include:

  • Coffee beans
  • Burr coffee grinder
  • Hot water
  • Coffee cups
  • Cupping spoon
  • Scale
  • Timer
  • Notepad and pen
  • For best results, use coffee beans with a recent roast date for optimum flavor and a burr grinder to prep the beans just before you start. For coffee cuppings, we recommend a medium-coarse grind.

    Weigh the Coffee

    Next, measure your coffee grounds — you need 8.25 grams of coffee per 5 ounces of water, but you can change this up if you prefer your brew weaker or stronger.

    Prep the Water

    Just below the boiling point is the best temperature for coffee cuppings. The perfect temperature is around 200°F, and when it reaches that temperature, put it in a kettle for easier pouring.

    Test the Dry Aroma

    Put freshly ground coffee into the cups, then inhale the dry grounds to see what you notice first. Make any notes if something stands out before the brew begins.

    Brew the Coffee

    Set the timer for 4 minutes, then pour hot water over the coffee grounds. Ensure they’re fully saturated, then fill up your coffee cups to the brim.

    Break the Crust

    As your coffee brews, you should notice a crust forming on the surface. After the 4-minute brew time ends, break this crust by stirring it with a spoon to release more of the coffee’s aroma.

    Examine the Aroma

    Take a good, deep whiff of the aroma by leaning in after breaking the crust. Note the fragrances released, noting any scents or attributes that stand out.

    Skim Off the Grounds

    Use your spoon to skim any remaining coffee grounds or foam off the top of your cup.

    Taste the Coffee

    After letting the coffee cool down to a drinkable temperature, use your spoon to sip some of the coffee. Roll the brew around your mouth to ensure it covers your entire palate, which aerates the coffee so you can better experience the flavor.

    Take Notes

    Jot down your impressions of the coffee, including the five elements of its taste. Get as descriptive as you like in your note-taking so you better understand what you enjoy and what you don’t.

    Repeat the Process

    If you’re tasting more than one coffee, repeat this process for coffee cuppings each time. It’s a good idea to cleanse your palate between tastings with a cracker and room-temperature water.

    Discuss the Coffee

    Coffee cuppings with guests allow you to discuss what you find in each cup and compare notes. During this step, you might also reflect on how each one ranks against the other and pick out the one you liked most. You might even rank them differently based on factors like aroma and sweetness.