Coffee in the academy / The visual examination a first step to understanding the feeling of coffee inside the mouth. Marco Bazzara
I have the honor of starting with you this sensory journey into the beautiful world of coffee by beginning with our sense of sight, which is the sense that we rely on in practically every juncture of our daily life; although we must keep in mind that the latter, together with the sense of smell, is underestimated when tasting an espresso at the bar.
Indeed, it is us that although we see some red flags as regards to the quality, which can be perceived simply by observing the color of the drink, we, however, proceed with spasmodic haste to enjoy the coffee, trying to grasp all the scents resulting from the evaporation of odorous molecules within the oral cavity, to give us thus, a moment of intoxication and pleasure.
The sense of sight could lead us to a whole series of indicators and factors which would help us understand that the coffee in question could have imperfections linked both to the processing techniques and to the process of simple extraction.
Nonetheless, it is also true that the coffee bean could possibly degrade during the transportation phase along the supply chain if not preserved appropriately, and it is an issue that can result in lower moisture content or in an acceleration of the oxidation process of lipids once the beans are roasted, leading to a reduction of the crema on the surface hence, a non-homogeneous texture due to one’s not compact layer.
Initially, the color of the crema should be evaluated, and it can vary from product to product. It is important that the density of the layer of the crema remains solid and elastic and that it is not short-lived, vanishing just after a few seconds. More importantly, an espresso cannot be served without the crema as it strongly represents its typicality.
Moreover, the crema of an espresso varies from the typical and classic hazelnut hue, ideal to be found in a blend or it could be with a golden hue typical of single origins of the Arabica species. In general, for the Canephora species, known as Robusta, the crema is generally darker and brown, much denser and more concentrated than that of the Arabica species.
A crema that is too saturated but at the same time without any particular color can lead us back to problems related to both the extraction and the granulometry of the coffee. If there is a black circle or a white spot on top of the crema probably, the coffee has been over-extracted, with consequent woody and empyreumatic scents.
In the case of a faded and not very consistent crema, the coffee has been under-extracted, accentuating a persistent bitterness and a dull taste. In addition, it will obtain an inadequate quantity of soluble solids caused by percolation of water through the coffee, which concludes that it was not balanced or homogeneous.
One must keep in mind that for effective and adequate conduction of the visual evaluation of the surface of the espresso, the cup must be made of porcelain hard feldspathic and able to maintain a certain brilliance necessary to enhance the color of the coffee.
In this regard, especially during a tasting session, it is advised to use a cup with an oval bottom and preferably not flat to allow the crema to thicken upwards while keeping unaltered all the aromas in coffee; therefore, guaranteeing a good color saturation with an impeccable texture.
Certainly, the visual examination is only a first glimpse to understanding how our coffee would result in the mouth and moreover, our product conceals some distinctive and memorable odorous nuances which must be discovered and decoded in the upcoming stages. What else is left to say… until the next sip!