The majority of people think that in the action of drinking a coffee, the most important thing is to identify the typical features of “strong taste” and “intentionally roasted aroma”. However, this is a backwards-looking vision, and probably also a little old, about what characteristics a coffee should have.
On the other hand, in the current landscape, most of the people take up the cudgels for the quality of coffee because it is a discovery not only for those who were used to drinking coffee in the morning just to start their day with the right intake of caffeine but also for those who work in the coffee production chain and have to select more and more particular products both from an aromatic and a processing point of view.
In addition, to be really appreciated for what it is, an aromatic coffee needs not only a tasting balance but also a well-defined global perception. These two factors are indispensable to understanding the potentiality of the product and ensuring its texture, density and suavity.
That means that if a coffee has a wide range of aromas, it isn’t necessarily balanced in all of its soluble parts, given that the texture produced by the particles inside the liquid characterises its density.
We, therefore, speak of concentration, which, perceived at high levels, produces a sour sensation tending to cover the aromatic aspects and the ones related to taste, present before and after swallowing.
Furthermore, a coffee that doesn’t have a strong weight inside the mouth can be a sign of bad processing or an inaccurate extraction and storage. The coffee will be perceived, thus, as weak and watery, something which compromises its quality and refinement. A soft and silky coffee, indeed, creates in our mouth a sensation similar to the one we get when we chew a piece of spirit-filled chocolate. The sensation resulting from this tasting experience is nice because it is overwhelming, and, above all, it doesn’t dry out our mouth after swallowing the drink.
As it is in nature, coffee can have different characteristics compared to other coffees, and these traits can also be modified as a consequence of processing. It is therefore paramount to be aware of the difference between the concepts of “body” and “mouthfeel”.
The “body” of a coffee is its touchable part, giving to the coffee its density and characterising its personality and its quality, which is its “mouthfeel”.
The latter is the sensation of fullness positively characterising a coffee and allowing a comprehensive and round perception of the liquid inside the mouth.
If the product is round, the sensation lasts long on the palate. The perfect test to understand the difference between body and mouthfeel can be done by comparing a natural arabica or robusta with a washed one. If the processing criteria were respected, the heavier and more dense texture would be evident in a natural coffee if compared to a washed one, which will be more delicate and will have a longer mouthfeel on the palate.
Another example to define the different kinds of body can be made using three glasses filled respectively with water, milk and honey. If they are compared, it is possible to notice that the body of milk is evidently softer than the one of honey, which is pasty, though it presents a higher body quality compared to water.
The texture of honey can be only remotely compared to the one of an espresso, even if some natural robusta products remind us of the fullness typical of honey, however, they do not present the same sweetness and softness. In this case, milk, among the other two samples, should transmit an enveloping and sweet sensation between the tongue and the mouth. The longer this sensation lasts on the palate after drinking it, the higher is the quality of perception.
If you try to do exactly the same thing with water and honey, you will be able to notice that the first one, besides not having a wide range of flavours, will be weak in concentration, differently from honey which will completely cover up the palate, giving a stinging sensation sometimes accompanied by a slightly bitter hint. If you don’t believe the idea that honey can also be a little bitter, I suggest you buy a jar of strawberry tree honey and taste it.
If you are able to recognise its aromatic nuances, you certainly are also a coffee enthusiast.
See you at the next sip!