(a technique to prepare for tasting)
Evaluating a cup of coffee requires concentration regardless of whether it is done by an expert or a novice. In fact, many times, the same expert can be confused by a whole series of phenomena, better known as psychological and physiological errors, which inevitably compromise the success of the evaluation.
Therefore the ideal is to create in our daily life a comfortable environment suitable for the organoleptic analysis of the product, starting from some simple precautions such as acoustic isolation (if possible), and lighting that allows an adequate perception of the characteristics regarding the saturation of color of the product and therefore an optimal personal psychophysical condition. Therefore, I impassively recommend that you avoid analyzing the quality of your coffee when you have a line of customers ready to storm your counter.
Moreover, it would be good to carry out a professional evaluation not on an empty stomach and avoid heavy, spicy or irritating foods such as alcoholic or flavored, but also refreshing or effervescent substances. The typical example, in this case, presents the classic glass of mineral water drunk before or together with coffee, causing a significant sensory impact due to the effervescence that will inhibit the perception of taste and aromatic notes but will also have a strong impact on a tactile level.
These, however straightforward as they may be, however, help you to get into the right mental predisposition to carve out a moment and break away from the routine to increase and improve your perception.
When we go to taste a coffee, we tend to leave out some phase or give more importance to one in particular or skip what should be a logical but also physiological sequence.
If you do not attribute the proper importance to each phase, you risk losing indicators that help the classification of the product and provide us with warnings for potential problems.
So as a first note, we must remember to follow the tasting phases and possibly divide them because only in this way will it be easier to increase awareness and perception of what we are evaluating.
The perception phases are the visual, olfactory, taste-tactile and retro-olfactory phases, where each must be evaluated to ensure that the product complies with a whole series of parameters.
Most of the time, when we are in a hurry, we happen to drink our coffee completely forgetting to focus our attention on the first phases of analysis, that is, the visual and olfactory ones, with the immediate consequence of not being able to easily perceive other scents, if not those typical of coffee roasting.
Sometimes we are less lucky because we perceive unpleasant smells and not appreciable nuances in the mouth that we could have avoided using our nose and prevented the damage.
Concentrating on the direct olfaction phase, and more specifically on what our nose perceives, can help a lot to develop an awareness of the aromas that we will find while sipping a coffee. Furthermore, we will be able to find a correspondence between the smells detected in the nose and those felt in the mouth, which are still perceived by the nose, but in a different form due to the evaporation of odorous molecules within the oral cavity.
It is normal to create confusion the first few times because even if you approach every single phase and follow the correct tasting sequence, you probably do not have the terms of comparison and, therefore, a language which limits you in description and comparison with other samples.
This difficulty can be stemmed by using simple words to associate with that particular sensation, with the assumption that they must be used to describe the same sensation in further tests. A typical example consists in combining a strong spicy note with the term pungent or intense, in short, something that portends a hint of roughness and particular stimulation.
The secret to being able to progress in this technique always remains the same, that is to acquire a background of terminology that allows an accurate description of the product. Just think that when you eat a particularly elaborate dish, a subjective and general perception of a set of sensations occurs with each bite, which obviously varies according to the serving temperature and other factors; therefore, it is difficult to attribute a definition to each scent that is perceived, because their intensity also changes.
It is true, however, that by striving to decompose the scents from their context and try to recognize every single nuance, it will be easier in the future to recognize and identify them.
Experts can provide the terminology suitable for the context, but it is better in the early stages to move independently, initially obtaining general knowledge to be able to deepen the reference background.
Last but no less important than the previous ones, is breathing. Remember to breathe correctly and, above all, not to continuously inhale the volatile substances that come from the surface of your espresso because this would lead to an adaptation phenomenon with a decrease in olfactory sensitivity and an inevitable decline in performance.
On the other hand, the nose represents only the beginning of the olfactory system, and in a certain sense, its role is crucial with respect to the organs that make up this apparatus. The odorous molecules must necessarily pass the nasal cavity and reach the olfactory receptors. So remember to breathe, unless you have already had your coffee; in that case … till the next sip!