Everything you ever wanted to know about coffee flavours but were afraid to ask.
Speciality coffee offers so many wonderful and varied flavours that it makes sense to group them so that you can think about what each coffee is expressing from each group. At Union Hand-Roasted, we use four groups:
- Chocolate & Caramels - encompassing everything from vanilla fudge to bitter dark chocolate.
- Nuts & Spices - flavours from sweet peanut to woody walnut, with all the dry fragrant spices like clove, cinnamon and black pepper.
- Floral & Citrus - flowery aromas like bergamot or jasmine, which often come hand in hand with orange and lemon notes.
- Fruit - in coffee you’ll find a whole range of fruit flavours like apricot, peach, cherry, passion fruit, kiwi fruit…
When you’re tasting (or “cupping”), it’s good to think about these four areas and what your coffee is giving you from each.
Good quality speciality coffees, like the ones you’ll receive from CoffeeClub, tend to have a higher natural sweetness. Also because the beans contain more flavour and are less defective, they can be roasted lighter - a darker roast is often used with cheaper coffee to mask unwanted flavours… but this makes the coffee more bitter, and can give ashy flavours too.
That’s why many people drink speciality coffee without milk, or sugar - because there’s less of a need to mute any bitterness, and people want to enjoy the natural flavours of the coffee. It’s all about your personal preference though. Perhaps try your speciality coffees black first time, and then you can always add milk later if you feel it needs it.
A higher acidity in coffee is often a sign that beans have been washed well - so you get a cleaner cup with a lighter body and more lively flavours to taste. But, it is important to remember that the coffee still needs to be well balanced - too much acid obviously won’t be pleasant!
So, when you’re tasting, note the acidity and think about how it works with the other flavours, and then you’ll be able to look out for coffees that give the acidity you like.
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Bitterness and ashy flavours in coffee are caused by molecules created by some chemical reactions that happen at later stages of the roasting process (Dark roast, French roast, Italian roast).
But bitterness isn’t always bad (we all like lemon rind and tonic water, right?). In the right amounts, it’s simply another of the delicious sensations you’ll get from speciality coffee.
“Body” is the texture/feel of the coffee in your mouth. “Heavier” body means a more oily, thicker consistency, whereas lighter is more delicate. Speciality coffees come with different natural levels of body but this is also largely dictated by your how you brew your coffee too (higher temperature extraction methods (e.g. Stovetop) tend to deliver heavier body.
There is no good or bad with body (and of course personal preference matters most) - some flavours work better with certain bodies though. Look out for how citrus notes work well with lighter bodied coffees, whereas dark treacle notes feel right with heavier body.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The secret to really, really good speciality coffee is a great balance between all the flavours, sweetness, acidity, bitterness and body! So, as you get more and more into tasting your coffees look for the ones that give you a bit of everything - without one sensation overpowering the others.
You control, we roast, the postman delivers
1. Customise your subscription (our roastmaster can help)
Choose the best coffee subscription package and grind type for you.
2. Freshly hand-roasted & posted the same day
We then hand-roast in small batches in our East London roastery.
3. DELICIOUS COFFEE DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR
We send your coffee out in freshness pouches and letterbox-friendly box.