Sensory Awareness

The key to improve the coffee tasting experience is to become more conscious of the information coming in through your senses.

The Senses and Tasting

Taste is only one among our senses and what we usually mean with flavour can be a combination of taste, smell and touch. Although the sensory exploration of coffee is usually called tasting, it's about flavors and it can also impacted by hearing and sight.

The Basic Tastes

The tongue has taste buds all over and each taste bud can detect all basic tastes, albeit with different intensities. Also know as palates, these taste buds are the ones responsible for translating the chemistry in the mouth as a sensory signal.


We crave sweetness from carbohydrates, mostly simple sugars, as these are essential energy sources. In coffee it comes from the fruit and browning reaction during roasting.


Mostly perceived from acids and causes us to salivate, releasing bicarbonates to neutralize it. Too much acidity is unpleasant and could signal rotten or unripe food.


We're geared to detect sodium as it's critical for fluid control and chemical pathways. Differently from sweet and sour tastes, it can enhance other flavors.


We are relatively resistant to bitterness compared to the other tastes. Like acidity, in high intensity is considered a chemical danger signal and therefore unpleasant.


Sometimes confused with the salty taste, it's associated with high protein content. Described as "savory", unlike the salty taste there's no ceiling where it becomes unpleasant.

Palate Training

Taste Chemistry Recipe Sweet Sucrose 6 g/l Sour Citric Acid 0.6 g/l Salty Sodium Chloride 1.2 g/l Bitter Quinine 0.7 g/l Umami Monosodium Glutamate 0.6 g/l


The majority of the information we can perceive in flavours actually comes from the sense of smell. Most people can relate to how flavourless meals seem when sick with a running nose, and it's easy to observe experimentally: a bit of cinnamon in the mouth while pitching the nose reveals that it provides almost no taste.


The tongue is among the most sensitive parts of the body regarding touch. Just like one can use their hands to describe shape, weight and texture; the tongue can perceive the same characteristics in the experience of mouthfeel.

Palate Training

+-----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | 1. 1) Prepare a glass of full-fat milk and 0%mf milk | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | 2) Taste both milks paying attention to all the differences between | | them | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | 3) Examine the texture (creaminess that coats the tongue): creamy vs | | thin | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | 4) Examine the shape (???): round vs flat | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | 5) Examine the weight (): heavy vs light | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | 6) Examine the sensation (): smooth vs flabby | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+

## Pour Over Salami


1. Bloom with 25g

2. Pour 75g

First stage of extraction. Dissolving the easiest materials. Acids and salts.

It's thick, heavy. Where most of the extraction happens.

Thick, dark, aroma. Fidelity on fruity notes, but the salts and acids give a tart and unripe feel.

A smooth but sour cup.

2. Pour 75g


Second stage. Simple and complex sugars. Sweetness.

Sweeter but without texture or clarity. Water with cane sugar. Still salty but very little acidity.

2. Pour 75g


Final stage. Lighter color because most solubles are already gone. This is more watery.

This is what happens if you brew for too long: watery and bitterness.

Much lighter, almost no aroma, no acidity and little sweetness. Dry and bitter.

Florals, coconut etc are bitter elements and will extract here so we don't want to get rid of it.

The goal is to determine how to change grind size to brew longer or shorter to control which extraction profile to reach on the brew to get a balanced cup. One usually wants the most sugars with enough bitter elements to complement the acidity. If you brew too short, the cup lacks in bitterness and the fruity notes become sour unripe. If you brew too long, fruity notes becomes mute with bitterness. This is the dialing of extraction.

## Sugar and Sweetness

Sweetness is a basic taste most commonly perceived when eating foods rich in certain substances (usually carbohydrates) called sugars. Simple sugars (monosaccharides) include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Compound sugars (disaccharides) are molecules made of two bonded monosaccharides; common examples are sucrose (glucose + fructose), lactose (glucose + galactose), and maltose (two molecules of glucose). Chains of monosaccharides longer than two are not regarded as sugars and are called oligosaccharides or polysaccharides.

## Saccharides in Coffee

Coffee is often described in terms of sweetness and is common to see tasters describe a brew as "sweet" during [[Cupping]], but it's still not fully understood what chemical compound exactly we are detecting as sweet. Coffee beans do contain sucrose, but the roasting process degrades about 97% of it. The amount of sucrose that ends up in the brew is so low that it's below the sensory threshold concentration, meaning it is impossible for us to perceive it.

There are some carbohydrates - arabinogalactans - that are usually present in the brew in high enough concentrations and maybe can be perceived as sweet, but their influence in the brew sweetness is still an hypothesis.

It's also possible that the sweet flavor we sense actually comes from sweet aromas instead of from compounds on our taste buds.