The coffee taster is a very valuable professional in the coffee industry, as he is in charge of appreciating, creating, and defining the quality profiles of the product.
In addition to knowing about the origin, types, and processes, thanks to his refined and trained palate he can appreciate the different flavors, nuances, and experiences that coffee offers.
Unlike the barista, the coffee taster is responsible for quality from the first links in the coffee production chain.
It is the coffee tasters who rule the industry in the world. To achieve this, they invest many hours of training, study, and sensory experiences so that their palate achieves the appropriate refinement of perception.
In this article, I invite you to learn about the fascinating world of the coffee taster, as well as how I will teach you how to take the first steps in the tasting.
What is a coffee taster?
The coffee taster is the person prepared for the creation, evaluation, and verification of the coffee quality levels.
To do this, it uses knowledge, techniques, tools, and, above all, the palate. That is the area of our body, located in the head that is the receptor nucleus of the senses of smell and taste.
The palate, like memory, can be trained, educated, and honed to detect the differences between coffee preparations.
A professional coffee taster uses his entire sensory system when tasting coffee. In order to generate an analysis or work matrix that facilitates the interpretation of the tasting.
The more tasting experiences you have, the better your palate develops.
Generally, it is responsible for detecting the required quality levels, from the selection of the grain to the final roasting process. As well as the creation of new combinations, mixes, and products.
What does it take to be a coffee taster?
To be a professional coffee taster requires a lot of dedication and passion. It is a career that requires training in skills related to tasting and gastronomy; which are acquired only through years of practice and experience.
Usually, it begins under the supervision of a veteran taster, until autonomy is gained in the sensory registers. If you don’t know any of them, I suggest you look for and follow some of them on their social networks.
The coffee taster must have a sensory and mental record of each type of coffee and know how to create quality profiles. It is much more complex than drinking coffee, it is essential to have a delicate, sensitive smell and taste.
Really, describing the taste of coffee in detail is extraordinary. Although in principle, it seems that there is no distinction, once the palate is trained, more differential attributes are found in the flavor profiles.
Taking the first steps is not complicated at all, if you put effort into the following recommendations, you will achieve it in a short time.
Recommendations to train the palate like a coffee taster
Constancy, perseverance, and patience are the first values that you must put together. Well, you won’t learn overnight.
Keep in mind that it is important to keep a record of your tastings so that you have a sample of your progress. That is, write down every detail.
1. Drink a lot of coffee
I do not mean large quantities in a day, but varieties of types, grains, roasts, and preparations.
To corroborate the origin, roasting and making the coffee, check the packaging or consult the supplier.
2. Meet the wheel of flavors
The coffee flavor wheel is an instrument in which the spectrum of flavors that are achieved in coffee is classified.
It is ideal for memorizing the categories and learning to use the appropriate terminology.
There are different versions of the coffee flavor wheel, such as the one published in Spanish by Counter Culture Coffee.
Although I recommend you use the original published by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).
You will find such a variety of definitions of flavors that you surely do not know and you will ask yourself: How to recognize something that you have never experienced?
Obviously, this must be accompanied by tasting exercises of the different nuances and flavors indicated by the wheel.
For them, do tastings according to the category you want to learn from the flavor wheel. For example, you can organize them according to the main category, such as fruit. And try to differentiate the following subcategories.
3. Know the basic flavors
These are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. The idea is that you know how the palate works and clearly distinguish the basic flavors.
To do this, the Specialty Coffee Association recommends tasting using the following solutions in water to exercise and record the basic flavors:
- Sweet: 24 g of sucrose / 1 L
- Acid: 1.2 g citric acid / 1 L
- Salty: 4 g of NaCl (salt) / 1 L
- Bitter: 0.54 g of caffeine / 1 L
- Umami : 2 g of monosodium glutamate / 1 L
4. Study about coffee
Much research has been done on coffee as an industry and on its natural, nutritional, and even medicinal values. In addition, other topics such as its origin, ways of cultivation, and roasting process.
Without forgetting the labels, there you have the most important information to record your tasting.
Studying all of these topics gives you great insight into the coffee.
Even review the literature on standard language and lexicon in the coffee industry. Which are very necessary to communicate the reference level of your tasting experiences.
5. Find, follow and meet expert tasters and baristas
Visit specialty cafes, try their menu, share your questions with the barista.
Another option is to follow the best in the world on social media and organizations that bring together tasters and baristas.
Learning about the flavors of coffee is possible as I mentioned at the beginning, with time and practice, much better if you repeat and deepen these five recommendations.
Likewise, even if you don’t become an expert, rest assured that you will enjoy new and great sensory experiences in every cup of coffee.
From my experience, I can say that the basic tools of a coffee taster are very close to us in our kitchen.
It only takes into account certain special specifications, such as not using plastic or cardboard implements.
To make your own tasting, I recommend that you start by making your own equipment that includes: coffee grinder, kettle, cups, spoons, spittoon, and the coffee flavor wheel.
Why have a Coffee Grinder? Because it is essential that the coffee is freshly ground to make a real tasting.
Once ground, the coffee gives off its organoleptic properties and loses them over time.
Then it is important to use a kettle or jug to heat water at the temperature of 90 to 93 ° C . You can also use a thermometer to monitor the heat and avoid boiling.
Cups of coffee
Preferably, use coffee cups with a white background, which allows you to differentiate the color. With a capacity of about 120 to 250 ml, made of porcelain, ceramic, or glass.
The spoon is the tool that connects you directly with the coffee. With it, you remove the sample of the liquid to taste and take the typical noisy sip.
The tasting spoons are made of stainless steel, with a rounded shape and a slightly longer handle.
Flavor table or wheel
As I mentioned before, the coffee flavor wheel is the guide with which you will identify each of the experiences and sensations that you feel on your palate.
Of course, accompany it with paper and pencil, preferably a notebook where you write down your records.
How to be a certified coffee taster?
If you have already followed and practiced the recommendations in this article and you feel that you want more, the idea is that you take courses that certify you like a coffee taster.
To do this, consult the Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA) website or the coffee association or coffee tasters closest to your locality.
Another source of certification or work can be found in well-known brand coffee companies and coffee shops.
If your aspirations are strong and committed, find out about the international qualification offered by Coffee Quality Institute and thus become a Q grader.
Finally, follow my recommendations and take the first steps to be a coffee taster.
Agnes is a kitchen and cooking enthusiast as well as a fitness fanatic. She loves to help readers upgrade their kitchen with the best available products!