Tasting the espresso
We all know that an espresso should be luxuriously creamy, with a kiss of foamy crema and a lingering aftertaste. These things are absolutely true of every good espresso.
But beyond that, understanding certain aspects of its composition can actually help improve the quality of homemade espressos, as well as revealing the quality of a shot in a cafe or restaurant.
In general terms, a sensory profile of a high-quality coffee is one that possesses good acidity and high sweetness, floral, fruity aromas with a full and velvety body.
The sensory analysis of espresso coffee takes into consideration 5 macro-areas:
- Visual aspect – the colour of the drink and the description of the visual characteristics of the crema in the espresso is the first item in the sensorial description of a cup of coffee.
- Aroma – Intensity and quality are the two main characteristics taken into consideration when the nose approaches the cup and the olfactory receptors come into contact with the aromas released by the drink.
- Taste – There are four basic flavours used to describe a coffee: bitter, sour, salty, and sweet, and the predominance of any one of these depends on the composition of the blend.
- Body – The ‘body’ of an espresso is another way to describe how it feels in the mouth – consistent and heavy but ranging from light to full. Positive body descriptors are soft, syrupy, creamy, buttery/oily, silky; negative descriptors are dry, astringent.
- Aftertaste: The taste remaining in the mouth after swallowing a sip of coffee; this may have hints of chocolate, caramel, spiciness, fruitiness, smokiness, roastiness, and other flavours.