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Aroma, acidity, body, flavor and aftertaste are the standard descriptive categories used by Coffee Review and many professionals when evaluating coffee. Other evaluative systems use as many as ten descriptive categories, but we prefer to use the traditional set of five. Keep in mind that simply because a characteristic, like sweetness, for example, does not appear as a separate category does not mean it is not considered and valued. We consider sweetness in terms of its impact on the acidity category, for example (a sweet-toned acidity is valued higher than an overly dry or sourish acidity), flavor, and, very importantly, on aftertaste, where a sweet-toned aftertaste is valued more than a bitterish or astringent aftertaste.



Body and mouthfeel describe sensations of weight and texture. Body can be light and delicate, heavy and resonant, thin and disappointing; in texture it can be silky, plush, syrupy, lean or thin.



Acidity is the bright, dry sensation that enlivens the taste of coffee. Without acidity coffee is dull and lifeless. Acidity is not a sour sensation, which is a taste defect, nor should it be excessively drying or astringent, though it sometimes is. At best it is a sweetly tart vibrancy that lifts the coffee and pleasurably stretches its range and dimension. Acidity can be delicate and crisp, lush and rich, powerfully tart but sweet, or backgrounded but vibrant, to cite only a few positive ways to characterize it. The darker a coffee is roasted, the less overt acidity it will display.



How intense and pleasurable is the aroma when the nose first descends over the cup and is enveloped by fragrance? Aroma also provides a subtle introduction to various nuances of acidity, taste and flavor: bitter and sweet tones, fruit, flower or herbal notes, and the like.



Flavor and aftertaste include everything not suitably described under the categories aroma, acidity and body. An assessment of flavor includes consideration of the balance of basic tastes – sweet, bitter and sour in particular, and specific aroma and flavor notes, which are many and can be described by associations like floral (honeysuckle, rose, lilac, etc.), nuances of sweetness (honey, molasses, brown sugar), aromatic wood (cedar, pine, sandalwood) and above all fruit (from bright citrus to lusher, rounder fruit like apricot or plum, or pungent fruit like black currant or mango). Descriptors of flavor may also be global – balanced, deep, delicate, etc. Aftertaste or finish describes reflects sensations that linger after the coffee has been swallowed (or spit out). Generally we tend to reward coffees in which pleasing flavor notes continue to saturate the aftertaste long after the coffee is gone, and the sensations left behind are generally sweet-toned rather than excessively bitter or drying and astringent.

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