While a major part of tasting coffee is both the aroma and taste, mouthfeel can also be a huge part of the tasting process.
This can vary from coffee to coffee, and it is an important part; we rarely think this is the case, but it can make a difference to take notes of how the coffee feels in your mouth.
Coffee can have different feelings when drinking; it can be crisp, fruity, smooth, dry, and much more. Part of developing your palette is being able to perceive these differences, and in the end is hugely rewarding. This is particularly important when you taste a coffee that elevates your mouthfeel experience.
In this article, we will go over how to develop this tasting sense.
What Coffee Mouthfeel Consists of
In order to fully understand the mouthfeel of coffee, it would be beneficial to understand the scientific process of how coffee is brewed.
While black coffee is made primarily of water, there are other aspects in the coffee as well, and these are what comprise the mouthfeel. When you brew your coffee, the water takes out aspects of the coffee and dissolves them; these are called solubles, as they are dissolved in water.
There is a lot in these solubles, such as fats, proteins, sugar, acid, caffeine, carbohydrates, and some fiber. Because these dissolve in the water, it gives it flavor and a different mouthfeel.
Undissolved solids will also be apparent in your coffee, such as tiny coffee particles that have broken off from the main coffee grounds.
While these micro-particles will release their solubles to be dissolved in your water, the carbs and fibers that comprise these will remain and not be dissolved. If you get enough in your cup of coffee, you can indeed feel them.
Last but not least, there is the natural oil that coffee has; oil and water are opposing forces, meaning they won't combine.
These separate forces end up forming a mixture, and sometimes you can feel the different layers in your coffee.
How to Describe Coffee Mouthfeel
As a reminder, coffee has more of a "dense" feel than most other drinks that we consume. For instance, when we are describing a lighter mouthfeel, we are talking about as relates to other coffee, not juice or soda. Some other common ways to describe the mouthfeel of coffee include:
Light - Fairly common in the world of coffee, light is used to describe coffee that has a full and robust flavor without a feel of thickness or heaviness. Because of being lighter, they are generally considered easier to drink.
Thin - Similar to light, thin to described coffee generally is negative. A thin mouthfeel as relates to coffee is generally missing something that should be there.
Heavy (full) - Another common mouthfeel, coffee that feels heavy simply means they have a fuller feel. Each sip will come accompanied with a full flavor, and will not lack any type of substance.
Medium - As the name implies, this is a good middle-ground for coffee mouthfeels and much of the world's coffee will follow this feel. While the mouthfeel will be there, it won't be too heavy or light and is a great middle ground. Though they may lack some excitement, they are in no way unpleasant to drink.
Creamy - While creamy can refer to either light or heavy, it will generally be more on the heavy side. Imagine the feel of milk in your mouth, and this is similar; almost taking on a saucy consistency.
Juicy - Among some of the favorite mouthfeels in coffee tasters, a juicy feel are very distinct. Imagine a bright feeling when you first sip on the coffee; this is from a high concentration of sugars and oils.
Astringent - As you can expect from the name, this mouthfeel will oftentimes feel dry; or even dehydrating. This can be caused by coffee that has a high level of acidity.
Some people may find mouthfeels to be stressful or intimidating, however, it is nothing to worry about. These terms above will help lay the roadblocks for describing the feeling coffee has in your mouth; just have fun and go with it!
Effects of Brewing on MouthfeelMost people may not realize it, but the brewing method and way you brew your coffee can have a major impact on the mouthfeel that you receive from your coffee. Although you can't make extremely drastic changes, the brewing method plays a large role.
Immersion VS Pour Over Brewing
Immersion brewing is a term used to describe when coffee is brewed by "mingling" together with water in a type of coffee vessel.
This allows the coffee and water to sit together for a specific amount of time before filtering the coffee grounds out. This type of brewing will generally cause the coffee to have more of a heavy or creamy mouthfeel.
Pour-over coffee brewing will allow the water to come into contact with the grounds briefly before finding its way to your coffee vessel.
Because the coffee and water are in less contact, this method will lend itself to a thinner or juicier mouthfeel.
While this is a good basic rule of thumb to brewing and mouthfeel, it is not always the case. At times, pour-over coffee can be thick and creamy; while French Pressed coffee can be too thin.
Coffee Filter Type
In addition to your method of brewing, the type of filter that is used will also affect the mouthfeel of your coffee.
Paper filters are great at catching all of the loose particles that your coffee would normally have, while Chemex filters are more of a heavy-duty filter; allowing a lighter body of coffee to come through.
However, some filters will be more on the thinner side and allow for more of the natural coffee oils to get through, although the result is still a lighter coffee. Because filters are great at ensuring that coffee ground and particles do not get through, you will be left with more of an acidic flavor.
For cloth filters, they allow most of the coffee's oils to penetrate, however solids that are not easily dissolved will not pass through into your mug; depending on the coffee bean itself, coffees from cloth filters can either be light or heavy.
Because of the high concentration of oils, you can be left with a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.
In some ways, metal filters are the best available for tasting coffee.
Microscopic micro-grounds and natural oils are allowed to pass through these filters generally, and the combination of everything means that you are most likely left with a coffee that is either creamy or juicy.
We are huge fans of metal filters, especially considering the robust flavor and body that they provide.