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Establishing your coffee palate

Establishing your coffee palate

We hear it all the time, your coffee features notes of milk chocolate, or berry, fig or even apricot. I am sure at times you find yourself thinking, ‘Are they for real?’ The answer is YES!

When it comes to coffee there are 800 different flavour notes! Crazy right?! Think of it like wine (wine and coffee – two of life’s greats!) Depending on the region and the production process, wine will also develop different flavours and coffee is no different.

The practices of establishing your coffee palate will take some time and a lot of practice and they all follow the same practice of coffee cupping. Tasters are given a small bowl with a capacity between 150ml and 200ml in which 10g of ground coffee is placed along with water heated to 92 degrees Celsius. This is left to stand for five minutes until a crust is formed on top. The taster breaks the crust and scrapes off the grounds from the surface of the water and allows the bowl to stand for another five minutes. After this, they deeply inhale the scent and slurp the coffee, ensuring that the coffee spreads to the back of their tongue.

Like I said, with 800 different flavour notes, learning to differentiate between tastes will take you a lot of time. As part of the process, you need to learn four areas which will enable you to identify the notes in your coffee. These are:

Sweetness: Can you identify any sort of sweet tastes, such as brown sugar, molasses, honey or caramel?

Acidity: No we are not referring to acid/pH levels. Instead we mean, tastes such as citrus, blueberry, strawberry or even tomato and watermelon.

Body: How does the coffee feel in your mouth, what is the consistency like? Is it rich and heavy? Or is it light, watery perhaps even smooth?

Cleanliness: Does the coffee linger in your mouth? Harsh coffees usually does, while cleaner coffees will leave your palate neutral – this is the best result.

So if you are seriously passionate about coffee and keen to build your skills, the best way to learn is to undertake a course. You’ll be a coffee connoisseur in no time!



Egger, S & Orr, RA 2014, ‘Establishing your palate’ in The Home Barista, How to become a coffee whiz, Affirm Press, South Melbourne, AUS, pg. 39 – 46

Berk, M 2018, ‘How to taste coffee like a pro’, Bean Box, viewed 1st May 2019, <>

Camano Island Coffee Roasters 2019, ‘How to taste coffee – 5 steps to coffee snobbery’, Blogs, viewed 1st May 2019, <>

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