Columbus Coffee Guide: Drink like a coffee pro

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Coffee is a dynamic product, boasting more flavor profiles than wine. Perhaps this is why identifying your preferred coffee can be tough.

If you want a good starting point, ask how it was processed, says Bir of Crimson Cup. Coffee beans can be processed in many ways: dried with the outer fruit left completely or partially on, dried with inner membrane intact or dried solo with all outer layers removed. Depending on the growing region and practices, one bean can result in thousands of flavors.

If you're tasting a new coffee for the first time, follow these basic guidelines:

Aroma

What smells can you identify? Coffee aromas and flavors will often range from damp and earthy, to notes of chocolate, nuts, caramel and peanut butter, to a range of fruits like blueberry, raspberry and apple, and finally to citrusy elements like lemon and orange.

Body

Is it thick or thin? Does it feel heavy and oily, or light and bright? Most coffee shops go for a medium body, Brioso's Justice says.

Sweetness

What sweet flavors can you identify: fruits, chocolate, caramel, syrup, nuts? Again, asking how the coffee was processed will give you a general range of flavors.

Acidity

What sour properties do you taste? Can you liken them to any citrus flavors? Coffee growers and roasters often talk about acidity, Bir says. Coffees grown at higher elevations-like Guatemalan beans-develop more slowly and build up more acid. The processing will also produce different amounts of bitterness.

Drinkability

How drinkable is the coffee? What's the aftertaste? Would you purchase it again? Depending on roast and preparation, coffee moves across the spectrum from acidic (or sour) to balanced to bitter. Where does this one land? "You have to have drinkability above all else," Justice says. "If the coffee lacks it, the customer doesn't finish it and doesn't buy another one."