Coffee Tasting 101: An At-Home Guide

Coffee Tasting 101: An At-Home Guide

Hello, fellow coffee lovers!

Today’s entry is made to be savored…welcome to Coffee Tasting 101!

A specialty coffee tasting might seem self explanatory, but we have our own way of doing it here at Good Citizen. Like wine tasting, there’s a lot of science and methodology that goes into unveiling flavor profiles of different roasts. The volatile tasting notes and aromatics in these flavor profiles are brought about by various acids, minerals, and nutrients. You might have heard them described with words like fruits, florals, spices, chocolates/nuts, roastiness/ash, and earthiness. A coffee tasting done right (and often!) helps you better identify the complexity of these specific notes and brings a whole new level of enjoyment to your coffee experience.

Below, we’ve provided an easy, step-by-step guide to conducting your own coffee tasting at home. As you sip for yourself, don’t feel like you have to guess all of the flavors correctly. No answer is wrong, and as with anything you taste, it’s all about connecting your olfactory senses to your memory bank of smells and tastes. Start with what it most reminds you of, then narrow that down to more specific tastes. (For example, start with the familiar taste of Fruity Pebbles cereal, then narrow that taste down to specific flavor components such as strawberries, malty, sugary-sweet, and so on.)


Step One: Get back to basics. Forget your fancy brewing methods; we’ll only be using hot water and coffee grinds! This unfiltered coffee process is known as “cupping.”

Step Two: Gather your goods. You will need the items listed below…

  • 12 grams of medium-ground coffee 
  • Water between 195-205º F
  • An 8oz glass or ceramic cup
  • A spoon
  • Materials for note-taking (phone, computer, or good old paper and pen)

Step Three: Weigh your coffee into 2 to 3 cups each, smelling the fragrance of the dry grinds and taking notes. 

Step Four: Add your water (with caution–ideally, it’s 205º F) up to the brim of the cup, then carefully smell the wet grinds, taking notes.

Step Five: Wait 4 minutes for the grinds to steep. A crust of coffee will begin to form at the top of the cup. 

Step Six: Break the coffee crust with your spoon, lightly crushing the top and swirling it around. You’ll then use the spoon to skim that top layer to remove any silt. 

Step Seven: As the mixture cools, scoop up a spoonful of coffee with your spoon and gently slurp it–please be careful not to burn your tongue! As you hold the coffee in your mouth, swirl it around and take note of the mouthfeel it’s creating–acidity, sweetness, bitterness, etc.

Step Eight: Repeat until coffee is room temperature.


If you really want to go coffee-tasting crazy, check out the SCA/World Coffee Research’s Sensory Lexicon as well as cupping protocols here!

Keep picking out those coffee notes until next week!


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