How To Taste Coffee Like A Pro

Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks.
Until recently, I had no idea that professional coffee tasting even existed. I ordered my soy latte every morning, not really understanding how noticeably different two coffee beans can taste from one another. Then, I took a trip to Starbucks Headquarters in Seattle where, among other things, I was immersed in a full-on cupping experience. (I also got to go behind the scenes of the making of the two latest latte flavors!)

If you're wondering what cupping is, don't worry, I didn't know either. It's just a professional term for a tasting that helps determine the quality of any given coffee. Starbucks quality tests every single batch of coffee that goes out to its customers, which means that a small group of coffee tasters hole up in the "cupping room" at the company's HQ in Seattle and taste a whopping 600 to 800 cups per person per day. (They don't actually drink all that coffee!)

In case you want to replicate what Mackenzie taught me in the above video, Starbucks shared a more detailed description on how to taste coffee, below.
Advertisement

Starbucks' Four Steps To Coffee Tasting Like A Pro

1. Smell (“Paddle & Swirl”): Always smell a coffee before you taste it. Your tongue distinguishes only five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami — but your nose can detect thousands of smells. Cup your hand over the coffee, hold the cup close to your nose, and inhale.

2. Slurp ("Dip & Scoop"): When tasting a coffee, it’s important to slurp it. Slurping sprays the coffee across your entire palate and lets subtle flavors and aromas reach your nose.

3. Locate & Spit: Think about where you are experiencing flavors on your tongue. Is it on the tip and sides? What is the mouthfeel and weight of the coffee on your tongue?

4. Describe: Now that you’ve smelled and tasted the coffee, think about how you would describe the experience. Talk about the aroma, acidity, body, and flavor. What food flavors or other experiences can you compare this sensation to? Citrus, cocoa, and berries are just a few flavors you might taste.
Advertisement

More from Food & Drinks

Growing up, your parents may have told you to be grateful for your food, because some people are starving. Now, your own meals can actually help other ...
Coffee lovers of the world, get ready. We have news that might make even a die-hard caffeine addict à la Lorelai Gilmore jump up and down in excitement. ...
DIY cotton candy ice cream that doesn't require an ice cream maker? Winning
These out of this world doughnuts are topped with a vanilla galaxy. Oh, and did we mention that they only have two ingredients
Whether you're brunching or, uh, dinnering, etiquette is of the utmost importance when dining out. And no, we don't mean keeping your elbows off the table...
Once in college, I had a friend Google "how to make a grilled cheese," and I remember being completely baffled that someone would need a step-by-step ...
Once the vegetable our moms would have to beg us to try ("just a bite!"), today, we can't get enough of cauliflower. It practically defines the word ...
(Paid Content) Scrambled eggs for breakfast? Yawn. Standard-issue pancakes? Predictable. To effectively get us out of bed in the a.m., we prefer a morning ...
Great drinks, a perfect soundtrack, the perfect lighting: all these things can make a party good. But what makes a get-together memorable? The food. Once ...
A few months back, Zoe Bain went boldly where neither of us had gone before: She completely barred herself from anything takeout (yes, even coffee) for two...
Every time we log into Amazon, it feels like everything — movies, tech gadgets, and random articles of clothing — is competing for our attention. But, ...
S'mores are a messy dessert favorite. But why not skip the sticky situation and enjoy yours in a cone
This may be news to you, but living in New York is kind of expensive. But, while it may always be the land of $17 cocktails and unmentionable rents, the ...
Sushi and NYC are two peas in a pod. They go together like bread and butter, sugar and spice, cheese and crackers — yeah, you get the picture. So whether ...