On Tasting notes | Part 2 : Texture and Body descriptors


Part 1 be here.

I’ve always found it a little strange when roasters talk about the texture or tactile qualities of a coffee in the tasting notes in precise detail. Especially when they talk as if this is the best part of the coffee and it becomes the main focus of the taste description.

For Example: This Brazil’s taste description

“In the cup I want you to think about the textures you’re enjoying, melted milk chocolate and a really thick mouthfeel make this a texture driven cup. Alongside the amazing textures you’ll find walnut and a slightly boozy finish.”

*This was from HasBean but most roasters do this.

Isn’t texture almost completely within control of the barista in the recipe they choose for brewing the coffee? Further won’t it be totally different across brew-methods?

Obviously some coffees will have distinct bodies, a pulped-natural Brazil tends to be quite heavy whilst washed Ethiopians generally stay light tasting. Most coffees however will sit in the middle within control of the brewer.

We could brew an espresso on a 1:2 ratio to give a full body and creamy mouth-feel, increase to a 1:2.5 ratio and it will be a light and watery texture. Perceived sweetness will likely change too but the overall flavours in the coffee will be roughly the same. One coffee brewed on French Press then on a Chemex will have wildly different tactile qualities but the general taste experience will be similar.

When cupping, coffees with heavier bodies than others tend to just be those that have extracted more due to higher solubility*. Not something inherent in the coffee itself.

*This is a pretty handy way to compare the average solubility of different roasters quickly without refracting, just cup similar coffees from each and see which have more body. More body = higher extraction = higher solubility, when all other variable are kept equal.

For this reason a coffee bag with tasting notes primarily describing the texture is a red flag to me. I feel this is a sign the roaster could not find much flavour to describe so filled the space by talking about body. Or that they cupped it against more interesting coffees and the body became that ones defining feature

I could of course be wrong and the roaster just places far more value on texture than I do. Looking over my recipes for the last dozen or so coffees I’ve brewed I have a clear preference for long espressos in the 7-8% TDS range, that pretty much guarantees a light/medium body with any coffee.  Perhaps it’s my style of brewing that makes the roaster’s tactile notes irrelevant.

Still though, given tactile qualities are the most changeable factor of a brewed coffee why go into such detail to try and describe it accurately when it will almost certainly be different?

That’s the first reason I believe everyone who offers tasting notes should be sharing their own and not relying on what’s written on the bag.

Part 3 is now available below

On Tasting notes | Part 3: Why you should make your own




6 thoughts on “On Tasting notes | Part 2 : Texture and Body descriptors

  1. Rob Ashton (@RobAshton) says:

    Ah no, different acids will induce different mouthfeel (the most obvious being lactic) – the content of the bean’s natural acids ain’t got nothing to do with the barista!

    Texture is definitely a big thing across different coffees – particularly with brewed, I’ve had some coffees that feel creamy even at 1.1-2tds!


    1. James Wallace says:

      The point I was trying to make though is that one coffee can be extremely variable. That coffee you say is creamy at 1.1-2% TDS may then feel like drinking tar at 1.4-5%. The roaster has no idea what recipe you’ll use so how can they describe it well?


    1. James Wallace says:

      They’re the bloody worst culprit! Steve can sometimes spend the entire paragraph talking about how amazing teh body is and how “quaffable” it is, meanwhile I don’t really have any idea what I’m buying.


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