What Are the Benchmarks of Great Coffee?

If you ask any coffee bean expert what makes great coffee, they’ll likely start rampaging about the history of the coffee bean from planting and harvest to roasting and extraction. In a way, the journey through which the coffee bean has gone until it’s made its way into your coffee plays a big role in how tasty the cup turns out to be. However, getting into too many technical details will do us little good. Instead, we’ve asked professional coffee tasters about what they think the benchmarks of great coffee are. They answered with the following five characteristics:

1. Flavor

Everyone will agree that the taste of the coffee is one crucial benchmark of great coffee, but that’s as far as the agreement goes. After all, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to flavor and taste. The flavor of the coffee starts with the distinctive aroma and taste you get once you take a sip. Some flavors have a winey-taste, close to that of red wine. Others come with a fruity essence that can remind you of citrus or berries. Meanwhile, hardcore coffee lovers like the punch that bitter and strong coffee gives them. At the end of the day, it’s all about how the coffee is extracted. It’s the most important factor in delivering a consistent coffee flavor that suits the tastes of the drinker.

2. Aroma

If smelling the aroma of coffee first in the morning sounds like pure bliss to you, then you’ve already experienced the beauty of the aroma benchmark. The aroma is the fragrance of the brewed coffee that works its way up to your nose and all the way into your brain, even before you take a sip. Mostly, you’ll be able to make the taste of the coffee from its aroma alone. Experts can determine the quality of the coffee judging from its aroma alone, and even product designers exploit this advantage to lure more customers into buying their coffee. 

3. Body

The body benchmark is the texture of the coffee you drink. In other words, it’s how light, think, oily, or heavy it is. Just like flavor, the body depends on the drinker’s preferences. According to the specialist baristas at Black Ink Coffee, you can adjust the body of your coffee by getting help from quality coffee makers. For instance, espresso machines can deliver the best heavy body coffee, the same goes for Moka pots, and steel-filter pour-over brewed coffee. On the other hand, paper filters can be used to deliver light-body coffee. 

In addition to the brewing method, some coffee beans are naturally light or heavy-bodied. For instance, Mexican, Jamaican, and Brazilian are light in nature, while coffee beans grown in high altitudes and in rich soils are heavy-bodied. The get a medium-bodied texture, you’ll need to adjust your brewing method according to the nature of the beans. That means brewing light-bodied coffee ground slower and without filters and decreasing the brew time, and adding filters for heavy-bodied ones. 

4. Acidity

Acidity is another taste characteristic found in great coffee. It’s that sharp after-taste you get once you take a sip, and it’s something that all coffee addicts look forward to. Acidity serves in defining the brightness of the coffee flavor; it ranges from low (or smooth) to high (or lively). Without it, the coffee will be dull, mellow, flat, and just tasteless, a complete waste of water. However, too much acidity is also bad. Great coffee has adequate acidity that is balanced and crisp. 

5. Finish

If you can guess the quality of the coffee from its aroma, then its finish is the final judge of the argument. The finish describes the aftertaste or the sensation you get as soon as you swallow the coffee – or spit it, it all comes down to its finish, really. Experimenting with the finish is another thing that baristas take great pleasure in, as it can totally make or break the whole cup of coffee. The finish of the coffee can be manipulated to deliver an aftertaste of chocolate, mint, tobacco, or others. The body of the coffee also plays a role in how long the finish lasts, with heavy-bodied coffees usually lasting more than lighter-bodied ones. 

Are you looking to enhance your coffee-brewing skills? If so, you’ll have to start by understanding the benchmarks of great coffee. Once you understand how flavor, aroma, body, acidity, and finish can affect the coffee-drinking experience, you’ll have a better knowledge of tweaking the brewing tactics to achieve different results.