Subjective (sensory) Analysis - Body
The texture of coffee is usually described with the word body. But it can also be called tactile, mouthfeel, or even weight. All of these words, and probably others, are used to describe the sensation that occurs when the liquid is in contact with your mouth.
The body of a coffee is somewhat to do with the type of species (Arabica, Robusta, or Typica) and or varietal (Bourbon, Catuai, Gesha) as well as terroir but is mostly a result of the roasting and or brewing process.
Generally speaking, body slowly reaches a peak in the roasting process at around 14-18 minutes (pending several other factors). After peaking it drops rapidly. And of course, you can manipulate the body by changing the brewing variables (we will talk a lot more about this in later posts).
When we talk about the body of a coffee we use a range of words to describe how thick or thin it is. This is unfortunately totally subjective, and people often use different words to describe the exact same level of thickness.
The difference depends on who you regularly talk to and the coffees you talk about. This can be very different across different countries or subtly different in the same town, but it can also be hugely different in the same town and very similar across different countries. The words we use to describe the texture of a coffee are a direct result of the all the coffees we’ve tasted and the people in our communications circle (including the blog posts your read).
In the real business of coffee there is no such thing as a coffee with perfect body because good coffee is subjective and so perfect body is an individual preference. But, generally speaking if the texture is very dry or very watery it has a low chance of being accepted by anyone. So a mediumish-like body is the best place to start and then you can adjust it for each of your customers if they would like it thicker or thinner (we’ll explain how to do that in later posts).
It’s impossible to define the texture of the first coffee you taste, the only way to determine how thick or thin it is is by tasting another coffee and comparing them. Through this way, and by tasting lots of coffees, we can develop our senses and create sensory memory. And when we do this with other and talk about it we develop our vocabulary for defining the body of a coffee. To get started you can also begin with the following activity.
Buy a product by Nestle called “Resource® Thickenup® Clear” and mix up 4 different dilutions (4 different levels of thickness) with a filter coffee (split 200g of brewed filter coffee into 4 cups). Sample each dilution to register what the different levels of thickness feel like. Then set up a blind tasting session to sample them and arrange them from thinnest to thickest. Repeat this activity but make the dilutions less different (make it harder by using less of the thickening agent).
This activity enables you to concentrate on texture only as this thickening agent doesn’t affect the taste or flavour of the coffee so it’s a very good tool for developing your senses and memory.
Stay tuned for next week when we talk about coffee taste!