Gourmet Hawaiian Kona Coffee Tasting Tips

by dan on October 11, 2009

With the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival coming up, including lots of professional coffee tastings and judging, this is a good time to review how “Cuppers” sample and review the top premium gourmet Kona coffee.

Cuppers, or professional coffee tasters, evaluate the flavor profile of the coffee, making sure to assess the coffee’s aroma, body, acidity, and aftertaste.

If you would like to perform a “professional coffee tasting” at home, here are the steps to follow.

Acquire fine gourmet Kona coffee

that has been freshly roasted, shipped in a valve-sealed bag, and stored properly in a cool, dark, dry place, and not in the refrigerator or freezer.

Make sure your cupping environment if free of any smells, perfume, or other distractions.

Grind the gourmet kona coffee, preferably using a Burr grinder which provides a more consistent grind than a blade grinder. The grind size should be similar to rough sand, or slightly larger than raw sugar. When you grind the coffee take note of its fragrance - this is your first assessment of the Kona coffee’s quality.

The cup you use should be a small porcelain cup or a small glass. Pour about five to seven ounces of water into the cup onto two tablespoons of coffee. The water should be about 202 degrees Fahrenheit - you can achieve this by waiting about thirty seconds after the water is boiling and then removed from the heat.

Allow the gourmet Kona coffee to steep for a few minutes. The grinds will rise and form a crust on top. Gently break the crust, preferably using a silver-plated spoon to avoid undesirable taste affects from other materials.

The ideal spoon is a “deep bow” tablespoon with a very concave bowl, but you can also just use a tablespoon measuring spoon. This shape helps to disperse the flavors as you slurp the coffee.

Once you break the crust, immediately assess the Kona coffee aroma - the fragrant bouquet. Inhale it in and evaluate it. Also notice when you break the crust that there should be a fine layer of foam atop the coffee if it is fresh.

Now remove all of the grinds or let them sink to the bottom. Avoiding any grounds, get a spoonful of the coffee and slurp it into your mouth as you evaluate the coffee flavors as well as the finish of the Kona coffee.

When you slurp the gourmet Kona coffee, do it with some force so air mixes with the coffee and the flavors disperse in your mouth. Swirl it around, make sure your whole tongue is coated, sense the aromas and evaluate the coffee’s body (mouthfeel) and its tastes. How is the coffee’s consistency, is there a sense of richness in the taste.

Sense the Kona coffee’s acidity - is there a dryness and the back of your throat, do you sense a sharpness at the front of your mouth. Is the acidity lively or dull? How is the coffee’s “nose” or vapors that go from your mouth up into your nasal passage. Darker roasts are less acidic.

A slight amount of bitterness may be desirable as it counteracts acidity - you can sense this as a strong twinge, or a slight aftertaste on the back of your tongue. The bitterness may also emit a twinge or strong taste

You may choose to spit out the gourmet Kona coffee if you are doing lots of tasting, but make sure to at least swallow a little so you can evaluate the finish and aftertaste of the Kona coffee - these are the vapors still in your mouth after you swallow. Is the finish light or heavy? Dry or sweet? Does it linger?

If you are staging a Cupping with friends, now is a good time to debate the qualities of the coffee - discuss the aroma, body, acidity, and aftertaste.

Rinse out your mouth with water before sampling the next Kona coffee. This will clean your palette and leave you fresh and ready for the next gourmet Kona coffee sampling. Also rinse off your equipment thoroughly, including your spoon.

Follow these tips to evaluate all of your favorite estate Kona coffees. You may even want to host a coffee tasting party, and then you and your friends can compare your results and choose your very favorite premium Kona coffees.

Also see:

Coffee Prices 2011

Worldwide Coffee Guide

For excellent coffee knowledge see All About Coffee for information about coffee plants and coffee cherry and the world’s finest gourmet coffee beans.

Coffee Makers and Espresso Machines

Also included are full details about Coffee Makers (Automatic Drip Coffee Makers, Single Serve Coffee Makers, Pod Coffee Makers, Coffee Pods, Coffee K-Cups, T-Discs, and French Press, (also see Best Coffee Makers), and Espresso Machines (including Pod Espresso Machines) as well as Instant Coffee and Decaffeinated Coffee.

Specialty Coffee From Soil to Sip

Learn about coffee harvesting, processing, grading, roasting, grinding, packaging, storing, brewing as well as the coffee beverage itself. Also covered is Organic Coffee, Fair Trade Coffee, Bird Friendly Coffee and Shade-Grown Coffee.

Gourmet Coffee Aficionados

Discerning coffee lovers will be interested in coffee flavors and qualities including the coffee’s body, aroma, acidity, bitterness, sweetness, and finish or aftertaste). You can also learn about coffee cupping (professional coffee tasting), read great coffee quotes and then take the coffee quiz.

Espresso Brewing

Tips on espresso brewing can be read about beginning with Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot and Steaming and Frothing Milk and then reading the Barista Guide to Perfect Lattes and Cappuccinos which includes information about Espresso Drink Recipes.

Also see the best Coffee and Espresso Glossary along with the World’s Best History of Coffee.

Also see:

Coffee Price Increases In 2011 - Coffee Shortage

How To Clean A Coffee Maker

Coffee Price Increases In 2011 Due To Coffee Shortage

Latte Macchiato - Barista Tips for the Perfect Macchiato

Why Commodity Prices Are Rising In 2011

Coffee Makers - Best Coffee Machines

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Clare Wilson April 2, 2010 at 7:32 am

I always appreciate people commenting on typos in the copy on my website - hope you do too. I see a few typos in your coffee tasting tips. You might want to read through it again.

dan April 2, 2010 at 7:46 am

Thanks Clare. I have read it through again and I believe I fixed the typos you were referring to. Thanks so much for your attention to detail, a quality that you and your company share which is why your farm’s Kona coffee is so great! Aloha.

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