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The new Espresso cupping form


di Andrej Godina
ultimo aggiornamento 11/01/2020 10:11:00

How to evaluate the espresso beverage in professional tasting sessions

andrej godina con tazzina di caffè espresso.jpg
The espresso beverage is probably one of the most complex from a chemical point of view that can be produced by using hot water through a portion of roasted and ground coffee. Inside the espresso there are thousands of different chemical compounds that make its difficult to describe in terms of sensorial evaluation. The professional taster who engages in the espresso qualitative needs a good physiological predisposition, a lot of practice and training, a good calibration with other tasters. In the espresso sensory analysis are involved all senses, except hearing, which has no role in its description. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to taste the beverage in a quiet place, away from sources of noise that can distract and annoy the taster. 

Espresso is described in 6 steps or, in chronological order in the visual, olfactory, flavouring, gustatory, tactile aspect, and finally with the aftertaste (retro-olfactory). 

The espresso visual aspect affects the description of the superficial foam (calld crema) in its color, texture (i.e. the size of the micro-bubbles), the presence of darker signs also called tiger skin effect, consistency and persistence over time. A good roasting profile for espresso will allow the coffee to produce a hazelnut-colored crema. As the degree of roasting increases, the crema’s color will become darker. With the same roasting colour, Robusta produces a darker crma than Arabica. From an olfactory point of view, the aroma’s intensity and its quality is described through a careful and prolonged odouring phase. As the degree of roasting changes, the aromatic profile and intensity change: a light roasting produces a less intense aroma than a darker one. As the roasting colour darkens, it is possible to perceive more bakery aromas up to the notes of burnt, smoke, ash.
In the palate, after taking the first sip of the drink, the flavour is described. Flavour, in Italian Flavore is, the combination of the first gustatory, aromatic and body sensations. Light roasting colour produce more acidity and citrus notes and less body, particularly in Arabica, while dark roasts create more bitterness, full-bodied profile in the cup with aromas belonging to pastry. A careful evaluation of the gustatory balance defines the intensity of the acid, sweet and bitter tastes. During the espresso description it’s also important to evaluate the presence of the umami and salty taste (if they are present). The acid taste is the only one of the 5 ones that can have a qualitative variation based on the fact that you can perceive a different quality: citric, malic, tartaric, lactic, phosphoric, acetic. For specialty coffees, with an ideal roasting profile, produce into the bevearage a complex acidity, balanced by an intense sweet taste. The tactile description of the drink passes through the evaluation of the body’s intensity and quality. In espresso this is an important sensorial feature, much more than it is evaluated in other tasting methods such as cupping. In particular, for espresso, it is a good rule to prefer roasting profiles that enhance the body’s intensity together with the high qualitative aspects (mouthfeel) in order to be silky, buttery, creamy.  Finally, once the coffee is swallowed, the after taste characteristics and the retro-nasal aromas that remain in the palate are described: the intensity and quality of the aftertaste. The aftertaste must persist for a rather long period. As the degree of roasting increases, the intensity and persistence of the aftertaste also generally increases. 
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