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Easy tips to upskilling your coffee taste buds.

Mt Atkinson

For anyone keen to school their palates and learn more about appreciation of flavour elements and describing them, and understanding how to categorise the body of a coffee, there are a few things I’d recommend.

Try different brewing methods. These days there are a good number of options for making coffee at home: Aeropress, V60, Espresso, Gold Filter or the good old Plunger. Trying different brewing methods allows you to see the differences they each draw out from the bean. Try them side by side, or for a period of time instead of your preferred method, Take notes. Make some coffees, and take time to think through all the things you smell and taste.

Make notes, draw pictures, and just generally think through the different experiences in each cup. This isn’t about scoring or assessing one cup better than another. It’s a thought experiment, geared toward building a more nuanced view of what goes into each brew.

Test yourself. Can you remember what something tastes like and describe it in 100 words? This is a good way to articulate all the different elements within a single flavour. And is that description something that another person could read and know what flavour you’re expanding on?

Build a flavour memory. Take every opportunity to make a mental memory of what different things taste like. Write notes if you need/want to, it helps to be as descriptive as possible. Also be brave and try new and different things. This is how your palate becomes more educated and able to spot interesting and diverse flavours.

Teach yourself how to recognise sweetness, bitterness, and acidity in differing balances. Make a large batch of coffee, a Plunger say, and into several small cups pour a portion of coffee. To each cup (except for 1 that remains untouched), add a drop of lemon or lime or orange juice, or a pinch of sugar, or a pinch of salt, and so on. Working your way tasting and considering these elements will help to show the differences even a small change in acid, bitterness or sweetnessmakes.

The best way to practise is to be intentional about it. Getting better at describing what you taste or smell takes time and repetition, ideally doing it with others and bouncing ideas of each other. After all, doesn’t coffee taste better when you’re enjoying it with friends?


Mt Atkinson