Special Report: The art of coffee tasting

A Nespresso coffee master class reveals what makes a perfect cup

Nespresso Italian culinary expert Giuseppe Vaccarini.
Nespresso Italian culinary expert Giuseppe Vaccarini.
Nespresso sensory expert Edouard Thomas.
Nespresso sensory expert Edouard Thomas.

Nespresso hosted a coffee master class in Dubai that aimed to explain the art of finding, preparing and enjoying the perfect cup of coffee

Nespresso, the premium coffee brand from Nestle, recently helped to the push the boundaries of Middle East coffee gastronomy by hosting the Nespresso Chef’s Academy, a 20 strong meeting of some the region’s most talented chefs, coffee sommeliers and culinary professionals.

The event was hosted by Nespresso Italian culinary expert, Giuseppe Vaccarini, and Nespresso coffee sensory expert Edouard Thomas, who led a series of workshops to explain the art of pairing coffee with food or other beverages to ensure the maximum impact on the culinary senses.

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“Taking the time to understand how to complement the coffee you serve will enhance your guest’s overall experience. Coffee is usually the last thing a diner has before leaving, and that experience can leave a lasting impression on their memory of the evening. That is why having an expert on hand to guide and inform the customer is imperative,” says Thomas.

The taste of Home
“It is well understood that tasting coffee is as sophisticated as tasting wine,” explains Giuseppe Vaccarini.

“You must consider the appearance, smell and taste very closely. With enough practice, people are eventually able to specifically identify different sensory profiles, and understand how these elements interact to craft unique coffee tasting experiences.”

Vaccarini describes how each coffee bean can vary wildly in taste according to where and how that coffee bean was sourced. These differences are then further compounded by the huge variety of methods for processing, roasting, blending and grinding the beans, which has resulted in a near limitless array of variety and flavours.

“Even the appearance of the coffee depends on the degree of creamy lather, called crema, that rests on the top of each coffee cup. It produces the coffee’s particular aroma and can vary in colour from tones of yellow, amber, blonde, brown or black. The aroma can vary between scents of dried fruits, nuts, spices, tree resin, bitter chocolate, and sometimes a bit of an earthy note,” says Vaccarini.

“When you take your first sip, what you notice most will be your first impressions of the creaminess and fullness of the foam, followed by the balance of bitterness and acidity and the differences in finish and length of the taste.”

A Fine Pair
However, with the sheer amount of different tastes and sensations in coffee, how do you try and harmonise them with an equally diverse range of food and beverage?

Edouard Thomas explains the trick is using that diversity to the taster’s advantage: “To me, it is important that people are aware of all the coffees available. I like to think of coffee as a spectrum of colour. However, it is normally served with so many colours mixed together that all you get is grey. However, an expert can pick out the colours that best complement each other to create something new.”

The first place to start, he explains, is with a simple glass of mineral water, something that is served with coffee all over the world.

“All mineral waters are different,” explains Thomas. “Some are light and refreshing, others carbonated, while water with a high mineral content does not harmonise well with coffee as the strong taste of the water will impede the taste of the coffee.”

However, if someone was to match a soft water with long style coffee with a light, flowery or citrus taste, Thomas explains, then this would help to bring out the coffee’s fruity aftertaste, without altering or changing the taste of the coffee.

“Another successful thing to pair with coffee is fruit, which is not something people usually think of. However, it can be the perfect accompaniment for when the weather is hot, especially because coffee can be quite a dry drink and the fruit adds that extra level of juiciness and bite,” says Thomas.

In the end however, the most effective way to harmonise coffee is to simply “pay attention to the subtle differences that exist," explains Thomas.

"It is imperative that you understand the attributes of each product, in order to ensure that they truly complement and combine well together,” he concludes.

Mastering your Senses
Nespresso has created a structured methodology of taste in order to break down the qualities of coffee AND PERFECT

THE METHOD OF HARMONISATION:

STEP 1: VISUAL ANALYSIS
Accurate visual analysis is the first important step to identify the colour and the surface body-texture of the coffee crema: if the colour is dark to very dark, the coffee will have fruity, floral and chocolate aromas, while if the crema is solid, then the aromatic complexity is rich and intense, the taste is persistent and the tactile perception is fine and velvety.

STEP 2: OLFACTORY ANALYSIS (SMELL)
According to its aromatic complexity, a coffee can be classified as either simple, fine, excellent, elegant or ample. Tasters can also refer to categories of smells as different subgroups for a more detailed description such as floral, fruity, vegetal, aromatic herbs, spicy, toasted, chemical or false smells (defects).

STEP 3: TASTE
Normally the main perception in coffee is that of bitterness, while acidity is a very typical sensorial connotation for coffee. Astringency, what causes dryness in the mouth, is more obvious in coffee served at a low temperature and when it is very acidic. Many people have milk with coffee as it diminishes this dryness but it cancels out the true flavour.

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