To me, coffee is black.
Many coffee drinkers can’t fathom having it any other way. While I watch the free lattes pile up on my rewards card at the local cafe, like some Sisyphean plight, a thought began to brew.
Are some of these sugar addict, frappuccino drinkers trying to break the habit and learn to love true, fresh, black coffee? After all, black coffee is wholly available and, depending on where you go, can be some of the best coffee on the planet.
The vast majority of coffee drinkers make a face at the idea of adding cream to their wonderful coffee. For those that don’t understand this knee-jerk reaction, here’s your guide on how to drink (and appreciate) the timeless beverage, black coffee. Sometimes called java.
How To Taste Black Coffee
There are a lot of great flavor profiles available in coffee. It’s almost impossible to understand how there could be so many varieties. However, there are a few factors that contribute to the overall flavor profiles that make a great cup of coffee.
Amongst the most tedious of factors, is understanding where the coffee originated from.
That goes from country to region, all the way down to farm and farm plot if we’re getting really obsessive. If you’re a lover of fine black coffee then you can really appreciate this level of detail too.
Sometimes beans from a certain farm plot see less and less sun as the season draws on. This effects the acidity level in the soil and in turn of the coffee and its complex flavor profile.
Getting a coffee that’s simply nutty, isn’t enough for many coffee tasters. So what is there to look for in a flavor profile and how does one go about tasting it?
First, we’d recommend finding a local coffee roastery and purchasing something bold. Go out on a limb.
Try gathering a group of friends or preparing coffee for a cupping session.
This is done by preparing many samples of coffee in a uniform brew method and sharing them in a group, preferably with a few different roasts.
The way to taste coffee, as the professional coffee tasters do, is to slurp the coffee, taking the sample into your mouth while inhaling gently. Each sip (or slurp rather) should coat the entire mouth but mostly should focus on the tongue. You want to study the mouthfeel as well as the over-arching flavor profile, from beginning to end.
Sounds like quite a chore, right?
You’ll also want to make notes!
Perhaps you’re familiar with the tongue map that describes the various areas being responsible for flavor. This is actually a common misconception. Or as the British would say, is complete poppycock.
Tasting black coffee is a holistic experience from beginning to end. Here’s what to taste, so pay attention!
What You’re Tasting In Black Coffee
- Acidity: Most coffee has an acid-like taste, whether it be highly pronounced or more nuanced is what you’ll want to evaluate.
- Fruity and floral flavors come through with greater acidity.
- Because many find the general appearance of acidity in their palette unappealing this is by and large the most scrutinized characteristic of the coffee.
- It is important to let samples cool because the appearance of acidity is best evaluated once the coffee has cooled.
- Body: This is a tricky category for beginners but is easily defined as the mouthfeel of the coffee, which equates to how thick or viscous the coffee is. When slurping coffee properly this trait becomes easy to define.
- Sweetness: Yep, even without all that sugar and cream you’ll still find the coffee to have a sweet taste in a rather complex way.
- One might not think of sweetness when dealing with coffee but some of the best coffees in the world display this characteristic.
- The most sought-after coffee beans are those that combine the sweetness of fruit with the acidity normal synonymous with coffee flavor profiles.
- Sweetness is critical to allowing the other tastes to flourish and be appreciated.
- Finish: The last impression of your drink has a huge impact on how you’re left evaluating the coffee. The aftertaste can be harsh or one that keeps you coming back for more.
- The idea of a bad lingering taste long after the coffee has been swallowed is obviously not going to be well received. A great finish will affirm your enjoyment of the coffee.
Now that you’ve become acquainted with the cupping session and how to perform it, it’s best to go out and find some roasters that are holding sessions of their own and pick up on the subtle or not so subtle practices of these fine coffee enthusiasts.
With some practice, you could be holding your own cupping sessions with friends or families, for entertainment or business.
How Is Change Possible?
Luckily for you, the palette can adjust over time.
Among the most widely observed, but poorly understood modifiable behavioral phenomena is that dietary experience can alter taste preferences. This is essential for survival since animals from insects to humans have to respond to a changing food environment.
Since alterations in taste are well known in humans, as people from the Far East have different taste preferences than people from the West.
This makes one think that the ability to change is easier than we think. Black coffee has many subtle flavors and can taste refreshing and bold. However, when the characters are masked by adding sugar to the drink, it’s likely that the palette will adjust to snuff out those flavors and support the sugar and cream.
Benefits of Drinking Your Coffee Black
First off, if you’re trying to cut down on the sugar, then it’s likely that black coffee will be a mainstay of your diet.
It’s not only much better tasting, but it’s worth noting that there’s a single calorie in eight ounces of coffee. Though it might vary on the kind of bean one is brewing with, this is the average calorie count.
So you can feel guilt free when sipping a bold and beautiful, black coffee.
Coffee is a very good beverage for intermediate fasting as well. If you’re trying to cut back on the hours in which you’re consuming calories, coffee will keep you feeling good, even when your stomach says, “feed me”.
The flavor profile benefits as well.
If you’re not stuck on buying a can of generic coffee that is practically flavorless (maybe you really want to save that thirty cents a year), buying fresh beans and grinding them, perhaps from your local roastery, or what have you, is going to help you understand the magic of the beverage.
Coffee beans, like anything, will begin to break down and lose their fervor once the inner contents are exposed to oxygen and moisture.
We often hear about the vast array of health benefits from coffee, but I assure you, those health benefits are being lost due to exposure to the elements.
Beans will start to oxidize immediately after grinding, which is why many coffee experts recommending grinding bean only thirty seconds before use.
Once you’re eliminating sugar you’ll start to feel like a true connoisseur. One can start to taste the difference with fresh bean immediately.
The Taste Conversion
If you grew up on sugary drinks that look more like the inside of a carnival than the depths of space, then it may be difficult to grasp that the flavors a coffee expert describes as ‘earthy’ could be enjoyable. I’m looking at the unicorn frappucino, that’s the culprit for the youth of today’s bad taste.
However, the balanced and nuanced, maybe ‘earthy’ flavor profile is exactly what seasoned coffee veterans are looking for.
Over time, as your palette adjusts, the darker more bold roasts will start to sound like exactly what the doctor ordered.
Black coffee is also a matter of convenience. The more ingredients one adds to their coffee equals out to not only a longer preparation time, but it’s a more expensive drink to make all together.
For the cost of all the creams and sugars that go into making some coffee drinks, you could be buying great quality coffee beans.
Strategies for Drinking Your Coffee As It Was Intended, Black
If you’re really stuck on sugar then there are a few things you can do to combat that.
- Add less and less sugar and or creamer to your coffee day by day. It’s likely that you’re experiencing a bit of withdrawal, whether it’s just the chemical compound, sugar, doing it’s worst to keep you hooked, or your palette really isn’t used to the bold earthy taste described above.
- Find some coffee that features elements you enjoy in your coffee additives. Surprisingly there are kinds of coffee that are blended to feature the crazy flavors one finds in the Unicorn Frappuccino or what have you. Coffee can be blended for tastes that are sweet, fruity, creamy or a multitude of other things. Starting with these kinds of coffee would be a great strategy for breaking away from the creamer.
- Try different brewing methods. There’s an array of coffee gear out there. Everything from pour over brewers to Aeropress to Espresso machines for domestic use. If you’re nervous about investing in coffee gear, do a little research with our reviews and comparisons. It’s even possible to go old school and prepare cowboy coffee.
- Taste the coffee black every time before adding cream or sugar: Everytime you make coffee from now on, set some aside, and give it a taste on its own. This can help you ween off the sugary drinks and understand the subtle yet complex drink of champions.
- Try lighter roasts first: If you’re finding dark coffee to be too intense for the palette then you should just try the light option. Your local cafe will usually have a dark and light roast on the drip. If you’re intimidated to order, just say, “I’ll have a light drip coffee, medium, please”. That should get you right where you want to be in terms of flavor and caffeine.
Perhaps this is an easier path to tread now that you’re becoming more versed in coffee tasting, or like Huffington Post says, those who prefer black coffee are more capable of becoming psychopaths, we don’t really agree!
Black coffee has a long and diverse history. It’s also one of the most common drinks on he planet, so we’re not likely to buy into their slander!
The Best Time to Drink Your Coffee
Regardless of your daily schedule, studies show that your body doesn’t really benefit from drinking coffee right after you wake up. If you start drinking immediately after waking up then the caffeine will be competing with your bodies own natural waking chemical, cortisol.
However, cortisol wears off within after the first waking hours, so roughly one hour after you’ve woken up, you’re free to partake in the lovely coffee beverage.
One might find that the coffee is much more enjoyable and effective after a glass of water and a little sunlight.
Coffee supresses the hormones that make you tired, but it can’t do that all day long, at some point one will have to stop drinking coffee and let the regulatory hormones take over.
Various kinds of Coffee Beans
Obviously, it could be easy to start with the lightest roast of coffee, and that makes sense to the novice black coffee drinker. However, there is another fundamental difference when it comes to tasting black coffee.
Arabica vs. Robusta, the ultimate difference in determining style and flavor of coffee beans. After beans have been roasted, regardless of the degree, they all tend to look the same despite the vast variety that exists.
The two primary types of coffee cultivated for drinking are really what’s important though, in fact, they couldn’t be more different. They vary in taste sure, but also growing conditions, and certainly price.
Arabica beans have a sweeter, softer taste, with a lot of sugar, fruit, and berries. Their acidity is higher, and are more known for their wine like palette. Sounds fancy, right?
Robusta, however, has a stronger taste that many will consider similar to nutty tastes. These are much more caffeine-rich beans but many will determine that their taste is inferior. Some robustas, however, are great for espresso and reveal an oily crema that is just what the doctor ordered.
Ultimately it’s a question of personal taste, and maybe what is cost effective. If you’re concerned about having too much caffeine then it’s important to understand this distinction and how it will affect your day, and a cup of coffee. As stated, these are better used for things like espresso, so if you’re looking for beans to accompany a certain kind of brewing process this is key.
As always we hope you’ll convert to the dark side of coffee drinking, and if you’re searching for more coffee making gear then it’s likely that you’ll enjoy our coffee gear reviews here.