What a fascinating weekend. I took part in the Palate Training & Sensory Analysis of Coffee course at the William Angliss Coffee Academy in Melbourne. Jill Adams & Lindsay Corby have put together the course, and it has proved popular amongst participants. As I haven’t had much cupping experience, I saw the value of developing my palate and learning some sensory analysis skills to better understand coffee.
On day 1 we analysed brackets of compounds. The first bracket consisted of soda water; cold tea; cold coffee; orange juice; white wine; vegie juice; and milk.
This gave us an idea of how different Tastes present themselves in beverages. We then moved onto acids; acids in different dilutions; and combinations of different acids. Then we went through sugars, bitter compounds, various aromas and then various combinations of all of the preceding, followed by coffees with various added compounds in isolation and various combinations. Are you following?
It was overwhelming for my palate, particularly some of the bitter compounds (I never knew how bitter Caffeine is……. YUK!). But I certainly feel that I’m better equipped to efficiently isolate the main tastes, and therefor more effectively discern “Balance”.
On day 2, we used our newly enhanced skills to cup coffees. We started with 5 Aceh coffees.
Jill Adams told us about a program in Aceh (Indonesia) where they’re evaluating various Varietals and processing methods to ascertain the best options for the future. They are still rebuilding after the devastation of the Tsunami a few years ago. Each of the 5 coffees was processed in one of 2 ways – Full Washed or Wet Hulled – making for 10 coffees in all.
Then we moved on to 1 coffee roasted 5 ways. Andy Freeman (Coffeesnobs), talked a little about the different roast profiles used to roast one of his favourite coffees – Malawi Mzuzu Khanga Gesha AA. Each roast had the same start temp, turn temp, 1st crack temp and dump & cool temp. However, the ramping from turn was different so he had roasts lasting from 16 to 30 minutes (including cooling). The varied results were noticeable.
After lunch, we cupped 17 different coffees. They included a Cup of Excellence Guatemalan; a couple of blends; 2 different Harrars (one was FTO); a Mountain Water Decaf; a Yirgachefe roasted 2 ways (1 roasted on a sample roaster, the other on 20kg roaster); and a couple of coffees that contained defects. After that it was time for a beer or glass of bubbly.
My palate was worn out after all of that, but I can thoroughly recommend the course. I discussed the course with fellow participant Luca Costanzo (who’s already posted a comprehensive blog on this too!), and we agreed that we think the course would also benefit from a bracket that contained a “Neutral” coffee that was then “Flavoured” with various flavours (eg. strawberry, peanut, melon, apple etc.) in isolation and/or combination. Perhaps that could be part of “Return of – Palate Training & Sensory Analysis of Coffee”.