Coffee connoisseurs such as baristas, roasters, or Q-graders frequently reference the body when describing coffee. Is it tea-like or creamy? Are its flavors rounded or flat? Does it have a smooth taste to it or does it feel gritty like dust in your mouth? For newcomers to the industry who are unfamiliar with this jargon, comprehending what is meant by 'the body' of coffee can be challenging.
We explain what comprises a "body of coffee" and are knowledgeable about the various components that impact its composition.
The complexity of flavor, aroma, and body are the essential elements that make coffee great. The body is a key factor, lending richness and depth to each cup.
The main coffee characteristics that Q-graders use to determine the quality of each cup are aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, and balance.
It is without a doubt that the body of coffee plays an immensely integral role in assessing quality, as evidenced by the SCA and Alliance for Coffee Excellence score sheets. It is precisely why judges take this into account so seriously during Barista Championships, with scores being multiplied by four:
The body is the tactile sense
"Body" and "mouthfeel" might be seen as synonymous terms when it comes to coffee appreciation. These characteristics describe the tactile sensation that you experience on your tongue while tasting or sipping a cup coffee. In The Professional Barista's Manual, Scott Rao defines body about coffee as “the weight or fullness of a drink in the mouth” - an accurate description for any avid espresso enthusiast!
In "The Coffee Dictionary", Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood notes that coffee is often ruled by the parameters of being light to heavy. Surprisingly, this isn't always accurate as a lighter liquid can have an incredibly viscous mouthfeel or conversely, a heavier body with juicy flavor! With such confusing definitions and characteristics, it's easy to make errors in distinguishing between different types of coffee.
Close your eyes and imagine the varied textures of milk, cream, and skimmed milk on your tongue. Skimmed milk is incredibly light while whole milk has a heavier consistency. The cream takes it even further with its density which can be described as enveloping or luxurious.
To savor the full flavor of a beverage, pay attention to how it feels on your tongue.
How to characterize a coffee body
The body of a coffee drink has two characteristics - intensity and quality.
The intensity of a drink is determined by its thickness and creaminess. For instance, the texture of the cream is more substantial than milk. Additionally, if water is mixed with milk then it will create an even thinner consistency.
The intensity of flavor depends on the TDS level. This is because higher dissolved solid readings in your coffee mean a more robust and intense taste.
The body of different types of coffee can vary greatly, despite using the same portion and method for preparation. This is because every variety possesses its own chemical makeup that impacts flavor. Ethiopian beans are known to have a lighter body compared with Sumatra's dense consistency. According to the Espresso & Coffee Guide Blog, three varieties stand out in terms of full-bodied coffees-Sumatra, Kenya, and Guatemala-making them ideal choices when you're looking for an extra robust cup!
The quality - coffee should have a pleasant body, providing an enjoyable sensory experience.
Examples of a quality body: are smooth, silky, enveloping, and creamy. Examples of the poor-quality body: are dry, rough, dusty, and astringent.
The SCA Cupping Form sheet allows you to accurately measure the body evaluation of your coffee so that you can make a quality assessment horizontally and an intensity assessment vertically.
In the Q-grading system, the body is a descriptor and does not contribute to the assessment, it can be light yet of high quality or dense but with low scores. Additionally, coffee may have either a light or heavy body which will still reflect its overall grade regardless.
What determines the perception of the quality of the body
The rich flavor and smooth texture of coffee are created when the oils from coffee beans and organic acids are released into hot water. During the brewing process, these compounds dissolve in liquid to create a delicious, aromatic beverage.
When hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances interact with the oral mucosa, we can sense the body of the coffee. Lipids and acids are naturally repellent to water, making it feel smooth on our palate and tongue. On the other hand, combustion byproducts like cellulose walls attract moisture in the mouth cavity - this creates a "dusty" feeling when drinking coffee.
Body shaping occurs depending on processing, roasting, or cooking method.
How Processing Affects the Body of Coffee
A pattern can be distinguished: the more sticky substance and pulp left on the berry, the more intense the body will be. For example:
- Washed coffee has a lighter body.
- Honey-processed coffee has a more rounded body.
- Naturally processed coffee has the densest body.
Coffee during natural processing
How Roasting Affects the Coffee Body
Green coffee can be roasted to increase or decrease the intensity of the body.
Expert roasters ensure that by prolonging the roast time until you reach the first crack, you can augment the drink body's intensity. Additionally, this syrupy sensation when drinking is attributed to particular sugar-based carbohydrates being perceived during consumption.
Roasting your coffee to the first crack will release larger quantities of carbohydrates, which enhances its flavor profile. Rob Hoose's book "Modulating the Flavor Profile of Coffee" encourages stretching out the Maillard reaction during roasting for more melanoidin in the beans and a deeper intensity of body.
If you increase your roasting time to an extreme level, the coffee beans will slowly begin to stagnate and eventually start becoming "baked." Ultimately resulting in a bland cup of coffee that won't bring out any sweetness or depth. To truly get the most desirable profile for each variety, it's essential to precisely find a balance between all reactions during the process of roasting.
Not surprisingly, the level of roasting impacts its degree of density. As the coffee is further roasted (just until it approaches burning), a more dense texture can be felt with each added step.
To intensify the body of the roast, it is possible to stretch out its roasting time. Nevertheless, you should always be careful not to go too far with this technique.
How Brewing Methods Affect the Body of Coffee
Not only does the type of coffee bean used affect a beverage's flavor, but also its texture. When one variety is brewed in different ways, this alters the body of the drink, for example, pour-over V60 brews have a light tea-like consistency while French presses make dense and intense cups. But with Aeropress you can easily adjust your cup intensity to whatever suits your taste buds best!
A crucial factor in the coffee preparation process is a filter - either metal or paper. The metal filter permits better passage of the flavor-packed coffee oils, whereas a paper one catches them. Hence, using a French press to brew your cup of joe will result in much more rich and more intense flavors than utilizing Chemex for this purpose.
Espresso is widely acknowledged to be the most intense coffee drink. This intensity derives from its special brewing process, whereby a high ratio of ground coffee (18 grams) yields 36 grams of espresso in an espresso machine that exerts strong pressure. As a result, more essential oils are extracted for a dense and full-bodied flavor, unlike any other type of coffee beverage!
Coffee brewed in pour-over has a light, tea-like body thanks to the paper filter and no additional pressure.
Important to know
When evaluating coffee, the body-or tactile sensation on your tongue when sipping--is an essential characteristic to pay attention to. Such a feature can provide insight into the quality of the coffee and if it meets your preferences.
No matter the process and parameters you employ, varying types of coffee will always yield distinct results. Take Ethiopia for instance, its brewed cup is sure to be light and tea-like whereas Kenya produces a much fuller-bodied beverage. The coffee body can be influenced by coffee processing, roasting, or the choice of brewing method.
Personal preference is a factor when it comes to coffee flavor and body. Some people may prefer a strong espresso, while others enjoy the lighter taste of tea pour-over. However, regardless of personal tastes or preferences, no one enjoys beverages with an unpleasant gritty texture or grainy mouthfeel.