Sensory analysis at the bar: how to recognise a good coffee

To test the goodness of coffee, you need to rely on your senses: sight, smell and taste. Here are some pointers to help you understand if an espresso coffee at the bar is professionally made or not.

What are the characteristics of a good coffee?

A cup of espresso coffee contains a host of fragrances, flavours and aromas. Taking a hasty distracted sip is not enough to let you fully appreciate all of them. Of course, we all have our personal tastes but on careful examination it is easy to understand if a coffee has been made well or not.

According to a Turkish proverb, a good coffee must be “as black as night, as hot as hell and as sweet as love”. So, how to identifiy a good coffee at the bar?

To the sight: creamy and textured














The first pointer is its appearance. You need to observe the espresso, its cream and its colour. A dense hazelnut-coloured cream, with reddish reflections, reveals an Arabica blend; instead the cream of a Robusta coffee is darker and less dense. When the cream tends towards white or black, something is wrong. In the former case, the quantity of coffee is too little or the grinding is too coarse, whereas in the latter case, it indicates over-extraction during the making.

How do you know if coffee is bad? If there is no cream at all, it means a substandard blend has been used.

To the smell: fragrance














How to determine a coffee is good? A quality espresso coffee releases an intense and complex fragrance of roasting. Like wine, coffee also offers various complex olfactory sensations. When they blend well together, they offer an elegant and round sensation. The range of fragrances, always highly varied in a good espresso coffee, depends on the blend used. It is not so easy but with a little practice you can recognise different nuances: caramel, chocolate, nuts, sandalwood, spices, tobacco, vanilla and citrus fruits.

To the taste: flavour

You only need to sip it and wait for your taste buds to react. How a good coffee should taste like? At the first sip, we should be able to taste three flavours at once: sweet, sour and bitter. They are all the result of the roasting process. The sweet flavour is released from the quantity of glucose left in coffee beans that have not been excessively roasted: The bitter flavour comes from the combination of caffeine and woody components, whereas the sour flavour is due to the transformation of its organic acids. Although a bitter note is predominant, a good coffee should always have a harmonious balance of all three components.


The aftertaste that reveals the aroma of a coffee

To examine the intensity of a coffee, its richness and, above all, the finesse of its aroma, it is necessary to evaluate the aftertaste that remains on the palate after swallowing. This embracing perception depends on the indirect sense of smell: most of the smells are perceived during this phase, thus enhancing our perception of taste.

A professionally extracted and made espresso coffee envelops the palate with a pleasant sensation of roasting. Sweet sensations embrace and merge with bitter ones. Thanks to their fine aroma, high-quality coffees may leave a chocolatey or slightly fruity aftertasteon the palate.


What makes a good coffee at the bar

To understand if a coffee is really good, it should be tasted in its natural state, without sugar or milk, two ingredients that alter its flavour and aroma. If it has a dense creamy body, a bitter-sweet flavour and a roasted aroma that lingers on the palate, then we can congratulate the bartender: his espresso coffee is perfect!


Photos from pixabay.com

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