Hone your coffee tasting skills with filter coffee!

Floral. Chocolatey. Citrusy. Caramelly. Nutty.

You’ve heard of these flavors being present in coffee, especially in single origin beans, but have you always been able to detect them? If you haven’t been able to relate to other coffee connoisseurs in profiling coffee, perhaps it is time to give filter coffee a try!

What is filter coffee?

(Photo Credits: Tyler Nix)

Filter coffee, also known as drip coffee or pour over coffee, is brewed by running hot water through coffee grinds, which is then is passed through a coffee filter paper. The setup looks very much like a science experiment, and the resulting brew is equally mind-blowing! As this method doesn’t involve the use of pressurized water like in brewing espresso, it is much gentler on the coffee grinds. As such, filter coffee is mellower compared to espresso, allowing pleasant tasting notes to come through with lesser acidity and bitterness. Thus, filter coffee is best appreciated black.

What do you need to make filter coffee?
1. Coffee grinds, preferably single origin and medium-coarse grind size
2. Coffee dripper (V60, Chemex, etc)
3. Coffee filter
4. Coffee pot
5. Kettle
6. Weighing scale
7. Grinder (optional, if you purchase ground beans)

How do you make filter coffee?

(Photo Credits: Tim Umphreys)

1. Set up the coffee filter in the neck of the coffee dripper, above the coffee pot. Rinse the filter with hot water.
2. Determine a grind-water ratio you wish to use (1:15, or 1g coffee grinds to 15ml water is a good start, and you can adjust accordingly with experience) and add the grinds to the filter.
3. Set up the weighing scale below the coffee pot and tare to account for the weight of the pot, filter, and grinds.
4. Heat up water to 90–96oC
5. Begin pouring a small stream of water, in an outward circular motion from the center of the coffee grinds. Ensure that you pour onto the grinds for an even extraction.
6. Once the water begins to collect, stop pouring and wait for it to pass through the filter.
7. Repeat Step 5 until the extraction output of filter coffee meets the ratio determined in step 2.
8. Steps 5-7 should be done over 3-5 minutes.

How can you train your coffee tasting skills with filter coffee?

While filter coffee is one of the best ways for you to discover tasting notes like never before, the onus is on you to train your coffee tasting skills. Here are some ways you can make the most out of your tasting sessions!

1. Test yourself
Be adventurous when buying beans! Don’t look at the tasting notes. Brew the coffee and taste it. Then, try to identify some flavors which you think are present. Check them against the tasting notes listed on the packaging and see if you correctly identified any. Then, taste again to try and detect those notes!

2. Take notes

(Photo Credits: Kelly Sikkema)

Get a notebook dedicated to coffee tasting. Each time you encounter a coffee with different flavors, write it down! Note the type of bean, the flavors identified, and list down what you associate the flavors with. What does the coffee remind you of? Was this flavor present in any other coffee you tried in the past?

3. Compare coffees

(Photo Credits: Battlecreek Coffee Roasters)

Sometimes, flavors can be very similar, and you might find yourself confused by these flavors. For example, berries, cherries, and fruity flavors might have some overlap and it can be difficult to distinguish between them. Find some coffees which have these flavors exclusively and taste them side by side to learn how to tell them apart.

4. Gather some friends

(Photo Credits: Toa Heftiba)

While coffee tasting can be done alone, it is always more fun with friends. Gather some of your friends, share tips on coffee brewing and mull over the flavors that are present in coffees together! Not only will your coffee journey be more enjoyable, you will also learn faster and perhaps have more coffee to taste!

Always remember that coffee tasting should be an enriching and enjoyable experience. The key to being an expert coffee connoisseur lies in being adventurous! Try as many beans as you can and as many brewing methods too. Different methods of brewing draw out different flavor profiles from the same type of bean. While filter coffee is one of the best ways to taste coffee and detect flavors, do not limit yourself to just one method of brewing or a single type of flavor profile! As the saying goes, the journey matters more than the destination.

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