Q Grader Tips: Beginners Guide to Enhancing Your Palate

From previous blogs we’ve mastered: grind, water,, what's next?


Developing your coffee palate so that you can begin to describe coffee aroma, taste and flavour like the pro’s can be lots of fun! Let’s continue on our coffee journey, this time we’re covering how to enhance your sense of smell…

Coffee Cupping: it’s all about sensory evaluation.

Cupping is not just “tasting”, equally important is the aroma.

When cupping coffee in the industry standard way, we ‘smell’ or evaluate coffee aroma 4 ways:

  1. Dry Aroma: Referred to as fragrance - freshly ground coffee smelled before adding water.
  2. Cup Aroma: Referred to as aroma - a freshly made brew where we smell the vapours.
  3. Nose Derived: Believe it or not, you actually can smell as you taste; coffee vapours are released as it’s taken into your mouth.
  4. Aftertaste: Vapours emitting from the coffee residue remaining on your palate after the coffee has been swallowed; remember the great & not so great coffees you’ve drunk in the past and how they linger?

That’s just food science gibberish!

Well it is and it isn’t, stay with us and we’ll show you a simple and enjoyable way to really develop your coffee palate and vocabulary, with the added bonus of enhancing your taste buds for everything!

Enhancing your sense of smell.

  • Begin by getting into the habit of smelling everything - like a dog...all the time!
    • Get a ‘smell pack’ together: select from spices, veg, fruit, nuts, vanilla, chocolate, wood and place the items individually in small sealed containers then...smell, no, really smell!
    • Hold your nose over them for several seconds, use either one long sniff or several shallow ones. Process how the smell presents itself, store the smell in your memory bank for later retrieval. Now, do it blindfolded and practice being able to identify each item unassisted.
    • As you get better, make it harder – for example try 5-10 different fruits and repeat above.
  • In parallel to your smell pack training, smell every situation, environment, object…well everything. From your food, partner, pets to when you walk outside - try to distil what you’re smelling into known smells and unknown smells. This will help you to track and discover the unknowns then add them to your memory bank.
  • Do this for a few weeks and you’ll be amazed what a hound dog you’ve become.

Try these items as your initial smell pack: Cardamon pods (crushed), Coriander seeds (crushed), Bergamot (Earl Grey), Apple (pieces), tomato (cut), Lemon (zest), blackberries (crushed), cucumber (cut), garden peas (squashed), peanuts, toast, basmati rice (cooked), almonds, honey, vanilla, dark choc, cloves, charcoal.