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Body - Key attribute in evaluating specialty coffee

Welcome to this series on specialty coffee where we simplify specialty coffee concepts. Sensory analysis of coffee is a multilayer experience. There is the aroma, the taste, the temperature, and then there is the “body”.

The Specialty Coffee Association defines body as the tactile feeling of the liquid in the mouth, especially as perceived between the tongue and roof of the mouth. Once you take a sip (or slurp, if you are doing a proper coffee cupping), allow it to linger around for a moment in your mouth. In this, we are not looking to assess the taste, or the aroma/flavour. We are looking for the tactile mouthfeel of coffee. How does it feel?

To help you, we can divide body into the following main characteristics:

Viscosity (thickness): Does it feel like a thick emulsion or concoction? Or does it feel watery and light?

Coating (oiliness): As you toggle the liquid in your mouth, does it leave an oily coating? Perhaps a signature that it graced your tongue with its presence? Or does it simply disappear the moment you swallowed it?

Grittiness (particles): Can you feel minute particulate coffee bits? Or some uneven large bits perhaps? Does the liquid appear a homogeneous liquid or you can feel a bit of sand or mud floating around? Is it smooth or rough?

Astringency (dryness): Does your mouth feel like sandpaper or dry after the sip? Or does it allow room for natural moisture?

There is a much longer list of attributes that various experts include in the evaluation of body. However, when starting out a conscious examination of the above attributes will give you a fair assessment of the coffee body. While one is free to have their choice in terms of what kind of coffee they like, consensus indicates favourable opinion towards the following:

  • High viscosity or thickness

  • Presence of oiliness

  • Minimal or no particles

  • Low or no astringency or even coffee that induces salivation

The next time you taste a new coffee, be sure to do a quick check in your mind as to how it ranks on these attributes. This will help you find the combinations that work for you, and pick one that you like.

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