A Look at Aftertaste

Ed. 12 – One of the most important factors that can determine the quality of a coffee varietal is aftertaste. Aftertaste is the finish of food or drink, and is defined as the sensation present in the mouth immediately following the removal of whatever food or drink was being consumed. Aftertaste sensations can linger for long periods of time or disappear very quickly. Of course, various aftertastes can be quite pleasant or they may ruin the flavor. Unlike body or acidity, aftertaste is something that nearly everyone has experienced and recognized at one point or another; in fact aftertaste is one of the easier principles of coffee cupping to learn because the principle is so obvious in many foods. For example, Mexican or Indian cuisine can present powerfully spicy, lingering aftertaste sensations. Water on the other hand leaves very little evidence that it was even there. The aftertaste flavors of most food and beverages fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, but they seem to be easier to identify.

Aftertaste is of particular interest for coffee connoisseurs because it affects what sorts of foods will integrate well. For example, a darkly roasted coffee will typically pair well with chocolate and other rich desserts. Better food and beverage combinations include either one dominant flavor and one passive flavor, or two very similar flavors.

When you apply this logic to coffee, you will observe that dark, full-bodied roasts are great with dark chocolate and rich desserts. Lighter roasted coffee varietals will pair better with breakfast foods and lighter fare. East African coffee is more winey in nature and pairs well with milk chocolate, while Latin American coffee is much brighter and compliments starch. When looking for good pairs, pay attention to the aftertaste of the coffee. If the coffee has an acidic lingering aftertaste, then look for subdued flavor to accompany. If the coffee has a rich, full-bodied aftertaste, then look for chocolaty desserts. When in doubt, steer clear of pungent foods. Coffee has an awful lot of flavor and if the food you choose doesn’t match, the mistake will be obvious. Blander foods like bread will pair with nearly anything because there are no flavors to clash, but coffee opens a giant door for error, so as you look to pair foods, begin with subdued options and try out new flavors individually. The best way to learn is to get creative and make mistakes, so brew up a pot of coffee and explore!

Reid Jackson
Stockton Graham & Co.