By now, “intensity” is used to define good coffee. The more intense a coffee is, the more valuable it is perceived to be.
Is this association correct? Is it true that quality coffee is necessarily intense? Is it a good method to define whether a coffee is fine or not?
But before you delve into explaining the meaning of coffee intensity, discover the perfect blend for you: answer 3 simple questions and you’ll get the result right away!
First, let’s define the term!
The intensity of a coffee depends on the body consistency and aromatic richness of the drink.
Already from this definition 2 concepts can be guessed:
- The fact that you have to consider 2 variables: body and aroma;
- Consequently, in this sense, it is a suitable method for defining only espresso-extracted coffees, as they are the only ones with greater body.
For example, a filter coffee or mocha coffee presents significantly less body. These will be evaluated for other characteristics of their own that we will evaluate in future articles.
At this point it seems fair to clarify the concepts of body and aromatic intensity as well:
- Coffee body: you using the human sense of touch, evaluating the texture and structure of the liquid. To mean hot chocolate is very full-bodied, oil has a medium consistency, and water has no body;
- Aroma intensity: consists of the amount of scents that are perceived by the sense of smell after bringing a cup of coffee toward the nose. And note that I dwelt only on the “quantity” of flavors contained, not the quality, which we will discuss in a moment.
Generally, a scale is used ranging from 1 (coffee with little aroma and almost no body) to 10 (coffee with very consistent body and high aroma).
That said, let’s go on to create general categories, which subdivide espresso coffees by body and aroma. You can then use them as reference points within which to place your favorite coffee:
- Intensity 1 to 4: Light-bodied coffee with delicate aromas;
- Intensity 5 to 7: Balanced coffee with a round body and rich flavors;
- Intensity 8 to 10: Coffee with a consistent body and rich aromas.
Once these theoretical concepts are fixed, how can you understand the intensity of your coffee objectively?
Start by bringing the cup toward your chest and under your nose, about six inches away from it.
Once in position, inhale deeply and try to grasp whether you are getting a large amount of aroma or, on the contrary, you are getting almost no aroma at all. Please note: I am talking about aromatic quantity, so if you smell strong, or light, not quality This will be evaluated later.
Now it is time to taste the coffee: take a sip and move the drink around the tongue and across the palate and try to understand the viscosity of the liquid.
However, it is difficult to understand the flavor and body of my coffee, how can I do it?
The key word is always this: experiment!
The best way to fully understand these characteristics and to become an expert is to try!
Change coffees, taste different types, different blends with more or less arabica and robusta and compare them with each other.
I recommend that you try three opposite Ernani blends to really understand the difference there can be between different coffees:
- Blue Diamond, a 100% Arabica blend that is fresher and more fragrant, velvety and finely acidic;
- Harmony, a blend with a higher percentage of Arabica, with a chocolatey aftertaste, full-bodied and balanced between sweetness, bitterness and acidity;
- Stretto, a 100% robusta blend that is fuller bodied, more caffeinated, and has more bitterness.
So the more intense a coffee is, the more valuable it is?This is not entirely true.
Of course no one should be feeding you dirty water that tastes like nothing, absolutely not!
But for example, the most full-bodied coffees are generally those of robusta quality, which are considered less valuable than arabica coffees. In fact, you will hardly find an Arabica that will receive a top score on the “body” item in the evaluation grid.
In addition, one must also consider the aromatic quality along with the aromatic charge.
In fact, very often actually intense coffees are passed off as fine because they have a very strong aroma. But if the aroma has a profile of ash, burnt, rubber, mold and so on, does it still remain a positive note?
No! The fragrance in addition to being intense must also be of quality!
In this sense, the aromas perceived in a cup of coffee are vast.
The main positive scents, among all possible varieties, have been somewhat codified, such as: hints of caramel, toast, chocolate, cocoa, fruity effluvia, citrus notes, dried fruit aromas, and many others.
In contrast, negative ones can be definitive such as burned, mold, ash, rubber, jute, wet wood, soil, concrete, etc.
The latter hints, which we would never want to find inside our cup, come from 2 different steps:
- Some have a natural origin-for example, if a coffee plantation grows next to a rubber plantation and they share soil, the beans will assimilate the scent. This problem is solved when the roaster selects the raw material he or she wants to purchase, eliminating all those grains that have these olfactory defects;
- Others, however, result from the processing: in fact, with dark roasting, so when you almost burn the coffee bean to hide some defects, it does, however, create that burnt and ashy smell we mentioned earlier. It will also make the coffee decidedly more bitter sometimes even excessively bitter, so much so that it will be unpleasant to taste. In contrast, medium roasting does not cover up the natural flavors of raw grains, in fact it enhances them to the fullest!
This explains why an intense coffee is not necessarily fine.
One must consider all the different factors: body, aromatic charge, and aromatic quality.
When these are in balance with each other, as if to create a perfect and proportionate recipe, and make tasting enjoyable on all fronts, then yes, coffee is quality!