• Todd Souter

Tasting the Texture

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

When we taste coffee, we are relying on our memory to identify the flavours we experience.

90% of what we taste is made up by what we smell. Try clenching your nostrils next time you taste Espresso - you will experience the mouthfeel and the texture, but

the flavours will be very difficult to taste.

When the aroma is taken away - the flavour goes with it. Without flavour all we have left is the mouthfeel and the texture.

The texture of Espresso can be anything from tea-like and delicate all the way to coating, rich and creamy.

Think back to the last Espresso that you really enjoyed, it may have been a juicy Kenyan or a coating Colombian. The mouthfeel and the texture play a massive part in our overall impression and experience of coffee.

When we think back to our childhood, we all have the instinct to seek out sweet things (this helps us identify the ripest fruit with the most nutrition), the sweetest things also tend to have a creamy, heavy and coating texture, such as: ice cream, cake, chocolate and caramel.

If we think of chocolate, it has a coating, rich, creamy texture. Now imagine tasting chocolate but without the texture, would you still enjoy it?

Probably not, it would have a chocolate flavour - but it would be a very one dimensional experience. Without the texture, that chocolate flavour would be underwhelming and artificial - it's not the real deal.

Texture creates an overall impression, I believe it also creates the perception of sweetness and quality; it's the same thing in coffee.

We all love the texture, weight and mouthfeel of a well made Espresso (the same goes for Filter coffee).

If we think of an over-extracted Espresso the texture is usually thin, tea-like and underwhelming. A under-extracted Espresso will have a salty texture, its sour, harsh and aggressive - not ideal. A correctly-extracted coffee will be rich, creamy and mouth filling.

Here is the Espresso section of the World Barista Championship (WBC) Scoresheet:

If we look at it closely there is 4x Multiplier for Tactile (Texture).

So even at the Competition level the Texture is really important, a Barista Competitor that accurately describes the texture of their espresso will also achieve a higher score. Higher scores are awarded for higher quality - not necessarily the quality of coffee - but the quality of the extraction.

The textural experience of coffee is really important.

Below are some examples of words to describe different textures and what they mean:


Delicate/Tea-Like - Thin, watery, underwhelming, subtle

Silky - Fine texture, glides effortlessly across the palate

Round - Felt all around the tongue

Velvety - Similar to 'Silky', slightly heavier, smoother and rounder

Coating - Similar to 'Velvety', slightly heavier/richer

Syrupy - Like Maple Syrup, Round and smooth, slightly heavier texture with the perception of sweetness

Juicy - Like Fruit Juice (bright and sweet), the perception of brightness and acidity enhances the texture and mouthfeel

Creamy - Heavier than 'Coating', rich, round and mouth filling, similar texture to pouring or heavy Cream


Harsh/Intense - Abrasive, aggressive, similar to 'Under Extracted'

Hollow/Empty - Similar to 'Over Extracted', lacking flavour, lacking character

Under Extracted - Sour, salty, intense, lacking flavour with a quick finish

Correctly Extracted - Sweet, rich, mouth filling with a long finish, high quality, Correct

Over Extracted - Bitter, drying, astringent, empty, hollow

Stemmy - Astringent, bitter, under ripe, green


Rough - Harsh, aggressive, like sand paper

Smooth - Pleasant, high quality finish with no edges

Long - Long lasting, high quality

Lingering - A long finish that lingers, it just keeps going

Grippy - A drying sensation, sticking to the sides of the palate

Powdery - A fine texture that is spread all across the palate, powder-like

Chalky - Heavier and rougher than 'Powdery'

Astringent - Drying and bitter

In Conclusion the texture of coffee is really important, there is a direct link between the quality of extraction and the textural experience of coffee.

I highly recommend doing a lot of tasting and using the WBC Score Sheet as a reference.

The better we can understand the textural experience of coffee the easier it is to communicate this experience to the customer and help guide them in their coffee experience.

#texture #tactile #correct

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