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: