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Coffee Tasting

Our guide to coffee tasting

Professional coffee tasters have to pass lots of exams and practical tests. Even then, it takes many years’ experience to become a respected, professional taster. Let’s go behind the scenes, into the inside world of coffee tasting.

Why do we use professional coffee tasters?

All respectable coffee companies have their own professional tasters. It’s the only way to guarantee quality and consistency. And we need highly trained tasters because coffee has so many complex tastes and smells.

It takes years of practice and experience to identify and judge a coffee’s different flavours and smells. These days, professional coffee tasters are so well trained that they will all agree very closely on the exact characteristics of any coffee they taste.

How we ensure Nescafé quality

  • After the harvest

    After the harvest

    After harvesting, coffee cherries go through milling. This gets rid of the outer fruit as well as the parchment-like skin around the bean. The end result is called green coffee, and quality-control at this stage is vital. Our experts work closely with coffee suppliers in all countries of origin. It’s the only way to make sure the coffee we use lives up to the world-famous NESCAFE name.

  • Before the coffee is shipped

    Before the coffee is shipped

    Through a network of six specialist coffee quality-control centres around the world, we work closely with all our coffee suppliers. Together, we make sure the coffee has been stored and handled to high standards of hygiene. We also help coffee suppliers to work with the latest food safety measures. Finally, these specialist quality-control centres have professional tasters who thoroughly test the quality of our coffee before it is even shipped. 

  • In our factories

    In our factories

    Once the beans arrive at our Nescafé factories, the final quality test takes place before the coffee is used to make your favourite Nescafé. 
    There are professional tasting teams in every Nescafé plant worldwide. Satisfying their expert taste-buds is just the last of many quality tests that help guarantee the fresh, delicious taste of every mug of Nescafé.

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The language of coffee tasting

What is it?

Many experts in the coffee-tasting profession use a book called the Sensory Lexicon. It’s a bit like an insider’s guide to the strength of the different flavours in coffee.
It lists more than 100 different flavours, and they’re organised into groups such as:

  • Floral, spices, sweet, cocoa
  • Fruity, green/vegetative
  • Roasted, cereal, nutty
    In each group, there can be lots of flavours. For example, the “sweet” group of flavours includes molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, caramelised, honey and vanilla.

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Why is it used?

Coffee tasters use the Sensory Lexicon to help them judge the subtle differences between coffees. 
It can help the tasters to tell if the way the coffee was grown, milled and roasted has affected the final flavour.
Perhaps the type of soil the tree was planted in has made a difference. Or maybe the way it was watered and fed. Even the type of bags the beans have been stored in could change that final flavour.
 

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Learning the basics

Tasting skills

To qualify as a professional taster, you’ll need to be an expert in “cupping” – the technique for identifying the complex tastes and aromas in coffee. You’ll learn about:

  • Le Nez du Café Aroma. Appreciating the 36 basic scents that are found in coffee aroma
  • Sensory skills. Judging the strength of tastes like sweet, sour and bitter
  • Peer calibration. Blind-tasting coffee so you can match the judgment of experienced tasters 

How to become a coffee taster

You will need to pass lots of challenging tests and exams. It’s certainly not easy!
If you do some web research for coffee-tasting courses, you’ll probably find an organisation locally that can help you towards professional qualification.
You’ll need lots of dedication to study for and pass the exams and practical tests that will develop your tasting skills and coffee know-how. 

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Coffee knowledge

Coffee tasters also need to know about the entire coffee journey. That helps them to spot ways of improving a coffee’s quality before it arrives in your cup. You’ll need to know about:

  • The foundations of coffee. The agriculture and science behind the coffee journey
  • The science of coffee processing. How coffee is stored, milled and roasted
  • Coffee quality. The way coffee is handled during its journey, and how that can affect its final quality

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Taste the quality of NESCAFÉ coffees

Our tasters work hard to make every NESCAFÉ coffee truly delicious every time. Try our range for yourself. You’ll soon see why our experts have given all our drinks their professional seal of approval.

Explore our coffees