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Ultimate guide to coffee preference

When I just started drinking specialty coffee, I would pick coffee beans based on the words put on the bag that peeked my curiosity e.g. wine, rum cherry, fuji apple, sugarcane, caramel. Occasionally, the brew would be a pleasant surprise. But more often than not, I'd get disappointed. Relatable?

Soon I learnt that other than flavours, these words can actually tell you a lot about the coffee, and figured out what categories of words I preferred over others.

Ultimately, I’ve boiled down coffee into 3 categories. In this article, I will share with you the things you should look out for that can help you make a more informed decision on your next coffee purchase.

3 types of coffee preferences

Do you like your coffee like tea?

Most specialty coffee is medium-bodied. However, if you enjoy lighter bodied coffees with more of a tea-like quality, you should look for these descriptors.

  • Clean, delicate

  • Floral e.g. Chamomile, Jasmine, Black tea, Rose

Try this bag from Cupping Room.

Acidity is my jam

You’ve probably heard the question from your local cafe, fruity or nutty? Essentially what the barista is asking is whether you like acidity. You’ve guessed it, fruity = acidic. Some people absolutely dislike acidity in their coffee and avoid it at all cost. Some embrace it.

For those acidity junkies, look for the following fruity descriptors:

  • Berry, citrus fruits — this implies strong acidity, like the fruits themselves

  • Apple — this implies there is a good amount of acidity

  • Candied orange, jam, other cooked fruits words — some acidity

And for those avoiding acidity at all costs, on the opposite spectrum are nuttier words like chocolate and caramel.

Try this fruity single origin from Urban Coffee Roaster.

Fermented fruit flavours & dry or natural process

This final type is for the most experimental. Trying this category of coffee usually invokes responses like “I can’t believe coffee can taste like this”.

When coffee is harvested, they are processed. Check out the process label. The dry or natural process indicates the cherry has been dried in the sun so fermentation continues, leaving some interesting flavour notes in the coffee.

How to spot these beans:

  • Dry or natural process

  • Mango, pineapple, strawberry - any tropical fruit.

Experiment with this bag from Hazel & Hershey.

Have some fun!

For those of you new to specialty coffee, try beans from each category and figure out what’s your preference.

For those who have been drinking specialty coffee for a while, do you have a favourite bag of bean you always come back to? Take a look at the descriptors, and you'll see which category you're likely to prefer or not. Likewise, if you have a bag of bean that has disappointed you in the past, also check out its descriptors to see if it falls under another category so you can avoid those in the same category in the future.

Have fun experimenting with your coffee preferences!


Find out your coffee preference to take less gambles

  • Spot light bodied, tea-like coffee by looking for descriptors such as delicate, clean, floral words

  • If you embrace acidity, choose fresh fruits from the berry or citrus family. Cooked fruits and apples have a good amount of acidity.

  • Dry or natural process with tropical fruit flavours will most likely brew an interesting funky cup for the experimental

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