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Blind Tasting - Have you dared to try it?

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  • Blind Tasting - Have you dared to try it?

    Ive read a lot of views on a lot of beans in these forums. The similarities between coffee and wine culture are obvious, and coffee education should involve putting your nose and palate to the test, dont you think? It appears that there are groups that get together and share their love of coffee. Can anyone direct me to any results of a blind or double blind tasting of a range of beans or is it too touchy a subject to get into?  Im just interested to know if its something youre into - or is the idea of spitting out some perfectly good coffee too appalling a thing to consider.  Even worse than the headaches youd have from not doing so if you wee involved in a serious tasting?

  • #2
    Re: Blind Tasting - Have you dared to try it?

    Do this all of the time; that is , when it is an option. Ed and I do this for most of the coffees offered on the polls. When we dont taste (blind or otherwise) we make it clear this is the case. Recent instances in the have not tasted category include the Kona and Jamaica Blue Mountain (samples not available) and Sumatran Mandheling (previously tasted and regarded as a known entity).

    Before we offer coffee on the polls I request samples from our suppliers. I roast them and share them with Ed (and recently with a "guest taster"). The samples are identied by a letter or number with the key to the code contained in an envelope with the samples. If anybody wants to do it blind, they can, but they can peek first if they choose. Ed does this blind. I manage to do it sometimes but not always. At the end of each tasting we compare notes, agree on what we will offer and I write up a composite of our opinions. These are the notes you see with each poll.

    The most interesting part of this is that Ed and I invariably agree on the quality and ranking and most of the time there is 100% alignment. Not bad when you consider the recent tasting included 6 coffees.

    Another argument in favour of tasting in this way is that the differences between bland, interesting, good and excellent are readily discerned. We have found some excellent coffees as a result of our tasting evaluations. Similarly, we have also recognised a few duds that did not meet our expectations based on reputations. You only hear about the good ones.

    A variation on the blind tasting occured last year when four of us exchanged blends. The make-ups of the blends were included in the packages for tasters to use pre or post tasting. The write-ups were posted on this site. I think I can safely say this was regarded by all as a very valuable exercise in tasting and description.

    As for your question about where any of the results of blind tasting are written up, well that is a good question. There are lots of reviews but the identities of the coffees are invariably revealed. You might have a look at this site
    to see notes about coffees that were tasted blind. You could use this as the basis for further exploration on the subject. Depending on where you live, the Coffee Academy in Melbourne conducts cupping sessions as part of the Melbourne training program. Through this post you may also find others on the forum who are keen to do the same thing and this could be the basis of an exchange group. Unfortunately, it could also come to nothing because a lot of people find this very challenging and prefer not to engage in activities in which they have to talk about sensory perceptions and why they do or dont like something.

    Good luck,



    • #3
      Re: Blind Tasting - Have you dared to try it?

      a timely question...

      Ive just completed a tasting of 6 coffees send to me by Graeme as part of the "taster of the month" program for which I am currently gathering my thoughts.

      I very rarely drink straight espresso and found the taste quite overwhelming after a couple of sips of different varieties which made it difficult to discern subtle differrences between varieties even after rinsing a la dental visit with lots of water.

      Notes I made on one variety for the first sip included thick, but when I came back a minute later it tasted rather thin!

      Milk was added for the second stage of the testing but by then I was pretty buzzed.

      Ill post all the gory details later in the week but the overhwelming conclusion from it was my palate needs sharpening up and we have some very interesting coffees to look forward to


      • #4
        Re: Blind Tasting - Have you dared to try it?

        Very interesting. I am keen to see, for example, if there is consensus about what constitutes a good bean for espresso and whether roasting times and techniques relate more to this than the beans themselves.

        Good to see that peoples opinions and hunches are supported by others.

        I think the "thick" and "thin" judgements are revealing as, like wine, something you think is awful on first sip tastes great 20 minutes later and vice versa - and I dont think its just down to something as simple as oxidation. My quest is really for a consistently thick epsresso (almost a ristretto I suppose) and when I begin roasting later this week Ill be going for that.

        My other reason for starting this thread is that my thought is that people are good at discerning "difference" but cant necessarily explain (or justify) it in terms of "better or worse". But why should they? Its a subjective thing, isnt it! If it wasnt wed all think that coffee essence flavoured water (instant) was OK.

        I really appreciate the detailed responses here and Im learning a great deal.


        • #5
          Re: Blind Tasting - Have you dared to try it?

          As Graeme mentioned, I usually cup the monthly samples (and my own roasts) blind and I would urge anyone to try it. I am constantly amazed on the results when I blind cup.

          As the taste of espresso can be extreme, I prefer to perform more traditional cupping techniques. This brewing method really brings out the characteristics (terroir) of the bean and I find to be a great way to find what I like and dont like about a particular bean. I write notes, and/or use a cupping form to evaluate my findings and for record keeping. The form Im using at the moment is from Roast magazine:

          Here are some sites about cupping that I have found very useful:
          Only other thing to say is give it a try. Nothing will be lost and perhaps a lot to gain. It doesnt require specialized equipment - all you need is a few cups, a spoon, some hot water and your taste buds. The more you do it, the more youll tune your senses.