How Whole Bean Coffee Is Reviewed On This Site

It's not about throwing numbers around

How I Review Coffee

Here is how I review coffee made from beans I have purchased or were sent to me. First I will discuss my tastes and preferences so yiou can compare them to your own. Further down in the page I dicuss how I test the coffee. If you would rather read about that you can skip down to that section by clicking this link: Testing Coffee

Tastes & Preferences

As a pragmatist, I understand that it’s doubtful that we have the same tastes in coffee.

However, that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t like the same coffee beans.

We might like different characteristics of the coffee, such as the brightness during the first sip or the little bit of bitterness in the aftertaste. Our tastes may differ in how we prepare the coffee, whether it is a pour over, French press, or auto-drip.

Because of this, I want to explain how I rate freshly roasted coffee beans on this website.

I’m Not a Professional Cupper – No Spitting Here

My palette isn’t trained liked a professional coffee cupper. For that reason, you shouldn’t view my review ratings as such. In fact, besides aroma, my ratings aren’t generated in the same manner as professional cuppers.

I rate coffee like you do, by brewing it and drinking it. Not slurping it and spitting it into a cup.

I’ll discuss how I rate coffee after I explain my rating categories. I currently have six main rating categories.

Flavor

Flavor is the reason we drink coffee – well besides the fact that drinking it each morning is a habit – to me, the taste of coffee is the most important trait. Flavor is a combination of sweetness, bitterness, complexity, acidity or brightness, how thin or thick it feels the mouth, and are there any undesirable tones in the cup of coffee.

Flavor has nothing to do with the aftertaste; it’s the opposite for me. It’s my first impression of the coffee as I drink it.

Aftertaste

Aftertaste is like buyers remorse. Did I do buy and brew a good coffee or mess up somewhere?

If you think about it aftertaste might be more important than flavor.

You sip a coffee and it’s only in your mouth for a few seconds, but aftertaste lingers much longer. The question ask myself is, do I want to take another sip or do I want to get my ass up and pour a new cup of that coffee?

Or in other words, does the coffee taste so good that I want more? And that depends on how on factors such as does the coffee leave my mouth dry, bitter, or is the coffee sweet and refreshing? Aftertaste is a rating of how pleasant the coffee is after it is drunk.

Body – Balance

Body is a weird term for a taste, but it’s how light or heavy is the taste in my mouth. Is it watery or thick? Does it coat the back of my tongue like oil, is it too light and underwhelming?

The two extremes of balance are acidity and bitterness. Good acidity is called brightness; bad acidity is a sour taste. Bitterness is harder to explain, and I think people have different tolerances. Some bitterness in coffee is good, too much and you want to stop drinking it.

Many reviewers separate body & balance, but I combine them in a rating and describe them verbally in the review.

Complexity

Some coffee is one note, it tastes nearly the same from the first sip to the bottom of the cup.

But then some coffees taste different with every sip. The coffee changes flavor as different compounds are released or disappear when the cup cools.

A highly complex coffee is a dream to drink, yet, a coffee lacking complexity can still have good flavor. For this reason, the weight of complexity is low on my scale, as most of the score will be in the flavor category. Still, complexity is essential to a great coffee and should be rated.

Still, complexity is essential to a great coffee and should be considered in any coffee review rating.

Aroma

I weight aroma much lower than other categories even though it can be a very enticing parameter.

I mean who doesn’t want to have a cup after the smell of freshly ground coffee waffles through the house?

As much as having a good aroma is a desirable trait; I’m going to have a cup of coffee even if the smell doesn’t make me salivate.

That said, the degree of aroma speaks volumes about how the coffee is going to taste if it is brewed corrected.

Adaptability

Adaptability to me is a combination of how forgiving a coffee is when brewed. Can you make a brewing mistake and still get a good cup of coffee? If you can, then it’s an adaptable coffee.

I also consider if I can use several different brewing options, grind settings, or brew ratios to make a good cup of coffee with that bean.

Adaptability is a lowly weighted factor for me. Even if a coffee is not very adaptable, it can make an excellent cup of coffee when dialed in and brewed in the correct equipment. Obviously, a more versatile coffee will have a higher probability to be liked by more people.

Weighted Review Score

One of my pet peeves with review sites is the average review score.

Looking at my categories and explanations it is evident that I think each is important, but as you probably have already guessed coffee adaptability isn’t as important to me as flavor.

Of course, if the coffee is adaptable to several brewing methods and isn’t finicky about grind size I’d be more likely to buy it again. But if a coffee bean shines in a pour over when ground medium-fine and tastes way better with careful brewing you bet that will be the one I want to drink more than a mediocre coffee regardless that I can brew it with every piece of equipment known to man.

See what I mean? Why would I average my category ratings to score a coffee? Not all categories are as relevant.

For this reason, I adjust my total score with category weighting. A coffee that has a perfect 10 Complexity score but a 6 in Aftertaste (average score of 8) will not score as high as coffee that ranks 6 and 10, respectfully (weighted score of 8.24).

Because aftertaste is more important than complexity. I’m intrigued by a coffee that changes notes during a sitting, but I would rather drink coffee that urges me to get another cup.

I’ve listed the categories on this page in the order of importance. The weights range from 30% to 5% of the score. Over half of the weighted score depends on the flavor and aftertaste of the coffee.

It is important to me that coffee tastes good, doesn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth, and it makes me want to drink more.

How to Judge My Reviews

The reason I provide ratings for each category plus a weighted score is in case you think one or more of the categories is less or more important to you than me.

You can come up with your own weighted system or do a quick average score in your head if that is what you want to do.

Testing a Coffee

In each review, I provide you with a synopsis of how I tested each coffee bean. This includes the water to coffee ratio, what grinder and setting I used to grind the coffee, and the brewing equipment.

I start with a pour over followed by the French press, then maybe the auto-drip or Moka pot. Sometimes I skip one or more of the pieces of equipment depending on the type of coffee or how it tastes after the first cup.

From there, I adjust my grinds, ratios, and equipment with the next cup to dial in the specifics that will make that particular coffee shine.

I will also promise to tell you if the roaster sent me beans or if I purchased them. I would like to do sponsored posts in the future, and of course, I’m obligated to declare that in the first paragraph of the post.

My reviews are transparent and although the posts may include affiliate links the review will be honest.

My coffee descriptions are all on me. I’ll tell you my opinions and observations as I see, smell, and taste them. I’m sure the longer I test and review coffees my palette will change, and my experience will improve with each post.

In the end, what I want is to share my coffee experience so you can make a more educated decision on which coffee to buy.

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The Coffee Pragmatist

No-nonsense advice on artisan and speciality coffee. From bean to cup, though I prefer mugs. Get how-to advice, reviews, recommendations, interviews and discounts on coffee beans from roasters around the country. 

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