The Body of Coffee

Some of the descriptors we use to talk about coffee can be confusing to the every-day coffee drinker. Acidity, Aftertaste, Body … all of these are present in a cup of coffee, but we’re here to explain to our customers what exactly those words mean. Check out our blog, The Coffee Scoop, for our enlightening post on Acidity, posted earlier this month.

In addition to acidity, body is another thing we talk about a lot when discussing the experience of drinking coffee. But what is it? How can you tell what the “body” of a coffee is?

The Specialty Coffee Association (also known as the SCA) gives the definition of body as “The tactile feeling of the liquid in the mouth, especially perceived between the tongue and the roof of the mouth”. When we give coffees a numerical score on the cupping table, both a heavy body and a lighter body coffee can receive high marks. Darker roasted coffees can have a heavy, syrupy body that is desirable, and lighter roasted coffees can have a pleasant mouthfeel too.

If you’re still confused about what exactly “Body” is… here’s an easy example: Think about how it feels to drink a glass of water compared to skim milk. The skim milk will have a bit more weight to it on your tongue, but is still pretty similar to the feeling of water. But compare drinking water to whole milk, and you have a much different experience. Take it one step further, have you ever taken a sip of cream? Whoa! TONS of body! When drinking your daily coffee, think about how it feels. Does it feel light - like a cup of tea or clear juice? Or does it feel heavy, like a glass of milk?

If you want to go even further- you can set up a little tasting practice at home. All you need is 3 cups, some water, and either tomato or mango juice. Fill each cup ¾ of the way with water. To the first cup add 1 Tbsp of juice, the second add 2 Tbsp, and the third add 3 Tbsps of juice. Give them all a stir and start tasting. They will all taste like the juice, but they will have distinctive differences in the way they feel when you’re drinking them. I even like to label the bottom and try to quiz myself to put them in order from the least to most body.

If you’re looking at the Jim’s Organic line-up of coffees, you’ll find that lighter roasts like our Limited Edition Peru and our single origin Mexican will have body that is light and pleasant, allowing the other parts of the coffee to shine through. Our Wonderbrew has a much more syrupy body. For a VERY heavy body look towards our Sumatra French Roast or our Blend X.

In addition to picking out coffees with heavy or lighter body, you can affect the body of your coffee by the way you brew it. A method like a French press doesn’t have a paper filter and allows more of the coffees oils to make it into the final cup. If you like heavy body, this is the method for you. On the flip side, the Chemex brewer with its filters actually removes coffee oils. If you like something with a little lighter body and mouthfeel then a method with a paper filter is the direction you want to go.

Now you have all the knowledge you need to be able to describe your coffee's body. Next time you hear a coffee aficionado describing a brew with “notes of honeysuckle with a warm honey mouthfeel”, you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about!


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