The Italian coffee tradition over the centuries has become a system of rituals and behaviors about coffee and its most famous preparations: moka coffee, espresso and cappuccino.
The aroma of coffee that wakes us up in the morning… Is a small and simple pleasure that we can enjoy every day. But with a little more time, we can discover that it’s not so simple!
Thousands of scent molecules give espresso coffee its famous intense aroma.
The perception of the coffee’s fragrance comes naturally by simply moving the cup toward the face.
The sense of smell comes into play as we spontaneously smell the aromas rising from the crema.
For experts, in the sequence of the coffee tasting, the olfactory examination is the second phase of the espresso analysis.
The aroma is a key part of the tasting experience.
If you stop for a moment and methodically smell the scent of the cup, long and slowly, you will perceive the notes more varied and complex. These notes can include fruits, flowers, spices and chocolate… All of which tell the shades of the blend’s composition.
Our sense of smell can perceive numerous aromatic characteristics, both the coffee’s positive qualities and defects.
The aroma’s shades
It defines “aroma” the coffee fragrance you perceive approaching cup to the face in the act of drinking. Let us pause a moment and smell.
The nose rise floral or spicy, chocolate, tobacco, fresh nuts and fruits.
The aroma is felt again in retro-olfaction when, after drinking a sip of coffee, and as you exhale, it calls for the second time, involuntarily, the olfactory mucosa.
Better-defined flavors, the scents of the retro-olfaction are the sum of taste + aroma + tactile sensations.
What are the dimensions of the aroma?
In the analysis of aroma, the sense of smell also perceive:
- Complexity. The term defines the richness fragrances and aromas that have come together in a fine, perfect balance. Typically, you obtain a good complexity by blending different origins and evaluating the roasting degree.
- Intensity. The flow of fragrances and aromas released by the espresso coffee, reaching and stimulating the olfactory epitelium, determines the intensity of smell.
- Fineness. Like the best wine, even in coffee are sought predominant aromas of flowers, fruits, spices and countless more if we consider that the number of odorous molecules related to bean are over a thousand. In the fine coffee you can easily catch the presence of specific individual aromas.
- Persistence. It’s the length the coffee’s aromatic complex stays on the palate. With each passing minute, the persistent notes change, tastes are rounded off and the bitter slips to the sweetness. It is important to devote time to the observation of persistence since surprising revelations are to be discovered.
To correctly assess the aromatic features of coffee, the individual cups are judged quantitatively but above all qualitatively.
- Quantitatively, understood as the full spectrum of aromas and their intensity
- Qualitatively, considering the fineness, variety, complexity, cleanness of the aroma or any defects that unmistakably affect our sense of smell.
In this light, during retro-nasal olfaction, it is important to determine not only the persistence (duration) but also the rich range of coffee aromas.
What are the signature aromas of the espresso?
A myriad of volatile aromatic substances, derived from the roasting process, give espresso the typical, scented “fragrance of the roast”.
Depending on variety, quality and preparation, from this aromatic base one can perceive the aroma of caramel and cereals that give the coffee the fragrance of toast, biscuits or bakery treats or there may be slight hints of butter and vanilla and the smell of cacao evoking chocolate in all its luscious forms.
The sophisticated fruity aromas of coffee call to mind fresh citrus tones like lemon, but also other similar to the sweetness of the fruit pulp. And the fragrance of dried fruit will not go missing, revealing hints of figs, prunes, raisins, dates and apricots. At the outset the wide range of delicate floral aromas surprise the sense of smell with fragrances reminiscent of jasmine or wild flowers, even veering at times into notes of honey.
The crema of the espresso coffee can release hints of roasted walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, or the aromas can range from the tones of oriental essences to the austere scent of seasoned wood and to nuances of wine and spices such as pepper, tobacco and rhubarb.
The secret to getting aromas? Time.
To obtain refined aromas, it takes time. And coffee is no exception to this rule.
If coffee is roasted too quickly, certain aromas will never develop. Never.
Additionally, if you don’t allow the coffee to stand after roasting, certain aromas never develop. Never.
Nature refuses to be forced.
Refined aromas are synonymous with SpecialCoffee’s GRAN SELEZIONE 3KG. Created by SpecialCoffee so that each cup holds a sweet taste that’s highly aromatic and perfumed with fruity and floral notes. These shades tell the composition’s story which originates with a high percentage of fine Brazilian and Central American Arabica balanced by Robusta sourced from selected plantations growing the best Asian coffee.
Trends vs. Aroma
In some countries you can discover the trend of “fresh coffee” or drink coffee from cafes that roast coffee themselves with small roasting machines and then serve it immediately to the consumer.
In both cases, if the coffee is good, it will still fail to express its potential and thus rob the cup of the convincing and satisfying notes that lead us to enjoy another cup.
The plant world, from which we are largely dependent for feeding and pleasures of life, living a selfish of her own.
A plant does not produce aromas in the fruit for our pleasure, but it does so only to find a co-worker that will aid it in the propagation of the species.
So, until the seed is ripe you will not find a fulfilling aromatic complex, and almost always under the tactile and gustatory profile can not give us the expected pleasure.
Only when the seed is mature will the plant reduce the defenses against external attacks and the fruit becomes more mild while also reducing the astringency of which is a carrier.
For example a lot of fruits that are now for sale are sour, astringent and sometimes odorless. This is because, among other things, it was picked too soon and thus it was deprived of its proper maturation time.
It is not a difficult concept to understand, but historically being in fashion typically leads to acceptance and easily causes one to “turn a blind eye”.
For wine, in the eighties there was a great school of thought that grapes harvested before physiological maturity. A little more acidity was convenient and certainly the qualities of the wine were kept. But they knew little.
And now, a little out of necessity and a little to following a trend, it’s coffee turn for change.
Due to the rise in labor costs, mechanical harvesting is advancing wherever possible meaning that in a lot of batches only a minor part of the fruit reaches the minimum level of sugar in order to guarantee a certain amount of flavor precursors and even less reaches the level necessary to get a great coffee.
Additionally, forced drying is increasingly in vogue in order to avoid mishaps.
And to make matters worse, there is the rise in popularity of the light roast in order to keep the acidity.
In reality this means you can’t develop the minimum amount of aromas precursors present in the seeds.
So now you understand that even though trendly, some would want us to understand that a big cup of coffee (which is mostly a mixture of citric acid and malic acid) is the best…
Isn’t it better to follow the Italian espresso tradition with slow and full roasts using only perfectly ripe coffees?
Isn’t it better to be out of fashion, and enjoy an aromatic and fragrant coffee?