Coffee aroma is more than just about what you are smelling or sniffing. It, of course, includes what you are smelling (Through both sniffing and retronasal perception.) but is more than that. When I am sniffing away at a coffee’s aroma I am thinking about my childhood and how the grass smelled when I ran through it and how my grandfather’s house smelled when I walked in it. Today we know that coffee has over 800 aromatic compounds and that number increases as the years progress. With that many aromatic compounds and the possibility for cross over between the compounds the number of possible aromatic smells seems infinite.
I get asked all the time, “How can you smell and point out the nuances in two different coffees? They all smell the same to me.” When I am tasting coffee I am searching for a baseline. I am searching my mind for a like smell, something I smelled somewhere at sometime that is a close match to what I am smelling in the coffee. This is the reason I am constantly smelling things. The more things I smell the more aromatic memory I have to pull from for future tastings.
When asked the above question many people will direct you to the SCAA tasting wheel. This a great tool to start your coffee tasting journey with but I urge people to make the experience of smelling coffee personal. If you make it personal then it resonate more true and cause you to recall the information more readily in the future.
So when it comes to smelling coffee’s aroma remember to ask this one question, “What have I smelled before that reminds me of this.”
photo credit: Brianz