Aftertaste is probably the most underrated part of the coffee experience, despite being one its most important parts—both for you and for anybody you might come in close contact with after you finish your cup. (Best to mind your breath, no matter how great the coffee was.)
We don’t often notice our coffee’s aftertaste because we’re usually drinking it in a rush out of a paper cup, which will alter the flavor and texture, or alongside a buttery croissant or yeasty bagel. Step back from the bagel for a second, and let’s focus on aftertaste. With a few different grades of chocolate we can isolate the particular textures and finishing flavors we commonly look for in coffee.
- 1 bar plain milk chocolate
- 1 bar 60 percent cacao dark chocolate
- 1 bar 72 percent cacao dark chocolate
- 1 bar unsweetened or baking chocolate
- Water to cleanse your palate between each sample (Sparkling is a bit better for this, but still water will work.)
Working from lightest to darkest, break off a thumbnail-size piece of each type of chocolate, and allow it to melt completely on your tongue. While the chocolate softens and dissolves, pay attention to the transformation of the flavor: Does it get stronger or weaker as it melts in your mouth? Also take note of the sweetness that you taste before the chocolate dissolves completely—the lighter the chocolate, the sweeter the taste.
After each piece is gone, revive your palate by keeping your mouth closed and taking a deep breath through your nose. Take special note of how dry your mouth feels. The milk chocolate should leave a coating, an almost silky or velveteen feeling on your palate, while the darker chocolate will probably make your tongue a bit dry.
Coffee is pretty similar. Classic Latin American coffees are often like milk chocolate: Their sweetness lingers on your tongue in a coating layer. Light roasts and beans from certain origins (like East Africa) can have a juicy mouthfeel like the 60 percent cacao, which will leave your palate feeling refreshed. Darker or fuller-bodied coffees tend to finish drier, and can leave a slightly gritty texture—like those less-processed chocolates. Note, too, the particular way the unsweetened square’s bitterness sticks around: This is pretty similar to the finish of an overextracted coffee, which would lack a lot of sweetness as well (as we’ve discussed).
Remember that aftertaste is just as important as during-taste—in fact, most of the time we’re left with it longer than the time it took to drink the beverage itself! If an aftertaste is weird, overwhelming or unpleasant, you might want to tweak your brew or try different beans to find something that leaves a better taste in your mouth.