Flavors, coffee seeds maturity and fashion trends​


By Luigi Odello, chairman of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters (Iiac)

The biological world, on which we rely on for food and many of life’s pleasures, is selfish. We should not think that fruits develop flavors for the enjoyment of humans. Actually, they do so as a means to find “collaborators” for the propagation of their species. Consequently, until the seeds are ripe we shouldn’t dream of an appealing flavor, and we shouldn’t expect a rewarding tactile or taste sensation. Only when the seeds are ripe, and the plants reduce their defenses against external attacks do the fruits become sweeter and reduce their astringency. Unfortunately, most of the fruits that are available commercially are acidic, sometimes astringent and often flavorless, because (amongst other reasons) they have been picked too early. 

This is a straightforward concept, but historically various trends have managed to quietly push against it. Remembering wines of the 80’s, there was a movement that encouraged the picking of grapes before the point of physiological maturity. A little acidity was convenient and the wines were surely easier to preserve. The results however weren’t great.

Now this is happening to coffees, sometimes by necessity and sometimes by lack of competence. On one hand, labor cost increases have lead to mechanical picking wherever possible. The effect of this is that in many places only a small part of the coffee fruits achieve sugar levels of 20 Brix (which is the threshold required to get minimum flavor) and an even smaller part achieves 25 Brix, which is the level necessary for a first class coffee.  In addition to this, to avoid surprises in the logistic chain, many coffee farmers resort now to accelerated drying. In addition to these factors, there is the modern trend of lightly roasting to maintain acidity. Together these lead to a failure to develop even the minimal precursors of flavors that exist in beans.

Some roasters would like the public to believe that coffee that contains a mix of citric and malic acids is the best coffee there can be. Among the supporters of this new trend there are some who, if the coffee has citric acid, will comment that it has citrus notes, and if it has malic acid, they will say it has apple notes. For us, these are reasons to mistrust many representatives of these new trends, and to reaffirm the philosophy of the fathers of our Espresso Italiano: roast slowly and roast fully, using only perfectly mature coffee beans. We’re happy to be out of fashion.

Translated by Cris and Martin at www.caffedelbar.com, a Swiss and UK based website dedicated to gourmet Italian coffee and the Italian espresso bar culture.

International Coffee Tasting Asia 2015: registration is open for the international coffee competition​

International Coffee Tasting Asia 2015International Coffee Tasting Asia 2015 returns on the 1st and 2nd December. This international competition is unique in that in order to select the best coffees it relies exclusively on the modern sensory analysis. The 2015 edition, which will be held in Taiwan, is organised by the local branch of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters (Iiac) with technical and scientific support from the CSA Italian Tasters.
In the 2014 edition, 149 coffees from 15 different countries were entered, and then evaluated by 26 international judges. The judges were divided into committees and checked by a sensory analysis software which measured their effectiveness. The coffee tastings were naturally carried out blind to eliminate any possible influences on the judges’ evaluation.
“A competition between coffees must set the objectivity of the evaluations as a prime goal”, commented Luigi Odello, president of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters (Iiac) “Therefore, not only will all the tasters at International Coffee Tasting Asia 2015 be Iiac qualified, but we will also evaluate effectively their reliability”.
The competition is organised with the support of Iiac Korea, Iiac Japan and Iiac Taiwan who are already gathering entries from Asian coffee roasters. Registration is open worldwide.
The rules of International Coffee Tasting Asia 2015 and the registration form for coffees are also available from www.coffeetasters.org.

For more information, contact: carlo.odello@italiantasters.com

Italian Espresso certification programme and certification for Espresso Italiano Trainers in October 2015

Espresso Italiano Trainer - International Institute of Coffee TastersNew certification sessions for Italian Espresso and for Espresso Italiano Trainers will take place in Italy from the 19th to the 22nd October 2015, just before the international trade show Host.

The Italian Espresso certification programme is run by the Italian Espresso National Institute (Inei) in cooperation with the International Institute of Coffee Tasters (Iiac). It is made up of two modules (M1 Espresso Italiano Tasting and M2 Espresso Italiano Specialist). The two courses will take place on the 19th and the 20th October and are valid for the Inei’s certification Italian Espresso.

The certification programme for Espresso Italiano Trainers will immediately follow on the 21st and 22nd October. Candidate trainers have to attend two more modules (M3 Senses Brain Sensory Analysis and EIT Espresso Italiano Trainer course). Certified trainers will be entitled to hold the sensory seminar Espresso Italiano Experience on behalf of the Iiac. The content of the seminar includes information on espresso and tasting techniques with the final aim of teaching the students how to assess the quality of Italian coffee. Each student receives a certificate after passing the thoery and tasting exams at the end of the seminar. There are more than 150 Espresso Italiano Trainers in the world.

For more information, please download the PDF or write to carlo.odello@italiantasters.com.


Watch what happened at the International Coffee Tasting 2014, the international coffee competition

Watch what happened at the International Coffee Tasting 2014 (Brescia, Italy, 21 and 22 October 2014), the only competition assessing the quality of coffee by a wise use of sensory analysis. 26 sensory judges from 9 countries gather together to evaluate 149 coffees from 15 countries. All the judges were skilled coffee tasters authorized by the International Institute of Coffee Tasters.




Professional Master of Coffee Science and Sensory Analysis

The 2011 Professional Master of Coffee Science and Sensory Analysis will be held in Brescia (Italy) from June 27 to July 1. The Professional Master will be taught in English.

The goal of this Professional Master is of providing, through sensory analysis, criteria and practical application tools for orientating production, along the whole production process, towards the achievement of a product able to ensure customers’ maximum pleasure.

Practical training will explain and illustrate the tools for recognizing through senses qualities and defects in the cup, how to obtain maximum sensory potential in extraction at the coffee shop, sensory analysis tests for assessing quality and stability of production result and, finally, sensory analysis data and the specific tests for fast selection of green coffee, roasting and blending methods, supported by scientific confidence. The whole with the aim of achieving consumers’ best satisfaction at cup stage.

More information: please download the form.


Brazilian Coffee: Sensory Profile by Law

from the correspondent Antonello Monardo *

The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Wagner Rossi, signed a measure that delineates a series of criteria to ensure quality of coffee for the end consumer.   The new regulations will be applied to roasted coffee in both bean and ground forms.

The measure, which will go into effect in nine months, has already been published in the Official Register.  It will determine the requisites that will define the maximum percentage of impurities, setting the basic sensory standards for coffee, the second most consumed beverage in the country, second only to the water.

The coffee that is produced in Brazil, or imported into the country, can have a maximum impurity level of one percent.  The humidity in the roasted and ground coffee cannot exceed five percent.  Other specifications in the regulation have also been set, including the criteria for the coffee’s sensory characteristics at aromatic and taste levels, the definition of the acidity, bitterness and astringency, as well as the body of the coffee.

An expert accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture, who is either a technician or an agronomist specialized in coffee, will be entrusted with the sensory evaluation.  The test will be carried out in a firm accredited by the Ministry.

"I consider the measure a milestone in the national coffee production," the Minister said.  "It is a form of respect to the Brazilians who are accustomed to drinking and appreciating coffee."  According to the Ministry, the regulation will also increase its market value which has been growing, on average, by 5% a year, making Brazil the second largest consumer of coffee in the world.

The new legislation has been approved after three years of work by government representatives and members of the private sector, such as the Brazilian Coffee Industry Association.

* Antonello Monardo is living in Brasilia since 1992 and he his delegate of the Italian Brazilian chamber of commerce and industry. Working for café gourmet and special, he won the gold medal at the International Coffee Tasting 2008. He works on and manages classes for barmen and barwomen, he takes part to conferences and events in universities, spreading the culture of the quality coffee.

Registrations are now open for the International Coffee Tasting 2010, the world coffee tasting competition

The third edition of International Coffee Tasting will be held in Brescia (Italy) on October, 26-27. The  commissions of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, the scientific and independent association that concentrates exclusively on the sensory analysis of the coffee, will meet in Brescia to evaluate samples of coffees coming from all over the world.

"At its third edition, International Coffee Tasting 2010 will be an excellent barometer to evaluate how things are going in the coffee market – said Mr. Luigi Odello, secretary general of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters and professor of sensory analysis in Italian universities and abroad – In the  last edition of the competition we had the chance to sample 130 different from all around the world". A real international showcase, useful to understand the latest trends.

International Coffee Tasting 2010 accepts coffee in all different styles, from espresso to capsules, from pods to filter coffee. Each company participating to the competition will receive its ranking and the sensory profile of its own product. The mission of the International Coffee Tasting 2010 is not only to award excellence, but also to support coffee roasters in reaching it. "The market is effectively polarizing itself, with peaks of high quality countered by example of poor quality", concluded Mr Odello.

International Coffee Tasting 2010 is open to coffee roasters from all around the world. Coffee roasters can register up until the June 30 (forms available at www.coffeetasters.org). For more information please contact Claudia Ferretti (claudia.ferretti@italiantasters.com, tel. +39 030 397308).

>> Go to the International Coffee Tasting 2010 page

Espresso Italiano Roasting: roasting and blending from the tasters’ point of view

Espresso Italiano Roasting, the new publication from the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, has just been published. It is completely focused on the Italian way of roasting and blending.

Italian espresso stands out as a concrete expression of the elegance typical of “Made in Italy”, products covering the key role of testimonial of our agro-food culture. And this is why science can only resort to all the modern available means to photograph this art, hoping to replicate and innovate it.

And the aim of Espresso Italiano Roasting is all about this, in fact it focuses on collecting and arranging the output of coffee research using appropriate technical terms to promote its diffusion, giving special attention to the current available means in the field of coffee roasting. As a matter of fact, each single chapter and paragraph is soaked in sensory analysis, which is the main tool used at present for selecting green coffee, setting the roasting process and realizing the blends. The countless correlations involving chemistry, technology and sensory results will easily guide the readers, giving them the tools to understand phenomena they have certainly already observed in the past without the necessary competence.

Espresso Italiano Roasting is in fact based on the experience that the author has achieved with the courses held by the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, the thousands of consumer and laboratory tests carried out by the Taster Study Centre and the tens of samples that have undergone sophisticated chemical analysis.

Espresso Italiano Roasting is only available in electronic format (high resolution PDF) and can be ordered on the website of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. The index and the first chapter are freely downloadable from the same website.

Dont’ trust the origin

by Luigi Odello

Secretary General of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, he is also a lecturer at the University of Udine, Verona and at the Cattolica in Piacenza. In addition he is the Chairman of the Taster Study Center and Secretary General of the Italian Espresso National Institute

For the moment being it’s a niche, but we believe it’s bound to become big. We are speaking about single origin coffees. A recent investigation conducted by the University of Padova highlighted that also consumers are able to distinguish between a blend and single origin coffee. In this case too, from a sensory point of view, the winner, with statistically relevant results, was the blend. This clearly means that our roasters are truly very good at choosing coffees from all over the world, at making each type express its best characteristics and at creating unbeatable blends. However, there has been a genuine interest for single origins and this makes us think that this trend will lead to having a coffee menu at restaurants, a better-aware consumption of coffee at the coffee shop and to valuing the ritual of coffee at home.

The debate must be a serious one. Otherwise, the origin simply turns into a meaningless coat of arms thus losing its natural value. In this respect, the first thing to do is focus on how the issue is currently tackled: mentioning the origin conveys a false sense of homogeneity. Basically, when the end users read on a package “Brazil”, they immediately think that all the coffee from this big producer has its own common and homogeneous characteristics; specific features which make it possible to distinguish it from other coffees. This is not the case. But even when we speak about Guatemala Antigua, which is more specific, we cannot claim that there are specific traits which make it easy to distinguish it from other coffees of the same category. More than that, roasting methods have a major impact on the final result, something similar to the crucial influence that the fermentation technique has on the grapes and the type of wine. Put it in other words, we could have greater sensory differences between two coffees from Costa Rica which went through different types of roasting procedures compared to the differences between a Costa Rica and an Ethiopia which have been roasted in the same way.

So, if for wines there is Barbera (vine variety) of the Monferrato (area) of a certain producer, we should have something very similar for coffee. It is extremely important to never neglect the brand which conveys its philosophy and know-how to the final product. If we really want to value this new market segment, then the product should come with some explanatory notes on the specific characteristics of the origin, on the roasting methods and on the sensory traits that can be spotted when drinking the product from the cup. The info provided should be correct and mirror reality, it should not be general and some sort of poetry coming from creativity. A lot of work must be done on this: we are spotting severe mistakes with taste being mixed up with aromas and, especially, there is no correspondence between what is written and what is highlighted with sensory analysis. This disappoints the consumer and jeopardises not only the credibility of the reference but also of the entire market segment.

The New Taster Cup

By Manuela Violoni, R&D manager at the Taster Study Center

Cream, gustative balance, aromas: three aspects of espresso which, according to tests, are influenced by the cup. The New Taster Cup is the result of three years of sensory experimentation, it is a improvement of the official tasting instrument of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters which values good coffees and punishes bad ones

If the glass influences the perceived characteristics of a wine, this is three times truer for the cup in that it influences not only the way in which the senses approach the beverage but also the physical status of the beverage itself: the temperature and the way in which the components of the cream surface. All these aspects have been kept into account during the experimentation to which the Tasters Study Centre has participated for the part on sensory analysis while Forever has dealt with technical issues.  The New Taster Cup has been designed to optimise its performance in all stages of its use, not only from the point of view of tasting but also to support the barista in preparing a perfect espresso.

Less stackable, more equilibrium of tastes

The external shape of the New Tasters Cup is designed in a way which makes it difficult to stack it in more than two rows. This is how all the cups reach the optimum temperature which is necessary to keep the gustative equilibrium of the beverage. Even the barista who does not know it will naturally follow this simple rule, thus automatically eliminating a frequent mistake made during preparation.

Elliptical bottom for a more persistent cream

The internal shape of the cup materially influences the formation of the cream. Actually it is mainly made up of fibres and fats which are in the coffee: when the espresso drips from the spout to end up in the cup, the convective movements inside of it make these components, along with the aromas of the coffee, surface. A flat or cone-shaped bottom hinder these movements, which are on the contrary favour by the elliptical interior. The New Taster Cup is designed to optimise this stage which gives a finer and more persistent to the sight cream with greater formation of the prestigious stripe-effect and with a more powerful aroma.

Clear level, no more extraction levels

In the New Taster Cup an internal mark indicates the optimum extraction level for the espresso: 25 millilitres. Not only no more short or too watered espresso but it also makes it easier for the barista to regulate the grinding: fixing extraction at 25 millilitres in 25 seconds is an easy criterion to avoid mistakes of over-extraction or under-extraction, burning the coffee or not extracting enough its aromatic or tactile potential. The internal mark makes this easier allowing the barista to keep the correctness of the grinding and of the pressing monitored at each extraction.

Brighter white, nicer cream

In order to correctly assess the colour of the cream of the espresso, the cup must be white inside. The super-white porcelain with which the New Taster Cup is made is something new on the Italian stage, to the extent that if you put it next to the traditional cups the latter look grey and opaque. The perfect and brilliant white of the porcelain make the most of the reflections of the cream of a good espresso and of the brightness of its surface. This is not nothing, given that consumers makes assessments especially with their eyes.

Lighter, more elegant

Following a trend from tasting glasses designed for wines, the New Taster Cup weights 27% less than the previous model. This conveys a sensation of greater elegance and makes it easier to hold the cup thus allowing the taster to better focus on the sensations.

Varying thickness, more non-conductivity

The reduced weight does not mean that the New Taster Cup is thin to the point that it does not ensure that the right temperature is maintained. The secret is in the varying thickness, greater towards the bottom where the espresso is contained and lower towards the top with which the lips come into contact. This makes it possible to fully exploit the non-conductive nature of the porcelain, an excellent thermal insulating material, without making the lips feel a sensation of thickness.

More room at the top, wider aromas

Just as with wine glasses, also the cup must not be filled up to the edge: it is necessary to leave enough room at the top, meaning room for the aromas to set free from the liquid and concentrate in the air so as to be directed towards the nose. More room at the top allows for the aromas to become wider: this is the reason why in the New Tasters Cup it has been increased by 10%. This, together with the internal shape of the upper part of the cup, makes it possible to better perceive certain aromatic notes.

Greater hygiene, more aromatic freshness

Even when the tasting phase is over, the way in which the cup is treated is important for the correctness of the following assessment. A critical aspect of the hygiene of the cup is the bottom: if it is not adequately designed, there is the risk that the washing-up powder from the dishwasher might pile up. The detergent then drips on the border when the cup is removed from the dishwasher and placed on the cup warmer. The New Taster Cup features some grooves designed to make any residual washing powder flow away completely.

The New Taster Cup vs the previous model

The data clearly show that the same espresso, tasted in the New Taster Cup, appears to be nicer than when tasted in the previous model, with an Edonic Index of 7.70 vs 6.78. The reasons for this lay in a number of factors: first of all, the appearance of the cream, the colour of which shows out better in the super-white porcelain. At a tactile level, the espresso has more body, due to the cream being formed in an optimal way and to volume control, which optimises extraction. The bitterness is less sharp and the aromas are valued, especially the prestigious spicy notes ranging from rhubarb to liquorice and which convey a precious note to the sensations persisting in the mouth.
The New Taster Cup highlights huge differences compared to the previous one also at the level of the visual and tactile impact of the object itself. The colour strikes more than the previous one and makes it stand out compared to the more wide-spread cups. Overall, it’s more elegant and stylish even if its shape can still be defined as classic, It’s deemed to be more modern and ‘cheerful’. At the touch, it gives more pleasant sensations due to its being lighter. It’s easier to hold, the shape and the surface have been improved. Finally, its border conveys a sensation of enhanced fineness to the lips. Despite the fineness, use at the coffee shop too is recommended.