Here are the major characteristics you should be paying attention to, while you are tasting your coffee:
Acidity – The sensation of dryness in the back and under the edges of your mouth. This is a desirable quality and not to be confused with sour (which is considered a bad quality of coffee). Acidity creates a lively, bright taste which, without it, the coffee would taste flat.
Aroma – Without aroma, we could only taste sweet, sour, bitter and salty. This is where we get the subtle differences such as floral, nutty or fruity.
Body – The way the coffee feels in your mouth, such as thin or heavy. The best way to describe it is the comparison to how whole milk feels in your mouth compared to water. If you are unsure as to the level of body in the different coffees, add an equal amount of milk to each one and the one with the heavier body will retain more of its flavour when diluted.
Flavour – This is the overall perception of the three characteristics above. Flavour can be rich (full bodied), complex (multi-flavored), or balanced (no one characteristic over powers the other.
Desirable Taste Qualities
Bright or Dry – highly acidic leaving a dry aftertaste
Caramelly – caramel like or syrupy
Chocolaty – aftertaste similar to unsweetened chocolate
Earthy – an earth like quality (sometimes unfavourable)
Fragrant – an aroma ranging from floral to nutty to spicy, etc.
Fruity – having a citrus or berry scent
Mellow – a smooth taste lacking acidity but not flat
Nutty – similar to roasted nuts
Spicy – an exotic aroma of various spices
Sweet – a lack of harshness
Winey – aftertaste resembling a mature wine
Undesirable Flavour Qualities
Bitter – aftertaste perceived on the back of the tongue
Bland – neutral in flavour
Carbony – burnt charcoal flavours
Earthy – a musty, soil-like quality
Flat – lacking aroma, acidity, and aftertaste
Grassy – aroma and taste of grass
Harsh – a caustic, raspy quality
Muddy – thick and flat
Musty – slightly stuffy smell (sometimes desirable in aged coffees)
Rubbery – a smell of burnt rubber
Sour – a tart flavour such as unripe fruit
Turpeny – a flavour resembling turpentine
Watery – a lack of body
Wild – a gamey flavour