Posted on 16th May 2012 @ 1:29 PM
It is true, I have a burnt tongue! But not for the reason you might suspect, I have not been drinking coffee that is too hot. Josh is always kind and makes his cappuccinos at exactly the right temperature (tepid!). No the reason I have a burnt tongue is all about ACIDS.
You might remember, that a long time ago, I wrote a little post about wanting to write about acids. Well now is likely the time for me to make good on that promise.
Frankly, I am pretty frustrated with the way most coffee professionals talk about acidity in coffee. For the most part, people talk about acidity in terms of flavour - citrus, apple, grapefruit, cherry, the list goes on. As a wine professional, I was taught to think about acidity differently. Professionals in the wine industry don't talk about acidity in terms of flavour, but in terms of mouthfeel. You see, our mouths are designed to be basic, and as such, they don't like to be too acidic. So when we get something acidic in our mouths, we start to salivate, as this is our body's way of keeping balance in our mouths. So wine people are taught to pay attention to the amount of saliva that their mouths produce, as a way of gauging how much acidity is in the wine they are drinking. Not rocket science, but it seems for many coffee folk, this is too much to gulp down.
Today, Josh and I were drinking acids. We tried Acetic, citric, phosphoric, malic, lactic, and quinic, to name a few. As a result, I ended up with a burnt tongue. Seriously, it is shot for a day or two, and I'm glad that it is the weekend. The funny thing about drinking all these acid mixtures (everything was blended to 0.1 molars - SCAA acid kit) is that none of them have much in the way of flavour. So often coffee folk like to talk about acidity in terms of flavour, rather than mouthfeel. Well, my burnt tongue confirms that there isn't much flavour in the acids found in coffee. Sure citric, malic, phosphoric acids all have a little in the way of flavour, but nothing that gets you excited. In fact, acidity has very little to do with flavour, unless it is enhancing some other pre-existing flavour found in the coffee. What acidity does offer though is sparkle, life, and vibrancy in coffee. All of this is essential in producing a great cup. Too much raw, and unrefined acidity makes the coffee dry and rough. But when the acidity is good, it is refined, and provides structure to the coffee, much like acidity does for wine.
So, why talk about my acid-burnt tongue? Simply to engage the coffee community and our customers. When you drink coffee, and it has flavours of citrus, this isn't likely the acid in the coffee, but the aromatic compounds. Acidity is about mouthfeel, it is about the amount of saliva that our mouths produce. And yes, this requires that we pay a little attention to what is happening in our mouths when we drink the coffee. Taste is about attentiveness. Taste is about context, comparing what we have in our mouths at a given point to the references we have stored in our brains, from previous experiences. But when it comes to acidity, let's quit talking about flavour, and let's start talking about mouthfeel. Otherwise, my burnt tongue will have served no real purpose. Hopefully Josh's tongue is all burnt out too