Body, mouthfeel, texture…we know the words and what they mean but how they relate to coffee can be obscure and muddled. Until today! At the most basic level, mouthfeel also referred to as body, describes how a coffee physically feels in your mouth and on your tongue. Texture describes the texture of the mouthfeel (e.g., smooth, grainy, creamy, etc.). Both mouthfeel and texture are structural characteristics of a coffee and are determined by the bean, the roast, and the brew method.
Coffee, though nearly 99% water, contains numerous solubles, including lipids (or oils) and natural sugars, and fibers. When brewed these solubles and fibers extract into your cup to create a unique mouthfeel. While every bean has its own mouthfeel, brew method, notably the use or absence of a filter, accentuates the texture of that mouthfeel, making the coffee silkier, creamier, or grittier. Brew methods that filter out oils, such as a Pour Over, are physically lighter and cleaner than filter-less, oil-rich brewed coffees, such as those brewed in a French Press (cafetière). Roast also impacts mouthfeel and texture as dark roast coffees have greater oil production than medium roast coffees (oils are released during the roasting process — the longer the beans roast, the more oils present on the beans).
LIGHT MOUTHFEEL: Light mouthfeel coffees are generally delicate and almost weightless on the tongue and in the mouth; they are also unlikely to leave any residue on the roof of the mouth. In terms of a non-coffee comparative weight match, light mouthfeel coffees closely mirror the weight of clear, flat mineral water. Textural descriptions most often associated with light mouthfeel coffees are juicy, delicate, dry (a.k.a., astringent), and tingly. Note: thin, which is often confused with light, generally means lack of flavor or texture, it does not signify a light mouthfeel.
Pro tip: Light mouthfeel coffees often contain higher acidity and lovely bright berry, citrus, and fruit tones. They also tend to be roasted to a light or medium shade (the shades with little to no visible oils on the bean).
MODERATE MOUTHFEEL: Moderate mouthfeel coffees, also referred to as medium or good, are just that — neither too light nor too heavy. The majority of coffees fall into the moderate mouthfeel category. In terms of a non-coffee comparative weight match, moderate mouthfeel coffees closely mirror the weight of a thicker fruit juice, such as peach or nectarine juice. Textural descriptions most often associated with moderate mouthfeel coffees are silky, clean, and smooth.
Pro tip: Moderate mouthfeel coffees often contain good to high acidity and are well-balanced between base and upper note expression. They also tend to be roasted between a medium and Vienna shade.
HEAVY MOUTHFEEL: Heavy mouthfeel coffees, also referred to as full, are weighty on the tongue and most often gently coat the tongue, sides, and roof of the mouth. In terms of a non-coffee comparative weight match, heavy mouthfeel coffees closely mirror the weight of hot chocolate, light chocolate mousse, or a delicate custard. Textural descriptions most often associated with heavy mouthfeel coffees are creamy, velvety, dense, and thick.
Pro tip: Heavy mouthfeel coffees are often low acidity, full city to dark roast coffees dominated by base notes.
If you are interested in learning more about mouthfeel, specifically how to identify it, try cupping the same coffee brewed with different brewing methods. For the very adventurous among you, start with a light roast brewed at least two ways and then move up to medium and dark roasts, noting each time how the coffee physically feels in your mouth and where it creates sensations within the mouth. Light roasts, for example, tend to have higher acidity and often create a clean, tingling feeling on the tip of the tongue and roof of the mouth. Heavier dark roasts, by contrast, create strong sensations on the back of the tongue and sides of the mouth. To learn more about coffee tasting, please visit our blog and our knowledge center.