What is Coffee “Body”?

The term body describes the physical properties – heaviness, or mouthfeel – of the coffee as it settles on your tongue; the feel of the coffee coating the tongue, and whether it is oily, grainy, watery, or possesses some other characteristic. Evaluating body when cupping is a proxy for the dissolved coffee solids – organic acids and oils – which increase with altitude and density.

Variations in origin aside, it is primarily affected by brewing method, but also roast level.

Top 3 Best Full Bodied Coffees

While the brewing method will have a larger impact on body than variations between single origins, part of the review process of cupping involves evaluating the coffee, with some origins scoring better than others.

  1. Sumatra Mandheling
  2. Kenya AA
  3. Guatemala Antigua

If you want a more full bodied coffee, stove-top coffee makers are your best option, followed by espresso machines, french presses and pour over coffee makers (metal filter, not paper). Any sort of paper filter (in drip-coffee makers, some pour-over methods, and k-cup and single cup brewers) filters out oils that contribute not only to the body, but also heavily to flavor.

Coffee Body – A Tactile Impression on the Palate

Discerning a coffee’s body involves identifying its tactile impression – its consistency and weight – as perceived in the mouth at the back of the tongue when you swoosh the coffee around in your mouth, and also after swallowing, or after spitting the coffee out if you are a cupper, or professional coffee taster.

A cupper considers the coffee’s body a measure of the intensity of how it feels in the mouth in terms of weight, the sense of richness that the brewed coffee imparts, its heft.

Coffee Viscosity and its Effect on Richness

Body is a measure of the coffee’s viscosity (thickness), which contributes to a sensation of the coffee’s richness, including its aroma and flavor. A coffee’s body is largely created by the coffee beans‘ oils and organic acids which are extracted during the brewing process.

Because the drip/filter brewing method removes many desirable flavor oils, this brewing method produces a coffee with a lighter body. In contrast, a French Press brew or an espresso shot pulled from an espresso machine (espresso maker) which use metallic filters will have more body because the essential oils remain in the coffee.

Coffee Body Descriptions

A coffee’s body may be referred to as light or thin, medium, or full. A coffee with a full body will have a buttery or even syrupy quality. Fuller-bodied coffees also retain more of their flavor when they are diluted.

Sumatra coffee, for example, are known to have a heavy body, while Yemen Mocha coffees tend to be either heavy or medium bodied. Mexican coffees generally have a lighter body.

Body – One of Coffee’s Six Major Characteristics

A coffee’s body (mouthfeel) is one of coffee’s six major characteristics – along with acidity, bitterness, sweetness, aroma, and finish/aftertaste – used by cuppers (professional coffee tasters) to discern the quality of a particular coffee.

Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips

For tips on brewing the perfect cup of specialty coffee see our section on Coffee Brewing. You can also read detailed coffee taste profiles of Gourmet Coffees and instructions on preparing Espresso Drink Recipes.

For step-by-step instructions on making absolutely fantastic espresso check out Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot and then enter the world of master baristas with the How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos.

For detailed definitions of coffee terminology see the Coffee and Espresso Glossary.  Also check out the World’s Best History of Coffee.

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