Coffee Body – Full vs Light

Have you heard the term “full bodied coffee?”

But what does it actually mean?

It has to do with mouth feel. The feeling of the coffee on your tongue and in your mouth. Let’s use two extremes:
Bite into a slice of lemon. Your mouth starts to water and you pull a face. Oooo! It sour!
Take a sip of full cream milk, swirling it around your mouth. Creamy.

With these two extremes in mind, Coffee’s Mouth Feel is often describes as:

Full – heavy, rich, and velvety
Medium – smooth, round and creamy
Light – tea-like, crisp and juicy

The above are just a few ways we can describe mouth feel.

To achieve prefered body we play with Brew Ratio and Brew Method. For a medium bodied batch brew at a late evening gathering to be enjoyed with my favourite slice of chocolate cake, I would use a medium roast coffee with heavy chocolate notes and increase brew ratio. Using 140 Grams of ground coffee to 2.2 Litres of water through a paper filter, creating a smooth tasting coffee with intense flavour and aroma. When swirled around the cup you will see a thin coating of oil that survived the paper filter. The coffee wouldn’t feel heavy, yet it would have intense flavour.

Adjusting brew ratio, the same coffee can be clearer with less oils present, giving our palate the impression of a light bodied cup. The full flavours raimain subtely. This can be achieved by adding clean hot water to the brewed coffee. Dilution increases water to coffee ratio creating a lighter mouth feel. Generally speaking, brewing through a paper filter captures some essential oils and compounds we associate with a full bodied cup.

A shot of espresso should give a full bodied mouth feel. Heavy, rich and velvety coating the mouth as it swirls. On the other hand, cafe americano, while still owning bold flavours feels smoother and creamier. Think of the difference in tactile sensation between honey(Heavy body) and cream (Medium Body)

Coffee with light body is in no way less flavoursome. Many specialty coffees are roasted lighter to enhance their unique flavour of origin. For example, to make water more refreshing we only need add a slice of lemon, not the entire fruit. Likewise, to capture the subtle citrus and tropical fruit flavours in coffee we brew more carefully and enjoy a light refreshing coffee.

Selecting coffee can be tricky. Likes and dislikes vary and so does palate and mood. Think about what textures and flavours you enjoy, and always consult your local roaster for assistance. This is what we are here for: to make sure you enjoy every sip of your favourite brew.

Photo credit “Di Bella Coffee” from Pexels

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