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What is 'Juicy' coffee?

What is 'Juicy' coffee?

Tasting profiles exist to help customers select a coffee, and provide an expectation of how the cup tastes once brewed. In the industry, they influence purchase decisions at the cupping table, or release candidates for roast profiles. More than mere flavour notes, they often include other attributes such as mouthfeel, texture, finish - things that complete the experience of coffee-drinking. More precise notes such as Blueberry, Tea-like, and Creamy are slowly edging out generic descriptors such as Bold, Smooth, and Strong. One word in particular, commonly hollered in cupping tables and pourover bars around the world, is juicy.

The use of juicy is perplexing because it feels both generic and specific at the same time. It seems to be a quality of good coffee, yet it lacks the detail of other common flavour notes. We started to wonder about the definition and use case for it, so we called a friend (five, actually) this week, and asked them to spill the juice.

James Hoffmann (@jimseven) of Square Mile Coffee and YouTube fame, offers the following: “Juicy, as a descriptor, suggests a lovely combination of fruit acidity and sweetness. It’s more of a fresh fruit acidity, but should be well balanced with the sweetness of coffee to make it pleasurable.”

This confirms that juiciness in coffee is indeed a pleasant quality. It’s interesting to note that James won the World Barista Championships in 2007 using two single estate coffees that, at the time, were not commonly pulled as espresso. “Light, delicate, fresh” were used to describe his coffee, and in a competition scoresheet that rewards balance and sweetness along with acidity, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the man was pulling juicy espresso thirteen years ago.

Miki Takamasa (@mikitakamasa) of Koffee Mameya adds some insight and inclusion. While we ourselves often associate light roasts with juiciness, Miki-san states that it “...can only be found in coffee that has been perfectly roasted and extracted. It’s clean, vibrant, even if it’s dark roasted”.

Next up is Monique Buensalido (@sinongnanaymoe), a PR and Digital Media Executive from Manila, whose home and office are walking distance from multiple coffeeshops. Monique is the quintessential Specialty Coffee fan, always eager to try new origins and flavour profiles. She goes for the definition of juicy as “...when drinking the coffee feels and tastes like I bit into a fruit and I’m chewing it. I often equate juicy coffees to chewy, fruity ones.”

This definition is interesting, because it suggests this specific combination of flavour and texture. Still, another comment we received, offers complexity as a reason to use the word. Joma Rivera (@yomarivera), celebrated bartender and Bar Manager at Kafe Utu, shares “...when I describe a coffee as [juicy], it is going to be [a] fruit forward cup. Think of apples, blueberries, strawberries, pears, etc. Aside from the flavour profile, the coffee should have a medium complexity and not only highlighting a single flavor”.

Our final definition comes from a well-travelled coffee friend, who has worn multiple hats in the coffee industry. From podcasting (before it became cool), to roasting, to competing in coffee competitions, to judging the same competitions, to running his own kissaten, we could not think of a better individual to ask to “drop the hammer” on this, so to speak. The following is an excerpt from Jay Caragay (@onocoffee) of Spro Coffee:

“I think of it as eating an orange. One that’s bursting with liquid (juicy) when you bite into it - it’s also succulent, with the ideal flavor of orange. A taste experience that makes you salivate when you think about it. It’s that but in delicious anticipation. How I think that applies to coffee is when you’re cupping/tasting a coffee and you get that salivating reaction. I think it’s a very positive attribute/characteristic.”

As per Jay’s definition, juiciness is a positive quality that goes beyond specific flavours and textures. This single descriptor encompasses and ticks multiple attributes, and rather interestingly, suggests that excitement and memory are part of the flavour experience of coffee.

Which of the four are most similar to how you perceive juicy coffees? Do you have your own unique interpretation of what makes a coffee juicy? Let us know in the comments below!

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