Ida Steen | Sensory Science and Methodology for Coffee Evaluation

A few weeks ago we attended a presentation at the Square Mile roastery by Ida Steen and Morten Münchow of CoffeeMind. It was called Sensory Science and Common Business Practises and focused on quality control in coffee, and how to improve sensory skills. Although this might feel like quite a niche and highly specialised topic, the event drew a big crowd who were very engaged throughout. 

IKAWA Pro Sample Roasters are used by CoffeeMind in their research projects and Morten has already written a bit about this, and shared some profiles, but for us, the event was fascinating because it gave us a deeper understanding of what is meant by a controlled environment, and put in context the way our roasters are used alongside controlling other variables and standardising the sensory aspects of coffee evaluation. 

In this blog post Ida explains this science in more detail, and gives a flavour of the two day Sensory Performance Course she is running at Square Mile in September 2016.

Over to Ida...

"As CoffeeMind’s sensory scientist, I am doing research for industrial clients and I teach sensory courses such as the specialised Sensory Performance  course. 
I have a master’s degree in Gastronomy and Health from the University of Copenhagen and I am passionate about sensory science. I am AST in Sensory Skills, teaching SCAE sensory courses, and also involved in the SCAE sensory creators group, where we are currently working on improving the certification system and the merge between SCAA and SCAE. Additionally I supervise students who conduct research on different aspects of coffee quality at The Department of Food Science in Copenhagen.

In both cases it is extremely important to be able to replicate an exact roast profile, therefore IKAWA Pro Sample Roaster comes in handy! 

 

In all I do, I hope to bring the scientific world and the coffee industry closer. 

 

Everything we do as coffee professionals is about creating good taste and aroma. A huge amount of effort in all the areas of the coffee chain is put into just one thing. Creating the perfect cup of full flavoured coffee. 

How do we conduct a true evaluation of a cup of coffee?
This so important as that has implications to the farmer, and the rest of the supply chain.
The true evaluation must not be influenced by others, our surroundings, the previous coffee we just tasted and so on...

This is exactly where sensory evaluation is useful. 
Sensory evaluation is a scientific method that measures and analyses responses to products, as perceived through our senses. Sensory methodology can be divided into three categories of testing: 

•    discriminative
•    descriptive and
•    affective testing. 

The latter – affective testing - is the only subjective evaluation. 
Discriminative and descriptive tests are purely objective and determine whether there is a difference between products and how this difference can be described. 

If you want to measure the true difference between coffee samples, many variables must be controlled - for instance, the test room should be quiet, temperature controlled, and free from odours and noise.

And critically, it is essential to control all steps of the coffee preparation to ensure that all samples are treated in the exact same way. The samples should be roasted, brewed, numbered, coded and served following precise preparation standards. The IKAWA Pro Sample Roaster has been an indispensable tool in order to repeat the exact roast profile on different coffee samples used for evaluation. 

Left and Right: standardising taste descriptor and language through samples, and Centre: controlled conditions for the tasting

Left and Right: standardising taste descriptor and language through samples, and Centre: controlled conditions for the tasting

When CoffeeMind are conducting a sensory evaluation, we have a narrow research focus. 

For example, one project is to understand how different fertilizers can influence the flavour of a cup of coffee, and another project is about how the water quality can affect the taste. 

Training and Calibrating the panel

Training and Calibrating the panel

In all cases we put a lot of effort into minimizing all possible bias. Therefore each sample is served in triplicates and each panellist gets their own randomised order of evaluation (ie the coffees are cupped blind, and out of sequence). Additionally the panellists are trained to take recuperation time and cleanse their palate in between each sample. This is to avoid carry over effect from the previous sample. 

A good example of a carry over effect is an everyday experience such as eating something sweet (e.g. Danish pastry) and thereafter drinking orange juice. Suddenly the orange juice will taste very sour. This is because we get adapted to the sweetness and therefore we do not perceive it in the juice. The same happens when we evaluate coffees. If you have two cups of the same coffee in front of you, there is a good change that you will perceive the first one you taste as the most intense.  This is just one small example of why it can be important for us to start including some sensory methods in our coffee businesses.

The IKAWA Pro Sample Roaster is an important tool for us in CoffeeMind, especially when we are conducting research for industrial partners. 
It is essential that we are able to repeat the exact roast profiles with no variation between batches. 

Also when conducting research projects in cooperation with the University of Copenhagen the IKAWA Pro Sample Roaster has proven to be a useful tool. The students can quickly learn how to roast their own samples in a precise way.  The Pro App makes it straight forward to document the roast profiles, which is a requirement when conducting scientific research. 

Below is a roast profile developed by Morten which I use frequently as quite a 'standard' reference roast.

To use the profile, you will need to open with IKAWA Pro App which you can download here

I also use the IKAWA when I am roasting coffee samples for the sensory courses I am running. It is convenient for this not just because of the repeatability, but I can also get on with other things while the roasts are happening as the IKAWA follows the prescribed profile."

If you find Ida’s sensory methodology interesting and want to improve your own sensory skills, you may be interested in CoffeeMind’s Sensory Performance course at Square Mile in London in September 2016. There are no prerequisits and you can find out more here

If you use this profile, please let us know how you find it, or share your profiles with us through info@ikawacoffee.com.