What is body in coffee and why is it important?
You might often hear the term body used a means of describing a coffee. But what actually is body and why is it important?
At the most basic of explanations, body is the texture of any given coffee. In other words, it’s the mouthfeel of the coffee.
Using a more scientific approach, the body is the solubility of the coffee bean (once ground).
Does body impact flavour?
The short answer is, yes. But technically it’s not the actual body impacting the flavour, it’s the sensation the body imparts.
You will likely have seen people using terms such as ‘rich’, ‘buttery’, or ‘tea like’.
Those sensations ultimately help our brains decipher the flavour components of the brewed coffee.
Common types of body
A light body in a coffee is where the mouthfeel is more like water or tea. Leaving little or no residue on the tongue.
Many low altitude grown coffees exhibit this sensation, however it is also a common trait for Ethiopian coffees.
A medium body coffee exhibits more of a buttery type mouthfeel, the residue lingers on the tongue for a short while.
This is one of the more preferred body styles for most coffee drinkers, as it’s not underwhelming or overpowering.
A heavy body is where the mouthfeel lingers for an extended period of time. Very much a similar trait to something syrupy like honey.
Whilst this style of body can be intense it also offers the largest range of flavour perceptions given your tongue has much longer to decipher the notes through a larger concentration of oils.
Does brew style impact body?
Brew style absolutely plays a critical role in the perception of body.
Espresso brewing will yield a more intense body due to the nature of the compression that the coffee grounds are exposed to.
On the other hand, a brew style such as filter/pour over/immersion will yield a much lighter body as the oils are reduced/filtered out completely.
Do raw (green) beans and roast style influence body?
Certain growing regions help shape the body of coffee due to their altitude and soil conditions. Higher grown coffee will likely exhibit a heavier body, for example.
Likewise, the variety of the coffee bean itself can present unique body characteristics. Such as Bourbon (commonly grown in Colombia) which is renowned for its medium body, often referred to as ‘silky’.
Additionally, the processing method of the coffee will impart some influence on the body. Natural coffee will present a heavier body due to the increased level of sugars. A washed coffee will have a medium to light body, commonly referred to as ‘complex’.
Roasting style will indirectly influence the body of the coffee.
A common misconception is that darker roasts have a heavier body. And whilst a dark roast should be more soluble, they often lack sweetness and mouthfeel.
The body of the coffee helps your brain decipher the flavour notes of the beverage, largely due to the amount of oils that remain in the extraction.
Commonly referred to as light, medium, and heavy. The body plays a critical role in creating balance.
Washed processed coffee will provide a light to medium body, allowing for more clarity of the origin notes. Whilst a natural processed coffee will yield a heavier body, syrupy on account of the increased levels of sugars.
Use a compression style brew method, such as espresso or moka pot, to extract more body in your coffee. Or go for the filter/immersion brewer if you want to mellow out the body significantly.
Because flavour and sensations are perceived differently by individuals, we encourage you to try various processing methods and roast levels in conjunction with different brew styles. You might be pleasantly surprised by some of the results.