Coffee can taste as different as wine. So many things affect the taste:
• Brewing / extraction
• Roast degree
• The roast profile
• The kind of bean: origin country, washed or natural processed, botanical variety, altitude, the soil …
The first I will recommend you to get hold of is the roast degree. This makes a big difference to the taste. Often people only like one roast degree and really don’t like the others – and feel strongly about it.
You can tell the roast degree from the color of the coffee. On this picture you can see an extreme light roast in the two cups in middle. This light roasted is the least common on the marked but many new coffee people prefers it.
The two cups on the right is an extreme dark roast. Almost black. Roasted to the oils came out (looks wet on the surface of the beans). This is the prefered roast degree at Starbucks.
The two cups on the left is a medium roast. Actually to the light roast scene here in Northern Europe it is medium-dark. But in other parts of the world it would be considered light. There is no common definitions of roast degree.
A funny take on the characteristics of different roast degrees:
With permission from Jon Ferguson from USA. Follow him on Twitter at ADF2050
Example of mapping the taste
Once I did a mapping of 58 coffee capsules for the Nespresso system. If you can get hold of some of the same capsules you can explore too.
It was for a Danish company that sold other brand capsules than Nespresso. But the customers often asked “I like this Nespresso capsule. Which of yours taste like that ?”. This map shows what is nearby and what is very different.
From left to right (x-axis) is the roast degree going from light to dark.
From bottom to top (y-axis) is “other aroma than what comes from the roast degree”. So the lowest has little ‘other aroma’ and high placed capsules has strong ‘other aroma’.
This is simplified to make a 2-dimentional map.