Beer tasting workshop black glasses smell

12 Top Tasting Tips

Try these tasting tips to help boost your tasting ability and understand more about what you like and don’t like. In my experience as a sensory analyst, I believe that everyone is trainable and can improve with practice. I have guided many people to describe specific aromas, flavours and textures of food, wine, cider, beer and spirits. Keep these tasting tips in mind when eating and drinking and take note of how your sensory system reacts.

1. Be a mindful eater and drinker.

Notice how much your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin sense an overall perception of taste. Notice how your senses interact and how this varies from person to person depending on physiology, genetics, mood and experience.

2. Be curious.

Become a ‘sensory detective’ and stimulate your senses. Try to isolate your senses and taste in a different way to routine e.g. blind tasting, different glasses. Think about the key ingredients and ask yourself how the flavours got in your glass.

3. Build your sensory memory.

Smell a variety of foods, herbs and spices in isolation taking small, quick sniffs. Over time, you will recognise specific aromas and flavours and be able to describe what you eat and drink. 

4. Keep an open mind.

Resist having preconceived ideas by not knowing exactly what you are sniffing or tasting. Try closing your eyes while sampling or ask for someone to serve the product to you. 

5. Focus on the details at hand.

Describe specific sensations from what’s in the glass. Avoid playing guessing games about things like brand, packaging, origin or variety which takes more brainpower and may bias your perceptions.

6. Give your senses a break.

When tasting a few samples at a time, pause and reset your palate. Remember that things will appear different depending on the time of the day and your mood.

7. Take meaningful notes.

Record your findings and share your perceptions by writing notes or using a personal scoring system. Writing by hand helps your brain handle complex sensory information and increases memory retention.

8. Take an adequate sample.

Leave enough for a second or third bite or sip to allow time for recognising and describing the sensations.

9. Taste widely trying new things.

Be open to trying foods you haven’t experienced or wouldn’t normally order. Discover new flavours and experiment with different ways of presenting food and drink.

10.  Stick to your guns and slurp when you sip.

Treat all products equally and taste in a consistent way e.g. look and smell before putting in your mouth. When sipping, ‘slurp’ by drawing air into your mouth. The ‘slurp effect’ warms the sample and releases more flavours. 

11. Rely on first impressions.

The first few sniffs and sips are the best indicator of overall intensity and types of aroma/flavour. Over-stimulation will cause saturation and overload your sensory system.

12. Have something to say when discussing product characteristics.

Generally, if you love it, have reasons why. If it’s not to your taste, say what would make you love it. What is your overall impression of the sample?

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The more you pay attention to your senses and the more consistent your approach to tasting, the more you’ll get out of what you eat and drink. Along the way, you can also develop your taste sensitivity, improve your cooking skills and invest in a bank of sensory memories.

Hear my podcast interview with James Spencer talking in-depth about these tips and more. Listen here to Basic Brewing Radio Podcast.