How to drink Kyoto Coffee

Many factors come into play when analyzing a coffee beverage. The most important factors include the origin of the beans, roast level, roast date, grind setting, temperature, and brewing method.

Let’s use espresso and French press as an example of a hot coffee beverage:

Espresso (left) / French press (right)
  1. Espresso is produced by quickly forcing pressurized water through finely-ground coffee, which creates a thick and concentrated beverage with a smooth foamy head.
  2. French press, on the other hand, uses a hot-water steeping method of coarser coffee grounds over 2–5 minutes, which produces a less concentrated beverage.

In this scenario, the same beans will produce an entirely different coffee experience; a single shot of espresso will be around 1 to 1.25 ounces, while a single serving of French press is between 8 to 12 oz and much more diluted. The espresso will generally be more bitter and heavier-bodied, while the French press will have a lighter body that will allow you to taste a variety of nuanced flavors that you may not find in the espresso.

Cold coffee is a different story, with the standard line-up being iced coffee (instant coffee, drip coffee, or French press over ice), cold brew (12-hour steeped coarse coffee in cold water), or iced Americano (espresso over ice). The 3 beverages can be consumed in the same format with the same type of glassware. The flavors will vary, however, with cold brew being the least bitter and iced Americano being the most.

Lastly, there is Kyoto Style Coffee, which is a cold beverage, but the most premium style of coffee brewing that exists today. The brewing process requires special equipment and precision — see my latest post for help with choosing the right equipment. The time, effort, equipment, and details that go into this process are meant to extract the most caffeinated and flavorful cup of coffee, and with that, we highly recommend consuming it properly

Gibraltar glass (left) / Sake glasses + Kyoto Coffee Carafe (right)

Step 1: Choose a glass.

a) The Gibraltar glass is the traditional format, where you can drink the beverage chilled over light ice. The mouth opening is large so it allows you to smell the aromas, the glass is heavy-duty and the perfect size for the standard 4 oz serving.

b) Because of the strength of the beverage, limiting consumption to 1.5–2 oz post-dinner as a digestif is the perfect amount. We recommend using sake glasses, such as these as it allows for portion-control, great aesthetics, and the proper experience.

Step 2: Observe the beverage from a visual standpoint.

a) Take a look at the viscosity, opacity, and color. Kyoto Style Coffee extracts a variety of different properties from the coffee beans due to its design. The outcome is a thicker body with more complexity and less acidity.

b) Hold the cup at a slanted angle towards a light fixture and observe the colors in the body of the beverage. As the beverage is created over 16 hours, the extraction process starts with an extremely dark, syrup-like texture, and throughout its brewing process, it adds layers of flavor and color until the last drops where it finishes with an almost-clear body that has some brown tinting. Because of the difference in viscosity of these layers, you can see the complexion within the coffee, similar to oil floating to the top of the water when mixed (although the difference in viscosity with the coffee will be much less extreme).

Step 3: Smell the coffee.

Are there any specific aromas that you can smell? Use the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel as a guide, and start in the middle, making your way outwards until you can pinpoint the exact flavors. (I.e. start with “Fruity,” then “Berry,” and finally pick “Strawberry.” Continue doing this until you have been able to describe at least two to three flavors.)

Step 4: Take a small sip. (BONUS: neutralize your palates by drinking 2–6 oz of seltzer or soda water before trying Kyoto Style Coffee).

a) Allow the flavors to roll over your tongue and take note of which parts of the tongue they hit. Bitter notes generally hit the back of the tongue, while acidic flavors fall towards the front.

b) Go back to the Flavor Wheel and do the same exercise you did with the smell test. Are you picking out any new flavors?

A great coffee beverage has a complex range of flavors with certain flavors being more dominant than others. Our palates work differently so the flavors you pick out may be different than others — discussing the flavors you discover is one of the ways to strengthen and refine your palate.

Kyoto Style Coffee is the most premium style available on the market and is generally difficult to find, especially a well-made batch. When properly made, you should taste a beverage with nearly no bitterness, which makes it delicious and easy to consume without any cream or sugar. Depending on the coffee used to produce it, there will be strong and prominent aromas and flavors as soon as it touches the tongue. When you do find it in your local boutique coffee shop or online, we recommend applying some of these principles to get the most out of your authentic coffee.