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Coffee Basics: Light, Medium & Full Body

Posted by Meera Nair on

In our previous coffee basics blog posts, we’ve covered topics such as varieties vs varietals, levels of coffee acidity, and coffee storage.

Today, we’re tackling an important discussion on what a coffee body is, how it varies from one brew to another, and what it is like in a cup.

The coffee body is given a lot of importance when describing coffee because it is one of the topmost factors that weigh in on the quality of a coffee and how well-balanced it is.

Imagine enjoying the taste of a beverage but not so much the feel of it. You wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about drinking that beverage, would you? 

It’s the coffee body that ensures that your coffee feels and tastes right!


What is Coffee Body?

The coffee body is easily understood as the weight of the coffee. When you take a sip, your taste buds identify whether the coffee is thick and creamy or watery-thin. It’s as simple as that.

While taking into consideration the coffee body, you should also consider whether it’s grainy or oily. These aspects contribute to the body of a coffee, giving it a heavier or lighter mouthfeel.

Speaking of, mouthfeel and texture are all attributes that closely relate to the body.

understanding coffee body

The coffee body, like many other factors affecting coffee, is determined by the origin of the coffee bean, how it has been roasted, and how it has been brewed.

But then again, what is the science behind the coffee body? What equation results in some coffees having a thicker consistency? 

Coffee beans, and therefore coffee grounds, contain insoluble compounds such as oils, fibres, and natural sugars. The extraction process during which the flavour of the bean is captured within the decoction extracts the compounds into the water. 

Since oils, fibres etc. don’t dissolve in the water, they create the coffee body.


Types of Coffee Body & What They Are Like

The body of the coffee is classified as light body, medium body, and heavy/ full body.

Light-bodied coffees have such a subtle presence that they usually don’t leave any residual sensation on the roof of your mouth. They almost feel like water. You’ll notice that they are not grainy or oily. Some light-bodied coffees could have dry, wine-like flavour notes depending on the coffee bean.

On the other hand, coffees with a heavy body feel thick and creamy. In many cases, you’ll be able to distinctly identify the oils that have seeped into the brew. They are often compared to the texture of whole milk.

There’s also a middle ground that draws from the traits of both light and heavy-bodied coffees. These coffees are known as medium-bodied coffees.

They are akin to certain fruit juices and often have a clean feel on the palate. Much like the name, medium-bodied coffees are neither too viscous nor too thin.

light-bodied coffees

What Coffees Should You Look Out For?

Now that you know what the types of coffee body are like, let’s briefly look at what brewing, growing, and roasting techniques result in which coffee body.

This will also help you ensure that you pick coffees that align with your taste preferences.

Those of you who enjoy heavy-bodied coffees should consider brewing coffee in stove-top pots, espresso machines, or French presses. These brewing methods don’t filter out the oils as much as other methods.

Further, coffees grown at a higher altitude have a heavier body, which is why a lot of Ethiopian coffees are full-bodied. Moreover, considering roast levels, dark roasts are also known to extract more oil from the coffee bean than lighter roasts, giving you a stronger mouthfeel.

For coffees that are lighter, you should ideally look at coffees grown in relatively lower altitudes, roasted at a light level, and perhaps, cold brewed.



That’s it about the coffee body! The one true way to develop a skill for identifying coffee body is to experiment with the coffees you drink. Take time to write down what the coffee feels and tastes like.

Soon, you’ll be able to differentiate full and medium-bodied coffees like the back of your hand.

What coffees do you typically prefer? Let us know in the comments.

Try our Enchante blend or Monte Alegre single origin coffee; they are well-rounded, and make for great medium-bodied coffees.

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