Understanding Coffee Pod Intensity Ratings

When you go to a café, you are given whatever coffee that café supports.  When you buy a coffee from Vibe Coffee you are offered a selection of coffees with varying flavours and intensities.  But what does the “Intensity” rating mean to you?  And how does a coffee intensity rating help you decide which coffee is best for you?

We at Vibe Coffee have taken the time to demystify the coffee intensity rating “thing” so you can make a more informed choice as to what coffee is best suited for you.

Intensity ratings have nothing to do with caffeine content!

To start, let’s clarify one of the most common misperceptions of coffee intensity ratings.

The rating does not correlate to caffeine content.  In other words, a high-intensity rating does not mean there is more caffeine.

Breaking down the meaning of Coffee Intensity Ratings:

There are a lot of articles and research out there complicating the definition of coffee intensity ratings.  For the sake of keeping things simple, the intensity rating takes into consideration three different coffee characteristics…

  1. The “body” of the coffee
  2. The aroma (smell) that comes from the coffee
  3. The coffee flavours (taste)

Each of these three characteristics is explained in more detail below.

#1.  Defining the “Body” of coffee:

When the term “body” is used, think of this as the texture, viscosity, or “thickness” of the coffee liquid.  It’s the actual consistency and structure of the coffee liquid itself.

Another way to think of it is….

  • Hot chocolate is thicker so is classified as full-bodied
  • Oil has a medium consistency
  • Water has no “body” at all

This fluid “thickness” is important in the coffee intensity rating because it provides an indication as to the extent at which the water has effectively mixed with all the coffee grinds.

The Specialty Coffee Association calls this a measure of “total dissolved solids” (TDS).    This is a measure of how much of the coffee has dissolved into the hot water flowing into the cup.

This is very important for coffee pods.   The success of a great coffee, when using a coffee pod, is the ability for water to effectively make its way through the entire pod and interact with every coffee “solid” to ensure you can enjoy the flavour and aroma.

The quality of the grinding process has a big influence on this measure and is why Vibe Coffee ensures the Melbourne-based manufacturing process of coffee pod products is completed to a high standard.  We know what a great coffee grinding process needs to look like.

#2.  Coffee Aromas:

The aroma, or how coffee smells is another factor in defining intensity.  The stronger the intensity rating means the stronger the aromas that will come from that specific coffee.

Where the grinding process influences “body” (as we just mentioned) in the case of the aroma, it’s the quality of the coffee bean roasting process which influences the quality of the aroma.

Have you ever opened a coffee pod pack (or a bag of coffee beans) and found little or no aroma?  Think about this the next time you purchase a Coffee Pod pack that has a higher intensity rating.  Once you open a coffee pod bag, you should be instantly met with a great coffee smell.

Believe it or not, there are over 800 known coffee aromatics with new ones being discovered regularly.

#3.  Coffee Flavors:

The final measure of intensity is the coffee flavour which is a mix of body, smell and taste!  It’s a combination of all three.

A coffee’s flavour comes from a mix of sensations which include….

  • The aroma/smell of the coffee
  • The body
  • The acidity (part of taste)
  • The bitterness (part of taste)
  • The sweetness (part of taste)
  • The aftertaste (part of taste)

You will notice there are a variety of “tastes” which need to come together to create the overall flavour of a coffee.

This idea of multiple tastes leads us to another commonly used coffee term known as a “well-balanced coffee”.  Everyone has heard of this but what does it actually mean??

A “well-balanced coffee” is where no single taste is dominant over another.  It’s the ability for a coffee to create the above tastes and have them equally weighted.

This ability to create a well-balanced coffee is also heavily dependent on the coffee roasting process.

Don’t underestimate the complexities of coffee bean roasting.  The roasting process varies by bean and its origin.

Summary of Scoring:

By way of an overall summary, you can now look at coffee pod intensity ratings and keep in mind the above.  The intensity scores start at 1 (being the lowest) and can go as high as 13.  But as a simple smmary, this is how you should look at the scoring system…

Intensity scores below 6:

Coffee pods in this range offer mild delicate aromas with subtle flavours.

People who like coffee in this intensity range prefer a smoother coffee flavour that will not shock the taste buds.

Intensity scores in the range of 7 to 10:

Coffee pods in this range offer a fuller-bodied taste experience with richer aromas and flavours becoming more evident.

People who like coffee in this intensity range prefer a smooth yet robust coffee tasting experience comprising richer flavours and remains less bitter than stronger intensities.

Intensity scores 11 and above:

Coffee pods in this range offer a full-bodied strong lingering aftertaste experience with a mix of both strong aromas and flavours.

People who like coffee in this intensity range prefer a coffee experience where the senses of smell and taste are hit with every sip.

Vibe Coffee Intensity Scores:

Vibe Coffee has coffee intensities that range from 6 (mild) through to 13 (strong).   Below is a summary of  the intensities of the Vibe Coffee products…

Simpatico Coffee Pods = Intensity rating of 6

Verve Coffee Pods = Intensity rating of 8

Zest Coffee Pods = Intensity rating of 10

Vitality Coffee Pods = Intensity rating of 12

Bounce Coffee Pods = Intensity rating of 13

The Final Word:

While there is a science to coffee intensity ratings, people should use these as a guide.  The ultimate taste test is your own preference.

One point not discussed is the dynamic of how milk affects the intensity of the coffee taste.  Ever wonder why people use milk in their coffee?  Click here to read this quick Vibe Coffee article on the 5 reasons why people add milk to their coffee.

May your good vibes keep on coming.

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