The Blend

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Blog

brewing for body featuring a french press

What Is Body? And How Do You Brew For It?




Your fancy friend with the impeccable wardrobe, record player, and a penchant for knowing every hot new place in town saddles up next to you at your favorite coffee shop. As soon as you exchange pleasantries, she takes a sip of her drink, and a smile spreads across her face. “Wow, what complex notes of cherry and caramel!” That makes sense, you think. “Hmm. Such a bright acidity!” This one’s trickier, but you assume she means the flavors are vibrant and crisp. “And such a big body. Truly impressive.” Here, she’s lost you. How does coffee have a “body?”


What Is “Body” In Coffee Terms?


At its simplest, a coffee’s “body” is its texture. A coffee with a full body has a weight, or a fullness, that your mouth perceives when you drink it. Consider the difference between drinking herbal tea and drinking horchata - the latter will certainly have a fuller body.


Body is a sensation, or the feel, of your coffee. This sensation will help determine the flavor you discern while drinking. Flavor is a sensory cocktail influenced by the aroma, taste, and texture – or body – of everything you consume. Body is something coffee connoisseurs always want; coffee with a light body is often considered “weak.”


The Science of Body, Explained


What, exactly, creates that sensation of body? There’s a scientific explanation for how a fuller body is perceived when you’re gulping down a third cup o’ joe – insoluble substances!


As you’re brewing your coffee, the flavors and aromas of your grounds will be extracted during the appropriately-named extraction process. The substances that make their way into the water and create the liquid coffee fit into two categories: soluble substances that dilute in water, and insoluble substances like oils, protein molecules, and coffee fibers that don’t dissolve and remain suspended in the water. Body becomes more pronounced as the amount of insoluble substances in your coffee increases.


How to Roast for Body


When our coffee roasters at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® handcraft flavor, there are multiple techniques they can employ to accentuate the roast degree and bring out the body of any coffee. Depending on their vision, they can downplay or elevate the body of a particular roast.


During the roasting process, experts can control the temperature to stretch out the “first crack” process and increase the amount of insolubles in the coffee, leading to a denser, more syrupy body. 


The “first crack” is the point during roasting when the beans first audibly “crack” as they expand and release moisture. As coffee roaster Stephen Pivonka details in this blog, you can “turn the temperature down and increase the air flow” during this stage of roasting to bring out the profile you desire. 


How to Brew for Body


The brewing method you use and the type of coffee filter your coffee passes through will impact the body. French Press is known for creating coffee with a full body due to the metal filter, which allows the oils and fibers to remain in the coffee. With pour over coffee, body is typically lower, as the paper filter traps many insoluble substances.


Brewing with an Aeropress grants you the flexibility to brew for body or clarity, depending on your preference. Of course, if you want a beverage with substantial body, go with an espresso. The higher coffee-to-water ratio and the pressurized extraction produces significant body compared to other coffee drinks.


Body: it sounds simple, but the process of understanding and controlling this property of coffee is complex. When you stop by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® near you, you can try a variety of multi-layered, full-bodied coffees, and espresso drinks to fuel your day.