Fine coffee should not be consumed the way you would normally drink a more common liquid, such as water. Simply drinking the coffee and swallowing it deprives you of much of flavor it has to offer. Coffee should be aspirated or sucked into the mouth, the way you would consume it if it were far to hot to drink quickly. In terms of the coffee industry lexicon this is referred to as "slurping". As the coffee is aspirated into the mouth, the coffee is partially atomized into tiny droplets and sprayed into the mouth, releasing far more of the flavor volatiles. The coffee should not be swallowed immediately, but held in the mouth and swished about before being swallowed. This enables all of the sensory nerve endings in the mouth, primarily on the tongue, to be fully exposed to the many chemical compounds that we have gone to so much trouble to produce during our meticulous roasting process. We appreciate that Emily Post would have us prosecuted for suggesting this method of enjoying coffee, but etiquette and proper Epicurean appreciation don't always follow the same path.
High quality coffee should be 140 F (60 C) and no more than 160 F (71 C) when consumed. Hotter coffee will diminish the ability of the taste receptor cells to sense properly. The sensory capacity decreases rapidly with the rise in temperature of the infusion. One of the main reasons Americans have developed the habit of drinking coffee so hot is the poor quality of coffee that has been sold in the past. Hot coffee can't be tasted very well, and if the coffee doesn't taste good to start with, the solution is obvious. How common it has been in the past to hear someone complain that their coffee has cooled down and that it tastes horrible. They were right! Now that the specialty coffee industry is bringing much higher quality coffee to the masses, cooler drinking temperatures become crucial.
This is one of the least known, and can be the most elusive factors affecting the taste of coffee. There will be times when everything about the coffee, the water, and the preparation are perfect ... yet the taste is somewhat off, or downright awful. The culprit may well be something in the air. In our own facility, we can not drink our own coffee when we are grinding coffee for packaging, or when we are flavoring coffee. At these times, the concentration of aromatic compounds in the air dramatically affects the taste of the coffee. While it may seem strange that the gases released by grinding coffee, will have a negative effect on the taste of brewed coffee, I can assure you that the effect can be quite dramatic.
So, you might ask: what airborne substances are on the list to avoid? Unfortunately, we can't possibly know all of the various substances that might be problematical. The best guide is: if there is a noticeable odor in the air, and the coffee doesn't taste right, try to establish a connection, or lack of, between the order and the taste of the coffee. Keep in mind that once you have been exposed to "guilty" airborne substances for a period of time, that they are absorbed into the linings of your breathing passages, and will continue to affect your sense of taste for a time after your are no longer directly in contact with the odor.