Exploring the Flavor of Coffee

To this point, Reid and I have broken down the different components of tasting coffee. We have gone over the aroma, which is the smell you immediately pickup as your coffee is poured into a cup. We have discussed the presence of acidity in coffee, and the fact that it is a sensation detected the moment you take a sip. And we have covered the body of coffee, and more importantly how that impacts the overall taste. The next component of coffee, and the topic for this week’s “What Do You Taste?” is the flavor itself.

When describing a food or drink, one of the first descriptions someone would typically give would be the flavor. Flavor generally is easy to determine, but often times it is hard to break down. In the world of coffee, “flavor” does not have one definition that applies to every cup. In fact, when describing coffee, the flavor is determined by the specific combinations of the other components (aroma, acidity, body and aftertaste) of coffee.

To assist new and experienced coffee drinkers, the SCAA has created a coffee flavor wheel, which can be used as a helpful guide during coffee cupping. This wheel can be used when professional “cuppers” buy coffee, or it could be used for a newcomer to learn and understand more characteristics of the flavor of coffee. Regardless of your level of expertise, the flavor wheel can help every cupper determine the specific flavor profile in each cup of coffee.

When it comes to the flavor of coffee, there is no wrong answer. The bottom line is that everyone’s pallet is unique. The purposes of events such as coffee cuppings are to better educate coffee enthusiasts and allow one another to communicate and learn what others taste. Whether you pick up a hint of chocolate or a blueberry notes, hopefully you will now have a better understanding of how to answer, “What do you taste?”


Matt Hogan
Stockton Graham & Co.