Coffee releases a variety of different aromas and flavors. Each coffee has a unique flavor profile. The tastes you enjoy in your final cup of coffee will reflect the origin of the beans, how they were grown and processed and how they were roasted and finally brewed. The Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel attempts to simplify and unify all of our sensory experiences involving the smelling and tasting of roasted coffee.
Specialty coffee roasters taste test their beans many times over, achingly trying to create tasting notes that best represent their coffee. This is called a cupping. During this cupping session, roasters and coffee professionals pick out tasting notes, good andbad.
We’ve all seen the tasting notes on our bags of coffee. Some are simple descriptors like apple or lime, and others depict tasting notes of barreled negroni or lemon glazed meringue. Some of us can taste individual notes and others are left thinking, “it just tastes like coffee”.
However, these flavors don’t just happen by mistake. Many skilled hands have crafted the flavors you can taste in your cup of coffee. Each bean is many years in the making, and what happens throughout those years will affect the final tasting notes we enjoy in our cups of coffee.
Let’s explore this further.
Single-origin coffees have distinct flavor notes. Coffees from certain regions will have similar characteristics. For example, African beans will have sweet and floral tasting notes while South American beans are nutty with a caramel sweetness.
Coffee plants grow best at high altitudes around the equator. How they are grown, developed and farmed will provide the green coffee beans with natural flavors that are specific to that farm and region. Altitude, rainfall, soil, and climate will all affect how the coffee beans will taste once roasted and consumed.
Once these cherries are bright red and ripe, they will be hand picked and processed for the green seeds inside. Depending on local resources, the farm will use either a dry or wet method. This could take several days or even weeks. Each step of this processing and drying will enhance, add to or even ruin the beans natural flavors. The end result; green coffee beans ready for roasting.
The processed green beans are shipped across the world to a roasting facility. During the roasting process, hundreds of chemical reactions release a number of aromatic compounds. A skilled roaster will bring out the natural flavors of the coffee bean while adding their unique roast profile.
Brewed coffee is the final consumable product. In our cup of coffee, we enjoy the beautiful aromas, flavors and tastes that the farmers and roasters worked so hard to achieve.
After roasting, the beans release gases and the flavors evolve. To get the best flavors from your beans, brew them 2 – 14 days after the roast date. Freshly roasted beans have the most flavor.
Even once your coffee has been brewed, the flavors in your cup will continue to develop and evolve as it cools. The tasting notes you see on your bag of coffee refer to these developing flavors.
Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel
It’s fair to say that any palate has to be trained and developed. To make things easier, the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) have created a Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel.
It has been assembled by hundreds of coffee professionals and contains all the flavors that could possibly be found in coffee, good and bad. Years of research has gone into this Flavor Wheel.
I keep a coffee of this Flavor Wheel at home, next to my home brewing equipment. When enjoying my morning cup, I enjoy picking out the aromas and flavors. This has helped me develop my palate and in turn, has helped me enjoy and appreciate my coffee more.
Develop Your Palate
Try it yourself. Each time you brew a coffee, try to pick out the flavors. Look at the tasting notes on your bag and then look at the wheel and see if you can taste anything else. As your palate develops, try and test yourself.
Can you taste the blueberry in a naturally processed Ethiopian? Do you love the chocolate fudge and citrus flavors of a Columbian? Or are you craving the floral notes of a Kenyan?
Get some freshly roasted beans and enjoy!