Tried our quiz but weren’t sure what answers to put in? 

While you’ve undoubtedly heard coffee-tasting terms being thrown around by your local, heavily-bearded barista, you may never have paused for any great length of time to really think about what these words might mean! And you’d be forgiven for this too, life is complicated enough without analysing your morning coffee, right?

Yes! But, if you took our quiz and found that you weren’t sure what answers to provide, maybe we should spend a few minutes thinking about exactly what you are tasting each morning with the noble intention to make a great thing, even better!

Have you ever been to a Wine Tasting event? If not wine, then how about whiskey? Or perhaps craft beer is more your thing?

Regardless of your preference, tastings are a great way to become better acquainted with the different flavours, notes and ‘finishes’ across a range of your favourite alcoholic beverages. Much as we might hate to admit it when the tasting guide tells us we’ll get a hit of ‘fresh blackberry’, we can actually taste the blackberry.

We pretty much agree that discovering more about the flavours behind our beverage of choice helps elevate our enjoyment of it. Why are we talking about wine and whiskey flavours on a coffee blog? Well, much like these drinks, coffee also has a rich flavour background that’s well worth exploring.

What Do We Mean by Coffee Flavours?

 

Much like wine, coffee has different flavours that are influenced by the region it’s grown in, the quality of the growing environment, and the processing (and roasting) method.

Although our first focus might be to get that fresh espresso down our necks in the morning so we can reap the benefits of the caffeine goodness, taking the time to really taste the espresso could yield a whole new flavour town.

But in order to know exactly what flavours are going on in your fresh brew, you need to know what kinds of flavours to look out for.

The Most Common Coffee Flavours

When we talk about coffee flavours, we’re not referencing the French Vanilla or Salted Caramel sticky goop your local big chain coffee provider might be offering, although we’re not judging if that’s your thing (we lied, we’re totally judging).

You can find a multitude of subtle flavours in different coffees, which like wine, are often associated with their aroma. Some of the most common flavour descriptors include:

 

  • Chocolatey
  • Nutty
  • Caramelly
  • Spicey
  • Fruity

 

Coffee flavours go deeper into the bean and are an inherent part of the coffee drinking experience. It’s some serious stuff, so serious in fact, that the World Coffee Research organisation have even created what they refer to as a ‘sensory lexicon’.

The lexicon was developed to assist coffee fanatics (sorry, researchers) in understanding the taste and aroma flavours and notes behind the plethora of coffee beans available. It breaks these down into 24 key attributes or descriptors, that can all be used to describe the flavour of coffee:

Sour

Bitter

Salty

Apple

Grape

Coconut

Pineapple

Acetic Acid

Butyric Acid

Isovaleric Acid

Fermented

Peapod

Fresh

Papery

Earthy

Dusty

Damp

Phenolic

Petroleum

Brown Spice

Almond

Vanillin

Floral

Jasmine

You might read through that list and be left scratching your head (petroleum, anyone?). If it’s sounding a bit too complex, there is another handy little tool that is invaluable if you’re interested in exploring coffee flavours.

 

The Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel

The Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel was developed in partnership between the World Coffee Research and Specialty Coffee Association of America. They wanted to create something that could help everyone better understand and enjoy the flavour of coffee.

 

Using the wheel is easy: you start at the middle, and work your way outwards, selecting the descriptors that best describe the coffee you’re drinking. The World Coffee Research website has a great (quite in-depth) guide on getting the most out of the wheel.

Common Coffee Flavour Terms to Know

And while we’re on a roll with expanding your coffee flavour knowledge and vocabulary, there are just a few other keywords that are useful to know about when reflecting on coffee flavours (or attempting to decipher what your local barista is telling you while you wait for him to pour):

 

  • Acidity: While anything acidic might sound like a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing when it comes to coffee. Acidity refers to the bright, tangy, citrus flavours you can find in coffee (yup, they’re really in there!). Think lemon, apple, and even pineapple.

  • Body: Another term that you might only associate with wine – it’s also a great descriptor for coffee. When we talk about the ‘body’ of a coffee, we generally mean the physical taste sensation. Think along the lines of creamy and smooth, or coarse.

 

Now you’re well on your way to impressing that barista. You’re welcome.

How to Find Out More About Coffee Flavours?

If learning more about the flavour of your coffee is sounding a bit like too much hard work, we hear you. It can be a great world to dive into, but once you do, it might feel a little bottomless!

The good news is that most roasters put the hard work in for you. We’re generally quite a proud bunch of the beans we roast and we’re keen to share everything we can with you about what you’re drinking – which includes the flavour notes.

Check out the packet of your next beans, and you’ll get some direction on the flavour you should be tasting and discovering in your next brew.

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