What is the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel?

What is the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel?

The Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel is a guide used by coffee professionals to evaluate the flavors and aromas present in coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association created the flavor wheel and standardized language for coffee tasters to describe their sensory experiences and help consumers know what to expect in each bag of coffee they buy. So, when you see a bag of coffee with tasting notes described as fruity, floral, sweet, or nutty, those attributes were described by a professional using the flavor wheel.

This post will explore how to use Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel, the research you can use to train your palate, and how to find your perfect coffee flavor match with the Kauai Coffee Quiz!

kauai coffee employee conducts cupping session to taste coffee

Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel History

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) published the first Coffee Taster's Flavor wheel in 1995. For more than two decades, it stood as one of the most widely used resources in the coffee industry. However, at the Specialty Coffee Association of America Symposium in 2009, industry professionals voiced a need for more descriptive language to identify coffee attributes in the rapidly changing global coffee industry. And so, the SCAA and World Coffee Research (WCR) set out to create a more comprehensive tool. After years of research, SCAA and WCR published the revised Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel, resulting in the most thorough piece of coffee research and a new set of standardized vocabulary to evaluate coffee.

kauai coffee roaster prepares a cupping session to professionally taste coffee

How to Use the Coffee Taster's Wheel

The Coffee Taster's Wheel is designed to start the user in the center and move outward. Users will find nine general attributes in the center of the wheel, including floral, fruity, sour, green, roasted, spices, nutty/cocoa, sweet, and other. As you taste coffee, you can stop anywhere within the wheel, but the further you move from the center, the more specific and descriptive your attributes will become.

coffee tasting flavor samples berries, chocolate, spice, floral, stone fruit

Training Your Palate

Not sure what you're tasting? That's ok! Coffee is one of the most chemically complex beverages we consume. Training your palate takes time and practice. The revised Coffee Taster's Wheel isn't just a resource for describing coffee; you can use the WCR research that went into its creation to train your palate. The Taster's Wheel identifies 110 flavor, aroma, and textural attributes that can be present in coffee, and the WCR Sensory Lexicon provides references for measuring each attribute and its intensity. For example, each attribute in the Lexicon includes:

·  Attribute name: A descriptor on the wheel, such as "Blackberry."

·  Definition: Clarifies and describes what the attribute name means. "Sweet, dark, fruity, slightly sour, somewhat woody aromatic associated with blackberries."

·  Reference: Each attribute has a standard against which it is measured. For example, the blackberry attribute reference is "Smucker's Blackberry Jam."

·  Reference Preparation: Each reference in the Lexicon includes instructions professional Q graders can use to prepare them for use during a cupping session. For example, a Q grader may have 1 oz. of blackberry jam in a cup present while tasting coffee with blackberry attributes. The Q grader would smell references for aroma, and taste references for flavor, then smell or taste the coffee sample to compare it to the reference and measure its intensity.

·  Intensity: References in the Lexicon are graded on an intensity scale of 1-15 and labeled as an aroma or flavor reference. This standard scale allows professional Q graders to measure the intensity of a given attribute in a coffee sample.

coffee tasting at home. four friends hold two mugs of coffee each

Try the Coffee Taster's Wheel at Home

Now that you understand the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel and Sensory Lexicon, let's practice!

1.  Prepare your coffee: Brew your coffee to the ideal temperature and strength. Do not use flavored coffee or add milk, cream, or sugar. Tasting should be done with black coffee. Serve the coffee in a clean, neutral-tasting cup to avoid any residual flavors interfering with your tasting.

2.  Aroma: Begin by deeply sniffing your coffee, allowing the aroma to fill your nose. Try to identify the different scents and flavors you're picking up and compare them to the aromatics section of the flavor wheel. Use references if you'd like.

3.  Flavor: Take a small sip of your coffee and allow it to rest in your mouth for a few seconds. Pay attention to the tastes you're experiencing and compare them to the flavors section of the flavor wheel.

4.  Repeat the process: Tasting coffee can be a complex experience, and it takes practice to fully understand all the flavors and aromas present.

find your kauai coffee flavor match using the kauai coffee quiz. A woman holds a blue coffee mug against her bright yellow sweater

Take The Kauai Coffee Quiz

Using the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel, you can develop a more sophisticated palate and better understand the unique tastes and aromas of different coffees. Whether you're a professional taster or a coffee enthusiast, following this guide can help you better understand and appreciate the art and science of coffee.

There's also an easier way to find coffee with the flavor attributes you like – take the Kauai Coffee Quiz! Our quiz takes elements of the Coffee Taster's Wheel, your personal brewing, and preparation preferences and matches you with a 100% Kauai Coffee you will love. So, take the quiz and stock up on your favorite 100% Hawaiian Coffee now.