The Coffee Flavour Wheel is an excellent tool used by coffee fans around the world. It standardizes words used for the various tastes in coffee.
The Coffee Flavour Wheel is a great, useful coffee tasting tool. It breaks down the tastes in your coffee into different categories. As a quick example, these can include sweet, sour, bitter and many others. This gives coffee tasters a tool to help remove barriers in what’s said versus what’s meant. This also makes it easier to compare what tasters each find in different types of coffee. By using the flavour wheel, coffee lovers can more clearly talk about the taste of coffee.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America's Flavour Wheel
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) created the Flavour Wheel in 1995. This flavour wheel was the first attempt at standardizing different flavours. There’s a whole lot more going on with a coffee tasting wheel than you might think. It’s not *just* about drinking coffee.
- Sensory criteria include aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.
- Flavour attributes include fruity, nutty, and spicy notes.
- Defects include sour, musty, and burnt flavours.
The original flavour wheel was a good start, but there was still a wide range of interpretations. How do you know what a flavour means to someone? For example, think of chocolate. Now, think about how many different kinds of chocolate there is. And what about regional differences? Or chocolate used for different purposes? Or grown and/or manufactured in different regions? That’s a lot of questions for only one common flavour!
The World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon
Problems with the SCAA Flavour Wheel
Another problem comes with the references used in the Sensory Lexicon. While it has excellent, specific examples, many of the examples are unavailable to all. Let’s use our previous example of chocolate.
One of the chocolate flavours referenced in the Lexicon is Nutty/Cocoa -> Cocoa -> Chocolate. The exact taste reference is 1 chip of Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. While available in some places, there are entire countries where this is not a product. How can you compare world-wide when some flavours are very locale specific?
Cupper’s Simplified Flavour Wheel
To get our final result, we considered several important factors. First, the information has to be understandable for everyday coffee drinkers. We wanted something to describe the flavours without needed a dictionary. No wild, rare or weird flavours here! Second, we wanted to it to be flavours that are local, known, and understood. We didn’t want to use obscure words that only professional coffee cuppers use. Instead we focused on simple, relatable flavours. Third, we wanted to keep it scalable. Much like the original flavour wheel, you can keep it general, or you can get as specific as you’d like.
As a bonus, all Cupper’s coffees now have their own simplified taste wheel! This represents their taste profiles and is in their online descriptions. You can check these out in each coffee’s product info under the snazzy new bag photos. We also used our Flavour Wheel in Cupping Coffees: The Ultimate Tasting Guide.
We’re pretty proud of our simplified flavour wheel. It’s a great tool for anyone who loves coffee, but doesn’t want to get bogged down in technical jargon. Our flavour wheel can help you describe what you are tasting in a way that’s fun and easy to understand. So the next time you’re sipping on a delicious cup of coffee, give our simplified flavour wheel a try. After all, coffee should be fun, not intimidating.