Breaking Down the Coffee Color Wheel

Scroll down, and you’ll get a glimpse of what is known in the coffee world as the “Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel.”  Produced and updated by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, this visually appealing chart describes and categorizes a vast, complex array of coffee taste notes.

Created in 1995, this chart is the product of collaboration among scientists, researchers, coffee experts, consumers, roasters, and other industry specialists. Though the wheel is primarily used for specialty coffee purposes, any coffee lover can make sense of it and apply its descriptors to a good cup of coffee.

To use the wheel, start in the center and work outwards. Also, keep in mind that the flavor wheel can encompass both flavors and aromas. Still a little confused? Check out the Lexicon that accompanies the wheel in order to ground your understanding:

https://worldcoffeeresearch.org/media/documents/WCR_Sensory_Lexicon_Edition_1.1_2016.pdf​

When looking at the wheel, you can see a vast array of taste notes: cherry, coconut, brown spice, molasses, fresh, rubber –the possibilities are extensive. Why do all of these flavors matter?

With so many flavor options at our fingertips, coffee specialists are starting to see pairings of particular types of coffee with certain types of food –similar to the way in which one might pair food with certain types of wine. So, these flavors can help cater to very nuanced drink and food experiences.

Not ready to identify specific flavors? In the meantime, go drink a simple cup of coffee! Look at the Flavor Wheel and see if you can put it to good use, starting in the middle and doing your best to work outwards. If you’re having trouble, look at the Sensory Lexicon or go chat with a barista near you–

 

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