Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas

Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas

Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas

Taste has always been a subjective issue. Each person describes the nuances present in a cup according to how familiar they are with those flavors and how well trained their palate is to identify them. However, there is an instrument with a common vocabulary to name these aromatic notes and to be able to communicate in the same “language”: it is the wheel of flavors and aromas of coffee.

The wheel of flavors

Coffee contains more than 900 notes and textures that are perceived through the senses and allow evaluating its characteristics in a cupping process. That is why this tool was created in the late 90’s by Ted Lingle, then director of the SCAA.
It uses a familiar and professional vocabulary, which can be quite technical but very understandable and manageable.
However, the wheel does not rate the quality of a coffee. There can be two 86-point coffees with different shades and perfumes and the function of this instrument is to identify the flavors found in each coffee in order to differentiate one from the other.

Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas

Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas


The wheel of flavors and aromas

The aroma is the general term that is used to refer to all the states of the odors of the coffee on the wheel.
In addition, the aromas are divided into three groups, which are: Enzymatic, caramelization and dry distillation, which in turn are subdivided into the characteristics of each coffee.

Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas


The colors on the flavor and aroma wheel are attractive, which explains why in many cases some people come to think that they are symbolic with flavors like yellow for lemon and brown for chocolate.
But actually the colors were designed to indicate the weight of the molecules they represent. For example, the Enzymatic category and the terms associated with this category contain lighter weight molecules than those found in darker colors.
Terms such as “Coffee blossom” refer to the development and maturity found in coffee, while a term such as “Maple Syrup” in the caramelization category indicates the development of sugars.
Finally, terms like “cloves” in the dry distillation category refer to coffee beans.

Sabor del café: La rueda de sabores y aromas

Surprisingly it is said that there are about 1500 aromas found in coffee, but professionals agreed that 36 aromas or terms are the most common.


Coffee flavor: The wheel of flavors and aromas

The flavors

La rueda de sabores y aromas

In the middle of the left hand side of the wheel on the right side are the flavors that are divided into the four basic flavors that are believed to be found in coffee: sour, sweet, salty and bitter.

 1. Smell the coffee and assign it the aroma that is closest to you from those located in the center of the wheel. For example: fruity.
2. Pick a flavor from the circles facing outward to further delineate the flavor. What kind of fruit is it? Citrus What flavor does it remind me of? Orange.
3. Sip the coffee and repeat the process. For example: Cocoa-dark chocolate.
4. If you can’t identify the flavor and you can only say “it tastes like a red fruit”, go to the red shades on the wheel to help you identify a flavor. Some wine could lead you to the spices.

The SCA Coffee Taster Wheel of Flavors may not be perfect, but it has come a long way since 1995. Furthermore, it is a science-based effort to accurately name that universe of nuances that aroma contains.
It is also important to mention that the wheel of flavors and aromas is a very useful tool that serves as a reference, but a taster should never stick 100% only to it

If you liked this article we recommend you read What is a Great Coffee

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