TASTING AND DESCRIBING

Coffee is a matter of taste, but tasting coffee objectively is an acquired skill set. Read on to find out the tools we use to communicate flavor and quality.

KEY TERMS

CUPPING
The industry standard method of evaluating coffee. Involves slurping coffee with spoons, spittooning, and scoring coffees on a (theoretical) 100-point scale. Coffee must be roasted light for cupping, as dark roasts obscure origin flavor.

FLAVOR

Refers to the overall impression of a coffee’s characteristics, including the basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty (and, somewhat controversially, umami - the "fifth flavor."). Flavor also addresses origin characteristics and roast flavors. It might sound something like, “Sweet, with chocolate roast notes.”

ACIDITY

A desirable quality of taste which gives good coffees depth and interest. It is described with words like bright, clear, dry, winey, or tangy. Coffees lacking in acidity can be dull or flat.

BODY

Also called "mouthfeel," is the weight or thickness of the beverage on the tongue. Does a coffee feel more like apple juice or olive oil?

BALANCE

Your opinion of how well a coffee’s flavor, aroma, acidity and body work together. Connotes a certain aesthetic harmony. Sometimes the most interesting and delicious coffees lack balance.


THE FLAVOR WHEEL

As we are cupping, we use this visual tool to help us find the right word for a flavor. Sometimes all a cupper can come up with is "sweet." Using the flavor wheel can help us get to a more specific adjective, like "caramel," or "honey."

 

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