You mean coffee has flavors? Doesn’t it just taste like brown and energy? Well, if you’re just used to having Folgers or a caffeinated milkshake (ie anything from Starbucks that has so many extras poured into it that it barely resembles coffee afterward), then this might surprise you. In fact, the Specialty Coffee Association of America- yes, that’s a real thing- released a flavor wheel that surprised many.
Much like how wine has its own flavor notes and different ways of being brought about, so does coffee. Take a look at this flavor chart provided by the Daily Coffee News.
No longer are you just relegated to describing a coffee as light, medium, or dark roasted. What kind of dark roast? Are there any floral or fruity notes? How does that compare to the aroma? You can now enjoy all of these subtle hints of awesome intricacy.
You can tell just by looking at the flavor wheel, that it is clearly still in its infant stages, though. Most of the flavors you have probably seen around, if nothing else for marketing purposes.
The biggest surprises I saw were the sour coffee flavors, as well as the depth of the green/vegetative coffee categories. Also, I giggled a bit when I saw that “chemical” category of tastes. I can only imagine that was a small coffee shop trying to label and take a jab at Starbucks or Peet’s and imply that they’re garbage compared to their stuff.
Coffee is one of those things that many people grew up just thinking of it as a necessary evil (much like choosing between Clinton or Trump this last election) to be able to stay awake and perky while at work. That’s kind of what led to coffee creamers and flavored coffee syrups, and everything else being added.
For the longest time there weren’t many coffee roasters. It wasn’t until Starbucks came around that trying new coffees even became a thing. Starbucks is also why so many more people drink coffee on a daily or almost daily basis these days.
Now, not only is it a daily habit for many, but there are tons of small roasteries that people still don’t know about, and those small-time roasteries are making handcrafted coffees with flavors that really didn’t exist before, or at least with such a depth of flavor.
After all, everything back in the day was just bulk made and shipped for the old coffee giants.
This isn’t the case anymore. Next time you get a good coffee, embrace it and taste it for a second. Let it sit on your tongue, fake chew your coffee to get your saliva going to enhance the flavor, and see if you can pick up any of these extra notes.
We’re starting to get into the coffee glory days, as it’s much more common to find little coffee shops and bigger retailers that carry Ethiopian blends, or utilize South American beans, or any other number of interesting places. You’re already drinking coffee, you might as well enjoy it, and do so without risking diabetes from your 2 packets of sugar and 4 inch high whip cream stack.
For those of you that can’t read the flavors easily, I’ll provide a breakdown here for you. Some flavors go into as many as 3 sub-categories for the coffee. So, when listed here, it’ll start with the most general flavor, to the most specific available flavor description, with as much depth as is provided.
You will see lots of overlap of the same general flavor category for the coffees. What also gives the sense of this being a weird update is that there are lots of repetitions of 1st and 2nd flavor categories (and a couple where even the 3rd row pops out). And, the SCAA was trying to mix flavor descriptions that have already been provided before, but I think they should have left some of them out, as it gives me the impression that the taster was just trying to jab the roaster because they thought it tasted horribly.
Roasted – Pipe Tobacco
Roasted – Tobacco
Roasted – Burnt – Acrid
Roasted – Burnt – Ashy
Roasted – Burnt – Smoky
Roasted – Burnt – Brown, Roast
Roasted – Cereal – Grain
Roasted – Cereal – Malt
Spices – Pungent
Spices – Pepper
Spices – Brown Spice – Anise
Spices – Brown Spice – Nutmeg
Spices – Brown Spice – Cinnamon
Spices – Brown Spice – Clove
Nutty/Cocoa – Nutty – Peanuts
Nutty/Cocoa – Nutty – Hazelnut
Nutty/Cocoa – Nutty – Almond
Nutty/Cocoa – Cocoa – Chocolate
Nutty/Cocoa – Cocoa – Dark Chocolate
Sweet – Brown Sugar – Molasses
Sweet – Brown Sugar – Maple Syrup
Sweet – Brown Sugar – Caramelized
Sweet – Brown Sugar – Honey
Sweet – Vanilla
Sweet – Vanillin
Sweet – Overall Sweet
Sweet – Sweet Aromatics
Floral – Black Tea
Floral – Floral – Chamomile
Floral – Floral – Rose
Floral – Floral – Jasmine
Fruity – Berry – Blackberry
Fruity – Berry – Raspberry
Fruity – Berry – Blueberry
Fruity – Berry – Strawberry
Fruity – Dried Fruit – Raisin
Fruity – Dried Fruit – Prune
Fruity – Other Fruit – Coconut
Fruity – Other Fruit – Cherry
Fruity – Other Fruit – Pomegranate
Fruity – Other Fruit – Pineapple
Fruity – Other Fruit – Grape
Fruity – Other Fruit – Apple
Fruity – Other Fruit – Peach
Fruity – Other Fruit – Pear
Fruity – Citrus Fruit – Grapefruit
Fruity – Citrus Fruit – Orange
Fruity – Citrus Fruit – Lemon
Fruity – Citrus Fruit – Lime
Sour/Fermented – Sour – Sour Aromatics
Sour/Fermented – Sour – Acetic Acid
Sour/Fermented – Sour – Butyric Acid
Sour/Fermented – Sour – Isovaleric Acid
Sour/Fermented – Sour – Citric Acid
Sour/Fermented – Sour – Malic Acid
Sour/Fermented – Alcohol/Fermented – Winey
Sour/Fermented – Alcohol/Fermented – Whiskey
Sour/Fermented – Alcohol/Fermented – Fermented
Sour/Fermented – Alcohol/Fermented – Overripe
Green/Vegetative – Olive Oil
Green/Vegetative – Raw
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Under-Ripe
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Peapod
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Fresh
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Dark Green
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Vegetative
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Hay-Like
Green/Vegetative – Green/Vegetative – Herb-Like
Green/Vegetative – Beany
Other – Papery/Musty – Stale
Other – Papery/Musty – Cardboard
Other – Papery/Musty – Papery
Other – Papery/Musty – Woody
Other – Papery/Musty – Moldy/Dampy
Other – Papery/Musty – Musty/Dusty
Other – Papery/Musty – Musty/Earthy
Other – Papery/Musty – Animalic
Other – Papery/Musty – Meaty Brothy
Other – Papery/Musty – Phenolic
Other – Chemical – Bitter
Other – Chemical – Salty
Other – Chemical – Medicinal
Other – Chemical – Petroleum
Other – Chemical – Skunky
Other – Chemical – Rubber
The SCAA did say they were trying to be scientific about it, but how scientific can you be about something as subjective as the experience of flavor? Where do you draw the line between earthy and dusty? What if we’ve never tasted petroleum or rubber before, or have no idea what isovaleric acid is?
Oh well. It’s exciting to finally have a reasonable breakdown though, and shows how interested people are in learning more about coffees.
What flavors on the coffee wheel would you like to try? What flavors are you too scared to try? Let us know, and we’ll tally up the votes and use it to judge which roasteries we should work with in the future and help determine what orders will suit all of you guys best.