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What is the coffee flavour wheel?

Coffee can be more than just coffee. With the right combination of beans and preparation techniques, your cup of coffee can bring out different flavours like plum, lemon, chocolate or even onion. To understand what makes each cup unique and to specialise in making it, nothing beats learning about the Coffee flavour Wheel. A revolutionary way to categorize tastes not only helps you appreciate coffees from different regions around the globe but also unlocks new avenues for creating delicious blends at home.

The Coffee Flavour Wheel

Who hasn’t ever tried to guess the tasting notes of their coffee? You think you can guess some chocolate and hazelnut aromas… but you can’t! This coffee actually has notes of candied lemon and jasmine. Let’s face it, you’re not the only one. Fortunately, some experts on the subject have created a tool to help us decipher the sensory profile of a coffee: the flavour wheel.

Coffee aromas

When you taste a coffee, you are overwhelmed by a sea of aromas: chocolate, bergamot, pineapple, candied tomato, hazelnut… You often don’t know where to turn, and for good reason… there are 800 different molecules in coffee, which will give you about 50 aromatic descriptors! The coffee flavour wheel will allow you to carry out a true sensory analysis of your coffee. What is the objective? To educate your palate, refine your tastes and thus choose coffees that suit you.

coffee Flavour wheel

How to use the coffee flavour wheel?

At first glance, this flavour wheel seems a bit complex, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, we’ll reveal all the secrets! So… how does it work? First of all, to determine the flavours present in your coffee, you have to proceed step by step. Firstly, find out if you have positive or negative flavours in your cup. PAUSE. I can feel a look of panic coming over your faces. Don’t run away, we’ll explain everything! To begin, positive flavours are flavours with floral, spicy or chocolate notes. In short, these are aromas that will be pleasant for your taste buds. Then, negative aromas are vegetal or chemical aromas (petroleum, rubber…)

Refining the tasting process

Once you have determined which flavour category your coffee falls into, it is up to you to refine the search!  For example, if you identify positive flavours, the next step is to define whether your coffee has floral, chocolate or spicy notes… To do this, close your eyes and think of the colours that come to mind. This will help you to find the aromas. For example, if when you taste your coffee you see the colour red, there is a good chance that you will find notes of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry or blueberry. Incredible but true! As far as tasting is concerned, I invite you to discover the article “How to savour a coffee“. It will allow you to know the three main stages of tasting a coffee. The flavours found in the wheel fall into three categories:

  • Those produced by the fermentation of green coffee: we are talking about fruity, floral or fermented notes.
  • The aromas developed by the roasting process: we often find spicy, roasted, cocoa, sweet or nutty notes.
  • Finally, the aromas produced by the coffee’s defects: there are peppery, musky, vegetal and chemical notes.


Why this wheel?

coffee wheel

Who created the coffee flavour wheel?

Created in 1995 by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America), now called the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), the Flavour Wheel will be a real guide to find, step by step, the flavours of your coffee. The wheel is no longer used only by professionals but also by enthusiasts, amateurs or beginners in the world of coffee! In short, the aroma wheel is accessible to everyone!

Now you know all about the aroma wheel! Now it’s time to take action!   With your coffee in hand, you’re ready to go and find the tasting notes (the right ones this time) as indicated on your coffee packet… Happy tasting!  

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