The Secret Language of Coffee Tasting That Will Make You a Coffee Connoisseur!

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Embarking on a journey through the world of coffee can be as complex and nuanced as exploring the intricacies of wine. Each cup offers a symphony of flavors and aromas waiting to be discovered and understood. For those eager to delve deeper into the art of coffee tasting, familiarizing oneself with the specialized lexicon used by connoisseurs is essential. This blog post will guide you through the coffee-tasting process and the rich vocabulary of coffee-tasting terms, giving you the knowledge to articulate your sensory experiences like a professional.

What is the Coffee Tasting Wheel?

The Coffee Tasting Wheel is a comprehensive tool designed to help individuals identify and articulate coffee’s complex flavors and aromas. It was created through a collaborative effort between the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and World Coffee Research (WCR) to standardize the language used to describe coffee taste profiles. The wheel features a range of tasting notes organized in a circular format, starting with broader categories in the center and becoming more specific as one moves outward[1][2][3][4][7][8][10].

The Coffee Tasting Wheel is an iconic resource within the coffee industry and the most significant research project on coffee flavor ever completed. It serves as the industry standard for describing the diverse tastes and aromas found in different cups of coffee, providing a shared vocabulary for industry professionals[2][3][4][7]. This tool is used by coffee-tasting professionals, including those participating in competitions, to analyze, define, and communicate the sensory characteristics of coffee samples accurately. It helps make informed purchasing decisions, guide product development, identify defects, and track changes over time[8].

The wheel is divided into two halves: the top half maps favorable qualities such as sugary flavors and floral or fruit-like sweetness, while the bottom half outlines unfavorable qualities like burnt, chemical, or vegetative notes[10]. The colors on the wheel were chosen to represent the flavors clearly, aiding identification. The Coffee Tasting Wheel is also supported by the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon, which provides detailed descriptions and references for each flavor attribute, further standardizing coffee tasting and ensuring consistency across the industry[2][9].

In summary, the Coffee Tasting Wheel is a vital tool used by coffee-tasting professionals, including those in competitions, to describe and evaluate the sensory qualities of coffee in a standardized and detailed manner.


  1. SCA News – How to Use the Flavor Wheel in Eight Steps
  2. Coffee Bean Corral – The Coffee Flavor Wheel Guide
  3. Real Good Coffee Co – The Coffee Tasting Flavor Wheel
  4. LinkedIn – Coffee Flavor Wheel: Learn to Appreciate Coffee Like a Professional
  5. Home Barista – New SCAA & WCR Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel
  6. Reddit r/InternetIsBeautiful – Interactive Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel
  7. SCA Research – Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel
  8. MTPak Coffee – Using SCA Flavour Wheel to Promote Coffee
  9. Not Bad Coffee – Flavor Wheel
  10. Brim Coffee – Tasting Wheel
  11. Cuppers – Cuppers Coffee Flavour Wheel
  12. Curated – Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel: An Expert Guide

What is Coffee Cupping?

Cupping in coffee tasting is a standardized method for evaluating and comparing brewed coffee’s flavors, aromas, and other qualities. It is a professional practice that can also be performed informally by anyone but is mainly used by industry professionals such as roasters, traders, Q graduates, and coffee buyers[2][3][8].

The process of cupping involves several key steps:

1. Grinding the Coffee: Coffee beans are ground to a specific coarseness, typically slightly coarser than what would be used for a paper filter[2].

2. Smelling the Coffee: Participants first smell the ground coffee to assess its fragrance (dry aroma) and then the brewed coffee to determine its aroma (wet aroma)[3][4].

3. Pouring Water: Hot water, usually around 200°F (93°C), is poured over the grounds, and the coffee is allowed to steep. The standard ratio recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is 8.25 grams of coffee to 150 mL of water[1][2].

4. Breaking the Crust: After a few minutes of steeping, a crust of coffee grounds forms on the surface. This is broken and stirred to release the aroma for evaluation[1].

5. Tasting: The coffee is then tasted, often by slurping from a spoon to ensure the coffee evenly coats the palate. This allows the taster to assess the body, sweetness, acidity, flavor, and aftertaste[3][8].

Cupping is used for various purposes, including quality control, developing roast profiles, and purchasing decisions. It allows for a quantifiable and efficient way to taste many different coffees. It provides a standardized methodology and language that can be used and understood anywhere in the coffee industry[1]. The practice is believed to have originated in the late 1800s. It has been adopted by the specialty coffee industry to help describe a coffee’s flavors and to ensure that coffee samples are free of defects[1].

Cupping sessions are typically conducted in a controlled environment that is quiet and free from any aromas, with consistent equipment and procedures to ensure that the evaluation is focused solely on the coffee itself. This systematic approach allows for a repeatable and objective assessment of the coffee’s potential and characteristics[1][2][3][6][7].


  1. 1. A Beginner’s Guide to Cupping Coffee & Improving Your Palate
  1. Cupping Coffee – Learn to Cup Like Pro
  2. Coffee Cupping: A Step-By-Step Guide
  3. Coffee Cupping: A Basic Introduction
  4. What’s the deal with cupping?
  5. Coffee Cupping and Tasting: What’s the Difference?
  6. Guide to Coffee Cupping
  7. Coffee cupping – Wikipedia

What are Q-graders?

Q Graders in the coffee industry are professionals certified to carry out sensory evaluations of coffee. They are akin to sommeliers in the wine industry, possessing specialized skills to assess the quality of green coffee beans. Q Graders are trained and tested to identify and articulate the flavors, aromas, and various attributes of coffee, using a standardized system that ensures consistency and objectivity in coffee quality evaluation[1][2][3][4][6].

The Q Grader certification is conferred by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) and involves passing rigorous tests covering a wide range of knowledge and skills. These tests include sensory evaluations, identifying different tastes and aromas, detecting defects, and understanding the intricacies of coffee processing and production[1][2][3][4][6].

Q Graders are vital in the coffee supply chain, from the farm to the final consumer. They work with coffee farmers to help identify exceptional coffees that may command higher prices and assist in improving overall coffee quality. They also collaborate with roasters to select coffees that align with specific consumer preferences and help maintain consistency and quality across different batches of coffee[2][3][4][6].

The Q Grader program has established a global language and standards for describing coffee quality. This language facilitates communication and trade between coffee industry producers, buyers, and sellers. The certification is recognized worldwide, and becoming a Q Grader can open up significant opportunities within the coffee sector[1][2][3][4][6].

Q Graders are relatively rare. The certification process is demanding and intense, and the pass rate for the Q Grading certification is less than 50%. There are thousands of Q Graders worldwide, but they are more prevalent in coffee-consuming countries than in coffee-producing countries[2][4]. The Q Grader certification is not permanent; Q Graders must recalibrate every three years to ensure their skills and knowledge remain up-to-date with current standards and practices[4].


  1. Q Graders – Coffee Institute
  2. What is a Q-Grader? – Cambio Roasters
  3. What Is the Q Grader Coffee System, and What Does It Mean For Your Morning Cup? – KQED
  4. Q Graders – Intelligence Coffee
  5. Should I study coffee Q-grading? – Reddit
  6. What is a Q Grader for Coffee? – Sprudge
  7. Professional Coffee Tasting with Q Graders – Beann & Bean Coffee
  8. Why are Q Graders seen as coffee gods by some? – Reddit

How is Coffee Graded in Coffee Cupping?

In coffee cupping, coffee is graded using a detailed scorecard that evaluates various sensory attributes of the coffee. The grading system aims to objectively assess the coffee’s quality, flavor profile, and overall sensory characteristics. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has established widely recognized protocols for cupping evaluation, which are used globally to ensure consistency and objectivity in coffee quality evaluation[9][12].

The cupping scorecard typically includes the following attributes, each evaluated on a specific scale:

1. Fragrance/Aroma: Assess the coffee’s smell before and after adding water. This category evaluates the intensity and quality of the coffee’s aroma[9][12].

2. Flavor: Evaluates the coffee’s taste profile, considering the complexity, balance, and pleasantness of flavors perceived on the palate[9][12].

3. Aftertaste: Assesses the lingering flavors left in the mouth after swallowing the coffee, including their quality and duration[9][12].

4. Acidity: This evaluates the brightness, liveliness, and quality of the coffee’s acidity, which contributes to its overall flavor profile[9][12].

5. Body: Assesses the coffee’s mouthfeel, including its weight, texture, and creaminess on the palate[9][12].

6. Balance: Evaluate how well the coffee’s flavors, acidity, body, and other attributes harmonize[12].

7. Uniformity: Assesses the consistency of flavor and quality across multiple cups of the same coffee sample[9][12].

8. Clean Cup: Evaluates the clarity and purity of the coffee’s flavors, indicating the absence of defects or off-flavors[9][12].

9. Sweetness: Assesses the coffee’s natural sweetness and the absence of unpleasant bitterness or astringency[9][12].

10. Overall: Provides an overall assessment of the coffee’s quality, considering the cupper’s appraisal and the harmony of all evaluated attributes[9][12].

Each attribute is scored based on intensity, clarity, and sensory experience. The scores for each category are then tallied to calculate the coffee’s cupping score. The scoring system may vary slightly depending on the organization or institution conducting the cupping, but it typically ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest possible score. Coffees scoring 80 points or above are considered specialty coffee, indicating superior quality and complex flavors[9][12].

For example, the Cup of Excellence (COE) competition uses a similar but distinct scoring system that evaluates coffee on a 100-point scale, with specific categories assigned scores of 0 through 8. The COE’s unique scoresheet subdivides the profile of a cup into eight categories, and the total score is calculated by adding these category scores together and then adding a coefficient to reach a total out of 100. Coffees must score 86+ points to advance in the competition, with the top coffees being awarded and sold through an international auction[1][4][6].

In summary, the coffee cupping scorecard or grading system is a comprehensive tool used to evaluate and grade the sensory attributes of coffee, providing valuable insights into the coffee’s quality, flavor, and overall sensory characteristics.


  1. CQC 5.01 Cup of Excellence – Barista Hustle
  2. What is cupping? How We Taste and Grade Coffee – Boomtown Coffee
  3. Specialty Coffee Grading, Coffee Cupping, and Cupping Scores – Mylk Coffee Co
  4. How We Score and Select Coffees – Zoka Coffee
  5. Cup of Excellence Rule Changes – Perfect Daily Grind
  6. Rules & Protocols – Cup of Excellence
  7. Cupping Scores – Reddit
  8. National Winner Program – Cup of Excellence
  9. What is a Cupping Score? – Ikigai Coffee
  10. The Coffee Quality Score – Spirit Animal Coffee
  11. What is Coffee Cupping? – Roasted Rooster Coffee Company
  12. Protocols & Best Practices – Specialty Coffee Association
  13. Coffee Scoring: How Do They Do It? – Bunafr
  14. How do I know if a Q grader scored the coffee beans? – Reddit
  15. What is the Q Grader Coffee System and What Does It Mean For Your Morning Cup? – KQED

Equipment Used in Professional Coffee Tasting

In coffee tasting, also known as cupping, a variety of specialized equipment is used to ensure that the coffee is evaluated accurately and consistently. The essential tools and equipment commonly used in coffee tasting include:

1. Cupping Bowls: Cupping bowls are typically 7 to 8 ounces (about 207 to 236 ml) and hold the coffee samples. The size and shape are standardized to ensure consistency across tastings.

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2. Cupping Spoons: These unique spoons are deep and rounded, designed for slurping coffee during the tasting process. Their shape allows tasters to aerate the coffee and spread it evenly across the palate.

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3. Grinder: A burr grinder is preferred for its ability to produce a consistent grind size, which is crucial for accurate tasting. The grind size for cupping is typically medium-coarse.

Best 6 Burr Coffee Grinders 2023. Expert Reviews And Ranking

Unlocking the Secrets of Coffee Burrs: All You Need to Know

4. Scale: Precision scales measure coffee and water accurately. The standard ratio is 8.25 grams of coffee per 150 ml of water.

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5. Kettle: An electric kettle with temperature control is ideal for heating water to the correct brewing temperature, around 200°F (93°C).

6. Timer: Timing is crucial in cupping, especially during stages like steeping and waiting for the coffee to cool to the appropriate tasting temperature. A simple digital timer is sufficient.

7. Rinse Cups: These are used for rinsing cupping spoons between samples to avoid cross-contamination of flavors.

8. Hot Water Dispenser: This efficiently provides hot water at the correct temperature for brewing the coffee samples.

9. Sample Roasters: While not used in every cupping session, sample roasters allow for roasting small batches of coffee beans to evaluate their potential before larger batch roasting.

10. Coffee Tasting Sheets or Notebooks: These record observations and scores for each coffee sample. These sheets often include categories like aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, and balance.

11. Receptical: A container for disposing of used coffee grounds and water used for rinsing[14].

12. Water Filtration System: This ensures that the water is clean and free of impurities that could affect the taste of the coffee.

13. Cupping Lab Equipment: For more advanced or professional settings, additional equipment like moisture meters, color analyzers, and particle sizing equipment may further analyze the coffee.

These tools help coffee professionals and enthusiasts to systematically evaluate and compare the flavors, aromas, and other qualities of different coffee samples in a controlled and consistent manner.

Coffee Tasting Glossary

Coffee-tasting professionals use various terms to describe the sensory experiences of coffee evaluation. These terms articulate coffee’s flavors, aromas, and other characteristics during cupping sessions, which are formalized tasting events. Here are some of the terms commonly used by coffee-tasting professionals.


Acidity in coffee is a positive quality that adds a specific brightness to the flavor of the coffee. It is often described as a lively, tangy, sharp, or crisp sensation that enhances the overall taste. Acidity should not be confused with sourness, an unpleasant flavor defect.

High-quality coffees, particularly those grown at higher elevations, tend to exhibit pronounced acidity. It is a desirable trait reminiscent of the acidity found in fruits or wine, contributing to the coffee’s freshness and flavor complexity.


The aftertaste is the flavor and sensation that lingers in the mouth after the coffee has been swallowed. It can be influenced by the coffee’s acidity, sweetness, and bitterness and is essential to its overall flavor profile.


In coffee, alkaline refers to water with a higher pH level for brewing. Alkaline water can affect extraction and alter the coffee’s flavor, making it less bitter and smoother.


This term describes a flavor note in coffee that resembles the taste or smell of ash, such as from an ashtray or fireplace. It is often considered a roast defect and can indicate over-roasting or issues with the roasting process.


In coffee tasting, aspiration is slurping the coffee vigorously to aerate it and spread it across the palate, enhancing the ability to taste and smell the coffee’s flavors and aromas.


Astringency is a taste that describes a dry, puckering sensation in the mouth, similar to the feeling of drinking a tannic wine or eating unripe fruit. It is often associated with over-extraction during brewing, where too many bitter compounds are pulled from the coffee grounds. Astringency is generally considered an undesirable quality in coffee, as it can overpower the more pleasant flavors and make the coffee less enjoyable.


A baked flavor in coffee is a roast defect that results from roasting the beans too slowly or at too low a temperature. It can give the coffee a flat, dull taste, lacking in the desirable flavors that proper roasting would develop.


Bitterness is one of the basic tastes detected at the back of the tongue. It is a common characteristic of coffee, especially in darker roasts. While a certain level of bitterness can add depth and intensity to the flavor profile, excessive bitterness is often the result of over-roasting or over-extraction and can be unpleasant. A well-balanced coffee will have bitterness that complements, rather than overwhelms, the other flavors in the cup.


The coffee’s body refers to the beverage’s physical sensation or mouthfeel as it settles on the tongue. It is the perceived weight or thickness of the coffee and can range from light and watery to heavy and full.

The coffee’s roast level, grind size, and brewing method influence the body. Body descriptors include syrupy, buttery, thin, light, medium, and full. A full-bodied coffee will have a more substantial presence in the mouth, often described as rich or creamy.


Bready is a coffee descriptor with flavors reminiscent of bread or grain. It can indicate an underdeveloped roast where the coffee has not been roasted long enough to develop richer, more complex flavors.


Brightness in coffee refers to lively, tangy acidity that adds a refreshing quality to the flavor profile. It is often associated with high-quality, lightly roasted coffees.


Carbony flavors in coffee are associated with over-roasting, giving the coffee a burnt or charcoal-like taste. It is generally considered a negative attribute.


Caramel flavors in coffee indicate the presence of caramelized sugars and can impart a sweet, buttery, and sometimes slightly smoky taste. These flavors typically develop during roasting as the coffee beans’ natural sugars undergo the Maillard reaction. Caramel notes can add a smooth and comforting dimension to the coffee’s flavor profile.


Chocolatey is a descriptor for coffee with chocolate-reminiscent flavors, ranging from sweet milk chocolate to bitter dark chocolate. These flavors can naturally occur in coffee beans due to the presence of specific compounds or can be accentuated by the roasting process. Chocolatey notes are often appreciated for adding a rich and indulgent quality to the coffee’s flavor profile.


Citrus flavors in coffee are characterized by a bright, tangy quality reminiscent of various citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit. These flavors are often associated with the coffee’s acidity and can add a refreshing and lively aspect to the cup. Citrus notes are commonly found in coffees from regions like East Africa or Central America.


A clean-tasting coffee has a clear and refined flavor profile without any muddling tastes or off-flavors. It is free from defects and impurities, allowing the coffee’s inherent qualities to shine. Cleanliness in coffee is often associated with well-processed beans and proper brewing methods that do not introduce any unwanted flavors.


Complexity in coffee refers to the range and interplay of flavors and aromas that can be detected. A complex coffee will have multiple layers of taste that may evolve as the coffee is sipped, offering a dynamic and engaging sensory experience. Complexity is often associated with high-quality, well-processed coffees grown in optimal conditions. It can include fruity, floral, spicy, nutty, and earthy notes that are harmoniously balanced within the cup.


In coffee cupping, the crust refers to the layer of coffee grounds that forms on the surface of the cup after hot water is added to the grounds. After a few minutes of steeping, the crust is broken to release aromas for evaluation.


Earthy flavors in coffee evoke the essence of soil, forest floor, or organic matter. While earthiness can be a positive attribute, lending a natural and robust quality to the coffee, it can also be a negative characteristic if it indicates mustiness or moldiness due to poor storage or processing. Earthy notes are often found in coffees from regions like Sumatra or Ethiopia.


The term “flavor” encompasses a broad and complex aspect of the coffee experience, integrating the sensations of taste, aroma, and mouthfeel to create a comprehensive perception of a coffee’s character. It synthesizes the coffee’s acidity, aroma, and body, offering a holistic sense of its quality and uniqueness. Flavor in coffee can vary widely, influenced by the coffee’s origin, variety, processing method, roast level, and brewing technique.

The flavor is not limited to the primary tastes perceived by the tongue (sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami). It also includes the aromatic compounds that contribute to the coffee’s smell and the tactile sensations that contribute to its body or mouthfeel. These elements together form the flavor profile of a coffee, which can include notes of fruits, flowers, spices, chocolate, nuts, and many other descriptors that help to articulate the coffee’s unique qualities.

Richness, range, complexity, and balance evaluate and describe coffee flavor (explained in this glossary).

It’s important to note that flavor descriptors in coffee, such as “notes of dark chocolate, molasses, and dried berries,” do not imply that these substances are added to the coffee. Instead, they are natural flavor compounds developed during the coffee’s growth, processing, and roasting, which can evoke familiar tastes and aromas. The vast array of chemical compounds in coffee, around 1200 volatile compounds, contributes to its flavor, making coffee one of the most chemically complex beverages we consume. 

Understanding and appreciating coffee flavor is a nuanced process that can enhance the coffee-drinking experience. It allows individuals to explore and enjoy the rich diversity of coffee worldwide.

What Gives Coffee Its Flavor? The Effects of Coffee Chemicals.


Floral notes in coffee are aromatic qualities that evoke the scent of flowers. Depending on the coffee’s origin and processing method, these can range from subtle hints to pronounced bouquet-like aromas. Floral notes are often found in lighter roasts and can include comparisons to specific flowers such as jasmine, rose, or lavender. They contribute to the complexity and delicacy of the coffee’s flavor profile.


Fruity flavors in coffee indicate the presence of esters and other compounds that can impart a wide range of fruit-like tastes. These include citrus, berry, stone fruit, tropical fruit, and more. Fruity notes are often associated with naturally processed coffees or those from specific regions known for their fruit-forward profiles. Fruity flavors can add a juicy, sweet, or tangy dimension to the coffee.


Herbal flavors in coffee evoke the taste or aroma of herbs, such as mint, basil, or sage. These fresh and aromatic flavors add a unique and sometimes savory quality to the coffee. Herbal notes are often found in coffees processed to preserve the beans’ natural flavors, such as washed or honey-processed coffees.


Mellow is a term used to describe coffee with a smooth, gentle, and well-rounded flavor profile and low to moderate acidity. Mellow coffees are often accessible and characterized by a balanced and harmonious taste free from sharp or overpowering notes. This quality is frequently sought in coffees intended for all-day drinking or for those who prefer a less intense coffee experience.


In coffee tasting, ‘mouthfeel’ refers to the tactile sensations experienced in the mouth, such as the coffee’s texture, weight, and viscosity.

This aspect is crucial for assessing coffee quality, as it influences the overall drinking experience. Factors like the coffee bean’s characteristics, roast level, and brewing method play significant roles in determining mouthfeel.

For example, the brewing method can affect the coffee’s body, with methods like Pour Over producing a lighter feel than the oil-rich, heavier body from a French Press.

Roast level also impacts mouthfeel, with darker roasts typically offering a heavier sensation due to increased oil production. Understanding mouthfeel is vital for professionals to evaluate and articulate the quality and characteristics of coffee, enhancing the sensory evaluation of its flavor profile.


The nose refers to the aromas and scents the olfactory senses perceive when smelling coffee. It is a critical component of coffee tasting, as many flavors are detected through smell.


Nutty flavors in coffee resemble the taste of nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, or peanuts. These flavors can be subtle or pronounced and are often found in medium-roasted coffees. Nutty notes can add a pleasant, savory quality to the coffee and contribute to its richness and depth.


Overextracted coffee results from brewing for too long or using too fine a grind, leading to the extraction of excessive bitter compounds. This can result in a harsh and astringent taste that overwhelms the more desirable flavors of the coffee. Overextraction is often a brewing error that can be corrected by adjusting the grind size or brew time.


Range describes the sensations a coffee evokes, from high to low notes, similar to musical chords.


Richness refers to the coffee’s satisfying fullness, which can affect its body, flavor, and sometimes even acidity. 


Smooth coffee is low in palate acidity and lacking any harshness or acidity, resulting in a well-rounded, mellow flavor. It describes a cup of coffee with a well-balanced flavor without overpowering sour, bitter, or astringent tastes.

A smooth coffee provides a pleasant drinking experience with a clean and refined taste, often characterized by a lack of grittiness or unpleasant textures. This term is frequently used to describe coffees that offer a silky or buttery mouthfeel, contributing to the overall perception of smoothness.


Spicy is a term used to describe coffee with flavors or aromas reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or pepper. These notes can be subtle or pronounced and contribute to the overall complexity of the coffee. Spicy flavors are often found in coffees from regions like Indonesia or parts of Africa and can add a warm, exotic character to the cup.


Sweetness in coffee is a desirable quality that contributes to the overall balance and pleasantness of the flavor profile. It has a smooth taste and sensation, free of defects or harsh notes. Sweetness in coffee does not necessarily imply the presence of sugar but rather the absence of overpowering bitterness or sourness. It can be a subtle hint of natural sugars in the coffee beans, often enhanced by proper roasting and brewing techniques.


Tangy is a descriptor for coffee with a sharp, piquant flavor, often associated with a citrus-like acidity. It can be a positive attribute when it adds zest and liveliness to the coffee, but it can also be perceived as too intense if it dominates the flavor profile. Tangy notes are often found in lighter-roasted coffees and contribute to the coffee’s refreshing quality.


Under-extracted coffee occurs when the brewing process is too short, or the grind is too coarse, leading to insufficient extraction of the coffee’s flavors. This can result in a sour or acidic taste lacking body and complexity. Under-extraction is a common issue that can be addressed by fine-tuning the brewing parameters.


In coffee cupping, ‘uniformity’ measures the flavor consistency across several cups from the same batch, reflecting the coffee’s dependability and quality.

Cuppers prepare multiple cups to ensure the assessment isn’t skewed by a single cup’s potential defect or preparation error. Uniformity is rated by comparing the flavor of each cup; identical flavors across cups score highly, while variance lowers the score.

This score is vital for identifying batch issues like uneven roasting or storage problems. It is critical in professional evaluations like Q Grader or Cup of Excellence competitions, where high uniformity signifies a consistent flavor profile.


Wild is a term used to describe coffees with strong and unconventional flavor characteristics that may compete for attention. A wild coffee can be exciting and unpredictable, often with flavors not typically associated with traditional coffee profiles. These coffees can be from regions with unique growing conditions or processing methods contributing to their distinctive taste.


Winy or winey is a term used to describe coffee with a flavor reminiscent of wine, often with a similar perceived acidity and fruitiness. This characteristic is typically found in high-quality Arabica coffees and can indicate a particular processing method or the coffee’s terroir. Winy coffees are often complex and may exhibit a range of flavors from tart to sweet, similar to the experience of tasting a fine wine.


  1. Coffee Tasting Terms Explained — How To Taste Coffee Like A Professional
  2. Tasting Terms
  3. Coffee tasting vocabulary explained – Reddit
  4. Coffee Tasting Terms – Supermarket Guru
  5. Coffee Reference: Tasting Vocabulary – Flavor
  6. Taste Terms – Sweet Maria’s Library
  7. Coffee Glossary – Scribblers Coffee
  8. Coffee Terms: Cupping and Tasting – Zecuppa Coffee

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my ability to taste different flavors in coffee?

Improving your coffee-tasting ability is similar to training your palate for wine or refined food. Here are some tips:

Taste Actively: Pay attention to what you’re drinking. Try to identify flavors and aromas while you taste.

Learn the Coffee Tasting Wheel: Familiarize yourself with the Specialty Coffee Association’s Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel to understand the range of possible flavors.

Cup Regularly: Cupping sessions can help you distinguish between flavors and aromas.

Expand Your Palate: Eat various foods and think about their flavors. This can help you make connections to flavors in coffee.

Stay Hydrated: Drinking water cleanses your palate, which can help you taste more accurately.

What are the main flavor categories in coffee tasting?

The main flavor categories in coffee tasting are:

Sweetness: Perceived as sugary, fruity, or syrupy qualities.

Acidity: Experienced as brightness or a tangy sensation, often described as citric, malic, or tart.

Body: The weight or thickness of the coffee on the palate, ranging from tea-like and light to creamy and full.

Flavor: The overall taste perception, including notes like chocolate, berry, spice, or nut.

Aftertaste: The lingering flavors that remain after swallowing the coffee.

Can the water I use affect the taste of my coffee?

Yes, the water you use can significantly affect the taste of your coffee. Water composition, including its mineral content and pH level, can alter the extraction of flavors from coffee grounds. Here are some considerations:

Purity: Water should be clean and free of odors or flavors that could taint the coffee.

Mineral Content: A balanced mineral content (mainly calcium and magnesium) helps extract flavorful compounds from coffee.

pH Level: Slightly neutral to mildly alkaline water (pH 7 to 8) is ideal for coffee brewing.

Temperature: Water temperature should be between 195°F to 205°F for optimal extraction.

What is the difference between bitterness and acidity in coffee?

Bitterness and acidity are two distinct taste sensations in coffee:

Bitterness: A taste sensation often perceived at the back of the tongue and can be caused by over-extraction during brewing, dark roasting, or specific compounds like caffeine. Bitterness can add depth and complexity to coffee but can be unpleasant if it is too intense.

Acidity: A bright, tangy, or crisp taste sensation often felt on the sides of the tongue. Acidity is a desirable quality in coffee and contributes to its overall liveliness and flavor. It is usually associated with fruity or wine-like tastes unrelated to the coffee’s pH level.

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