Understanding the Coffee Flavor Wheel

Vanessa Feiwell • August 03, 2020 • 3 min read

Understanding the Coffee Flavor Wheel

Do You Know The Flavor Notes In Your Coffee?

Blackberry, red apple and almond may sound like ingredients in your favorite smoothie, but they are also the flavor notes used to describe the coffee I am drinking right now. I remember being totally confused the first time I saw descriptors like this for coffee. Yes, there are still times when these flavor notes can feel a bit over the top in the same way that a sommelier’s description of wine can feel pretentious and unfounded, but as a whole, these are a great tool that can help you select coffees that interest your palate.

Where Do These Flavors Come From?

The idea of intricate flavor descriptions for coffee dates back several decades, however, as the specialty coffee industry has grown, so has the demand for a more universal approach to identifying the unique flavor attributes of each coffee. Recognizing this, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) began working with coffee scientists and researchers around the world to create a flavor wheel comprised of universally accepted flavor attributes for coffee. Over the last decade or so, the modern flavor wheel has evolved to include new flavors that allow tasters to better identify the unique attributes of an expanding selection of specialty coffees.

How Does the Flavor Wheel Work?

I’ll start by saying that the flavors included on the flavor wheel are not arbitrary. These are the flavors that have not only been identified by coffee scientists and professionals, but also can be translated to a more common coffee drinker. Here’s how to use the flavor wheel.

When tasting a coffee you begin in the center of the wheel and work your way out. The attributes closer to the center are broader, while the outside is the most specific to your exact sensory experience. Here’s what that looks like. As you take your first sip of your coffee you might instantly identify a general fruitiness in both taste and smell. Once you’ve identified that umbrella flavor, you start to dig down into the nuances and work your way towards the outside of the wheel. You might then decide it tastes and smells like berry and, finally and most descriptively, the actual berry such as strawberry. It’s this process that has helped coffee professionals better communicate a coffee’s flavors to consumers and others across the industry.


Understanding the Coffee Flavor Wheel



Why Do All B-Pods® Include Tasting Notes?

At Bruvi®, we take our coffee seriously. Anything we can do to better communicate our offerings to the world is a no brainer to us. You will notice tasting notes on each of our coffees and we encourage you to look at these when deciding what to order. Our certified Q Graders are constantly evaluating new coffees and selecting them based on the specific flavor attributes we are looking to showcase. For our house blends that include multiple origins, having a deep understanding of each coffee’s flavor attributes helps us pair coffees that complement each other well and balance the cup beautifully. It’s this meticulous level of detail that we pride ourselves on and we are so grateful to the SCAA for creating a tool that helps us better communicate our coffees with the world. Whether you’re looking for something fruity, sweet, nutty, floral or some combination of those, Bruvi® has you covered!