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Guide to the Coffee Taster's Flavour Wheel

Have you already seen a coffee taster’s flavour wheel? Maybe yes, maybe not. You might have seen a poster with an eye-catching colourful wheel at the coffee shop without knowing what it was about.

The coffee flavour wheel is a tool that can help you describe the different flavours of coffee. Is it nutty? Does it have a hint of caramel? Does it taste like cherries? Discover how to differentiate and describe the flavours using the coffee tasting wheel now!

History Of The Coffee Flavour Wheel

Describing coffee flavours can be a challenge. This is the reason why the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) launched the coffee taster’s flavour wheel in 1995, more than 25 years ago.

Since then, the coffee-tasting wheel has become the standard of the coffee industry. As you can imagine before it would have been incredibly difficult to describe the different coffee flavours and make sure that both customers, baristas and producers were on the same page. That is why the coffee taster’s flavour wheel is so important for coffee producers and the coffee industry as a whole. 

More recently, in 2006, a stunning visual coffee flavour guide was developed in collaboration with World Coffee Research (WCR), and now it is time for you to learn how to use it!

Who Can Use The Coffee Yasting Wheel?

Who can use the coffee tasting wheel

It does not matter if you are not a coffee professional. You, as a coffee flavour lover and a frequent coffee drinker, can perfectly study the coffee flavour wheel to fully understand what your favourite flavours of coffee are.

By discovering the different coffee flavours, you will be able to make smarter coffee purchases too, and you will acquire a new set of vocabulary to discuss with coffee sellers and your loved ones what your coffee flavour preferences are.

How To Use The Coffee Flavour Wheel

As with any professional tool, the coffee taster’s flavour wheel needs to be studied first. Before trying to use the coffee-tasting wheel like a pro, give it a simple look.

So many beautiful colours, right? Do not worry. Even if you feel lost with so many vibrant colours at the beginning, you will notice that these colours are your true guides to the flavours of coffee.

It seems that our brain tends to match some sensations with some colours. So for example, if you feel that your coffee is fresh, you will tend to look at the green part of the coffee taster’s flavour wheel, and you will find the right flavour attributes to describe it.

Exciting, right? Let’s start!

Start from the centre of the wheel

The first part you need to focus on is the centre of the wheel. This is the part of the coffee flavour wheel where you are going to find the broadest coffee flavour descriptors.

Sweet, roasted, fruity, nutty: all of these are some of the most common flavour profiles of coffee. Look at all the different coffee flavours descriptors in the centre and try to see what colours they are paired with.

If there are some words that you are not familiar with, take your time to search for their meanings. To use them correctly, it’s important that you understand all the different coffee flavour options at your disposal. 

Work outwards

After looking carefully at the diverse flavours of coffee at the centre of the coffee tasting wheel, it is time to work your way outwards.

Select one of the broad flavours of coffee at the centre. It can be the word that most attracts your attention or the coffee flavour that is linked to your favourite colour.

Now move your focus outwards to the smaller sections on the outline of your chosen coffee flavour. Are you able to recognize all these different flavours? Continue to move your focus outwards to the smaller and smaller sections. Do you know what all these things are?

You might have not tried all these specific foods or compounds before, and that is all right. Search online for the fruits, spices or aromas that you do not know of and read about their flavour profiles. There is a very interesting world of flavours awaiting you! 

Brew your cup of coffee

Too much talk about the flavours of coffee. It is time to make a nice cup of your favourite coffee now.

But one more thing before jumping into it. Take into consideration what affects the flavour of coffee. It is always recommended to buy whole coffee beans from the coffee shop and ground them at home to taste the real flavours of coffee.

 Don’t worry if you do not have the right equipment to ground the coffee beans at home. You can brew your cup of coffee with ground coffee and still feel the different coffee flavours, just make sure to store it correctly to maintain it fresh.

So, what else affects the flavour of coffee? Well, the way you brew your coffee, the water ratio you use, the coffee roast you have selected, the exposure to sunlight, the oxygen that enters the coffee envelope, etc. There are many factors to consider that affect the flavour of coffee.

Take a sip

taste coffee

Time to taste some coffee! Grab the cup of coffee that you just made, close your eyes and smell it for a second. Take a sip now and focus on your sensations. What is the flavour of the coffee you are having right now?

Look at the centre of the coffee taster’s flavour wheel. Can you identify any of these different coffee flavours? What colour are your eyes drawn to? Do not worry about trying to get too specific on your first try, just choose one of the general coffee flavours at the centre.

Slurp your coffee

Take a break to breathe fresh air and have a sip of water to clear your taste buds and your mind. Now you are ready to slurp your coffee and get lost in the world of coffee flavour again.

Take another look at the coffee taster’s flavour wheel and try to go to the next tier of coffee flavours. Can you tell if the coffee also tastes like any of the descriptors in this tier? 

If you think you found a descriptor that matches the coffee flavour you are tasting, try to go even further outwards to the next tier. The further outwards, the more refined the taste descriptors will be. Does the cup of coffee you have on your hands taste like any of these specific fruits, spices, or flowers?

Also Read - 26 Different Types Of Coffee Drinks

Go beyond the taste with texture and finishing

Great! You just had your first coffee flavour wheel experience. How was it? Are you feeling more confident, or do you have more questions than at the start?

If you are still not sure about how to identify the different flavours of coffee, make yourself familiar with the taste notes first. Smell the flowers described in the coffee tasting wheel, taste the diverse fruits and nuts, and get familiar with the other compounds by sniffing them.

When you are ready to take the next step, besides distinguishing the different coffee flavour notes, think about the texture and the aftertaste of the coffee.How does the coffee feel in your mouth? How is its body?

To describe the texture or the body of a coffee variety, you are recommended to use one of these words: light, medium or heavy. A light body is a watery or a juicy coffee, a medium body is a smooth or creamy coffee, and a heavy body is a chewy or bold coffee.

And last but not least, the coffee aftertaste. Take another sip of your cup of coffee and pay special attention to how the taste finishes. Does the coffee flavour disappear right away after the last slurp, or does it stay for a while as a comforting sensation?


For coffee wholesale needs, the Coffee Flavor Wheel helps coffee buyers and sellers communicate effectively about the desired flavor profiles, ensuring the selection of beans that align with specific preferences. Whether running a coffee store or offering a coffee subscription service, this tool can aid in curating a diverse and satisfying coffee selection for customers.

Exploring the Coffee Flavor Wheel can also deepen one's understanding of the coffee bean journey, from origin to brewing. It offers a sensory exploration that unlocks a world of flavors, aromas, and textures, elevating the appreciation of Specialty Coffee.

By incorporating the Coffee Flavor Wheel into the coffee industry, professionals and enthusiasts alike can foster a greater appreciation for the artistry and complexity of coffee. It invites us to savor each cup, discover new taste profiles, and cultivate a deeper connection with this beloved beverage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does freezing your coffee help in keeping it fresh?

Yes, it does. Coffee will slowly lose its flavour over time. So if you can keep your coffee in the freezer, the coffee flavour will remain fresh and tasty for longer.

It is even better if you can freeze the whole coffee beans before being ground, as the cold will help the beans to be ground in a more uniform way. If you are used to buying ground coffee, there is no problem. Keeping the already-ground coffee in the freezer will help it last longer as well.

How can I reduce bitterness in my coffee?

If bitter-flavoured coffee is not your favourite, there are many things you can try to reduce its bitterness. The most common way to do this is by adding some sweetener or a vegan dairy alternative to reduce the bitter flavour of the coffee.

If you still want to have a nice cup of black coffee, without a strong bitter taste, try adjusting the way you brew it. If you prepare your coffee in an espresso machine or in a French press, it will likely taste more bitter. Instead, try making drip coffee.

What more can you do to affect the flavour of coffee? Choosing a less fine ground coffee, going for medium roast coffee, using hot water below boiling temperature, and cleaning your coffee equipment properly are all important factors too. 

Can coffee go bad?

Yes, it can. As with any pantry food, coffee can last a long time, but it can go bad eventually too. You can extend its shelf life by storing it properly, but there will be a time when it will become stale, no matter how hard you try to keep it fresh.

A very useful tip for storing coffee is to use vacuum-sealed containers. You will need to have one big container where you store most of your coffee and another smaller one with just a few coffee servings. Use the small one in your daily routine and refill as you go.

How to make out if the coffee has turned bad or not?

Storage is one of the key factors affecting coffee flavour! If you have stored it well but are not sure if your coffee has turned bad, make sure to test the following.

  • Is there mold or moisture inside your coffee container? If that is the case, you can be pretty sure your coffee has turned bad. This usually happens in places with warm weather or if you use a wet spoon to measure your coffee.
  • If you can not see anything strange, try smelling the coffee. If it smells a little mellow or dusty, then the coffee has turned bad and the coffee flavour will be altered.
  • Another way to find out if your coffee has gone bad, is to pay attention when you make it. You can tell that the coffee has gone bad if it produces a lighter brew than before or if it has lost its colour. It also has gone bad if it looks normal but tastes bland. 

Which coffee flavour is the best?

We don’t believe there is one single coffee flavour that is the best. Every coffee flavour is great in its own way, it all depends on your personal preferences. Although there is no superior flavour, every person can discover what flavour is the best for them.

While using the coffee flavour wheel, you might discover some coffee flavours that you were not aware of liking before. If you’re willing to explore, they might turn into your new coffee flavour favourites.

What are the flavour notes in coffee?

In accordance with the coffee taster’s flavour wheel, the most general flavour notes in coffee are the following: sweet, floral, fruity, sour or fermented, green or vegetative, roasted, spiced, nutty or cocoa, and others (others includes chemical, papery or musty coffee flavours).

What are the 4 enemies of coffee?

The 4 enemies of coffee are the factors that can affect coffee flavour when it's stored in the wrong way: oxygen, heat, sunlight and humidity.

  • If oxygen enters the coffee container, it can get oxidized very easily. That is why coffee envelopes include a special valve that lets carbon dioxide out while not letting oxygen in.
  • Heat and direct sunlight can affect coffee flavour too. It can make the coffee go bad easily, this is why it is recommended to store coffee in the freezer.
  • Humidity is one of the biggest enemies of coffee as it heavily affects coffee flavour. When coffee gets moist, it has a different musty smell and mould may appear.
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