You don’t need to be a skilled cupper to capture everything in your coffee. All you’ll need is a round of flavors (a print is preferable) and some time to concentrate and refer to, and you’ll be on your way to discovering a whole new world of flavors.
In 8 Easy Steps, Use the coffee taster’s flavor wheel
You can see SCA’s evolution and advancement in flavor classification by learning about the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel. However, using the coffee flavor circle is not as complicated as studying it.
The scientists’ goal is to design the essential tool possible so that anyone may access coffee’s most complicated flavor structures. You can “read” the taste in your coffee cup using an 8-step process and some recommendations from SCA scientists.
Step 1: Read, digest, and ponder
The coffee flavor circle represents the kaleidoscope of coffee flavors. And, even if you can’t recall all of the words (or if some are unfamiliar), don’t be afraid to print a large copy to hang on the wall. Get acclimated to the basic ideas of taste, then combine with frequent practice – This is a patience test, and you’ll need to stick with it if you want to succeed.
Without comprehending the symbols on the compass, no one can determine the direction. The Flavor Wheel of the Coffee Taster is similar, but it has more words. As a result, you can study the SCA in its original form (in English) or Vietnameseized form (see the post-Vietnameseizing the Coffee Flavor Circle).
Step 2: Take a good look at the coffee
Coffee taste circles can be utilized in both casual and professional cupping situations. In both circumstances, we must adequately prepare the coffee, paying close attention to the aroma emitted during grinding, the smell created when the coffee is soaked in water, and the flavor. When drinking coffee, the palate fills up (see also Fragrance / Aroma in Cupping Technique Part 3).
Another thing to remember is that “flavor” refers to a mix of taste and scent, and Taster’s Flavor Wheel is based on basic taste characteristics (those taste buds). Pure (aroma) scents and things felt by the tongue (can only be smelled).
However, the flavors we perceive are a combination of senses: for example, the flavor of lemon is a combination of sour taste and lemon essential oil flavor; or the flavor of molasses is a combination of sweet, bitter taste, and unique odors. To make the most accurate judgment, you must study and synthesize the flavors from every stage of preparation, mixed with “taste memory.”
Step 3: Begin at the center of the Flavor Circle
From the inside out, the design of Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel follows three floors. The broadest flavor descriptors are found closer to the center, and as the turn progresses to the outside layers, the descriptions become more explicit. You can come to a halt on any floor based on your senses.
This is the most significant function of the coffee flavor circle: it allows you to appropriately define much more complex flavors by starting with the most straightforward flavors.
When tasting Ethiopian coffee, for example, you may detect the fruit. As you move through the fruity section of the circle, you’ll be faced with a decision: fruity flavors, dried fruit, citrus fruit, or something else? If you choose to be a citrus fruit, you must select grapefruit, orange, or lemon.
Step 4: Review the Lexicon
As previously said, expert researchers can utilize the coffee flavor circle, but most of us are not trained in this way. However, you can still use the Coffee Taster’s Taste Wheel to study the flavor vocabulary system (World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon).
Every attribute has a definition and a more detailed explanation and reference. These references can be found on the internet. As a result, read more and take notes. Improve your sensory memory by doing so.
The most recent Sensory Lexicon version 2.0, released in October 2017, is a global reference system for 24 coffee flavor qualities: sour, bitter, salty, pineapple, acetic acid, butyric acid, brown spice, almond, vanillin, floral, and more. A lexicon has been defined for the 110 flavors, smells, and texture features found in coffee, as well as a reference for quantifying the intensity of these attributes.
Step 5: Double-check your connections
With the Sensory Lexicon’s knowledge of sensory attributes in mind, you can begin tasting a cup of coffee and restart at the middle, this time making judgments based on your “sensory memory” of a certain quality.
When analyzing flavor throughout the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel tiers, consider that the attribute cells are spaced differently. If a tiny slit connects two attribute-colored tiles, the SCA scientists believe the properties are tightly related. On the other hand, if the disparity between traits is too great, they are less similar.
The longer the distances to the circle’s center from the outside to the inside, the less comparable the qualities are to the tasters. This can be used to compare the experiences of different tasters as a variation.
For example, Citrus Fruit (Fruit) is similar, although GrapeFruit and Organre are slightly distinct from Lemon and Lime groupings. Fruity stands out in the environment, different from Sour/Fermented.
Step 6: Gather information from a variety of sources
Despite being a comprehensive and well-researched resource, the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is not the only way to categorize coffee flavors. Other flavor documents can be used to make more objective and accurate judgments. Take, for example, the Counter Culture Coffee flavor rating table.
However, keep in mind that every property in the Sensory Lexicon WCR has a reference tool (glass jars holding intense fragrances), some of which may be easily obtained online (World Coffee Research recommends Flavoractiv).
You can taste and smell the references to orient yourself to those flavors in coffee. Reference tools are provided as a standard against which to measure that attribute. They provide you with a more realistic experience – you can taste and smell them to orient yourself to those flavors in coffee.
Step 7: Consider colors
The colors you see in the coffee flavor circle are not by chance. Our visual awareness is intertwined with our sense of taste. As a result, we frequently use the term taste to refer to colors such as sour green, sweet yellow, and so on.
SCA scientists have paired the terms with colors that reflect apparent features based on this perception. You may easily detect “anything brown” by looking at the colors and connections, whether it’s hazelnut (Hazelnut) or chocolate or the sharp sourness of lemon with yellow or orange…
Step 8: Express yourself on your terms
The beauty of these tools is that they help coffee drinkers communicate in a shared language. Because a uniform flavor circle exists, all coffee workers have access to the same research facility, lab and tasting shop documentation, and so on.
Based on a standard set of terminology, Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel, on the other hand, is still founded on science and research; it’s still a sensory instrument, and like any other human product, it’s intrinsically flawed.
Still, descriptive terminology and inventive descriptions are fantastic, but they might make communication more challenging at times. As a result, focusing on common language – as represented in this circle – is a consistent and straightforward strategy for folks who want to talk about coffee in particular circumstances.