Have you ever read the tasting notes on a coffee bag and been completely overwhelmed by the flavours that they boast? Often, customers will pick coffee based on associating the flavours on the packaging, to the foods and tastes they like. However, having a sip of a coffee with notes of green apple isn’t going to transport you back to running through the orchards with Pa. These flavours are more nuanced, and delicate, and therefore you must consider what they represent.
To assist with this, in 1995, the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) developed the Coffee Tasters Flavour Wheel. Originally designed to assist in analysing and articulating coffee flavours, it can also help the average consumer, by allowing them to pick coffee based on their personal flavour preference and brew method. The wheel is broken down into nine sections. Four of those sections assist in identifying poorly roasted, or defective coffee, so we will be focusing on the remaining five; Fruity, Floral, Sweet, Nutty/Cocoa and Spices.
Fruity and Floral
Often, you’ll find coffee with notes of blueberry, apple, peach, apricot and so on. These flavours tend to materialise with a lighter roasted coffee, and is sometimes considered the natural flavour of the bean. However, the flavours are delicate, and can be washed away with the addition of milk. In order to highlight their complexities, coffee with fruity and floral notes tend to be reserved for black and filtered coffee.
Sweet, Nutty/Cocoa and Spices
During the roasting process, sugars begin to caramelise. Longer roasts allow for greater caramelisation, and start to introduce flavours we all tend to associate with the standard coffee, such as chocolate, hazelnut and caramel. Typically, these types of flavours are bold, and carry well through milk.
As mentioned, the flavours in the tasting notes are subtle, but they do exist. Coffee is a great way to inject caffeine into your system quickly, but it’s also an incredibly diverse and complex drink. With each sip, try and identify things such as sweetness, body and aroma, referencing the notes provided. This will not only help you appreciate the coffee more, but assist in identifying flavours you do, and do not like, and therefore help you to pick a coffee that’s right for you.