Coffee Tasting Terms

Pretentious and not so pretentious coffee cuppers have their own terminology to describe coffee and its acidity, aroma, body, flavor, fragrance and aftertaste.


Acidity is described as the bite of the coffee or the dryness in the back of your mouth. It does not have any relation to the pH level. Coffee acidity can be described as winey, clear, bright, snappy, dry and clean. No acidity would make the coffee taste flat, dull, soft, mellow, dead, delicate, bland or rough. Varietal coffees (blended coffee varieties), like varietal wines, have many different nuances. Acidity should not be confused with bitterness. However, to be a “politically correct cupper” you would describe acidity as: Low, Medium or High.


Aftertaste, sometimes called finish, is described as the taste left in your mouth after the coffee has been swallowed. You would describe it as: Quick, Lingering or clean.


Aroma is described as the fragrance or odor of coffee. It is described as subtle differences such as faint, delicate, strong or fragrant.

Coffee Aromas can be:

Jasmine
Wintergreen
Cardamon
Caraway
Basil
Anise
Lemon
Tangerine
Raspberry
Blackberry
Onion
Garlic
Cabbage Alfalfa
Peanut
Almond
Corn
Barley
Toffee
Praline
Honey
Molasses
Dutch Chocolate
Bakers Chocolate
Swiss Vanilla
Custardy Vanilla
Piney
Balsamic
Nutmeg
Pepper
Clove
Thyme
Tobaccoy
Burnt
Charred

Body is described as the weight and texture by using the oils and intensity of the coffee.

It can be:  • Light bodied  •• Medium bodied  ••• Heavy bodied.


Fragrance is described as the distinct smell of fresh coffee ground nuances before the water is blended. Coffee fragrance can be described using the terms: fruity, floral, earthy etc. Personally, I use the same terminology as the flavors listed below. It is almost poetic.


Flavor is described as the different nuances each coffee tastes. This is not to be confused with flavored coffees made to taste a certain way. It is strictly the taste of the coffee roast and bean. It is the combined sense of acidity, aroma and body basically the overall flavor judged by the 4 tastes on your tongue salt, sweet, bitter or sour.



Bitter
Harsh or Pungent
Alkaline, Caustic, Phenolic or Creosol
Salt
Bland or Sharp
Soft, Neutral, Rough or Astringen


Sweet
Acidy or Mellow
Piquant, Nippy, Mild or Delicate
Sour
Winey or Soury
Acrid, Hard, Tart or Tangy


There are favorable and unfavorable flavors. Some may be poor, fair, good & fine or:

Favorable flavor:

Caramelly
Berry-like
Chocolatey
Citrus
Floral
Fragrant
Fruity
Herby
Mellow
Nutty
Resinous
Spicy
Sweet
Wild
Winey

Unfavorable flavor:

Bitter
Bland
Carbony
Earthy
Flat
Grassy
Harsh
Muddy
Musty
Rubbery
Sour
Turpentiney
Watery

Generally I find all of these coffee tasting adjectives to be quite poetic. For example, “the coffee is clean, low acidic, full-bodied with aromatic floral tones of jasmine and the taste of sweet caramel.” Oh, where are the poets? No wonder Bach wrote a coffee cantata.

Advertiser Links for coffee reviews