Unless you work in the coffee industry or are highly passionate about all things caffeinated, you probably wouldn’t have heard of the Flavour Wheel. This colourful fella provides an easy way to extend your coffee knowledge by training your palate to identify various flavours while you’re drinking. It’s loads of fun and something that will make you appreciate your daily cuppa even more!
There’s such an incredible variety of flavours in coffee and if you’re not in the know you may miss them, which is a darn shame. Here at Sacred Grounds, we always compare coffee cupping to wine tasting! Both of these activities require a carefully honed palate which comes with inside info and practice. Then you will be able to enjoy a whole new world full of amazing flavours!!
How are coffee notes developed? There are many factors though two big ones are the roast profile and how you actually brew your coffee. Flavours can change depending on these two factors, for example if you drink the same coffee as a Flat White, a Long Black or an Espresso you will noticed that different flavour notes will dominate each one. Kinda cool, right?!
The location of coffee plantations also has an impact on the bean’s taste. In the past we’ve investigated how Altitude Affects Coffee Flavours but climate, eco system and other crops growing around coffee plants can also affect the variety of flavours held in that one bean. It’s a pretty fascinating concept, really, which is why the Specialty Coffee Association of America and World Coffee Research developed the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel!
Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel
At first glance the wheel may look like a beautiful rainbow of confusion but look deeper and you’ll find it’s actually a gateway to a whole new world of coffee appreciation. So hop on the bandwagon as we take you through, step-by-step, the wonderful world of coffee flavours via a rainbow!
Step 1: Begin at the Centre
First decide what flavour ‘family’ your coffee is dominated by – is it overly spicy, floral, fruity, sweet etc? Once you’ve chosen a general description, then it’s time to get a tad more specific. Head one step towards the outside of the circle – this is where things start getting more detailed. You may have chosen ‘Fruit’ as your first category and on closer inspection you may detect a tropical flavour note which is on the next layer of the Flavor Wheel. And from Tropical Fruit you can launch yourself to the edge of the circle and choose anything from Lychee to Coconut.
Step 2: Look Outside the Wheel
Once you’ve identified one or two of your flavours, cast your eyes outside the wheel and you’ll find some more helpful categories to even further refine your descriptions. On the right there’s the Adjectives & Intensifiers for Coffee and a list of various phrases you can use to sound uber-professional! From ‘Crisp’ to ‘Clean’ and everything in between, these adjectives will give you the vocabulary to accurately describe what you’re tasting. On the left of the wheel there are options to categorise the body of the coffee under headings of ‘Light’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Heavy’. As opposed to describing the flavours, this section focuses on how the coffee feels in your mouth – the vibe of the thing ( I especially like the word ‘chewy’ here).
Step 3: Return Home
Yep, that’s right, head back to the wheel and this time, instead of focussing on the words, study the colours. It may sound a tad strange but sometimes you can actually detect colours as you taste your coffee. You may find hints of a red fruit like a ‘cranberry’ or ‘cherry’. Now check out the wheel and see how the colour coding matches up with the description of the flavour, making it easier to identify. The creators of the Flavour Wheel understood this strange phenomenon of taste and colour working hand-in-hand and designed the wheel with this in mind.
If you’d like to dig deeper and really get stuck into the Flavour Wheel, you can learn all about how it works with the WCR Lexicon. This document goes into minute details on every possible flavour and how to create aromas to match what you’re sensing from your coffee. It’s a highly professional document so may need a barista or coffee pro to take you through it but it’s really fascinating stuff.
Now that you have the gist of the Flavour Wheel, head over to our website and order up a range of Single Origins and Blends and host your own coffee tasting extravaganza!
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