Coffee Tasting Terms

The Basics
The three fundamental tasting terms are Flavor, Body and Acidity.
Flavor.  Is an overall impression of aroma, acidity and body.
Body.  Is the “mouth feel” of the brewed coffee – its weight and texture in the mouth, often described as syrupy, buttery, thin, light, medium or full.
Acidity.  This important term is often misunderstood. Coffee acidity does not refer to pH nor does it imply that coffee is highly acidic. In coffee, acidity is a desirable quality, referring to the lively, “bright”, sparkling quality present to varying degrees in all coffee. It gives coffee its palate-cleaning refreshing quality.

Aroma.  Is the fragrance of brewed coffee. Aroma is distinctive and complex. Common terms used to describe aroma are: floral, spicy, chocolaty and earthy.

Strong.  Actually refers to the presence of coffee character, and to brew strength not roast style. However, customers often perceive it as the assertive flavor of dark roasted beans.

Earthy.  Connotes “herbal” or “of the earth”. Nut-like in character, Indonesian coffees are often described as spicy-earthy.

Mellow.  Describes a balanced coffee of low to moderate acidity (liveliness). Sumatran coffee could be described as “mellow”.

Mild.  Refers to the delicate, harmonious flavor found in certain high grown coffees. Mexican coffee could be described as “mild”.

Sweet.  Refers to a coffee that is perceived by the palate to be smooth, free of defects and harsh notes.

Tangy.  Best describes the darting citrus-like bite present in some coffees, especially high grown Costa Rican coffee and lighter roasted espressos.

Spicy.  Describes an aroma or flavor that evokes a spice such as nutmeg, cardamom or pepper.

Winey (Fruity).  Is an attractive flavor often found in East African coffees reminiscent of fine red wine. The marriage of fruit-like acidity and smooth body produces a classic wine-like character.

Wild.  Refers to coffees with very strong flavor characteristics competing for attention. A “wild” coffee can be interesting or exciting.

Complex.  Means that a coffee has many layers present: earthy, winey, floral (aromatic), spicy, or wild. It is often used to describe Yemen coffees.