Tasting Coffee Like A Pro: Taste vs Flavor

Coffee tasting can be a rich and rewarding experience for those willing to put in the time and effort to learn about its complexities. In the first video of our three-part series, we’ll explore the key differences between taste and flavor and how they come together to create the unique experience of coffee tasting.

Taste is all about the notes you pick up on your tongue. These include sour, salty, bitter, sweet, and umami. In contrast, flavor is all about the smells that hit your olfactory senses which are connected to your brain. The combination of taste and flavor creates a complex sensory experience, where you can identify specific flavors in each coffee.

One of the most exciting parts of coffee tasting is that it is a highly personal experience. Everyone has their own relationship and memories of food and drinks, which can influence their perception of flavors in coffee. However, by using tools such as the flavor wheel, you can identify the specific flavors you’re experiencing in a more objective way.

A flavor wheel is a helpful tool that allows you to identify the generic taste you are experiencing and work your way toward specific flavors. For example, you might taste something fruity, but not be sure what type of fruit it is. You may narrow it down to citrus fruit, and finally, refine your choice to a specific fruit like apples. By using the flavor wheel, you can identify what most closely resembles the flavor you’re experiencing.

To get a better understanding of how taste and flavor come together in coffee, Ryan takes us through a tasting of Frothy Monkey’s 12South coffee which is our go-to house blend named for our original Frothy Monkey cafe on 12th Avenue South in Nashville, TN. He notes the blend’s full-bodied sweetness and fruity notes, which he identifies as red apple. He also picks up on a nuttiness that can vary between hazelnut and peanut and a sweetness that resembles bittersweet chocolate.

In conclusion, coffee tasting is a complex and rewarding experience that requires an understanding of the key differences between taste and flavor. By using tools such as the flavor wheel and trusting your instincts, you can identify the specific flavors in coffee and enjoy a more nuanced sensory experience.

If you’d like us to take you through the process in person, we’d love for you to attend one of our free public cuppings. You can find more information on them below.

What is a coffee cupping?

Cupping coffee is the process coffee professionals use to evaluate the quality and consistency of coffees. Coffees are brewed using exactly the same method at the same time and presented side by side to be graded. Flavor notes are determined referencing a flavor wheel similar to the aroma/flavor wheels used in tasting wines. While the idea of coffee cuppings might feel intimidating, this ritual can be fun and educational for anyone!

Check out parts 2 and 3 of Tasting Coffee Like A Pro!