The SCAA created a coffee flavour wheel, which is used as a helpful guide during coffee cupping. The full poster is in color and includes another wheel to describe flavour and aroma taints.
Coffee flavour is a term that encompasses all of the other coffee cupping parameters. It is an overall evaluation of the coffee taste.
Body is the weight of the coffee that can best be sensed by allowing the coffee to rest on the tongue and by rubbing the tongue against the roof of the mouth. Coffee body ranges from thin, to light, to heavy and is a result of the fat content. The viscosity, however, results from proteins and fibers in the brew. Medium and dark coffee roast styles will have a heavier body than lighter roasted coffees, but conversely will have less acidity.
The perceived acidity of coffee results from the proton donation of acids to receptors on the human tongue. Coffee acidity is typically a highly valued quality especially in Central American and some East African coffee. Sourness, however, is an extreme of acidity and can be considered a coffee defect. Acidity has been correlated with coffees grown at very high altitudes and in mineral rich volcanic soils. The perceived acidity of washed coffees is also significantly higher than the acidity found in naturally (dry) processed coffee.
Rate the intensity of the coffee aroma as the nose is first exposed to the wet grounds. When smelling coffee, the aroma can help you evaluate the coffee flavor and the brightness of the coffee. The aroma should be followed while the coffee brews, but it is most potent after breaking the crust of coffee.
Coffee aroma is responsible for all coffee flavor attributes other than the mouthfeel and sweet, salt, bitter, and sour taste attributes that are perceived by the tongue. Therefore, it might be said that coffee aroma is the most important attribute to specialty coffee. Even instant coffee has the components responsible for stimulation of our taste buds. The difference, however, is that instant coffee lacks most of the aromatic volatile compounds causing a dramatic decrease in the overall coffee flavor.
Coffee bitterness is sometimes a negative, but omnipresent, aspect of the beverage. At low levels, bitterness helps tame coffee acidity and adds another favorable dimension to the brew. However, at high levels, a bitter coffee compound can overpower the other components present in coffee producing an undesirable effect. Bitter coffee results from the interaction of certain compounds with the circumvallate papillae on the back of the tongue. Astringency, on the other hand is caused by compounds that can precipitate salivary proteins on the tongue. Consumers will often mistakenly attribute astringency and any other potent characteristic of the coffee to the bitterness.