Coffee flavor Profiles: You taste apple and berries in that coffee?


How do you do?

Time to geek out. Mwahahaha (as to why this evil laugh is appropriate?!?). We are talking specialty coffee homies and the fact that you can taste hundreds and thousands (more than you can find in wine I’ve learned) of flavors from the many coffees of the world. Learn a bit more and order your next coffee with intention, this time knowing WHY you selected the Ethiopian over the Nicaraguan coffee!

P.S. Coffee gurus, this probably isn’t for you – the (non)complexity of what ensues may be a bit bleh πŸ˜€

Anyway initially, you’ll probably taste, well, coffee. I still do sometimes, hahah! Attending cupping sessions and also trying various coffees at home really helps you to start paying attention to what’s going on on your taste buds. It’s not easy – not at all. Requires quite a bit of attention and concentration. On top of that, those who try many foods tend to be obviously better at this. I mean, how can you spot cranberries versus blackberries in a coffee if you don’t have these fruits on a somewhat regular basis? You digg?

Coffee Flavor Profiles by Origin

Coffee flavor profile map tooandalee blog.jpg

In my last post on the Journey from Bean to Cup, you learned about the coffee belt – that middle ‘band’ of space on the planet where coffee grows best, now what we see in the above image is that different regions on this belt (referred to as “origins” in coffee geek lingo) tend to yield more often than not, a certain flavor profile! Pretty neat.

Central American coffees tend to be milder, sweet and generally clean. South American coffee is similar to Central American, also mild with nutty and chocolaty notes. African coffee (my personal favorite), tends to be rich, fruity and floral! While Asian coffees are earthy and are said to be at times savory.

Factors affecting Coffee Flavor Profile

Other than the region itself, a lot of other factors affect the coffee’s flavor;

  • The altitude it was grown
  • The type of coffee – Arabica/Robusta etc.
  • How the coffee is processed/washed
  • How it was roasted – light/medium/dark
  • How it was ground – fine/coarse and,
  • Water quality

If you’re curious, you can certainly have a talk with your barista about the above factors – more so about the ones you can control at home to get the best out of your cup!

Coffee Flavor Profile Chart

coffee wheel
Coffee Flavor Flavor Wheel by SCAA

Pretty hectic huh? It can seem overwhelming. The flavor wheel above is actually based on the wine tastser’s flavor wheel. Essentially, this wheel takes some of the commonly recognized flavors in coffee and relates them back to what causes them.

So how do you dig deeper? How do you learn to find these flavors? As mentioned prior, it will take practice. What’s best is actually tasting coffees side by side, this way you can then notice the subtleties in the different coffees. Tasting by origin is best as one particular origin’s taste tends to be clearer than when tasting a blend of origins.

Cupping sessions are great, because you don’t have to purchase a whole bunch of different origins…but if you’re really getting into this stuff, buying three or four different coffees is definitely better than paying to attend a whole lot of different cupping sessions.

Freshly ground coffee is always best. The scent and taste is way more prominent. Using the fresh coffee (in bean form) within two weeks is usually best. Ask your local coffee shop to grind your coffee for your preferred home brewing method – grinding at home is also obviously an option – and better at that as it’s freshly ground for every cup. I love this site coffee gear like grinders.

The process of tasting coffee is unlike that in wine tasting. Particularly a spoon is used and you taste the coffee using a “slurping” method – a very loud slurp at that lol! Have a look at this video.

Looking at the coffee flavor wheel definitely helps to notice the potential flavors that you may get in your coffee – it’s so often a tip-of-the-tongue moment and looking at the wheel often gives a bit of a ‘aha’ moment. You can download this Counter Culture one here for print πŸ˜‰

counter culture coffee tasters wheel tooandalee blog
Counter Culture Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

Last important tip is to wait for your coffee to cool down just a bit – you won’t be able to tell much from a really hot cup!

And so those are the basics to getting your palette to taste apples and berries in that coffee! Fun? I think so!! Who loves coffee and has mastered identifying flavors? Or are you happy with just the “coffee” taste? Or maybe you’re a tea person? Let me know in the comments.

Your Girl,





Add yours →

  1. This was such an interesting read! I’m into basic coffee taste. I love my coffee black and not too strong πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So many interesting facts about coffee!! I can’t wait to stop being pregnant so I can enjoy coffees like the good old days!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. so many facts in such a nicely short,well written piece, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You wrote this amazingly. Great article!
    I just love to drink my cappuccino and that’s it! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. oooh details on coffee are much welcomed! Being in India, we exposed to many kinds of coffee flavors. The instant one being the most convenient. But I love the ones straight up brewed from close to the coffee plantations! They have the flavor and the kick hehe. This gave me some knowledge to pay more attention to details.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would love to do one of those coffee tastings – so interesting! I like my coffee strong and have noticed that there are huge differences but can’t really point out any specific flavours.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That was an interesting reading! So much to know about coffee! I know that I have to wait a few minutes for hot coffee and I always do, in order to have the best taste. Great presentation Thuli!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting post! I personally just drink Starbucks lattes and call those coffee haha. However, it was interesting to how many factors affect the flavor of coffee. This is a bit similar than with wine – the soil, the weather, the grapes, etc. everything affect the flavors of the final product. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My MIL recently introduced me to having coffee with chocolates and I’m like where have I been….. I ‘ve always preferred hot chocolate but I love my some coffee with lots of milk… The smell of coffee leaves a room fresh


  10. June 16, 2018 — 9:49 pm

    Thank you, Thuli. I am definitely going to share this. Many years now going into coffee shops, I would see the flavor wheel up on some walls and be amazed but intimidated. Because it looked sophisticated. Recently I decided to take time to look at it. I really see the genius behind it now and love telling my friends all about it.


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