The language around wine changed dramatically when the Wine Aroma Wheel was developed at UC Davis because it allowed people to easily describe all the flavors that exist in wine. Coffee researchers and the Specialty Coffee Association of America recently developed the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel (click above photo to enlarge) in the hopes that this wheel will do for coffee what the wine wheel did for wine.
The wheel tries to capture every flavor that can be found in coffee – from slate to strawberries – and organize them so that tasters (pros and enthusiasts alike) can clearly describe every cup. At the center, the wheel starts with broad categories such as sweet, roasted, fruity and vegetal. From there, it break things down into ever smaller categories, so you can pick out the individual notes that are in each sip. Though the wheel does an excellent job of naming the flavors, it is still up to the tasters to correctly identify them and that takes training. If you want to improve your own tasting abilities, smell as much as you can and try to create a distinct memory of each scent. Over time, this will allow you to pick out “black tea” notes and “grapefruit” where you might only have smelled “coffee” before.