Tasting Terms


The three fundamental tasting terms are Flavor, Body and Acidity. Flavor is the 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, full. Acidity is often misunderstood. In coffee, acidity is a desirable quality, refering to the lively, “dry,” “bright,” palate-cleansing sensation present to varying degrees in all coffee.

Other tasting terms

Aroma is the fragrance of brewed coffee. 70% of what we taste is interpreted through our olfactory senses. 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 roast beans.

Earthy connotes “herbal” or “of the earth.” Indonesian coffees are often described as spicy-earthy.

Mellow describes a balanced coffee of low to moderate acidity. Sumatra coffee could be described as “mellow.”

Mild refers to delicate, harmonious flavor found in certain high-grown coffees. Mexican and Hawaiian 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 lighter roast coffees and espresso.

Spicy describes an aroma or flavor that evokes a spice: nutmeg, cardamon or pepper. Celebes, Sumatra and India have spice notes.

Winy/Fruity is an attractive flavor reminiscent of red wine or berries. Some East African coffees exhibit pronounced fruit notes.

Wild refers to coffees with strong flavor characteristics competing for attention. A “wild” coffee can be interesting or exciting. Ethiopian and Yemen coffee have wild notes.

Complex means that a coffee has many layers present: earthy, winy, floral (aromatic), spicy, wild. Often describes Yemen coffee.

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