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The Art of Tasting Coffee: Understanding the Flavor Profile

With the rise of specialty coffee, coffee lovers have been gifted more opportunities to taste and experience the unique flavors of coffee. While the average coffee drinker may believe that all coffee tastes the same with a similar flavor profile, this could not be further from the truth! There are tons of factors that affect the flavor of a coffee, from its origin to altitude it was grown at, to even time of year it was harvested! Those factors will be explored in a different blog, but today we will dive into how to taste and appreciate the differences in coffee.


Coffee Flavor Wheel
A multicolored flavor wheel for tasting coffee.  The flavors range from sweet, nutty, floral, fruity, sour, and more.

What type of flavors does coffee have?

The flavor profile of a coffee depends on many things as mentioned above. However, the entire flavor spectrum for coffee is immense with a variety of flavors from cherry to tobacco to molasses as an example. In general, most "everyday" grocery store style coffees have an approachable flavor profile that is generally nutty and chocolatey and have come to be the most common flavors associated with coffee. Our very own Do Good blend attempts to match this flavor profile as well!

However, there are many varieties of coffee that lean towards the fruity side of the flavor spectrum offering a new and unique coffee experience not found from grocery store brands. Our Pomegranate blend is a good example of this as it is bright and juicy with cherry and strawberry notes.

Tasting coffee flavors

There are four main sensory experiences to pay attention to when tasting coffee:

1. Acidity:

Refers to the brightness found on the palate, similar to acidity found in berries and citrus fruits.

2. Sweetness:

This indicates the natural sweetness in a coffee (Yes! Coffee can be naturally sweet without added sugar!).

3. Bitterness:

A common flavor noted in coffee by non-coffee drinkers, bitterness refers to a sharp acrid flavor that leaves a weird mouth feel. While some bitterness adds complexity to coffee, too much is never fun.

4. Body

This sensation refers to the mouthfeel of the coffee which can range from light and watery, to even syrupy and heavy. A good level of body helps to round out the coffee and make it more enjoyable with every sip.


When initially tasting coffee, pay attention to these four main sensations. To help, ask yourself simple questions. Is the coffee sour? Does it have a sweet profile? Does it feel too thin in your mouth? These are all important questions to ask and are simple enough for the average coffee enjoyer to understand.

Coffee Cupping

Standard method of tasting a variety of coffee

A coffee cupping experiement with coffee beans in the background.  A glass close to the camera is fillwed with coffee grinds and water.

Expanding the flavor profile

After noting the main sensory experiences, its fun to really dive into the flavor profile and discover what other flavor notes you can find. Building your palate takes time and practice, but being able to identify very general flavor notes such as chocolate or fruitiness is a great starting point. Experimenting with single origin coffee beans is likely the best way to do this, as each single origin will shine in its own way and aid you in identifying those differences. From a nutty and chocolatey Colombian, to a fruity East Java, to a bright and citrusy Ethiopian, single origin coffees are a treat.

Roast levels also play a big role in the flavor profile of a coffee. Lighter roasts tend to lean on the fruity and citrusy side, while dark roasts lend to that bold chocolate flavor. We choose our favorite roast level of each coffee we offer to ensure that our customers are getting the best out of their coffee beans.

Have fun!

At the end of the day, exploring the flavor profile of your favorite coffee should be fun! Coffee can take you on a personalized flavor journey that will grab at flavors locked away in your memory. Think you taste a chocolate covered strawberry? Then so be it! That is the fun part of the flavor journey. When roasting our East Java coffee, I was immediately hit with the smell of raspberry cheesecake. Tasting coffee is and always should be a fun personalized journey. So cheers and enjoy!

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