Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all,

    Thought it was time for me to put something out there that Ive been thinking a lot about lately. I wont be surprised if this generates some vehement (but hopefully constructive) criticism. ;)

    This is also posted on my blog -

    This method came from one of my mates who instinctively interpreted the flavour profiles of coffees as "shapes". No, were not talking synesthesia - its just that coffee flavours seem to fit into broad categories of "low", "middle" and "high".

    Low-end Flavours Middle Flavours High-end Flavours
    NB. these are all terms I have actually used while cupping - albeit after consulting a cupping vocabulary sheet once or twice.

    This makes it possible to draw the flavour profile of a coffee. Heres a few examples:

    Brazil Daterra Peaberry
    My cupping notes read - "grainy/toasty spiciness, woody. Full, rounded and sweet. Low acid". "Spicy" and "woody" describe low-end flavours, most of the others describe "middle" flavours; "low acid" means it doesnt have much high end. Hence:

    Papua New Guinea Wahgi AA
    My cupping notes read - "sweet, choc/caramel, earthy and rounded, mellow acid/berry, buttery. Light, clean balancing acids". In comparison to the Brazil Peaberry, the PNG Wahgi has significantly more balancing acidity (high end), but an over all lower intensity of flavour (lower over all profile). Hence:

    Ethiopia Yirgacheffe
    My cupping notes read - "floral, fruity (peach), jasmine blossom? Vanilla, marshmallow, citrus sweetness. Sweetly acid, with some lower balance. Forceful acidity". This is a very different coffee to the other two. Its lack of low and middle flavours means the flavours can get lost in milk-based coffees (though in a blend for milk it is wonderful), but in any black coffee it is interesting and intense. Its shape is very different:

    A Note on Blending:
    Though I havent decided for certain yet, I suspect that when you are blending, you want to use beans that have a mixture of low, middle and high flavours (for an "everyday" blend, in any case). My personal taste seems to be a blend using a middle-heavy beans as a base, with something like the Yirgacheffe to give it a high-end "lift".

    Limitations of this Method:
    * ** Coffee is about more than flavour - what about body and mouthfeel, for example?
    * ** It is primarily a measure of the way you roasted the bean rather than a measure of the beans inherent characteristics - *a light-roasted bean will generally be acidic whereas a dark-roasted bean might be "smokey" etc.
    * ** Cupping descriptors are subjective in the first place - this method takes them one step further away from objectivity.
    * ** Some of the terms might belong in another category.

    Hope that proves interesting to someone!
    Happy to receive feedback.

  2. #2
    sdg is offline
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    Know nothing about cupping (as I think Ive amply demonstrated in another thread :-[ )

    But am definitely pinching your list of adjectives -- "a woody middle with lemony overtones" -- apparent cupping competence beckons ;D

  3. #3
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Warwick, QLD

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    Gday Stuart,

    Very interesting mate.... Tom of Sweet Marias does something similar with the cupping descriptions of beans that he acquires except theres a bit more detail and the chart is a polar one; but the principle is the same. Good work mate.... 8-)


  4. #4

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    Very, very interesting Stuart.

    The whole way people experience coffee is incredibly fascinating. I know I tend to use a lot of musical descriptors when Im thinking about coffee, descriptors like "treble, bassy, harmony" are not unusual in my notes. Ive also been known to relate coffees to particular pieces of music (I had, for example, a Panama Boquete that for some reason just struck me as somehow, in my bizarre mind, to be like Bachs Air on a G String). Odd I know - especially given that Im not a musician myself ;)

    I once had a friend tell me some Kimel tasted green - I assumed he meant grassy and under-roasted, but he actually just meant he associated it with the colour green - he assured me it tasted fine.

    Very interesting too, because I wouldnt necessarily associate spice with low - in fact a spice like cardamom Id call high or light. Actually herbaceous notes can run a broad spectrum too ...

    Hmm, so very interesting ... this is going to keep me awake tonight ... ::)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    Thats a great post Stuart...I like the way you think! ;)

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    I think its great. Being a very visual person, its simple to recognise the overall profile a coffee is likely to have. Id definitely like to use your technique as I grow through my roasting infancy.

    How did you grade it by numbers? Does each level on each vertical point represent a flavour type, or strength?

    Do your three lists correspond to the three vertical invisible axis points?

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the feedback. Im a little surprised I didnt get any "you cant reduce coffee flavour to numbers..." type comments. Its a useful method for comparison, but I would never use this method alone to describe a coffee flavour...

    Quote Originally Posted by Intellidepth link=1218422018/0#5 date=1218855821
    How did you grade it by numbers? Does each level on each vertical point represent a flavour type, or strength?

    Do your three lists correspond to the three vertical invisible axis points?
    Well, "by numbers" was more a figure of speech in this case. When CS member Humphrey coined this method, it was all just drawn intuitively. When I use the method, I tend to base it on the descriptors Ive used in my cupping, think about the intensity of these flavours, and draw it (subjectively).

    Hope that helps,

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Re: Coffee Flavour By Numbers

    I am not very good at cupping and describing the tastes but I often work by smell and I combine coffee in blends in a way that is similar to blending oils in aroma therapy, you have base notes which tend to have a heavy thick fragrance, they are often slow to develop and linger.
    Then you have middle notes they are smooth or rich with the main effect carried in these fragrances finally top notes these are piercing, sudden, penetrating and uplifting.

    On this basis I would very much agree with your grouping of flavours, and your chart idea is a good way to see the balance of fragrance in the coffee of blend :)

    To me texture of the coffee would fall into the base notes

Similar Threads

  1. Flavour changes over the course of a single coffee
    By onstage76 in forum General Coffee Related...
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 4th June 2010, 12:17 AM
  2. Coffee by the Numbers
    By Rusty in forum General Coffee Related...
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 3rd April 2010, 08:23 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts