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The coffee flavour wheel

You may have seen the taste notes on the label of your favourite coffee blend – but have you even wondered where they come from?

In the coffee industry we often refer to ‘The Coffee Flavour Wheel’ – a graphic that shows all of the different flavour notes that can be extracted and infused from coffee – depending on where the beans are sourced from and how they are processed – and we have developed our very own version of the coffee flavour wheel.

There are four distinct flavours to the wheel: Sweet, Savoury, Fruity and Floral, and within each section there are many different sub-flavours that can be mixed to fine tune the perfect blend.

Coffee flavour from origin

A lot of what determines the flavour of coffee is down to where it is grown. For example, you might be a fan of the chocolatey Colombian or prefer the fruitier notes of a Kenyan, either way, the place or origin has a great bearing on the flavour of your coffee due to soil, humidity, rainfall, sunlight and general fruiting of the coffee cherries -, the environment it comes from can influence the quality and flavour of coffee. 

Furthermore, the flavour of coffee can be determined by the height in which the plant is grown. Robusta brings out a strong, earthy salty flavour due to the coffee cherries being grown at a lower level. This contrasts with that of the Arabica flavour. This is a much more of an acidic flavour, bringing out the fruitier notes of coffee due to these being grown at much higher altitudes.

Washed & natural process

Believe it or not, even the way in which the coffee cherries are extracted from their skin can influence the flavour of coffee. After being picked, coffee can be processed using different methods. A washed process separates the fruit from the green bean inside using water, providing brightness and acidity. A natural process is when the coffee cherries are laid out in the sun to dry becoming sweet and heavy. This method is more traditional and used in many developing countries where water resources are limited.

Roasting

Another key part of delivering great coffee flavour is the roasting process. You will see on the shelves of many supermarkets that Italian coffee is very popular. This is down to the strong, bitter taste that has been mastered, revered and loved by the Italians. If you’re educated on your coffee origins, you’ll know that Italy is not part of the coffee belt. In fact, this coffee flavour has been mastered due to their love of a strong, dark roasted coffee. 

The roasting process has a huge influence on the flavour of coffee. As the below graphic shows, as the coffee bean begins to crack, it starts to change the flavour and colour of the bean. The lighter the roast, the more acidic, fruity and origin flavours you can taste. The longer the roast – and after second crack – the bean begins to become a lot more bitter in taste and darker in colour. 

Coffee roasting curve

Therefore, if you like a strong espresso that gives you that ‘kick’ in the morning then something like a dark roasted robusta blend will certainly set your right for the day. Alternatively, if you’re looking to savour the sweet aromas and fruitier flavours of coffee, then an Arabica light roast is the option for you.

Extraction

When it comes to an espresso based coffee, the extraction can heavily influence the coffee flavour. Under-extraction can leave a weak, overly-acidic flavour as opposed to an over-extracted espresso which can taste bitter and harsh. 

This is where your trained barista comes in handy. They should know the correct extraction time to deliver and serve you the best tasting coffee and bring to the fore the flavours that have been mastered at the origin, washing, roasting and infusion processes. 

Bespoke blends at Lincoln & York

As a private label coffee roaster, we are always working with our customers to define and master the perfect blend for them and their consumers. There really is a plethora of options to choose from and our Q Grading tasting team are on-hand to provide guidance and advice to make the perfect coffee flavour for every coffee blend. 

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