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When choosing the right coffee for your business, one of the most important factors is its taste. Everyone is looking for that perfect cup of coffee for their first drink of the day, and let’s be honest, great coffee is what keeps bringing those regular customers back. And whilst some can argue that great tasting coffee comes down to personal preference, there is a science behind most of it. Let us introduce the SCA’s Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel.

The flavour wheel is arguably the most valuable piece of research in the coffee industry, as it has set the standard of speciality coffee for over two decades. It was originally designed as a tool for a coffee taster to use as a reference when analysing and grading coffees, and is now also used by a wider audience for those who want to describe the coffees they offer. Here are a few tips to use the flavour wheel to its full potential:

1. Study the wheel

One of the most important aspects of the flavour wheel is the plethora of flavours available. You might find ones you know, and some you don’t know, but you’ll notice that each flavour gets more specific the farther out of the centre of the wheel you get.

The colours on the wheel are also noticeable off the mark and they’re not there to be visually appealing. They’ve been strategically assigned to an individual flavour through colour association, which is when flavours are described through visual terms; some people may describe a coffee as ‘bright’ or ‘yellow’, which can help people who can’t identify the flavour, but know the colour of that product, i.e. a yellow fruit.

2. Let’s cup some coffee

To get an accurate analysis of the flavours in your coffee, it’s important to cup freshly ground beans whilst being mindful about the different stages it goes through. From the aromas of freshly ground coffee to the fragrances that escape when pouring water onto the coffee grounds to the many different flavours in the coffee when the first sip is taken. Each stage is just as important as the other, so it’s essential to note down which flavours and aromas you get from your coffee through both taste and smell.

3. Start from the inside ring

When describing flavours, it’s important to work from the inside ring outwards to get a deeper understanding of the flavour profiles in your coffee. The inside ring is the most basic tier of flavours, with examples including ‘sweet’, ‘floral’ and ‘fruity’. Use this tier to decide which notes you’re sensing, and use the following tiers to get more specific with the flavours. For instance, in our Rwandan coffee from our Explorers collection, a taster should be able to recognise fruity notes, and when making an even sharper identification with the flavour, you can work outwards all the way to find strawberry flavour notes. Once the flavour note is identified, this method is repeated until the description of the coffee is complete.

4. Analyse the vocabulary

There are some terms on the flavour wheel which people may not have associated coffee with before, such as ‘cardboard’, ‘dusty’, and ‘animalic’, but these are just as important as the flavour notes you’d expect to find. The flavour wheel has been designed so that every single flavour note you could taste in a coffee is on there, which include the good and the bad making it easier to identify any defects that could be present in a particular coffee.

Moreover, the flavour wheel has been designed in collaboration with the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon, which is a set of standards for describing the qualities associated with coffee. The lexicon uses technical terminology that can be used and understood universally, to help encourage a more systematic and standardised approach to cupping coffee. It’s a great way for people from all origins to communicate about coffee in one language, causing no confusion or miscommunication.

The next time you’re looking for a new coffee for your business, make sure to practice these steps to get the most out of your coffee cupping session. Cupping more than one coffee at a time is a great way to compare different coffees to find the qualities you like, and the ones you don’t like. By doing this, you’re able to identify the most appropriate coffee for your business and ultimately customers.

Discover how we helped The Real Eating Company create the perfect blend for their customers.

If you’d like to request a free sample of our coffee, or find out more information, please feel free to email at or call one of us on 0800 092 8992.

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