If you’ve been buying coffee for a while, you’ve no doubt noticed all the different coffee flavor profiles available. Coffees often list flavor notes such as cocoa, vanilla, or even blueberry. But just how many coffee flavors are out there, and where should you look to find the flavors you want?
There are dozens of coffee flavors. Each can be classed as nutty, fruity, floral, sweet, or chocolaty, and they all arise from the bean’s growing conditions, processing methods, and roast. But since taste is a matter of perception, there is no final answer on how many coffee flavor profiles exist.
And although there are lots of different coffee flavor profiles, beans grown in the same part of the world tend to share similar flavor characteristics.
If you want to know more about the coffee flavors of the world, how many there are, and how to find them, keep reading!
Recommended Coffees And Their Flavor Notes
|Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee||Flavor notes of lemon, blueberry, and blackberry|
|Kenya AA Coffee||Flavor notes of cranberry, raspberry, redwood, and alyssum-like flowers|
|Peruvian Coffee||Fruity flavors include peaches, raspberries, cherries, limes, lemons, oranges, blueberries, apricots, etc.|
|Colombian Supremo||Notes of Bittersweet Chocolate, Caramel, and Orange|
|Papua New Guinea Coffee||Notes of tropical fruit, citrus, and molasses|
How Many Coffee Flavor Profiles Exist?
There are dozens of flavor notes found in coffee. While some of these flavors are exotic and others are more common, they can all be sorted into five broad categories:
- sweet, and
Check out the table below for examples of the flavors you’ll find in each category.
Coffee Flavor Categories And Descriptions
|Nutty||Nutty coffees can taste like hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, and more.|
|Fruity||Fruity flavors include peaches, raspberries, cherries, limes, lemons, oranges, blueberries, apricots, etc.|
|Floral||Floral coffees will taste of jasmine, rose, vanilla, or other sweet aromatics|
|Sweet||Sweet flavors are often called caramel but are sometimes described as honey, sugar cane, molasses, etc.|
|Chocolate||This flavor can be described as dark chocolate if it’s a darker roast or, milk chocolate if it’s lighter|
You can certainly break coffee flavors down into more categories, but these 5 should give you a fairly good idea of the flavors available.
However, if you want a more detailed list you’ll want to look at a coffee flavor wheel.
Keep reading to learn more about this coffee taster’s tool.
A Flavor Wheel Will Have Most Coffee Flavors
A coffee flavor wheel is a circular chart that can list dozens of different flavors that you might find in coffee beans.
Near the center of the chart, you’ll see broad categories such as fruity, floral, etc. And towards the chart’s outer edges, you’ll get more specific flavors within the categories like strawberry, blackberry or rose.
Take a look at the flavor wheel below to see what we mean. (You can click on the wheel to open a larger image in a new tab.)
Coffee Flavor Wheel
This tool is a great way to see how many coffee flavors are recognized, but there’s no “official” wheel out there. Instead, there are a bunch of coffee flavor wheels created by different people or organizations.
This means one wheel may display more flavors than another, and they may have different designs as well.
But whichever wheel you find, you can expect it to have at least a dozen flavor notes.
So, why are there different wheels with different flavors? Wouldn’t coffee tasters need just one wheel that lists every possible flavor?
The answer to that question has to do with how coffee flavor is determined. We’ll talk about this next!
A Coffee’s Flavor Is Interpreted By Tasters
When determining a coffee’s flavor profile, tasters will liken the coffee to other flavors they’re already familiar with.
For example, someone who knows what bergamot orange tastes like may recognize the flavor of bergamot in their coffee.
On the other hand, someone who has never tasted bergamot might describe that same coffee as something else, like lime or mandarin orange.
The same is true for any other flavor. One person calls a flavor molasses. Someone who has never tasted molasses may call it burnt caramel.
People can only describe flavors that they know. And you can get different flavor descriptions depending on who the taster is, where they’re from and what foods they’re familiar with.
That’s why there’s no definitive number of coffee flavors out there (and also why we haven’t given you a specific number!) – because a lot of it depends on our perception and our ability to describe what we perceive in a way other people can relate to.
Coffee Flavors Vary Around The World
Although all coffee beans come from the same type of plant, coffee flavors are different around the world.
Each region’s unique soil composition, altitude, climate, farming practices, and processing methods all contribute to the coffee’s final flavor profile.
This is why single-origin beans are so popular – specialty coffee drinkers want to enjoy the distinctive coffee flavors that can be found in each country, region, or estate.
So what do the world’s coffees taste like?
- South American coffees are nutty and chocolaty with caramel notes
- African coffees are floral, fruity, citrusy and wine-like
- Asian coffees are earthy, chocolaty, and sweet
A Coffee’s Roast Level Affects Its Flavor
While soil, altitude, and processing method all contribute to your coffee’s flavor profile, the roast level also has a huge impact.
During the roasting process, the bean’s natural sugars are caramelized but many other flavors are destroyed by the heat.
So, generally, you can expect the roast level to affect your coffee in the following ways;
- lighter roasts will retain more of the bean’s natural fruity, floral and nutty flavors
- medium roasts develop sweet caramel notes while still keeping some of the bean’s complex flavors
- darker roasts destroy the coffee’s natural flavors and tend to have smoky and chocolaty notes
As an example consider Kenyan AA coffee. I’ve personally had light roast Kenyan coffee (Volcanica’s Kenya AA) that tasted fruity. But I’ve also had medium/dark roast Kenyan coffee (Coopers Kenya AA) that was more caramelized and tasted like baked fruit pie.
So, be sure to consider how different roast levels will affect the flavors of each coffee you buy.
Natural Coffee Flavors Vs Artificially Flavored Coffee
So far, we’ve discussed the natural flavors found in coffee beans, but some coffees are artificially flavored as well.
There are generally three different ways flavor is artificially added to coffee.
Alcohol Infused Coffees
Alcohol-infused coffees are created by soaking coffee beans in a type of liquor or wine. Examples of this type of coffee are Don Pablo Bourbon Infused Coffee or Cooper’s Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee.
Spiced coffee can be made by adding spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg to your coffee grinds. These flavors will be extracted into your brewed cup of coffee.
Oil Infused Coffees
You can also add flavoring oils to coffee beans to give them additional flavors. There are several popular flavors like vanilla, mint, or mocha that pair great with coffee. Just keep in mind the longer you let the coffee sit in the oil, the stronger the flavor will be.
So, while there are dozens of natural coffee flavors to explore, infused flavors greatly expand the flavor combinations available.
- Coffee flavors can be broadly classified as fruity, floral, nutty, sweet, or chocolaty
- Coffee flavor wheels list dozens of specific coffee flavors
- Since coffee drinkers perceive flavors differently, your perception of a coffee’s flavor may be different from someone else’s
- Coffee beans from different parts of the world have unique flavor profiles
- Coffee can also be infused with artificial flavors
Cheers Coffee Lovers!
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Oliver is co-owner of Coffee Break Lovers. The only thing he loves more than the process of brewing coffee is drinking it.