Coffee Taste and Aroma

Coffee Taste & Aroma
Flavor Profiles and all that Feinschmecker Stuff

 

You know what you like.  Or maybe, you don’t yet know what you’ll like.  We can safely assume however that you are a dedicated coffee enthusiast, and you recognize that there is a world of sensory attributes that make coffees from different regions in the world unique.

We hope you'll agree, coffee doesn’t just taste like, “coffee.”   

In fact, there are multiple factors that contribute to the overall sensory impressions that each cup of coffee can optimally deliver.  But is it all subjective, or is there an objective way of describing these, often esoteric, flavor an aromatic attributes?   It is a complicated assessment, and people will often disagree about what they taste and smell.  There is however a system that attempts to make sense of it—primarily to codify the language that facilitates better conversation between coffee growers, coffee roasters and coffee consumers.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the World Coffee Research (WCR) organizations have over the past 20 years developed various colorful maps and wheels to aid in identifying and narrowing the language used to describe over 110 flavor, aroma and texture attributes of coffee.  The result is a step toward objective coffee assessment that improves our understanding what we like and dislike in coffee, and how to modify the factors and control the processes that develop the best tasting coffee.

Copied without permission from the SCAA and WCR

 

FACTORS THAT AFFECT FLAVOR

That little roasted bean (it’s a seed actually) contains hundreds of chemical and organic compounds that contribute to the taste of “coffee” found within.  The complexity of coffee taste and flavor is a combination of many factors including: genetics, terroir, processing and fermentation methods, roasting profiles, and brewing techniques. 

There are over 120 species of coffee: coffea arabica, the one most people are familiar with accounts for about 60-80% of the world’s coffee production.  At Aura Coffee, all of our coffees are of the arabica type. But this doesn’t mean they all taste the same.  Far from it.  The soil in which a coffee plant grows, the kind and quantity of water it receives, the elevation at which it grows, the available sun and shade, even the animals that call the growing habitat their home, all have some influence on the “genetic” aspects of a particular coffee bean’s taste—this is collectively known as terroir. 

Coffee harvesting practices vary according to country, region and specific farms.  Hand picking only the ripest coffee cherries as they become ripe will create a different overall taste than coffee that is machine harvested, which may include both under-ripe and over-ripe cherries.  Coffees harvested from a single farm, or even a portion of a single farm, may "cup" differently than coffees from a collective of farms or an entire growing region.

Once the cherries are harvested, what happens to them next has a significant impact on their flavor.  Some cherries are stripped of their skin and fruity pulp on the same day, then power-washed clean.  Some cherries are spread out in a single layer and allowed to dry in the sun.  The seeds' prolonged contact with the coffee fruit’s juices create a strikingly different, "natural processed" taste.  And there are varying degrees of washed, semi-washed, honey processed, and natural processed coffees.  Each country has a tradition of coffee processing methods that typify coffees from that region, however today many countries and farms are successfully offering a variety of processing options.  Fermentation time and methods, as well as drying time and methods, can vary according to growing region, farm, and even among coffee producers within the same growing region.  All of these factors contribute to an unroasted green coffee bean’s potential taste and texture profiles.

In addition to the green coffee’s contribution to what ends up in your cup, is what your coffee roastmaster chooses to do with those beans.   Coffee can be roasted to varying degrees of “darkness,” and there are several roast profile pathways to achieving the same level of apparent darkness.  Lighter roasts tend to emphasize the terroir specific to a coffee.  Often these lighter profiles create more fruity or floral tastes and aromas, and tend to have a more tea-like mouthfeel, that is, the weight of the coffee on the tongue.  Very dark roasts on the other extreme tend to override terroir with more roasty tastes.  More carmelization leads to sweeter coffees with a heavier mouthfeel, but less of the delicious flavors that a quality coffee can offer.  Over-roasted coffees will pick up a smokey taint.  There is a wide middle area between the roasting extremes that appeals to most coffee enthusiasts--not so light that it’s vegetal and grassy, not so dark that it’s burnt. 

For us the joy of coffee is about the exploration--discovering which coffee growing regions exhibit the flavors we most enjoy. Generally, coffees from the same origins will produce similarly distinct taste notes. Let us introduce you to some of the most popular coffee growing regions as well as the distinct characteristics and flavors you can enjoy from these areas. Join us on a quick adventure to explore coffee from around the three major growing regions around the world!

LATIN AMERICA

Latin American coffees generally give you good body, acidity, and a hint of fruitiness. Enjoy flavor notes that are chocolatey, nutty and with a slight citrus overtone.  Quality coffees from high-altitude Central and South American contries will offer fruity and floral notes with a wide range of acidities and complexity.  Washed and natural processed coffee and many varietals create ongoing interest and exploration--often demanding the highest prices of any coffee at auction.

AFRICA

Look out for higher acidity and bright flavor notes from African coffee! Generally, African coffees are fruity, floral and sweet.  Coffees from Kenya for instance are known for their bold, strong, grapefruit citrus notes, whereas washed Ethiopian coffees may exhibit lemony and floral notes with a more delicate, lighter body. Dry-processed Ethiopians can have strong blueberry taste profiles, or a fermented, fruity wine-like aroma and a smooth, heavy mouthfeel.  

ASIA

Asian coffees are well-known for their bitter and earthy taste notes and often rich flavors of dark chocolate, spice and herbs.  Indonesian coffees are generally low acidity, yet offer a bold, dark, and full-bodied coffee experience.  Complex, dark-chocolate and herbal-tasting qualities are unique to the regions they are grown in.

At Aura Coffee, we hope you'll explore the world of coffees we offer. We would love for you to taste each and every coffee from the farms that we have carefully selected.  Our coffee selector can help you decide what to try.  Choose a flavor profile, and let Aura help you narrow down what you'll enjoy drinking the most.