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How To Properly Describe Your Coffee

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Like tasting expensive wine or sampling gourmet food, evaluating coffee is often associated with snobbery.

In other words, there is, according to tradition, a correct way of describing the coffee we are tasting, which can often be somewhat intimidating for those of us who are not au fait with the precise terminology.

Well, here at Cafe2U, we believe there should be no snobbery involved with coffee.

Great coffee should be for everyone – regardless of whether or not you know what ‘acrid’, ‘mellow’ or ‘rounded’ means.

However, should you find yourself involved in a social situation where these words are being banded around willy nilly, here are some choice words which should enable you to hold your own and impress your companions.

Starting with the basics, here are some of the most common flavours and ‘types’ which you will come across in the vast majority of coffees around the globe.



This word is used to describe a harsh, sour taste or aroma. Other similar adjectives can include tart, sharp or acerbic.


This describes a dry taste sensation which is usually felt at the back of the tongue. Although it can be bitter, this flavour is not always disagreeable. It is common in dark roasts and some Indonesian coffees.


This is a term used to describe an uninteresting, dull and flat coffee, often the result of it being roasting too slowly.


This word is commonly used to describe pleasant, acidic (think wine) and almost tangy flavours.


A caramelly coffee will have a syrupy flavour, which is usually the result of sugars in the coffee oxidising and becoming caramelised.


Carbony, or ‘smoky’, describes a flavour which is evocative of burnt wood or burnt food. This is usually used when describing darker, roasted coffees.


This is a rare aroma/flavour, but some Central American coffees do boast a distinct chocolatey aroma and a bitter-sweet chocolatey taste.


This term can be applied to coffee which is full of flavour and does not have any pungent or unusual notes.


This characteristic is evocative of rubber bands and hot tires. A rubbery flavour/aroma, while not always negative, is highly recognisable in some coffees, particularly fresh Robustas.  


A smooth or rounded coffee is smooth and balanced without any overwhelming taste or aftertaste sensations.


This term refers to sweet spices – for example cinnamon and cloves – rather than savoury spices such as curry, oregano and pepper.

Signing off

So, there we have it, some useful terminology which should hold you on good stead the next time you are surrounded by coffee snobs using obscure terms!

Also, next time you order a Cafe2U coffee, why not impress your colleagues with some of these flash sounding terms!

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