Coffee Glossary: Vocabulary of coffee lovers (Sensory vocabulary)

BURNED / SMOKED: This sensory description refers to the smell of burnt food. It is the smell that is generally associated with smoke when burning wood. This description is often used by coffee-cuppers to indicate the degree of roasting; heavily roasted coffees or roasted in the oven.

RUBBER: This olfactory description (odour) is characteristic of the smell of hot tires, rubber bands and rubber stoppers. This is a strong characteristic that is easily detected in some cafes.

Caramelized:  A sensory description that reveals the smell and taste of sugar that is caramelized without burning. It prevents coffee-cuppers not to attribute this aspect to describe a burning note.

CEREALS / Malta / TOAST TYPE: This description includes an aromatic characteristic of cereal, malt and toast. It includes the aroma and flavor of the raw beans or roasted grain (including maize, barley or roasted wheat), malt extracts, aroma and flavor of fresh bread and sandwiches which have just being grilled. This description has a common denominator, namely: cereal aroma. It covers flavorings that have been grouped together because the cuppers denominated interchangeable terms.

ASH: This description reminds us of the ashtray smell, fingers smoke or the smell that emanates when cleaning a fireplace. This is not a negative attribute. In general, this description is used by cuppers to indicate the degree of roasting.

CHOCOLATE: This sensory description recalls the aroma and flavor of cocoa powder and chocolate (including dark chocolate and milk chocolate). It is a flavor which is sometimes referred to as soft.

SPICY: This is a typical sensory description of the odour of sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon and pepper. Tasters should be careful not to use that phrase to describe the aroma of strong spices such as pepper, oregano and Indian spices.

FAUNA: This description is somewhat reminiscent of olfactory smell of animals. It is not a fragrant aroma like muscle; rather it is the smell characterized with wet fur, sweat, leather, hides or urine.

FLORA: This aromatic description recalls the scent of flowers. It is associated with the slight scent of different types of flowers including honeysuckle, jasmine, dandelion and nettles. It usually corresponds to a green or fruity aroma; however this aroma alone is rarely of high intensity.

FRUITY / LEMON: This aromatic description recalls the smell and taste of fruits. The natural aroma of berries is closely associated with this attribute. There is correlation between the perceived high acidity in some coffees and lemony taste. Coffee cuppers should not attribute this to the aroma of unripe fruit or overripe.

WOOD: This aromatic description recalls the smell of dry wood, an oak barrel, dead wood or cardboard.

DRUG: This olfactory description recalls the smell of chemicals, medicine and those emanating from hospitals. This term applies to coffees giving off aromas such as relating to chemical residues or to strongly flavored coffees which produce large amounts of volatile substances.

NUTS: This describes an aromatic smell and flavor of fresh nuts (as distinct from rancid nuts) and does not apply to bitter almonds.

RANCID / ROTTEN: This aromatic description contains two expressions that are associated with odours that emerge during the deterioration and oxidation of certain products. Rancid, being the main indicator of fat oxidation mainly concerns rancid nuts. Rotten applies to the deterioration of vegetables or non-fat products. Cuppers should not use these descriptions for coffee associated with the presence of high notes, but showing no signs of deterioration.

TOBACCO: This sensory description recalls the smell and taste of tobacco and should not be used to refer to burnt tobacco.





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