Aroma is a sensation which is difficult to separate from flavor. Without our sense of smell, our only taste sensations would be: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The aroma contributes to the flavors we discern on our palates. Subtle nuances, such as "floral" or "winy" characteristics, are derived from the aroma of the brewed coffee.
Body is the feeling that the coffee has in your mouth. It is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness, or richness that is perceived on the tongue. A good example of body would be that of the feeling of whole milk in your mouth, as compared to water. Your perception of the body of a coffee is related to the oils and solids extracted during brewing. Typically, Indonesian coffees will possess greater body than South and Central American coffees. If you are unsure of the level of body when comparing several coffees, try adding an equal amount of milk to each. Coffees with a heavier body will maintain more of their flavor when diluted.
Flavor is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma, and body are all components of flavor. It is the balance and homogenization of these senses that create your overall perception of flavor. The following are typical flavor characteristics:
- General flavor characteristics
Richness—refers to body and fullness
Complexity— the perception of multiple flavors
Balance— the satisfying presence of all the basic taste characteristics where no one over-powers another
Typical specific desirable flavor characteristics
Bright, Dry, Sharp, or Snappy— (typical of Central American coffees)
Caramelly —candy like or syrupy
Chocolaty— an aftertaste similar to unsweetened chocolate or vanilla
Delicate— a subtle flavor perceived on the tip of the tongue (typical of washed New Guinea arabica)
Earthy— a soily characteristic (typical of Sumatran coffees)
Fragrant— an aromatic characteristic ranging from floral to spicy
Fruity— an aromatic characteristic reminiscent of berries or citrus
Mellow— a round, smooth taste, typically lacking acid
Nutty— an aftertaste similar to roasted nuts
Spicy— a flavor and aroma reminiscent of spices
Sweet— free of harshness
Wildness— a gamey flavor which is not usually considered favorable but is typical of Ethiopian coffees
Winy— an aftertaste reminiscent of well-matured wine (typical of Kenyan and Yemeni coffees)
Typical specific undesirable flavor characteristics
Bitter— perceived on the back of the tongue, usually a result of over roasting
Bland— neutral in flavor
Carbony— burnt charcoaly overtones
Dead— see "flat"
Dirty— a mustiness reminiscent of eating dirt
Earthy— see "dirty"
Flat— lack of acidity, aroma, and aftertaste
Grassy— an aroma and flavor reminiscent of freshly cut lawn
Harsh— a caustic, clawing, raspy characteristic
Muddy— thick and dull
Musty— a slight stuffy or moldy smell (not always a negative characteristic when in aged coffees)
Rioy— a starchy texture similar to water which pasta has been cooked in.
Rough— a sensation on the tongue reminiscent of eating salt
Rubbery— an aroma and flavor reminiscent of burnt rubber (typically found only in dry-processed robustas)
Soft— see "bland"
Sour— tart flavors reminiscent of unripe fruit
Thin— lacking acidity, typically a result of under brewing
Turpeny— turpentine-like in flavor
Watery— a lack of body or viscosity in the mouth
Wild— gamey characteristics