The Flavors In Coffee and How We Get Them

One of the questions that we get asked most often is about flavor notes or the tastes in our coffees. When people see the flavor notes of “strawberry” and “almond” or pictures of “cherry” and “caramel” on our bags of roasted to order coffee they typically assume that we add flavoring to our beans. That’s why we decided to put this post together and talk more about the flavors and tasting notes in our coffee and how we find the flavors listed on the bag.

Do you add flavors to BOLD Grounds Coffee?

Never! We don’t add any flavors to our coffee and won’t in the future. The flavors in our coffees are the unique characteristics naturally in the beans!

How do you get the flavors in each coffee?

The flavor of coffee, much like beer & wine can have tons of different flavors depending on many factors including the area it was grown and altitude of the farm, how the beans are processed, how it’s roasted and how old the beans where when they were roasted and even how it’s ground and brewed. When it comes down to specific flavors, coffee beans have a very intricate chemical makeup that consists of literally thousands of individual chemical compounds, that help create such a wide range of flavors. For that reason, when we taste flavor notes of “almond” in our coffee, we’re actually tasting compounds that are either the identical or extremely similar to the compounds found in almonds.

Then how do you decide on the flavors in a coffee?

Occasionally some of the tasting notes stand right out and are simple to taste, most of the time the notes are very faint. We taste our coffees dozens of times at various roast levels, this helps us not only discover the unique flavors a bean has but also helps us find the perfect roast level for each individual bean. To help find flavors, we taste the coffees while using the Specialty Coffee Association’s Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel. The flavor wheel helps by providing a visual descriptor that helps us more easily put a picture/name to what we're tasting. 

Taste for yourself!

Want to try your hand at pinning down some flavor notes? Try this at home, first download the SCA’s Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel. You’ll then want to brew two different coffees, for example a dark roast and a medium roast and be sure to brew them exactly the same way with the same coffee to water ratios. You’ll then want to taste the two coffees back and forth noting the different flavors you’re tasting in each coffee by looking at the center of the wheel and working your way outwards towards the individual flavors. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t pinpoint specific flavors at first, like all good things pinpointing flavor notes takes practice.