Interpreting the Info on your Coffee Bag (Part Eight - Tasting Notes)

June 24, 2019

Does it really taste like lemon?

This is Part Eight in a series about the information on your coffee bag and what the heck it all means.

Tasting Notes

Tasting notes give an idea of the coffee’s flavor. Typical tasting notes reference other well-known flavors such as citrus, berries, nuts, and chocolate to describe the taste of a given coffee.

Tasting notes are extremely prevalent in wine (think big fruit, tobacco, with an oaky aftertaste) and increasingly showing up in the beer world too.

Tasting notes may be what the coffee roaster actually tastes in the coffee or information the importer or seller provided about the bean. Q-graders are certified individuals who are trained to recognize and name these flavors, among other coffee characteristics such as mouth feel and degree of sweetness.

Can’t taste what the coffee is claiming to taste like? It might not be you.

Although there are defined standards for specific coffee tastes, the practice can still be very subjective. Imagine trying to establish a consensus on the difference between a “brown sugar” flavor and “dried fig.”

Flavor is also influenced by coffee storage and coffee roasting. Coffee roasters can make adjustments to how the coffee is roasted in ways that change acidity or sweetness. They can even cook a flavor right out of a bean by roasting very dark.

The age of the roasted coffee can also impact flavor. Coffee more than 2 weeks old may lose most of its subtle flavors; coffee more than a month or so old may lose nearly all distinctive flavor.


Tasting note at a glance

What it is: Descriptors of flavors that may be present in the roasted coffee

Why you might care:Tasting notes can help you identify coffees you know you like or would like to try. However, take tasting notes with a grain of salt because you don’t know who selected them and what other factors may influence what you’re tasting.

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Coffee orders placed by 12:00 PM noon (ET) on Saturday are shipped fresh on Tuesday.