The SCAA's Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel was updated last week. More science went into the updated wheel than you might think. Sensory scientists at Kansas State University created something called the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon, a kind of dictionary of the many different attributes of a cup of joe. Each flavor is tied to an actual object so that roasters can describe both a type of flavor and its intensity when they talk coffee. The lexicon was used as the basis of a kind of lingua franca among tasters—a language that lets roasters ensure they’re talking about the same thing when they discuss the different notes they detect in a particular brew.
Once the language was established, researchers from the University of California, Davis undertook the even heavier task of figuring out how coffee tasters group all of those flavors together. A study of over 70 tasters showed that these sensory specialists were pretty consistent in their groupings.