Having the right words to describe coffee will improve your coffee experience. How does the body compare to fragrance? Is your coffee “carmelly with notes of roasted almond and maple syrup” or “bitter flavor with notes of caustic creosol?” Both are official descriptions of coffee.
There are 170 official words to describe coffee, as assigned by Speciality Coffee Association. Plus 8 primary categories for describing coffee (ie. aroma, body, roast). There are another 66 coffee adjectives (fruity, caramelly, grassy) and synonyms (brew, java, mud).
Guide to Descriptive Coffee Words and Adjectives
If your coffee vocabulary is limited to strong (weak), hot (cold), expensive, and delicious, don’t worry. This guide will add hundreds of possible descriptive coffee words and adjectives.
You’ll learn how to accurately describe coffee. Having the right words to describe your coffee actually adds a whole new dimension to the experience.
These words include flavor and aroma factors, professional descriptive coffee words, and adjectives for coffee taste and aroma. Plus common coffee synonyms and even a set of words that rhyme with coffee.
To begin, let’s learn the basics of describing coffee.
8 Primary Ways to Describe Coffee
Typically, coffee flavor is described in these eight categories.
- Acidity: Describes the acidity (liveliness and sharpness) of brewed coffee.
- Aftertaste: Describes the remaining flavor in the mouth, once the coffee is swallowed.
- Aroma: Describes the smell of brewed coffee. See more below – we include 63 words used to describe coffee aroma.
- Body: The actual mouth feel of the coffee.
- Flavor: Describes the characteristics of taste. There are 28 specific words to describe coffee flavor.
- Fragrance: Describes the smell of the ground coffee before brewing.
- Region: Describes the country and area where the beans were grown. Coffee terroir (soil and environment) directly affects coffee characteristics.
- Roast: There are 5 levels of coffee roast. They include white, light, medium, medium-dark, and dark. And they can be observed by visual, gustatory, and olfactory means.
Each of these eight categories has a set of words to further describe their unique characteristics.
170 Official Words to Describe Coffee (Coffee Flavor Wheel)
The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is produced by Speciality Coffee Association (SCA). Here’s how to use the Flavor Wheel.
This is what the flavor wheel looks like – showing just how complex coffee flavor is. SCA sells posters and physical copies of this to display in your kitchen, office, or cafe.
As described below, the coffee wheel creates many possibilities for detailed coffee descriptions.
For example, how does a cup of coffee like this sound?
- Chocolaty with aromas of Swiss chocolate
- Flowery with fragrant coriander seeds
- Fruity with notes of lemon and blackberry
Aren’t these better than just saying delicious?
As you’ll notice in this guide, not all descriptive coffee words describe good features. There are more negative aromas and flavor adjectives than positive ones.
You’ll find adjectives describing coffee like piney, pipe tobacco, charred, barny, wet soil, raw potato, skunky, and soapy. Not sounding super delicious, is it?
Would you buy a bag of coffee described like this?
- Earthy taste with notes of wet soil
- Sweaty with soapy notes
- Horsey taste with notes of cooked beef and gamey
- Woody with notes of wet cardboard
Probably won’t sell too many cups at the cafe, will it?
These coffee adjectives give coffee critics some rich vocabulary for coffee that doesn’t meet their approval.
Now let’s move on to the full list of coffee descriptors.
28 Taste Adjectives of Coffee
There are four primary words to describe the taste of coffee:
And these can be divided into the following sub-descriptors:
Sour Taste (6)
Sweet Taste (6)
Salt Taste (6)
Bitter Taste (6)
64 Words to Describe Coffee Aromas
Enzymatic Aromas (22)
- Flowery (8)
- Coffee Blossom
- Tea Rose
- Coriander Seeds
- Fruity (7)
- Herby (7)
- Garden Peas
Sugar Browning (21)
- Nutty (7)
- Roasted Peanuts
- Basmati Rice
- Caramelly (7)
- Roasted Hazelnut
- Roasted Almond
- Maple Syrup
- Chocolaty (7)
- Dark Chocolate
Dry Distillation (21)
- Resinous (7)
- Black Currant-like
- Spicy (7)
- Carbony (7)
- Pipe Tobacco
78 Descriptive Words Affecting Coffee Flavor
External Changes (13)
Fats Absorbing Odors
- Fresh Earth
- Wet Soil
- Raw Potato
External Changes / Aroma Taints (13)
Fats Absorbing Tastes
- Mineral Oil
Aroma Taints (13)
Internal Changes (13)
Fats Changing Chemically
- Butyric Acid
- Wet wool
- Cooked Beef
Internal Changes / Taste Faults (13)
Acids Changing Chemically
- Coffee Pulp
- Butyl Phenol
Taste Faults (13)
Loss of Organic Material
- Wet Paper
- Wet Cardboard
- Filter Pad
Like iced coffee? Here are 3 ways to make iced coffee at home.
31 Coffee Taste and Aroma Adjectives
Feeling overwhelmed with the complexity of the options above? Don’t worry. They are for professional coffee tasters. And it takes time to not only remember them but also apply them correctly to a coffee flavor.
Here are some great coffee adjectives to help you describe your next cup of coffee.
4 Taste Descriptors of Coffee
27 Aroma Descriptors of Coffee
35 Coffee Synonyms
Looking for other ways to say coffee without saying coffee?
Here’s our set of coffee nicknames and slang.
- battery acid
- bean brew
- black juice
- breakfast of champions
- brain juice
- burnt umber
- café con leche
- café au lait
- café noir
- caffè macchiato
- forty weight
- hot stuff
- liquid intelligence
- robot fuel
- varnish remover
I like some of these. Which is your favorite? I like brain juice and mud.
Rhyming with Coffee
And just for fun, here are some words that rhyme (and almost rhyme) with coffee.
Words that Rhyme with Coffee
- toffee, toffy, Amalfi (region in Italy)
- Coffey, Coffie, Rafi, Gaddafi. Many names and surnames rhyme with coffee.
Words that Almost Rhyme with Coffee
aussie, bobby, body, bonnie, bossy, cocky, flossy, foggy, frosty, frothy, gauzy, glossy, groggy, haughty, hobby, hockey, holly, hottie, jockey, jolly, lobby, lofty, lossy, molly, mommy, mossy, naughty, poppy, posse, potty, quasi, rocky, salty, saucy, sloppy, softly, softy, soggy, squashy, story, washy, biscotti, karate, mojave, kamikaze, paparazzi.
Have a coffee adjective or word to add? How do you describe coffee? Join me below!
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Bryan Haines is a co-founder and writer on Tasty Plate – and is working to make it the best food blog in the world.
While living in South America, Bryan enjoyed learning about new foods and preparation methods. Back in Nova Scotia, he enjoys growing food in the backyard. And then preparing it with traditional (and non-traditional) methods and ingredients.
He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.