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244 Delicious Words to Describe Coffee: Adjectives for Coffee Lovers

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).

words to describe coffee

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.

  1. Acidity: Describes the acidity (liveliness and sharpness) of brewed coffee.
  2. Aftertaste: Describes the remaining flavor in the mouth, once the coffee is swallowed.
  3. Aroma: Describes the smell of brewed coffee. See more below – we include 63 words used to describe coffee aroma.
  4. Body: The actual mouth feel of the coffee.
  5. Flavor: Describes the characteristics of taste. There are 28 specific words to describe coffee flavor.
  6. Fragrance: Describes the smell of the ground coffee before brewing.
  7. Region: Describes the country and area where the beans were grown. Coffee terroir (soil and environment) directly affects coffee characteristics.
  8. 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.

how to describe coffee

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.

Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel
Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel, Specialty Coffee Association

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:

  1. sour
  2. sweet
  3. salt
  4. bitter

And these can be divided into the following sub-descriptors:

Sour Taste (6)

  • Soury
    • Acrid
    • Hard
  • Winey
    • Tart
    • Tangy

Sweet Taste (6)

  • Acidy
    • Piquant
    • Nippy
  • Mellow
    • Mild
    • Delicate

Salt Taste (6)

  • Bland
    • Soft
    • Neutral
  • Sharp
    • Rough
    • Astringent

Bitter Taste (6)

  • Harsh
    • Alkaline
    • Caustic
  • Pungent
    • Phenolic
    • Creosol

64 Words to Describe Coffee Aromas

Enzymatic Aromas (22)

  • Flowery (8)
    • Floral
      • Coffee Blossom
      • Tea Rose
    • Fragrant
      • Cardamon
      • Caraway
      • Coriander Seeds
  • Fruity (7)
    • Citrus
      • Lemon
      • Apple
    • Berry-like
      • Apricot
      • Blackberry
  • Herby (7)
    • Alliaceous
      • Onion
      • Garlic
    • Leguminous
      • Cucumber
      • Garden Peas

Sugar Browning (21)

  • Nutty (7)
    • Nut-like
      • Roasted Peanuts
      • Walnuts
    • Malt-like
      • Basmati Rice
      • Toast
  • Caramelly (7)
    • Candy-like
      • Roasted Hazelnut
      • Roasted Almond
    • Syrup-like
      • Honey
      • Maple Syrup
  • Chocolaty (7)
    • Chocolate-like
      • Bakers
      • Dark Chocolate
    • Vanilla-like
      • Swiss
      • Butter

Dry Distillation (21)

  • Resinous (7)
    • Turpeny
      • Piney
      • Black Currant-like
    • Medicinal
      • Camphoric
      • Cineolic
  • Spicy (7)
    • Warming
      • Cedar
      • Pepper
    • Pungent
      • Clove
      • Thyme
  • Carbony (7)
    • Smoky
      • Tarry
      • Pipe Tobacco
    • Ashy
      • Burnt
      • Charred

78 Descriptive Words Affecting Coffee Flavor

External Changes (13)

Fats Absorbing Odors

  • Earthy
    • Fresh Earth
    • Wet Soil
    • Humus
  • Groundy
    • Mushroom
    • Raw Potato
    • Erpsig
  • Dirty
    • Dusty
    • Grady
    • Barny

External Changes / Aroma Taints (13)

Fats Absorbing Tastes

  • Musty
    • Concrete
    • Mildewy
    • Mulch-like
  • Moldy
    • Yeasty
    • Starchy
    • Cappy
  • Baggy
    • Carvocrol
    • Fatty
    • Mineral Oil

Aroma Taints (13)

Improper Roasting

  • Tipped
    • Cereal-like
    • Biscuity
    • Skunky
  • Scorched
    • Cooked
    • Charred
    • Empyreumatic
  • Baked
    • Bakey
    • Flat
    • Dull

Internal Changes (13)

Fats Changing Chemically

  • Sweaty
    • Butyric Acid
    • Soapy
    • Lactic
  • Hidy
    • Tallowy
    • Leather-like
    • Wet wool
  • Horsey
    • Hircine
    • Cooked Beef
    • Gamey

Internal Changes / Taste Faults (13)

Acids Changing Chemically

  • Fermented
    • Coffee Pulp
    • Acerbic
    • Leesy
  • Rioy
    • Iodine
    • Carbolic
    • Acrid
  • Rubbery
    • Butyl Phenol
    • Kerosene
    • Ethanol

Taste Faults (13)

Loss of Organic Material

  • Grassy
    • Green
    • Hay
    • Strawy
  • Aged
    • Full
    • Rounded
    • Smooth
  • Woody
    • Wet Paper
    • Wet Cardboard
    • Filter Pad

adjectives for coffee

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

  1. Sour
  2. Sweet
  3. Salt
  4. Bitter

27 Aroma Descriptors of Coffee

  1. Flowery
  2. Fruity
  3. Herby
  4. Nutty
  5. Caramelly
  6. Chocolaty
  7. Resinous
  8. Spicy
  9. Carbony
  10. Earthy
  11. Groundy
  12. Dirty
  13. Musty
  14. Mouldy
  15. Baggy
  16. Tipped
  17. Scorched
  18. Baked
  19. Sweaty
  20. Hidy
  21. Horsey
  22. Fermented
  23. Rioy
  24. Rubbery
  25. Grassy
  26. Aged
  27. Woody

words that describe coffee

35 Coffee Synonyms

Looking for other ways to say coffee without saying coffee?

Here’s our set of coffee nicknames and slang.

  1. battery acid
  2. bean brew
  3. black juice
  4. breakfast of champions
  5. brain juice
  6. brew
  7. burnt umber
  8. café con leche
  9. café
  10. café au lait
  11. café noir
  12. caffè macchiato
  13. caffeine
  14. cappuccino
  15. decaf
  16. decoction
  17. demitasse
  18. double-double
  19. espresso
  20. forty weight
  21. hot stuff
  22. ink
  23. jamocha
  24. javy
  25. java
  26. joe
  27. liquid intelligence
  28. mocha
  29. mud
  30. perk
  31. robot fuel
  32. Starbucks
  33. starbs
  34. timmies
  35. 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.

coffee description words

Your Turn

Have a coffee adjective or word to add? How do you describe coffee? Join me below!