Created at the Sensory Analysis Center at Kansas State University, the lexicon identifies 110 flavor, aromoa and texture attributes present in coffee, and provides references for measuring their intensity.
“Coffee is one of the most chemically complex things we consume, with subtleties of aroma, texture, and flavor rivaled by almost no other food, and it can seem as if its flavors are infinite. But they are not,” says the foundation.
“Coffee, like anything else we eat or drink, tastes, smells, and feels the way it does because locked inside the coffee bean is a complex molecular and genetic code that determines what we experience.
"Every flavor, every aroma, every texture originates in a set of chemicals, which in turn are determined by the seed’s genes, by how and where the coffee was grown, and by everything it has experienced since leaving the tree (processing, drying, milling, storage, transport, roasting, brewing and so on).
“The goal of the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon is to use for the first time the tools and technologies of sensory science to understand and name coffee’s primary sensory qualities, and to create a replicable way of measuring those qualities.
“Just like a dictionary reflects broad, expert agreement about the words that make up a given language, the lexicon contains the tastes, aromas, and textures that exist in coffee as determined by sensory experts and coffee industry leaders.”
Most of the flavor references in the first edition of the lexicon (published in January 2016) are ‘physical’ references – items bought at a grocery story. However, because many of these references are only widely available in US mass market grocery store chains, the lexicon has been updated to include 24 FlavorActiV references.
These are: Sour, Bitter, Salty, Apple, Grape, Coconut, Pineapple, Acetic acid, Butyric acid, Isovaleric acid, Fermented, Peapod, Fresh, Papery, Musty/Earthy, Musty/Dusty, Moldy/Damp, Phenolic, Petroleum, Brown Spice, Almond, Vanillin, Floral, and Jasmine.
The new FlavorActiV references are GMP pharmaceutical grade, shelf-stable, food-safe, and globally available.
The lexicon - which can be found here - is a ‘living document’ that will continue to be updated with new flavors and aromas, as well as new references for such flavors and aromas, as they are identified.
World Coffee Research says the lexicon can help enable future research, analysing coffee samples from multiple research projects in conjunction with chemical and genetic analysis in order to understand the origins of coffee quality.
World Coffee Research’s mission is to grow, protect and enhance supplies of quality coffee while improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families. It also seeks to create a toolbox of coffee varieties, genetic resources and accompanying technologies.