Sensory Lexicon

A collaborative research project on coffee’s flavours and aromas by World Coffee Research and Kansas State University. It is a standardized list of words and phrases used to describe the sensory characteristics of a product.

Canterbury Coffee Training Manager, Lenka Bohorova explain:

It serves as a universal tool for understanding and measuring coffee quality flavour and aroma. It helps people to communicate coffee flavour accurately. It’s a dictionary of coffee flavour attributes.

A sensory lexicon can be used by coffee tasters to evaluate and communicate the quality of a coffee sample. It helps to ensure that everyone is using the same language and terminology when describing the coffee, and it also helps to standardize the process of evaluating coffee.

Sensory lexicons can include terms that describe various aspects of the coffee such as aroma, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, body, and aftertaste. They may also include terms that describe the origin or growing conditions of the coffee such as fruity, floral, earthy, and spicy.

Some examples of the terms used in a sensory lexicon for coffee include:

  • Aroma: fruity, floral, nutty, spicy, chocolatey, smoky.
  • Acidity: bright, tangy, citrusy, fruity, winey, malic.
  • Sweetness: honey, caramel, chocolate, toffee, molasses, brown sugar.
  • Bitterness: mild, moderate, high, harsh, astringent, dry.
  • Body: light, medium, heavy, creamy, syrupy, oily.
  • Aftertaste: clean, lingering, pleasant, unpleasant, bitter, sour.

Sensory lexicons are not only used by coffee tasters, but also by coffee roasters, baristas, and other coffee professionals to communicate the sensory properties of coffee effectively, to ensure consistency in the coffee quality and to find the right match between coffee and consumer preferences.

A free download of the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon is available here.

Do you have a term or definition you’d like us to add to the glossary? Let us know using this form.