Sensory Analysis Advice

In a new effort to document and record the many learning objectives and skills required to complete your SCA Training Certifications - we will post a series of audio and video recordings with documentation to guide you in your path to becoming an SCA Master.

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Audio Notes


  • A scientific discipline that evokes, measures, analyses and interprets reactions to those characteristics of foods and materials as they are perceived by the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing

  • It relies on trained and regular tasters, standardised preparation protocol and test design, decisions, and rules.

  • To define in basic terms, what sensory analysis is.

  • To identify the 5 human senses.

  • To recognise that sensory analysis works like a measurement instrument


  • Illustrate stimulus and perception: with examples such as: touch fabrics with different hardness/softness - show optical illusions, place fabric samples in non see-through sacks or boxes with a hole cut out on the side and a paper flap taped to cover the hole, have students guess what material they are touching

  • To show the difference between stimulus and perception


  • Cupping seeks to:

  • Identify potential defects and taints

  • Identify pleasant flavors and their quality

  • Evaluate intensity

  • Record the results

  • It establishes a general picture of a coffee’s potential that can be refined and adjusted to various roasting, blending and brewing practices.

  • Sensory analysis is widely used in food industry, but extends to others (car, pharma, ...). Used for various quality control tasks, new product testing, and consumer testing.

  • To explain, in general terms, how sensory analysis is be used in the coffee industry.

  • To state 4 purposes for cupping coffee.

  • To state at least 3 areas in a coffee business where sensory analysis is applied.


  • Taste specialty vs non-specialty coffees and compare

  • Taste two specialty coffees and compare

  • The aim of sensory analysis in coffee is to be able to recognize and distinguish between different attributes, whether we personally like them or not.

  • To recognise in student's own words differences between a non- specialty coffee and specialty coffee.

  • To compare own description with that of the coffee expert's objective description and qualitative description of the two coffees

  • To realize the goal of sensory evaluation and the learning path of a coffee taster


  • Olfaction, gustation and taction are the three key sensations used in sensory analysis for coffee.

  • Olfactory epithelium in the nasal cavity, taste buds on the soft palate, and muscles in the mouth

  • Not all papillae have taste buds.

  • Flavor perception is a multi-modal

  • To state the 3 key sensations out of the five used in sensory analysis for coffee (not focusing on appearance)

  • To recognize, in general terms, what human sensory organs are used in olfaction, gustation, and taction; and state where each is located.

  • To define flavor perception experience: integrating gustatory, retronasal olfaction and somatosensory systems.


  • Distinguish the difference between taste and smell, as they relate to flavor Perception.

  • Acknowledge that taste exists in the oral cavity and smell is detected by the olfactory bulb in the nasal cavity.

  • Use flavored chewable sweets/candies (alternatively use a sugar free gum) in a blind test, conduct a "pinch the nose" test, and have students try to describe the flavor while nose is pinched, then again once they have opened their nasal passage.

  • To explain the difference between taste and smell, and how they work to together to create flavor perception.


  • There are 5 basic tastes: acidity, bitterness, sweetness, saltiness and umami.

  • All coffees exhibit to a certain degree acidity, bitterness and have a sweet perception (more than they are physically sweet)

  • To recognize that there are 5 basic tastes that our tongues are tasting.

  • To recognize which tastes are most commonly found in coffee

  • To recognize that when there is a mixture of two or more tastes may interact with one another

  • In coffee, saltiness and umami can also be perceived although their identification and naming is less spontaneous than acidity, bitterness and sweet perception.

  • Acknowledge that when eating and drinking we are rarely only tasting one sensation in isolation, coffee is a complex solution of several tastes.

  • Threshold of detection and identification varies between individual

  • To recognize perception varies between individuals.


  • List the 5 basic tastes

  • Identify the 5 basic tastes in a blind assessment

  • Solutions should be prepared at highest concentration level in the practical exam


  • Explore the 9 main flavor categories flavor categories of the SCA Flavor Wheel. Use the corresponding Nez Du Café References in the Coffee Lexicon.

  • These aromas will be present in the dry fragrance

  • To list the five basic tastes

  • To distinguish between the 5 basic tastes in a blind assessment of solutions.

  • To adopt an objective description of the sensations through to the brewed coffee

  • To list the 9 categories of flavor found on the SCA Flavor Wheel.

  • To recognize categorial aroma references using the Le Nez du Café kit.

  • To demonstrate basic use of the Le Nez du Café kit.

  • Carry out a simple category exploration as a group of the 9 categories. Use picture boards with aroma vials to make stronger cognitive links

  • To demonstrate basic use of the SCA Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel and Coffee Lexicon

  • To demonstrate ability to objectively and accurately describe sensations



  • In coffee, basic tastes and aromas do not exist in isolation and they need to be recognized within the brewed coffee itself

  • The body of the coffee describes the apparent viscosity, fullness and weight in the mouth ranging from "thin, watery" to "thick, heavy"

  • Body also refers to the tactile "mouthfeel" or texture of a coffee (e.g., smooth/rough, soft/hard, juicy/astringent, etc).

  • Different coffees will have different perceived tastes and body

  • To recognize that coffee is complex solution with many different tastes, aromas, and body sensations present

  • To define "body" in sensory analysis of coffee


  • Group example comparing milk and water to show mouthfeel

  • To distinguish the key attributes of following acidity, bitterness, and body in brewed coffee.

  • To adopt an evaluation of the sensations

  • Acidity (low vs high)

  • Bitterness (low vs objective high)

  • Body (low vs intensity of the high)

  • Acknowledge that acidity, bitterness and body in green coffee are origin and process dependent


  • Key positive aromas from coffee (reference aromas from previous exercises)

  • Specialty Coffee Association 'Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel'

  • Identify simple category differences in aroma groups in a practical blind test, tasting brewed coffees.

  • Recall Flavor Wheel Categories categories in a written test

  • Recognize out of 4 categories of flavor on the flavor wheel, 3 of them are flavors that are associated with positive attributes, 1 with negative attribute.

  • To recognize the difference between an objective descriptive sensory evaluation of sensations and a qualitative categorization of those same sensations

  • To state the 9 main categories of flavor found on 'Coffee Taster's the SCA inner Flavor Wheel' Flavor Wheel

  • To distinguish positive aromas from negative (non desirable) aromas in coffee

  • To categorize positive and negative (non Green/Vegetative, Sour/Fermented categorize flavors often associated with processing, storage, roasting, and brewing defect. TBD in more depth in professional level.


  • Standard terminology is used to aid clear communication

  • Key terms used in cupping, such as acidity and body. Mention astringency and balance (TBD in intermediate)

  • To recognise some standard terminology used by cuppers, which are listed in the WCR Sensory Lexicon and SCA Flavor Wheel

  • To distinguish between positive and negative key terms

  • To acknowledge that coffee professionals use a consistent standardized language to aid communication between themselves and others in the coffee value chain.

  • Specialty Coffee Association 'Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel'


  • “Coffee cupping is a method used to systematically evaluate the aroma and taste quality characteristics of a sample of coffee beans” – (Ted Lingle 2001)

  • It is a sensory analysis process specific to coffee

  • Cupping focuses on the coffee sensory

  • To define coffee cupping characteristics eg aroma, taste, texture, ... but considered in a qualitative way

  • To name SCA cupping and Cup of Excellence cupping

  • To acknowledge cupping is a SCA Cupping Protocol

  • Different methods exists. Ex: SCA cupping, Cup of Excellence cupping, ...classification of quality by experts

  • To acknowledge cupping is a different exercise from the objective description of the sensory characteristics

  • To acknowledge that when cupping coffee, we use our eyes, nose, and mouth to assess visual, aromatic, taste, and tactile qualities.

  • To acknowledge it evaluates how qualitative is the aroma, taste and texture


  • Have students recognize the official SCA Cupping Form, use a simplified version for activity below

  • To define the key terms used in SCA Cupping Protocol

  • To be aware of the terminology for the qualitative cupping evaluation

  • To refer to the 8 steps of the SCA cupping methodology

  • To recognize the official SCA Cupping Form.

  • State the importance of a standard protocol and learn its procedure for cupping

  • Set out the standard steps preparing and brewing a cupping session

  • To refer to SCA standards for cupping, roasting and water brew ratio


  • Memorize and repeat the standard process of setting up a cupping session, through practice

  • Re-Define key terms used in a cupping session

  • Recall standard measurements and protocol in a written test

  • Each student to set up one sample of coffee, to SCA standard, compare at least 3 distinct coffees amongst the group.

  • To set up a SCA cupping table using correct tools, measurements, and protocol.

  • To practice the tasting protocol


  • A hygienic odor- free work space for cupping

  • To understand the environment has an influence on the evaluation and therefore should be controlled

  • Equipment that is necessary to a cupping session - To list core equipment needed for SCA cupping


  • Acidity: A basic taste characterized by the solution of an organic acid. A desirable sharp and pleasing taste ... as opposed to an over-fermented sour taste

  • Aftertaste: The sensation produced by the lingering taste and aroma

  • Aroma: The sensation of the gases released from brewed coffee, as they are inhaled through the nose by sniffing

  • Astringent: An aftertaste sensation consistent with a dry feeling in the mouth, undesirable in coffee

  • Balance: A pleasing combination of two or more primary taste sensations

  • Basic Tastes: The five basic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami

  • Body: The physical properties of the beverage. A strong, but pleasant, full mouthfeel characteristic

  • Break: Aromatic assessment of the crust as it is broken three times

  • Clean: Free from flavor taints or faults

  • Crust Aromatic assessment of the crust of wet coffee

  • grounds that forms on the top of the brew surface immediately after brewing

  • Cupping A method used to systematically evaluate the

  • aroma and taste characteristics of a sample of coffee beans

  • Cupping Glasses/Bowls: All cups or glasses used should be of the same volume, dimensions and material of manufacture:

  • Cupping Glasses: 5 to 6 oz tempered glass of Porcelain bouillon bowls of 175-225ml clean cups should be clean with no apparent fragrance and at room temperature

  • Cupping Grind: Coarser than filter grind with 70% to 75% passing through a 850mμ or US Size 20 sieve

  • Cupping Roast: "Sample roast targets: Time: 8 – 12 minutes depending on roaster size… Color: Agtron 60 – 65 (M-Basic)/Probat 105– 125 (Colorette)... Coffees cupped 8 - 24 hours after roasting"

  • Dry Assessment of the fragrance of the dry coffee grounds after grinding and prior to brewing

  • Flavor: The sensation in mouth the coffee gives by the combination of Tastes and Aromas in the liquid phase

  • Fragrance / Aroma: The sensation of the gases released from roasted and ground coffee beans, as the aromatic compounds are inhaled through the nose by sniffing

  • Gustation: “The detection of stimuli dissolved in water, oil, or saliva, by the taste buds”

  • Mouthfeel: The tactile sense derived from physical sensations in the mouth during and after ingestion

  • Olfaction: The sense of smell allowing the perception of aroma, fragrance, scents in gas / air using the nose