Our evolved and differentiated descriptor wheel

Axel Simon

Axel Simon

January 18, 2023

Our descriptor wheel

The descriptor wheel is a fundamental tool for the person who is going to evaluate a coffee through sensory evaluation or cupping, whether professional or for those people who are just starting out in the world of coffee. During the practice, the cupper, by means of tasting and smell, determines and values each of the characteristics that define a coffee.

The cupper is able to identify unique characteristics and descriptors in the coffee, but sometimes these olfactory sensations are complex and difficult to catalog, therefore the purpose of the descriptor wheel is to be a tool to help create a sensory memory. a complement and tool to support sensory memory in the description of a café.

These situations, which we have been experiencing for years in our tastings, led us to develop a wheel of descriptors that would serve as a guide for us. tool to make the difficult task of describing the profile of a coffee easier, in the most accurate way possible, and to be able to transmit it in an objective and understandable way to the greatest number of interested people.

How we have evolved it.

  • No negative flavors or aromas

We have been objective, focusing and validating the wheel to whom the tool was really intended for: roasters, baristas and consumers, transmitting the profile of each coffee in the most precise and didactic way possible. Unlike the SCA wheel, we have eliminated the negatives, understanding that at this point in the coffee chain we are already receiving the best coffees selected and validated by both producers and importers. Therefore, the coffees tasted have a specialty score and have the corresponding quality.

  • From aromas / flavors to aromas and flavors.

The first question we asked ourselves in order to make this change was: Is an aroma different from a flavor? Yes, so our two main tools when evaluating the descriptors of a coffee should be aromas and flavors. Differentiating these two concepts will help us to describe the descriptors that a cup of coffee evokes in our sensory memory.
After debating with many other tasters, we understood that the wheel has to be a tool to identify the descriptors of a coffee in the most objective way possible, beyond being gustatory or olfactory.

  • More positive descriptors

The efforts of the coffee community, associated with experiments in origin and varietals in constant development, needed to be acknowledged in order to to be able to calibrate and describe in a correct way the profile of the coffees. Descriptors have ceased to be generalized and new ones have been created more in line with its aroma and flavor.

  • Color-coded for easy reading.

In order to correctly define a descriptor, we need a tool that activates our available tools, smell, taste and sight. The first range of information is aroma-flavor which already helps us to discard many other data and to be able to follow the thread towards the second part where the The combination of circles and families will allow a deductive and associative reading.

  • An adaptive wheel

We understand that each culture has a sensory memory, tastes and smells that have become its own.
It is important to understand that the transmission and recognition of coffee in each culture is different as well as the meaning of the concepts.
That is why we must pay attention when translating the words, it cannot be a mechanical translation but must have a thought and meaning according to the cultural environment and make the wheel more objective and easier for the tasters. Our wheel is conceived and designed as an adaptable model.

  • The fifth circle.

Coffee is part of the gastronomic and cultural world, always open and ready for new changes.

This first descriptor wheel is the foundation for your circles to grow and is the basis of a challenge and our motivation: The fifth circle.

It is the beginning of a path to continue evolving and stabilizing aromas and flavors that will open up new descriptors that we will know how to define, identify and disseminate logically.

In this post, we hope you have been able to understand a little more about our descriptor wheel, what differentiates us from others and how day by day together with the work of the entire team of Mare Terra Coffee we work to reach unexplored levels. within the world of specialty coffee.



Axel Simon

Mare Terra Coffee

“Q-lab Director.

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