Milan, Italy – Carlo Odello, member of the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters (Iiac), explains the use of the sensory map of coffee established to collect all the aromas of coffee into a single, user-friendly document in an extract from the book CoffeExperts, the encyclopedia book focused on coffee we talked about here. Soon in these pages, there will be other insights from the various coffee expert authors who contributed to the writing of CoffeExperts.
Carlo Odello explains the sensory map of coffee
MILAN, Italy – “The sensory map of coffee, and in particular of Italian espresso, was established from a need to collect all the positive and negative aromas into a single, user-friendly document, containing the gustatory-tactile aspect as well as, naturally, also the visual aspect. It’s a very useful tool because it is intuitive: being a tree diagram, even those with no specific expertise in coffee tasting are able to identify a series of terms that enable them to describe the product.
The sensory map is a collection of terms that make it possible to provide a semantic description, clearly it’s of no help from a data collection perspective. For example, when a person says “bitter”, I don’t know how bitter the coffee really is, I don’t have a precise quantitative data. There’s also an actual tasting card that derives from the map, which effectively introduces the concept of measurement scales.”
Positive and negative aromas
“As far as positive and negative aromas are concerned, let’s say that all tasting is somehow linked to the concept of smell, which we define as the emperor of all senses, indeed anything that’s not pleasant to the nose we don’t like at all and therefore we don’t drink or consume it. Hence why two-thirds of the sensory map is composed of the olfactory aspect.
The positive element is clearly related to certain characteristics such as floral and fruity aromas, roasted notes, dried fruit and nuts notes, aromas of spices, balsamic and so on. The negative aspect, on the other hand, concerns a whole series of defects connected with production, i.e. a burnt aroma due to poor roasting or incorrect processing of the coffee at the bar, or issues linked with the green coffee bean selection process.
Here we’re in the area of fermented or rotten aromas, also aromas of vegetables or straw: extremely negative characteristics that are normally accompanied by real defects such as astringency or excessive bitterness.”