c Coffee Sensory - Defects, Attributes, Calibration, Training

Coffee Sensory

Quality Control / Quality Assurance

FlavorActiV Coffee Sensory tools are in regular use the world over by growers, graders, producers, traders, roasters, baristas, cuppers, trainers, enthusiasts, innovators, retailers, wholesalers...

Here for whatever you choose to brew...

FlavorActiV's coffee sensory tools have application throughout the supply chain, across all coffee varieties and production stages. The world leader in the training and measurement of professional tasters, FlavorActiV support over 50,000 tasters on a regular basis with training, tasting software and encapsulated flavour standards.

Underpinned by Sensory Expertise

FlavorActiV has a history of driving industry quality standards, working alongside industry thought leaders and academics in all beverage sectors to ensure progress is underpinned by both internal and external expertise.

FlavorActiV's coffee defect and attribute flavour standards were developed by FlavorActiV's expert sensory team alongside James Hoffman of Square Mile Coffee, Spencer Turer and team at Coffee Enterprises and John Thompson of Coffee Nexus.

A selection of 24 of FlavorActiV's flavour standards was evaluated in partnership with World Coffee Research and Speciality Coffee Association at Kansas State University and were approved for inclusion in WCR's Sensory Lexicon in alignment with the Coffee Taster's Flavour Wheel.

Defects & Attributes

Calibrate your senses on the aroma and taste of specific sensory attributes and defects.

Developing a consistent coffee flavour language

Specific coffee defects and attributes can be detected at all stages of coffee production. Having a consistent language to describe these flavours and having been trained and calibrated to a specific, consistent taste and aroma standard aligns tasters throughout the industry and across geographies.

FlavorActiV's flavour standards specifically replicate many typically found defects and attributes. They are produced (under GMP-Pharma conditions) in powdered compound form and placed within capsules. Once the compounds are added to product, it imparts the aroma, mouthfeel and taste of the specific flavour in a form that is safe to both smell and taste.

GMP Pharma Flavour Standards

By training tasters to a consistent and stable flavour standard, we align our sensory language and flavour understanding. This gives us a benchmark to work from when describing defects and attributes to others in the coffee community and beyond.

FlavorActiV's GMP Pharma Flavour Standards are sold by flavour, each flavour pack containing 5 individually blister-packaged capsules. Each capsule can be used during one training/calibration session to train up to 15 people at once. FlavorActiV recommend beginning tasting sessions with 1 capsule per 1 litre of water before progressing on to use in coffee and with higher dilutions as flavour understanding and recognition improves. The process develops tasters to become their own finely tuned human sensory instrument.

FlavorActiV ship globally and have over 20 years experience of doing so. Our Flavour Centre is MHRA & US FDA Inspected and the flavour standards are GMP Pharmaceutical grade, produced to the highest standards affording strong shelf-life and consistent quality.

"FlavorActiV has changed the math. Their flavor capsules are relevant, accurate, and globally available — just as easy if you’re in Lima as in Limerick as in Lincoln, Nebraska. FlavorActiV saw that coffee had a need, and they invested in the R&D to create something completely new. We embrace the same spirit of solving problems through innovation. We’re very excited about what they’ve done."

Tim Schilling
CEO, World Coffee Research

Coffee Flavour Standards
For Aroma, Taste & Mouthfeel

Each of the 24 flavours below has been approved for inclusion within the latest World Coffee Research Lexicon as validated coffee flavour references. Sold in individual flavour packs, each pack containing 5 capsules. It is also possible to save by ordering as a complete or essential kit.

The naming conventions of FlavorActiV, SCA and WCR differ slightly; therefore, the table below shows both names, please contact FlavorActiV directly with any related queries. Although 30 key flavours are suggested by FlavorActiV for coffee, FlavorActiV produces 80+ attribute and defect flavours, view the full lineup here.

Icon WCR/SCA Name FlavorActiV Name Descriptor Chemical Name
Peapod Acetaldehyde Green Fruit, Under-Ripe Acetaldehyde
Almond Almond Marzipan, Bitter Almond Benzaldehyde
Apple Apple Floral, Processed Apples Ethyl Hexanoate
Bitter Bitter - Iso-Alpha Acids
Butyric Butyric Acid Rancid Cheese/Butter, Parmesan, Baby Sick Butyric Acid
Coconut Coconut - Whisky Lactone
Petroleum Diesel/Motor Fuel Heavy Solvent, Gasoline P-Cymene
Sour Sour Lemon Citric Acid
Musty / Dusty Geosmin Dry Earth Geosmin
Floral Geraniol (Rose/Floral) Rose Water Geraniol
Grape Grape Bubble Gum, Artificial Grape Methyl Anthranilate
Jasmine Indole Rose Water, Jasmine Indole
Acetic Acetic Vinegar Acetic Acid
Isovaleric Isovaleric Cheese, Sweat, Sweaty Foot Isovaleric Acid
Phenolic Medicinal Blood-like Copper Penny, Antiseptic, Band-Aid O-Cresol (Methyl Phenol)
Mouldy / Damp Musty Cork like 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole
Papery Papery Paper Cups Trans-2-Nonenal
Brown Spice Phenolic Clove 4-Vinyl Guiacol
Pineapple Ethyl Butyrate Tropical Fruit Ethyl Butyrate
Fermented Fermented Cheesy, Infected, Fruity, Mouldy Ethyl Isovalerate
Fresh Freshly Cut Grass Leafy Plants Cis-3-Hexanol
Salt Salty - Sodium Chloride
Vanilla Vanilla - Vanillin
Musty / Earthy Wet Earthy Damp Soil, Musty, Tobacco 2-Ethyl Fenchol

In addition to WCR coffee lexicon aligned GMP Coffee Flavour Standards above, Coffee Enterprises has selected the below FlavorActiV GMP flavours as important coffee sensory reference standards.

Icon FlavorActiV Name Descriptor Chemical Name
Dry Cracker / Mousy Caged Mice, Cracker Biscuits 2-Acetyletrahydropyridine
Potato Skins Raw Potatoes, Earthy 2-Isopropyl-3-Methoxyprazine
Leathery - 6-Isobutylquinoline
Cucumber Green Vegetable, Fragrant Trans, Cis 2-6-Nonadienal
Barnyard Anamalic, Band-Aid, Horsey 4-Ethyl Phenol
Spicy Cloves, Allspice Eugenol

The Complete Kit

All 24 WCR aligned flavours (120 Capsules, 5 Capsules per flavour)


The Essential Kit

6 key flavours (30 Capsules, 5 Capsules per flavour)


Individual Flavours

Sold per flavour (5 capsules per flavour)


A selection of FlavorActiV flavour standards are stocked by the SCA EU and US stores.
Sales of FlavorActiV Coffee Flavour Standards help fund WCR sensory research.

Using flavour standards in coffee

The video guide to the left shows the standard preparation steps when using flavour standards in filter coffee. Get in touch to request prep steps more applicable to your intended use. FlavorActiV recommend beginning tasting sessions with 1 capsule per 1 litre of water before progressing on to use in coffee and with higher dilutions as flavour understanding and recognition improves.

Using flavour standards in coffee

The video guide to the left shows the standard preparation steps when using flavour standards in filter coffee. Get in touch to request prep steps more applicable to your intended use. FlavorActiV recommend beginning tasting sessions with 1 capsule per 1 litre of water before progressing on to use in coffee and with higher dilutions as flavour understanding and recognition improves.

Continual Calibration

Train, Enhance, Maintain

Regular Taster Calibration Tool

FlavorActiV's Calibration Tool measures the abilities of professional tasters globally. With over 50,000 professional tasters participating and over 4,000 sensory panels enrolled, they are the largest proficiency programmes in the world.

Coffee Calibration (known as TVS) is the next logical step for trained tasting panelists or coffee enthusiasts wishing to enhance and maintain their tasting performance. Regular calibration uses FlavorActiV blind flavour capsule packs linked to FlavorActiV's online proficiency software to benchmark, troubleshoot and develop individual tasting abilities.

Coffee Calibration results are submitted to our powerful online database which instantly provides a detailed breakdown of individuals and panel performance. The analysis can be broken down and presented in a multitude of ways, and for sensory panels and multi-location organisations detailed demographic information is stored on every taster to increase understanding and learning.

Quick and easy to use, the Coffee Calibration is an incredibly powerful tool in understanding what is needed to maintain the quality of tasters. Open to all, FlavorActiV's Coffee Calibration TVS runs throughout the year on a rolling basis.

Benchmark your current abilities, spot learning opportunities and maintain tasting skill levels.

↑↓ Images courtesy of Coffee Enterprises & Julia Luckett Photography

How does it work?

Calibration tasting packs are purchased via our store and sent out to coffee enthusiasts, professionals and sensory panels around the world as and when they wish to participate. The packs contain 'blind' flavour standards used to evaluate tasting abilities through a 'Flavour Identification' test. The Flavour ID test focuses on a panellists ability to identify flavours. Each pack gives you the ability to conduct a one-off calibration session for your panel (a typical panel being a group of 5-15 professional tasters). We recommend calibrating at least twice a year, and the taster data remains yours to study as you wish.

Why Calibrate?

+ Increase confidence in the sensory quality of green coffee purchases and finished consumer product
+ Comprehensive feedback across tasters / organisation
+ Shows specific taster and panel learning opportunities.
+ Panels and individuals learn strengths and weaknesses and can increase skills accordingly
+ Training encourages staff retention & improves product awareness

The Calibration Pack consists of:

+ User Guide
+ Blind tasting packs (Pharmaceutical Quality GMP Flavour Standards)
+ Link and password to access instructions and download ballot sheets
+ A unique pack code for use at the time of data entry

The process of calibration:

1. Order and join online - each pack can be used once by up to 25 (ideally 5-15) people
2. Calibration Packs sent out
3. Prepare samples according to instructions
4. Get tasting, logging results online or via ballot sheets
5. Check results - measure, enhance, maintain

Things you'll need:

+ Around 7 litres of quality water
+ 6 Pitchers for mixing the flavour standards (min. 1 litre capacity each)
+ 1 Pitcher for the 'reference standard' (min. 1 litre capacity)
+ 7 cups per panellist for tasting
+ Designated area that follows Good Sensory Practices to conduct the test
+ Device with internet access (laptop/cell phone/ipad...) to download resources, record answers and gain results

Online Calibration Tool

Easy to understand and visually accessible, the online calibration tool provides large amount of contextual data quickly and efficiently, even with complex data such as flavour scaling.

The online Calibration tool supports multi-national, independent and artisan producers alike, helping all to better understand and evaluate their sensory panel performance. Participant panels and individual tasters are able to compare performance anonymously against other panels, providing the same sensory feedback and other benefits, but on a smaller scale than national and multi-national companies with proprietary data.

Built to software industry standards using the latest systems and secure encryption on-site and during data transmission to keep your data safe online and offline. FlavorActiV's Online Calibration Tool is developed with both quality assurance management and taste panel leaders in mind; easy, intuitive and fast, tasters will spend more time tasting products than analysing data or fighting with software options and configurations.

The Online Calibration Tool is entirely web-based, so there is no need to install programs or applications or worry about system integration. The software is fully compatible with both legacy and modern browsers and works fine on cell phone too.

Begin Calibration

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Taster Training

Sensory Expertise

Taster Training

From sensory training by FlavorActiV's highly experienced, multi-lingual tasting panel trainers to Tasting Services, Integrated Sensory Plans and Portable Sensory Booths. FlavorActiV provides a range of different services to enhance your product quality.

Visit our training pages or send us an email to discover more.

We Ship Globally
We usually ship direct, however, for some regions we use distribution partners: Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, Russia, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand .