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241 Flavorful Words to Describe Coffee (Plus Synonyms, Lingo, Slang)

Do you know many words to describe coffee? To help you up your game here is the largest collection of relevant descriptive words for coffee. They include the words for taste and aroma (Taster’s Flavor Wheel), coffee synonyms, 8 ways to describe coffee, and even words that rhyme with coffee. Plus lots of slang, nicknames, and coffee lingo.

words that describe coffee

Words to Describe Coffee

If you’re like most people, your coffee vocabulary is limited to hot, rich, strong, bitter, and expensive. There’s nothing wrong with that, it served me well for many years too.

But when I started to learn about coffee, I wanted a way to describe the flavors and variety I was experiencing.

In this post, I’ll cover how to describe coffee. Including primary factors affecting flavor and aroma, coffee synonyms, 169 professional terms of coffee lingo, and 31 adjectives to describe coffee taste and aroma.

By the end of this post, you’ll be equipped to accurately describe any cup of coffee you taste. Why not bookmark this page to reference on your next visit to a cafe? 

Okay, let’s get started!

8 Primary Ways to Describe Coffee

Typically, coffee flavor is described in these eight categories.

  1. Acidity: Describes the acidity (liveliness and sharpness) of brewed coffee.
  2. Aftertaste: The remaining flavor in the mouth once coffee is swallowed.
  3. Aroma: This is the smell of brewed coffee. See more below – we include 63 words used to describe coffee aroma.
  4. Body: This is the actual feel of the brewed coffee in the mouth.
  5. Flavor: Describes the characteristics of taste. Below we share 28 words to describe coffee flavor.
  6. Fragrance: This differs from aroma in that fragrance describes the smell of the ground coffee before brewing.
  7. Region: The country and area where the beans were grown. Terroir (the soil and environment) directly affects coffee flavor characteristics.
  8. Roast: There are five types of roasts. They include white, light, medium, medium-dark, and dark. And they can be observed by visual, gustatory, and olfactory means. Learn more about different coffee roasts.

Some other words to describe coffee: bright, sharp, mellow, dry.

33 Coffee Synonyms

Looking for other ways to say coffee without saying coffee? Here’s our set of coffee nicknames and slang.

  1. caffeine
  2. cappuccino
  3. java
  4. espresso
  5. brew
  6. decaf
  7. Starbucks
  8. double-double
  9. javy
  10. breakfast of champions
  11. timmies
  12. starbs
  13. robot fuel
  14. brain juice
  15. liquid intelligence
  16. mud
  17. perk
  18. decoction
  19. black juice
  20. demitasse
  21. ink
  22. jamocha
  23. joe
  24. bean brew
  25. burnt umber
  26. mocha
  27. battery acid
  28. café
  29. café au lait
  30. café noir
  31. forty weight
  32. hot stuff
  33. varnish remover

There are some fun nicknames there. Which was your favorite? I like java and brain juice.

Now let’s take a look at some words to describe the flavor of coffee.

coffee synonyms

169 Words to Describe Coffee (Coffee Flavor Wheel)

The following list was produced by SCA. See more here. And here’s how to use the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel.

Here is the basic graphic showing the complexity of coffee flavor. They sell posters and charts of the wheel that you can put up in your cafe (or kitchen) to help you learn to describe your cup of coffee.

coffee tasters flavor wheel sca
Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel by Specialty Coffee Association.

Thanks to the coffee wheel, you can now describe coffee better than just “strong“.

For example, here are a couple of possibilities:

  • Fruity with notes of lemon and blackberry
  • Carmelly with notes of roasted almond and maple syrup
  • Chocolaty aroma with notes of Vanilla-like Swiss, and dark chocolate

Doesn’t that sound better?

But as you’ll notice, not all descriptive coffee words make it sound delicious. There are actually more negative flavor and aroma words than positive ones.

You’ll find adjectives describing coffee like raw potato, barny, concrete, skunky, and soapy. Kind of a turn-off, right?

Imagine picking up a bag of coffee with these descriptions:

  • Smoky aroma with notes of tarry and pipe tobacco.
  • Bitter flavor with notes of caustic creosol.
  • Woody with notes of wet cardboard.

Probably a deal-breaker at the coffee shop, right?

These descriptive terms give us some insight into where coffee critics find their harsh vocabulary for sub-par coffee.

Okay, now let’s move on to the full list of coffee descriptors.

28 Taste Adjectives of Coffee

There are four primary words to describe the taste of coffee:

  1. sour
  2. sweet
  3. salt
  4. bitter

And these can be divided into the following:

Sour Taste (6)

  • Soury
    • Acrid
    • Hard
  • Winey
    • Tart
    • Tangy

Sweet Taste (6)

  • Acidy
    • Piquant
    • Nippy
  • Mellow
    • Mild
    • Delicate

Salt Taste (6)

  • Bland
    • Soft
    • Neutral
  • Sharp
    • Rough
    • Astringent

Bitter Taste (6)

  • Harsh
    • Alkaline
    • Caustic
  • Pungent
    • Phenolic
    • Creosol
words describe coffee flavor

63 Words to Describe Coffee Aromas

Enzymatic Aromas (21)

  • Flowery (7)
    • Floral
      • Coffee Blossom
      • Tea Rose
    • Fragrant
      • Cardamon Caraway
      • Coriander Seeds
  • Fruity (7)
    • Citrus
      • Lemon
      • Apple
    • Berry-like
      • Apricot
      • Blackberry
  • Herby (7)
    • Alliaceous
      • Onion
      • Garlic
    • Leguminous
      • Cucumber
      • Garden Peas

Sugar Browning (21)

  • Nutty (7)
    • Nut-like
      • Roasted Peanuts
      • Walnuts
    • Malt-like
      • Basmati Rice
      • Toast
  • Caramelly (7)
    • Candy-like
      • Roasted Hazelnut
      • Roasted Almond
    • Syrup-like
      • Honey
      • Maple Syrup
  • Chocolaty (7)
    • Chocolate-like
      • Bakers
      • Dark Chocolate
    • Vanilla-like
      • Swiss
      • Butter

Dry Distillation (21)

  • Resinous (7)
    • Turpeny
      • Piney
      • Black Currant-like
    • Medicinal
      • Camphoric
      • Cineolic
  • Spicy (7)
    • Warming
      • Cedar
      • Pepper
    • Pungent
      • Clove
      • Thyme
  • Carbony (7)
    • Smoky
      • Tarry
      • Pipe Tobacco
    • Ashy
      • Burnt
      • Charred

78 Descriptive Words Affecting Coffee Flavor

External Changes (13)

Fats Absorbing Odors

  • Earthy
    • Fresh Earth
    • Wet Soil
    • Humus
  • Groundy
    • Mushroom
    • Raw Potato
    • Erpsig
  • Dirty
    • Dusty
    • Grady
    • Barny

External Changes / Aroma Taints (13)

Fats Absorbing Tastes

  • Musty
    • Concrete
    • Mildewy
    • Mulch-like
  • Moldy
    • Yeasty
    • Starchy
    • Cappy
  • Baggy
    • Carvocrol
    • Fatty
    • Mineral Oil

Aroma Taints (13)

Improper Roasting

  • Tipped
    • Cereal-like
    • Biscuity
    • Skunky
  • Scorched
    • Cooked
    • Charred
    • Empyreumatic
  • Baked
    • Bakey
    • Flat
    • Dull

Internal Changes (13)

Fats Changing Chemically

  • Sweaty
    • Butyric Acid
    • Soapy
    • Lactic
  • Hidy
    • Tallowy
    • Leather-like
    • Wet wool
  • Horsey
    • Hircine
    • Cooked Beef
    • Gamey

Internal Changes / Taste Faults (13)

Acids Changing Chemically

  • Fermented
    • Coffee Pulp
    • Acerbic
    • Leesy
  • Rioy
    • Iodine
    • Carbolic
    • Acrid
  • Rubbery
    • Butyl Phenol
    • Kerosene
    • Ethanol

Taste Faults (13)

Loss of Organic Material

  • Grassy
    • Green
    • Hay
    • Strawy
  • Aged
    • Full
    • Rounded
    • Smooth
  • Woody
    • Wet Paper
    • Wet Cardboard
    • Filter Pad
words for coffee

31 Coffee Taste and Aroma Adjectives

Feeling overwhelmed with the complexity of the options above? Don’t worry. They are for professional coffee tasters. And it takes time to not only remember them but also apply them correctly to a coffee flavor.

Here are some great coffee adjectives to help you describe your next cup of coffee.

4 Taste Descriptors of Coffee

  1. Sour
  2. Sweet
  3. Salt
  4. Bitter

27 Aroma Descriptors of Coffee

  1. Flowery
  2. Fruity
  3. Herby
  4. Nutty
  5. Caramelly
  6. Chocolaty
  7. Resinous
  8. Spicy
  9. Carbony
  10. Earthy
  11. Groundy
  12. Dirty
  13. Musty
  14. Mouldy
  15. Baggy
  16. Tipped
  17. Scorched
  18. Baked
  19. Sweaty
  20. Hidy
  21. Horsey
  22. Fermented
  23. Rioy
  24. Rubbery
  25. Grassy
  26. Aged
  27. Woody
other names for coffee

Rhyming with Coffee

And just for fun, here are some words that rhyme (and almost rhyme) with coffee.

Words that Rhyme with Coffee

  • Coffey, Coffie, Rafi, Gaddafi. Lots of surnames rhyme well with coffee.
  • off he, toffee, toffy, Amalfi (region in Italy)

Words that Almost Rhyme with Coffee

aussie, awfully, bobby, body, bonnie, bossy, choppy, cocky, copy, flossy, foggy, frosty, frothy, gauzy, glossy, groggy, haughty, hobby, hockey, holly, hottie, jockey, jolly, lobby, lofty, lossy, molly, mommy, mossy, naughty, offer, poppy, posse, potty, quasi, rocky, salty, saucy, sloppy, softly, softy, soggy, squashy, story, washy, biscotti, karate, mojave, kamikaze, paparazzi.

More reading: How many cups of coffee in a pound?

coffee adjectives

Planning a trip? Here’s how to order coffee in Spanish and Italian.

Your Turn

Have a word to add? I would love to hear how you describe coffee. Join me below!


Tuesday 27th of July 2021

I like my filter coffee nippy and mellow with a nutty kick, lol!