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Here's a clever new coffee concept that helps you understand what flavors are in your morning brew.

Clara Olshansky
October 19, 2017

A box of 24 flavored capsules is about to define the way we think about coffee. The capsules were created by UK company FlavorActiV to offer flavor references for coffee companies around the world.

Each capsule serves as a reference for a different flavor you might find in your coffee, like almond or vanillin. The capsules are made to complement the World Coffee Research (WCR) Sensory Lexicon, a nonprofit initiative to create a shared, global language that we can use to talk about the flavors and aromas of coffee. Basically, anyone can order the capsules, and proceeds will go to funding more WCR research.

According to Daily Coffee News, the flavors are "Sour, Bitter, Salty, Apple, Grape, Coconut, Pineapple, Acetic acid, Butyric acid, Isovaleric acid, Fermented, Peapod, Fresh, Papery, Musty/Earthy, Musty/Dusty, Moldy/Damp, Phenolic, Petroleum, Brown Spice, Almond, Vanillin, Floral, and Jasmine." Some of the flavors—sour, bitter, and salty, for example—make intuitive sense, but it takes some high level coffee tasting to describe your Americano as papery or tasting like Isovaleric acid.

Some flavor references had already existed in the United States, but the real advantage of the FlavorActiV capsules is that they'll be globally available, so coffee vendors oceans away from each other can talk about coffee with a shared reference point.

The flavors complement the flavors shown on the WCR's Flavor Wheel, though they're not identical. The flavor wheel was developed by using a "sensory panel" of coffee experts to sample and describe coffee from around the world. These descriptions were codified into the most recent Sensory Lexicon using seventy-two experts to sort the flavors into different categories.

You can learn more about the capsules from FlavorActiV's site. FlavorActiv has also developed capsules to create beer flavor references for home brewers, soft drink flavor standards, wine flavor standards, and even water flavor standards.

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