Sensory Evaluation Methodology

To improve something, you must be able to measure it, and an accurate, repeatable and statistically discriminatory sensory analysis measuring coffee quality is lacking in the coffee research community. Because World Coffee Research projects entail the evaluation of quality attributes for large volumes of varieties and genetic material to be used in variety development, World Coffee Research must determine  a better way to evaluate quality in order to increase it. By dialing in more specifically on objective points, such as volatile compounds, physical measurements, and using new technology adapted to sensory evaluation, we can deliver a more precise, efficient way of measuring quality that complements existing industry practices. In June of 2012, World Coffee Research engaged the Texas A&M University sensory laboratory to develop a plan, which included a partnership with the world-renowned sensory laboratory and staff located at Kansas State University.

In order to develop a set of procedures that can be used to screen a large number of coffee samples in coming years, industry partners will select Arabica coffee from different genetic stock and geographical locations and provide those to Kansas State University for sensory lexicon development. Initially, roasting and sampling protocols will be developed.  Secondly, the different coffees will be prepared and presented to an expert descriptive attribute sensory panel that have long term experience of lexicons across many product categories (e.g. green tea, cheese, various fruits, soy sauce, etc). This panel will use results from Phase I and their experience to begin identifying quality attributes for coffees. They will use resources from Aroma Trax System to identify flavor attributes, a reference for each attribute and an example of how to prepare references to show differences in each attribute for standardization of the lexicon.


  • Identified sensory experts at Texas A&M University and Kansas State University and formed a proposal development group
  • Held a sensory working session with sensory and scientific experts and Texas A&M University experts and held cupping sessions and working meetings to review sensory methodologies and discuss lexicon development
  • KSU and Texas A&M University sensory groups submitted pre-proposal in February 2013
  • Reviewed pre-proposal with Board of Directors and Technical Advisory committee
  • Submission of detailed proposal

In summary, the sensory project has been formulated and approved for launching next year.

Stay updated on World Coffee Research’s Coffee Cup Quality Programs by searching #CoffeeCupQuality at and following us at and @WCoffeeResearch

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