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The science of coffee

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Creating the best-tasting cup of coffee is a skill well sought after, and competed for. Every year, contestants join the World Barista Championship to create the best signature beverage, “a unique concoction of espresso and any non-coffee ingredients except for alcohol.”

What does coffee taste like?

Describing the taste of coffee can get tricky, there are so many flavors to take into account! Luckily, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) created a standard way to talk about coffee flavor in 1995. Now, the coffee industry and coffee enthusiasts use a standard coffee taster flavor wheel to describe coffee. This wheel groups together the different tastes (perceived by drinking coffee) and aromas (perceived by smelling coffee) that can be used to describe a flavor (the combination of taste and aroma).

Using science to make the perfect cup of coffee

Chemist Christopher H. Hendon from the University of Oregon uses science to take on the challenge. In 2019, his team recreated a Santeny Pinot Noir (using a reduction was not allowed because the rules stipulate “no alcohol”) to their espresso to create a unique taste.

From black grapes, they extracted the typical Pinot Noir grape flavors. With a cranberry extraction, they added tannin, fruity acids, and tart flavors to the mix. Pomegranate also added to the fruitiness, and added some natural sugars to their coffee. Finally, they added a walnut wash to add some nuttiness and tannins.

Their final coffee won Best Signature Beverage, showing that chemistry and coffee go together really well!

The science of decaffeination

At Decafino, we came together as a team of scientists and engineers to develop a new, bold way of decaffeination using cutting edge knowledge of biotechnology and chemical engineering. With this approach, we created the Decaf pouch, a first-of-its-kind decaffeination

technology that enables anyone to decaffeinate their own cup of coffee.



Chistopher H. Hendon, Coffee chemistry: Not your average joe, Science 365 (6453) page 553, 2019. DOI: 10.1126/science.aay6814

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