The Kombucha Flavor Map

In the Fall 2021 edition of SYMBIOSIS Magazine, KBI introduced a beautifully designed, comprehensive Kombucha Flavor Flower.

Copies are available for purchase.

Wheels on Fire

This was the first flavor wheel for kombucha. Color-coded, adjective-rich flavor wheel circles convey the sensory qualities of many products, from wine, coffee, and beer to spices, chocolate, and cigars.

Flavor wheels enable consumers to tag a particular sample with a descriptive message. The Society of Sensory Professionals (yes, there is such an organization!) traces the history of flavor profiles back to the 1940s

The Flavor Profile method is one of a group of methods used to describe sensory characteristics and is thought of as the “mother” of many other descriptive methods. It was originally developed by scientists at Arthur D. Little in the late 1940’s and has been used extensively to describe the flavor of foods. In essence the flavor profile describes flavor in terms of 5 major components: character notes or attributes, intensities of those attributes, the order of appearance of the attributes, aftertaste, and amplitude (a complex phenomenon defined as the overall impression of the blendedness of the analyzable and nonanalyzable flavor components).

The first ever flavor wheel — for beer — appeared in the late 1970s, and wheels became popular with the development of the Wine Aroma Wheel in the mid-1980s.

All these wheels aim to provide a common framework to communicate with fellow drinkers.

Visual Information

Despite the ubiquity of the wheel, there are disadvantages. Edgar Chambers, a scientist at Kansas State University, has proposed replacing or supplementing the wheel with a tree to present sensory information in a more open-ended way, with space for more beverage information.

Daily Coffee News shared an example:

The Tree Diagram shows relationships among attributes in a base, branch, and stem arrangement. The base of the tree represents the fundamental attributes associated with all samples, the major branches represent major categories of attributes, and smaller branches and stems represent progressively smaller categories and sometimes characteristics that are less often noted in coffee samples.

Flavor Maps

Offering an alternative to the flavor wheels, British-American scientist Dr. Gary Spedding, the founder of Kentucky-based Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services (BDAS), created Flavor Maps. While not as straightforward as a wheel, they have the advantage of not needing to be turned upside down to read (!) and have more room for information.

Gary is a Biochemist, Analytical Chemist, and Sensory Specialist who earned his doctorate from Leicester University in the UK, where I did my Bachelor’s in Sociology. After working at the legendary Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, Gary founded BDAS in 2002. BDAS analyzes and tests a wide range of beverages: beer, wine, bourbon, gin, and more. He has written about the history of flavor wheels for the magazine Artisan Spirit.

His flavor maps for several alcoholic beverages present information spatially.

Other beverage flavor maps include those from Draughtlab.

The Kombucha Flavor Map

Gary has informally tested the alcohol content of commercially available kombucha and following an initial phone call to reminisce about our alma mater, volunteered to create a map for kombucha. This is an initial attempt to better understand and describe the complexity of kombucha flavor profiles. It is a work in progress which I helped to refine. Comments and suggested improvements are welcome.

Click to download a FREE 10MB PDF version.

This map builds on the groundbreaking KBI Flower, with added commentary, scientific terms, and images. It fundamentally differs from wheels by presenting flavor profiles of related items in groups, radiating from the center, with elements close to each other of a similar color, forming a single unit.

It is hoped that this map will interest commercial brands, home brewers, and consumers.

Please leave feedback in the comments below, or email

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1 Response

  1. the_editor says:

    Print the PDF and your local copy shop can make you a poster like this, suitable for your brewery or taproom!

    Kombucha Flavor Map poster

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