Glossary of Coffee Terms & Definitions

Glossary of Coffee Terms And Condition

To become a coffee connoisseur, you must understand the language we use to truly understand what's going on. I've compiled a list of common (and not-so-common) terminologies and definitions that'll help you on your way.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | V | W


A

Acidity, Acidy, Acid

Usually, the pleasant tartness of a fine coffee. Acidity, along with flavor, aroma, and body, is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters in cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee. When not used to describe cup characteristics, the term acidity may refer to pH, or literal acidity, or to certain constituents present in coffee that ostensibly produce indigestion or nervousness in some individuals.

AeroPress

A device for brewing coffee. It was invented in 2005 by Aerobie president Alan Adler. Coffee is steeped for 10–50 seconds (depending on grind and preferred strength) and then forced through a filter by pressing the plunger through the tube.

Affogato

An Italian dessert drowning in espresso. Affogatos can be made by covering ice cream with strong coffee. A typical Italian Affogato is a scoop of vanilla gelato covered with a shot of espresso and served immediately. Affogatos should not have too much melted ice cream or gelato, and should be bitter-sweet with a combination of textures. Popular Affogatos include Vanilla Affogato, Mocha Affogato, and Peppermint Affogato.

Alajuela

Market name for one of the better coffees of Costa Rica.

Altura

“Heights” in Spanish; describes Mexico coffee that has been high- or mountain-grown.

American Roast

Coffee roasted to traditional American taste: medium brown.

Americano

Espresso diluted with hot water to roughly the consistency of drip coffee. Similar to drip, but with more complexity, and the benefits of the espresso’s crema.

Arabica, Coffea Arabica

The earliest cultivated species of coffee tree and still the most widely grown. Arabica produces approximately 70% of the world’s coffee, and is dramatically superior in cup quality to the other principal commercial coffee species, Coffea canephora or Robusta . All fine, specialty, and fancy coffees come from Coffea arabica trees.

Aroma

The fragrance produced by hot, freshly brewed coffee. Aroma, along with flavor, acidity, and body, is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters in cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee.

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B

Balance

Tasting term applied to coffees for which no single characteristic overwhelms others, but that display sufficient complexity to be interesting.

Barista

Italian term for a skillful and experienced individual who makes coffee drinks as a profession.

Batch Roaster

A machine which roasts a given quantity at one time. It does not continually roast beans. There is an identifiable start and end time to the roasters capabilities.

Beverage

A drink, especially one that includes liquid other than water (duh…)

Bitter

A characteristic of over-extracted brews (too little coffee at too fine a grind) as well as over-roasted coffees, and those with various taste defects; it is a harsh, unpleasant tasted detected towards the back of the tongue. Dark roasts are intentionally bitter.

Blade Grinder

A blade grinder is usually a small kitchen top machine that uses a propeller-like blade to grind coffee.

Bland

The pale flavour often found in low grown robusta coffees. Also caused by under extraction (too little coffee or too coarse a grind).

Blended Coffee

Blended coffee mixture of two or more single-origin coffee.

Body

The sensation of heaviness, richness, or thickness and associated texture when one tastes coffee. Body, along with flavor, acidity, and aroma, is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee.

Bouquet

The fragrance, aroma, nose and aftertaste of brewed coffee.

Brazil

The world's largest and most complicated coffee regions.

Brewing

Any method of making a coffee beverage from fresh water and roasted coffee grounds.

Brown Roast

See 'American Roast'

Burr Grinder, Burr Mill

Coffee grinder with two shredding discs or burrs that can be adjusted for maximum effectiveness.

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C

Caffeine

The drug contained in coffee and tea. This is the stuff that makes coffee so addictive. It stimulates the central nervous system and, in the right amounts, causes adrenaline to be released and can enhance heart function. It helps with intellect, defends the body, and can even enhance sex! See the caffeine section of Coffee World for more information.

Cappa, Cappu

Short for “cappuccino”.

Cappuccino

An espresso drink comprised of one serving of espresso topped with hot milk and froth.

Chai

A spiced Indian tea beverage with varying ingredients, but usually including ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, sugar, milk, and, of course, Tea. There are many variations of this list of ingredients, but most will contain at least this, if not anise or fennel, or maybe even black peppercorns. Pronounced “CHigh”

Cherry, Coffee Cherry

Common term for the fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry contains two regular coffee beans, or one peaberry.

Clean

Coffee cupping or tasting term describing a coffee sample that is free from flavor defects.

Coffea Canephora

See 'Robusta'

Cold-Brew Method

Brewing method in which ground coffee is soaked in a proportionally small amount of cold water for 10 to 20 hours. The grounds are strained out and the resulting concentrated coffee is stored and mixed with hot water as needed. The cold water method produces a low-acid, light-bodied cup that some find pleasingly delicate, and others find bland.

Commercial Coffee

Typically packaged pre-ground (pre-brewed in the case of instant or soluble) coffees sold by brand name.

Complexity

A tasting term describing coffees whose taste sensations shift and layer pleasurably, and give the impression of depth and resonance.

Crema

The tan-colored foam that forms on top of an espresso shot, as a result of the brewing process. The crema is composed of minuscule air bubbles composed of espresso film and forms a "cap" that protects the espresso proper from being exposed to the air.

Cuppa

Short for “cup-of-coffee”.

Cupping

A term used by coffee professionals to describe the activity of sipping brewed coffees to assess their qualities.

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D

Dark Roast

Vague term; may describe any roast of coffee darker than the traditional American norm.

Decaf, Decaffeination

Coffee with 97% or more of its naturally occurring caffeine removed is classified as decaffeinated.

Defects, Flavor Defects

Unpleasant flavor charactersitics caused by problems throughout production. This usually happens due to micro-organism invasion and excessive exposure to moisture.

Doppio, Double

Italian for double, a "Doppio" is two full shots (approx 3 ounces) of espresso.

Dose

The amount of coffee used in a serving. One shot (1.5 ounces) of espresso has about two tablespoons of coffee (about 1/4 ounces). For best flavor, one shot of espresso, or two tablespoons of coffee, should be used to make 6 ounce of coffee drink. Likewise, a 12 ounce coffee drink will taste best with two shots of espresso.

Doser

A spring-loaded device on specialized espresso grinders that dispenses single servings of ground coffee.

Drip Brew Coffee Method

Brewed coffee made from water heated in the coffee maker and dripped through ground coffee in a filter basket directly into the cup or pot. The first automatic drip-brew coffeemaker for home use, Mr Coffee, was introduced in 1972. Many newer drip coffee machines, called "Grind and Brew" coffee makers, both grind and brew the coffee and can be set to automatically grind and brew at a specified time. Filter-drip coffee makers are the most popular type of home coffee brewers used today.  

Dry-Processed Coffee, Dry Method Coffee, Natural Coffee

Coffee processed by removing the husk or fruit after the coffee fruit has been dried. When only ripe fruit is utilized and the drying is done carefully dry-processed coffee can be complex, fruity, and deeply-dimensioned. When the picking and drying are performed carelessly, as is the case with cheaper dry-processed coffees, the result is off-tasting, harsh coffee. The best and most celebrated dry-processed coffees are Yemen coffees, the Harrar coffees of Ethiopia, and the finest traditional Brazil coffees.

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E

Espresso

A ~1oz (single) or ~2oz (double) beverage created by a high pressure extraction at ~9bar pressure from ~8 (single) or ~15 grams (double) of fine, evenly ground coffee, evenly distributed and compacted into what is known as a puck. The Espresso has three major parts to its anatomy. The Crema, the Body, and the Heart. If your coffee house’s espresso lacks Crema, it’s time to find a new shop.

Espresso

A one-ounce shot of intense, rich black coffee made and served at once. A pump-driven machine forces hot water through fine grounds at around nine atmospheres of pressure. Comes from the Latin word Expresere which means "to press out".

Espresso Machine

An espresso machine forces hot water at 9 to 10 bars of pressure through very finely ground coffee beans. The high pressure hot water in an espresso machine is necessary to overcome the extra surface tension produced by the large surface area of very finely ground coffee. An espresso machine makes coffee that has crema, a reddish brown foam of coffee oils formed as the espresso is forced through a portafilter. Crema is an important part of the flavor, beauty, and aftertaste or espresso coffee drinks. Because of the crema production, and quick extraction process, espresso machines make coffee with more flavor and less caffeine compared to filter-drip machines.

Estate

A coffee estate is a coffee plantation. Estate coffees typically sell at a premium due to better consistency and higher quality control compared to coffees collected from many small farms.

Ethiopia

The origin of coffee.

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F

Fair Trade Coffee

Coffee that has been purchased from farmers (usually peasant farmers) at a “fair” price as defined by international agencies. The extra amount producers earn from fair trade coffee is fairly modest and in some cases, creates more social problems than resolving them..

Fermentation

Fermentation in coffee refers to the microbial reaction of yeasts and bacteria breaking down the sugars in mucilage. This process produces acids which will later add complexity and depth to a coffee. The most common method is known as wet processing, where beans are pulped from their skin and fermented in cement tanks. The beans are then rinsed with running water and the remaining mucilage is dried.

Filter Method, Filter-Drip Method

Technically, any brewing method in which water filters through a bed of ground coffee. In popular usage, describes drip method brewers utilizing a paper filter to separate grounds from brewed coffee.

First Crack

The first of two distinctly different periods of cracking sounds during a roast, when the coffee beans are giving off their own heat and expanding suddenly. "first crack" begins at bean probe temperatures around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, making a sound similar to popcorn, and then diminishes, and sometimes stops momentarily, before the start of "second crack". "Second crack" begins at bean probe temperatures around 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The darkest of palatable roasts (Dark French) is attained at the peak of "second crack". If the roast is allowed to continue to completion of "second crack", the coffee will be burnt and may catch fire.

Flat White

Usually ~6oz. In all. Similar to a cappuccino, but with latte proportions of foam.

Flavor

In cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee, flavor describes the total impression of Aroma, Acidity, and Body.

Floaters

A coffee estate is a coffee plantation. Estate coffees typically sell at a premium due to better consistency and higher quality control compared to coffees collected from many small farms.

Frappe, Frappuccino

Common terminology for an iced, blended beverage. Often containing coffee. Starbucks has a well-known rendition of their own known as a Frappuccino Blended Coffee (or Frappuccino Blended Crème, depending on the recipe).

French Press

The French Press, or Cafetiere (French for "coffee pot"), was invented in France in the mid 1800s. Despite the name, most coffee in France is brewed by the drip method. To use a French Press, remove the filter-plunger top and place coarsely ground coffee into the bottom of the press. Using a fine grind with a French Press will result in coffee that's gritty and bitter. After letting the coffee steep for several minutes, serve immediately, or place into a different container to keep hot. Since the coffee is fully immersed in the French Press, the level of extraction is high. Leaving coffee in the press for more than 5 minutes will over extract the grounds and the coffee will become bitter. A French Press is also called a "plunger pot".

Frothing Milk

The process of making froth, or velvety hot foam, from milk using the steam wand of an espresso machine. A Barista skillfully uses the steam wand to draw air into the milk until the mixture reaches 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the foam becomes thick and velvety.

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G

Green Coffee Beans, Green Beans

Unroasted coffee beans.

Grind

The particle size of ground coffee. The recommended grind depends on brewing method. The grind should be adjusted to create the desired amount of coffee extraction. The finer the grind, the quicker coffee can be extracted. Too much coffee extraction will remove unwanted chemicals and make the coffee taste bitter, while too little extraction will cause the coffee to taste flat and watery. Finely ground coffee has more surface area than coarsely ground coffee which allows for quick extraction, but the increased surface tension will not allow water to pass through the grounds by gravity. Espresso machines force hot water through very finely ground coffee at eight to ten times atmospheric pressure (8 to 10 Bars) to quickly make coffee that is neither under-extracted or over-extracted. Experience has found that with an espresso machine, optimum flavor is achieved by adjusting the grind so that a 1.5 ounce shot glass fills in about 25 seconds. A medium grind is used for filter-drip coffee machines and a course grind is used for brewing with a French Press. The finest of all grinds is the powdery Turkish Grind, used to make Turkish Coffee.

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H

Hard Beans

Coffee grown at relatively high altitudes (4,000 - 4,500 feet). Beans grown at these high altitudes mature more slowly and are harder and denser than other beans. They are therefore more desirable than others.

Hulling

Removing the parchment, or hull, that surrounds the coffee beans in a coffee cherry.

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I

Iced Coffee

Latte served cold with ice. To make an Iced Latte, place ice in glass, add milk, then pour espresso and mix over the ice.  Try these iced coffee recipes.

Irish Coffee

Caffe Mocha served cold with ice. To make an Iced Mocha, add chocolate to bottom of glass, add espresso and mix well, then add milk until the glass is two thirds full and mix well. Add ice last, or pour into and ice filled glass, and cover with whipped cream if desired.

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J

Jamaica Blue Mountain

Celebrated single-origin coffee from above 3,000 feet elevation in the Blue Mountain District of Jamaica. Can be exceptional: rich, complex, bouillon-like. More often a rather ordinary balanced, low-toned Caribbean coffee.

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K

Kopi Luwak

Coffee from Sumatra, Indonesia, distinguished not by origin, but by the uniquely intimate way it is processed. A mammal called a luwak, or civet, eats ripe coffee cherries, digests the fruit, and excretes the seeds, after which the seeds or beans are gathered from its dry droppings. Kopi luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world owing to obvious limitations on its production. Authorities differ on how much of the kopi luwak that arrives at coffee dealers is authentic and how much is ordinary coffee that has been “treated” in luwak manure, but samples certainly look authentic, smell authentic, and are pleasantly earthy, sweet and full in the cup.

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L

Latte

A serving of espresso combined with about three times as much hot milk topped with froth.

Latte Art

Creative designs made on the surface of an espresso drink. Latte art may be made by skillfully pouring milk through espresso, or with the aid of toothpicks, chocolate syrup, or sprinkles.

Latte Macchiato

A latte made by pouring the espresso in last, on top of the milk and foam.

Light Roast

Coffee brought to a degree of roast that's lighter than the traditional American norm, and grainlike in taste, with a sharp, almost sour acidity.

Luwak

See 'Kopi Luwak'

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M

Macchiato

Macchiato is an Italian word meaning “to mark” or “to stain”. A Macchiato is a single or double shot of espresso, marked with a bit of foam or frothed milk, usually with close to equal portions espresso and foam or frothed milk.

Machine Drying

Coffee must be dried, either directly after picking (in the dry method) or after fruit removal (in the wet method). Sun drying is often replaced or supplemented by drying with machines, either in large, rotating drums or in cascading silos. Machine drying can be superior or inferior to sun drying in terms of promoting cup quality, depending on weather conditions, drying temperature, and other factors.

Medium Roast, Medium-High Roast

Also known as American Roast. Coffee roasted to traditional American taste: medium brown.

Middle Eastern Coffee

See 'Turkish Coffee'

Mocha

Named for the drink made popular by Portuguese traders at the port of Mocha, it’s a drink made with chocolate, espresso, steamed (sometimes frothed) milk, and topped with whipped cream.

Moka Pot, Stove-Top Espresso Maker

A method similar to espresso machines in that they brew under pressure and the resulting brew shares some similarities, but in other respects differ.

Monsooned Coffee, Monsooned Malabar

Dry-processed single-origin coffee from south India deliberately exposed to monsoon winds in open warehouses, with the aim of increasing body and reducing acidity.

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N

Natural Coffee, Dry-Processed Coffee, Dry Method Coffee

Coffee processed by removing the husk or fruit after the coffee fruit has been dried. When only ripe fruit is utilized and the drying is done carefully dry-processed coffee can be complex, fruity, and deeply-dimensioned. When the picking and drying are performed carelessly, as is the case with cheaper dry-processed coffees, the result is off-tasting, harsh coffee. The best and most celebrated dry-processed coffees are Yemen coffees, the Harrar coffees of Ethiopia, and the finest traditional Brazil coffees.

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O

Organic Coffee, Certified Organic Coffee

Coffee that has been certified by a third-party agency as having been grown and processed without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or similar chemicals.

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P

Parchment Coffee

Describes wet-processed coffee shipped with the dried parchment skin covering the bean, which usually protects it from moisture and other forms of damage. The parchment is removed just before it's roasted.

Percolator

A type of pot used to brew coffee, which functions by means of percolation. This consists of the movement and filtering of fluids through porous materials.

Plunger Pot

See 'French Press'

Portafilter

The cupped handle on an espresso machine which holds the ground coffee during the brewing process.

Pour-Over Method, Melitta Process

One of the fastest and most efficient drip brew methods of brewing coffee, producing a cup somewhere between french press and auto-drip.

Pulping

Process of removing the outermost skin of the coffee cherry or fruit. See Wet-Processed Coffee.

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R

Roast

The process that transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products. This process produces the characteristic flavor of coffee by causing green coffee beans to change in taste.

Robusta

Currently the only significant competitor among cultivated coffee species to Coffea arabica. Robusta produces about 30% of the world’s coffee.

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S

Second Crack

The second of two distinctly different periods of cracking sounds during roasting when the coffee beans are giving off their own heat and expanding suddenly. The first crack begins at bean probe temperatures near 400 degrees Fahrenheit, making a sound similar to popcorn, and then diminishes, and sometimes stops momentarily, before start of the second crack. Second crack begins around 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by roaster bean probe. The darkest of palatable roasts (Dark French) is attained at the peak of Second Crack. If the roast is allowed to continue to completion of second crack, the coffee will be burnt and may catch fire.

Semi-Dry-Processed Coffee, Pulped Natural Coffee, Semi-Wet-Processed Coffee

Coffee prepared by removing the outer skin of the coffee fruit (a process called pulping) and drying the skinned coffee with the sticky mucilage and the inner skins (parchment and silverskin) still adhering to the bean. This processing method, situated between the dry method and the wet method, has no consensus name. It is one of three processing methods practiced in Brazil, and is used sporadically on a small scale by farmers in Sumatra and Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Shot

See 'Dose'

Single-Estate Coffee, Estate-Grown Coffee

Coffee produced by a single farm, single mill, or single group of farms, and marketed without mixture with other coffees. Many specialty coffees are now identified by estate name, rather than the less specific regional or market name.

Single-Origin Coffee, Straight Coffee

Single-origin coffee is where the beans are sourced from a single country, region, and crop.

Siphon Brewer

A method that uses less finely-ground beans. Water is put in coffee and left to drip. As the water is less hot (than the espresso method), it goes more slowly through the grounds and results in a milder taste.

Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)

An important and influential association of specialty coffee roasters, wholesalers, retailers, importers and growers headquartered in Long Beach, California.

Specialty Coffee, Speciality Coffee

Practice of selling coffees by country of origin, roast, flavoring, or special blend, rather than by brand or trademark. The term specialty coffee also suggests the trade and culture that has grown up around this merchandising practice.

Sun Drying

Drying coffee directly after picking (in the dry method) or after fruit removal (in the wet method) by exposing it to the heat of the sun by spreading and raking it in thin layers on drying racks or patios. A more traditional alternative to machine drying.

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T

Tamper

In espresso brewing, the small, pestle-like device with a round, flat end used to distribute and compress the ground coffee inside the filter basket.

Tone

The appearance or color of coffee.

Turkish Coffee

Coffee ground to a powder (extra-fine), usually sweetened, brought to a boil, and served ground and all.

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V

Vacuum-Filter Method

A brewing method that differs from other filter methods in that the brewing water is drawn through the ground coffee by means of a partial vacuum.

Valve Bag

Valve bags are air tight coffee bags with small one-way valves that allow gases escape but do not allow air into the bag. The valve bag was a significant development for the specialty coffee industry since it allowed coffee roasters to package freshly roasted coffee without first degassing the coffee beans. Shortly after roasting, coffee beans give off a tremendous amount of gas, which will expand sealed packages not equipped with a one-way valve. If packaged immediately in valve bag, freshly roasted coffee will produce enough gas to expel most of the oxygen from the bag, thereby allowing the beans to stay fresh much longer.

Vintage Coffee

Traditionally, coffee held in warehouses for several years, sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently. Such aging reduces acidity and increases body. Aged coffee has been held longer than either old crop coffee or mature coffee. Recently, some Indonesia coffee has been subject to a sort of accelerated aging involving deliberate exposure to moist air, much like India’s monsooned coffee.

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W

Washed Coffee

Coffee prepared by removing the skin and pulp from the bean while the coffee fruit is still moist. Most of the world’s great coffees are processed by the wet method, which generally intensifies acidity. In the traditional wet process, the coffee skins are removed (pulping), the skinned beans are allowed to sit in tanks where enzymes loosen the sticky fruit pulp or mucilage (fermentation), after which the loosened fruit is washed off the beans (washing). In the shortcut demucilage or aquapulp method, the pulp or mucilage is scrubbed from the beans by machine.

Wet-Processed Coffee, Wet Method Coffee

See 'Washed Coffee'

Whole-Bean Coffee

Coffee that has been roasted but not grounded yet.

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References

Terms and definitions in the glossary are adapted from the following resources:

- Barista Guide
- Cafe Barista
- Coffee Review
- Dark Matter Coffee
- The Coffee Wiki
- The Roast & Post Coffee Company
- Zecuppa Coffee

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