Coffee Glossary

Acidity - This term has nothing to do with the bitterness or acid taste/feel from too much stomach acid. It is an old cupping term that refers to the degree of flavor in a cup. For example, a coffee you would consider “flat” would be one with a low acidity score. I came up with a different, hopefully more descriptive term a few years ago: see Brightness

Aeropress - A coffee brewing device that steeps coffee grounds which are then pressed through a filter with a plunger through a tube.

Affogato - An Italian inspired coffee drink where espresso is poured over gelato. In Italian, “affogato” means drowned.

Aged Coffee - Coffee beans that have been deliberarely held in storage, which decrease the coffee’s acidity and increase’s its body.

Arabica - A type of cultivated coffee tree in which nearly 70% of world’s coffee.

Aroma - Smell…that’s aroma. Wake up and “aroma” the coffee? Pretty simple, huh? Nothing beats the aroma of freshly ground coffee, and that aroma, being undiluted, can actually tell us more about the coffee than the aroma in the cup itself. It is surely a prelude to what you will taste. Aroma in the cup actually has more to do with the roast than the coffee itself. It can be very light in lighter roasts, growing to its peak at city or full-city roasts, then gradually declining as the roast gets darker and darker and darker - can you recognize the aroma of charcoal?

Balance - Good acidity/brightness, but not too overpowering; full-bodied, but not too heavy; chocolaty, but not like a candy bar; fruity, but doesn’t count as a major food group on your diet - that’s the epitome of ideal balance: a 5 on our scale. As one or more of these factors dominate the cup, the rating drops. Does it matter? That’s one of the wonderful, completely subjective things about coffee - it’s all up to you!

Batch Brew - The practice of making brewing multiple cups of coffee at the same time. This ensures consistency in taste.

Bean Belt - The equatorial region across the world that is characterized by ideal coffee growing conditions.

Body - Body is NOT that thing that keeps your hat from resting on your shoes. Body IS that sensation of fullness or heaviness in your mouth when you take a mouthful of coffee - please let it cool a bit first: there is no coffee term for burnt body. As with all coffee terms, it is both relative and subjective. Body tends to increase in lighter roasts (up to full city) and decreases as the roast gets dark and oily. Additionally, slower roasting, as in a drum roaster, tends to increase body.

Bourbon - A coffee variety developed in the 1800s. It stemmed from a natural mutation of typica that occurred when it was planted on the island of Bourbon to its eventual export to Brazil.

Brew Ratio - The relational balance between coffee grounds and water in a variety of brewing processes. Different brewing methods often have different brew ratios.

Brightness - Brightness is a term I came up with a few years ago to use instead of “acidity”, which had been around for eons in the coffee industry, but known only to a relatively few people. As the home roasting industry grew, more and more people became confused by the term, so I thought of “brightness” as being more easily understood.

Caffeine - A naturally occurring stimulant found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. Most known for improving mental focus and alertness.

Cappuccino - An Italian coffee drink that is made from espresso, steamed milk, and foam (also called crema).

Caramelization - The part of the roasting process in which the sugars present in green coffee beans begin to breakdown, in turn releasing the bean’s inherent aromatics.

Catimor - A coffee varietal combining a timor and caturra that was developed in Portugal in 1959.

Catuai - A coffee varietal combing a caturra and mundo novo in 1950s Brazil.

Caturra - A further mutation of the Bourbon variety discovered in Brazil in 1937. This coffee varietal has a high yield and is more disease resistant than other varietals.

CENICAFE - The Columbian coffee organization dedicated to promoting research to aid the country’s coffee growers and farmers.

Chaff - Chaff is the thin, paper-like, tannish-brown substance that flies off (if you are using an air roaster) your coffee beans as they expand during the roast cycle. Prior to roasting, it is known as silverskin, which is a protective coating left on the beans after processing. For clarification, it is not a coating added in processing, it is a natural part of the bean itself.

Chemex - An hourglass-like pour-over coffee brewer that was invented in 1941 by German chemist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm.

Chlorogenic Acids - A group of specific acids which gives coffee its perceived acidity.

Coffee Grading - The process of judging the quality of green coffee.

Coffee Leaf Rust - A highly destructive fungal plant disease that causes characteristic yellow and orange spots on coffee leaves.

Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel - Published in 1995 by the Specialty Coffee Association, the Flavor Wheel groups coffee flavors based on sensory science and has been used by coffee cuppers since to describe coffee.

Cold Brew - A brewing method in which coffee grounds are steeped in cold water over a long period of time. This brewing method is known to create a smoother and less acidic coffee.

Complexity - As the descriptor implies, this is a complex term akin to the meaning of life in general. Can a coffee be chocolaty, fruity and flowery all at the same time? Can buttery and earthy co-exist in the same cup? The more divergent, subtle or distinct, flavors you can discern from a single coffee, the higher the complexity rating. On the other end of the spectrum, when was the last time you had instant coffee?

Cortado - A shot of espresso served with an equal serving of unfroathed warm milk.

Crema - The foam that rests atop a shot of espresso.

Cupping - The process of judging the quality of coffee. It is a highly structured process involving both dry and wet grounds.

Elevation - The elevation above sea level where the coffee grows. This is typically expressed in meters, as most coffee-growing countries use the metric system.

Dark Roast - Coffee beans that have been roasted to a medium-dark color or beyond. Roasting to this point allows the flavors to be a bit muted and oils to appear across the beans surface.

Decaffeinated - Coffee that has had it’s caffeine removed by up to 97% is called decaffeinated.

Degassing - A natural process which results from recently roasted coffee in which carbon dioxide gas is released.

Direct Trade - While no true definition exists, the concept is that of a direct commercial relationship between one buyer and one farmer to gain a fair market price.

Drip Method - A brewing method that allows hot water to “drip through” a bed of coffee grounds.

Dry Processing - A type of coffee processing that is done by removing the husk of the coffee fruit after it has dried. Yemeni coffee beans are often dried in this manner.

Drum Roaster - A coffee roaster that has a horizontal heating drum. The beans are kept in motion as the drum turns and the beans are roasted.

Espresso - A brewing method that utilizes forced pressure and hot water through a compressed bed of finely ground coffee

Extraction - Using water that measures between 195-205 ° F to draw flavor from the coffee grounds. Over and under extracted coffee can result in bitter or weak flavors, respectively.

FT - Fair Trade. These coffees are certified Fair Trade, which helps support the people and communities actually growing the coffee.

Filter Method - Any method of coffee brewing which water is filtered through a bed of ground coffee. Can also be used to describe the drip method of brewing.

Finish - The subjective sensory experience of coffee that has been swallowed and ingested.

First Crack - The part of the roasting process where the surface of the coffee beans finally begins to crack. This occurs are pressure builds up within the bean itself and usually occurs around 380 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The cracking sound itself is made as water vapor and carbon dioxide escape the bean.

Flat White - An espresso-based drink that is comprised of a double shot of espresso and hot milk.

Flavor - The subjective sensory description of coffee after its body, acidity and aroma have been characterized.

Fluid Bed Roaster - A type of coffee roaster that constantly turns the coffee beans using hot forced air. This type of roaster was invented in 1976 by Michael Sivetz.

Fly Crop - Another smaller harvest that occurs after the main coffee harvest.

French Press - A coffee brewing method that involves steeping coffee grounds in water then a strainer plate is pressed downward to isolate the brewed coffee from the grounds themselves.

French Roast - A roasted coffee bean that has been roasted to a very dark brown color.

Geisha/Gesha – A coffee varietal of Ethiopian origin that grew to prominence in the Boquete Region of Panama after it was grown by Hacienda La Esmeralda.

Grainpro Bag - A multi-layered plastic bag used for green coffee store. These types of bags are known to preserve the green beans themselves but also their particular flavors better than jute or burlap bags.

Green Coffee - The term used for unroasted coffee beans. All coffee sold by Coffee Bean Corral is this type.

Hard Bean - The term used to describe coffee grown at altitudes of 4,000 to 4,500 feet.

High Grown - The term used to describe arabica coffee that is grown at altitudes of 3,000 feet or greater.

Honey Processed - A type of coffee processing in the coffee’s skin is removed, but the bean’s mucilage, which is sweet and sticky layer beneath the skin, is left. The mucilage is amber or honey colored which lends its name to this processing method.

Hulling - The removal of the coffee bean’s skin prior to sorting.

Immersion Brewing - A type of brewing in which coffee grounds are submerged within water for a period of time.

Instant Coffee – A process in which brewed coffee is either freeze-dried or spray-dried to form fine coffee particulates that is packaged then sold. It can be reconstituted with just water to make coffee as the particulates extract the coffee’s flavors in the hot water itself. This type of coffee is said to be overly bitter, woody, and harsh.

Jute Bag - A bag made from vegetable fiber and often used to transport green coffee beans.

Kaldi - The name of the goat farmer in the Ethiopian folktale who discovered the coffee tree after his goats ate the berries and became energetic.

Kenya AA - A specific coffee grade related to size, wholly relegated to Kenyan coffee beans.

Latte - An espresso serving that contains three times as much steam milk.

Macchiato - A type of espresso serving topped with hot, frothed milk.

Machine Drying - Once a coffee bean has been defruited, the beans are then dried in rotating drums.

Maillard Reaction - The chemical process that occurs between amino acids and sugars present in the coffee bean that turns its brown during the roasting process, thus giving the beans their distinct aroma and flavor characteristics.

Micro Lot - Coffee that originates from a specific farm or even a specific part of the coffee farm.

Mocha - An espresso combined with steamed milk and chocolate syrup.

Moka Pot - A stove-top brewer that forces water through the coffee grounds via steam pressure.

Monsooned - A coffee bean that is “monsooned” is a dry-processed, single origin coffee from India that has been exposed to seasonal monsoon winds with end goal to reduce it’s acidity and further develop the bean’s body.

Mouthfeel - How coffee feels in the mouth, somewhat like its texture.

Mundo Novo - A coffee varietal made from a cross between a Bourbon and a typica and named after the place in Brazil in which it was created.

Natural Process - A processing method in which the coffee cherry is dried throughout the drying process.

New Crop - Coffee that has been roasted shortly after harvest.

Organic - These coffees are certified organic, meaning they are raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

Process - The "process" by which coffee beans are removed from the coffee fruit and dried. This can range from Natural, which is essentially pulling the fruit from the plants and letting them dry in the fruit naturally, to various forms of Washing, which involves using water to wash and transport the beans prior to drying. 

Parchment - The thin skin of a coffee bean after it’s been wet-processed.

Patio Drying - A traditional alternative to machine drying in which the depulped coffee bean has been spread and ranked in thin layers across a patio to sun-dry.

Peaberry - A round, small coffee bean that only has one seed. These usually growth within the heart of the coffee fruit.

Pour Over - A method of drip coffee brewing that involves pouring a steady stream of water over a filter cone filled with coffee grounds.

Pulping - The process of removing the outermost skin of the coffee fruit.

RFA - Rainforest Alliance. This signifies these coffees are Rainforest Alliance certified. These coffees are grown in ways that minimize the impact on the local ecology and to preserve remaining rainforests.

Q Grader - A person who has been official credited through the Coffee Quality Institute to grade and score coffee.

Ristretto - A concentrated shot of espresso that is created by restricting the amount of water used during the brewing process.

Roast - Green coffee beans that have been heated to create flavors to be extracted during a brewing method.

Roast Log - A journal of sorts to collect data and other information during the roasting process.

Roast Profile - The profile for a specific coffee bean that relies on temperature and time to achieve the desired flavors and aromas.

Robusta - A high yield, low-growing coffee tree. Vietnam is the largest producer of robusta beans in the world

Rust Resistant - Breeds of coffee plants and varietals that resistant against coffee leaf rust.

Second Crack - Much like the first crack, this is the second stage of the roasting process and usually occurs around 410 to 445 degrees Fahrenheit.

Semi-Washed Process - A coffee process method for green coffee where the outer skin and pulp is removed but the mucilage is left on. Its then washed off and when the seed is partially dried then further processed.

Shade Grown - Coffee than has been grown under the canopy shade. Reduces the need for inorganic pesticides and often using for growing organic coffee.

Single-Origin - Coffee beans that originate from a single crop, region or country.

SHB/SHG - "Strictly hard bean" and "Strictly high grown", respectively, and meaning the same thing. Beans grown at higher altitudes tend to grow more slowly and form denser beans, thus the nomenclature. These typically command higher prices than lower-altitude beans from the same region/varieties due to the more uniformly dense nature of the beans and slower growing cycle.

Swedish Egg Coffee - This is a brewing style that developed in the US by Scandinavian immigrants despite not existing in any Scandinavian country. It's made by mixing egg and coffee grounds together. It's then added to a large saucepan of boiling water. Usually made for larger groups and is sometimes called Scandinavian egg coffee, Hungarian coffee, or Swedish coffee.

Turkish Coffee - A coffee brewing process in which very finely ground coffee, sugar, and water is combined and boiled in a special pot called an ibrik and brought to a boil and then served.

Varietal - A specific coffee variety.

Variety - A genetically distinct coffee plant.

Water Processed Decaf - A decaffeination process where the coffee beans are fully submerged in water, then carbon-filtered to removed the caffeine.

Wet-Processed - A coffee processing method that removes the pulp and skin of the coffee bean while the coffee fruit is still fresh. Most notably used for Sumatran coffees