Saturday, 25 January 2014

Coffee - Language

When carrying out my research so far I have come across many terms I don't really understand so had a look for some coffee terminology to help my understanding, from this I found a huge variety of words and terms linking to coffee from how to describe it to ordering it.


The lingering taste and sensation of the coffee. Can be good or bad, long or short.

Aged Coffee

Some coffees have been traditionally exposed to ageing in their unroasted state. Two of the main examples are Old Brown Java (which can be many years old before roasting) or Monsooned Malabar, Indian coffee that has been exposed to warm, moist air (proper Monsooning exposes the coffee to the Monsoon winds but nowadays much is done artificially).


Coffea Arabica is one of the two main types of coffee and considered to be the finest available. You’ll struggle to find a great tasting coffee that isn’t Arabica and it accounts for around 60% of world production. However, it’s worth noting that there is a lot of poor and average quality Arabica too – “100% Arabica” is a good start but no guarantee of quality!


An espresso lengthened with hot water to make a black coffee. Different to a black, filter coffee in taste.
The perception of acidity in coffee – a little is always useful to lift the flavour. Washed coffees are usually more acidic as are those from particularly high altitude. Usually seen more in Central American and East African washed coffees.


The fragrance produced by 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.


Tasting term applied to coffees for which no single characteristic overwhelms others, but that display sufficient complexity to be interesting. All the great coffees are harmoniously balanced.
The person who prepares coffee at a coffee bar.

Bitterness is the taste perceived at the back of the tongue. No coffee should have anything more than a slight, pleasant bitterness – anything more and something is wrong. Darker roasts are perceptibly more bitter than lighter roasts, and over-extracted coffee (too much coffee, ground too fine or brewing for too long) can produce unpleasant, bitter results.


Coffee blossom, the seasonal flowering of the coffee trees before they develop coffee cherries after pollination, is both a fantastic sight and filled with fantastic, fragrant smells.

Blue Mountain

Jamaican is the true home of authentic Blue Mountain coffee. Sold in wooden barrels, it carries a significant price premium and as such is one of the world’s most rare, expensive coffees.


A mixture of two or more individual types of coffee, usually from a variety of origins. Done to create a style of coffee (for instance, breakfast blend), consistency year on year (to avoid seasonal fluctuations), for espresso where it is a vital tool, and to juggle the costs of a blend in times of price variation (yes, it does happen).

Bourbon Arabica

Bourbon is one of the most traditional varietals of Arabica and if subject to good husbandry and processing, will frequently produce fantastic coffee. Not as popular for many farmers as it’s yields are lower than more modern hybrids.


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


The number 1 producer and exporter of coffee in the world, and used as a key blending component for many roasters. Brazil produces both Robusta (Conillon) and Arabica. Much of the output is average at best, but it is at the forefront of coffee technology and has an outstanding, specialty coffee industry centred around the BSCA.


Much exported, commercial coffee from a single country of origin is bulked from a whole variety of regional sources and farms (the bad, the average and the good) and then graded according to size, appearance and taste. “Santos” from Brasil is a good example of this as the name does not imply a farm, rather the port of Santos which the coffee was traditionally exported from.

Clever Coffee Dripper
Recently introduced, a filter cone with a stopper that lets coffee steep before dripping, extracting more flavor.

Cold Drip Coffee
Coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for about 12 hours, then strained to make a concentrate that’s used for iced coffee and cut with milk or water. It’s associated with New Orleans.


An odourless, bitter alkaloid responsible for the stimulating effect of coffee and tea. Robusta coffee contains nearly twice as much as Arabica coffee.


The common term for the fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry contains two normal coffee beans, or occasionally one peaberry. When ripened, the coffee cherries are usually red (although there are some yellow varietals, and the odd orange one). For great coffee, all of the cherries must be harvested at the peak of ripeness.

Clover Machine

The coffee brewing machine that took the speciality coffee industry by storm until a certain coffee company decided that they would buy the company that owned and manufactured it. Capable of producing very fine cups of coffee and (was) particularly suited to coffee shops wishing to offer a range of high quality, single origin coffees. Company was bought by Starbucks in 2007.

Cooperative Coffee

Cooperatives are a great way of allowing smallholder farmers to access the market place by combining their coffees, efforts and marketing ability under a membership structure. Primary coops are those comprising of farmers and are likely to some include centralised processing and storage facilities. Often primary coops are members of larger, second tier coops that focus upon the final preparation, export, marketing and advertising of their members coffees.

Commercial Coffee

The generic term for much of the coffee exported and roasted in the world today and very much influenced by the fluctuations of the coffee market. Differentiated from the specialty coffee industry, which focused on the top end of the coffee market (premium prices for specialty coffees).


The Latin American term for the middlemen coffee traders who buy coffee from small farmers to sell to larger coops and exporters, often at very low prices.


The crema is the vital component of a well made espresso. It is the foamy, creamy brown layer that appears on the surface of the espresso trapping the exquisite aromas beneath. It is a combination of the emulsified coffee oils (unique to the extraction method of espresso) and tiny trapped bubbles of carbon dioxide.

Cup of Excellence

The Cup of Excellence program seeks to find the very finest coffees from a variety of coffee producing countries in Latin America and Africa. Any farmer can enter, and coffee entries are subject to several rounds of tasting and final judging by an international jury of professional coffee cuppers. The highest scoring coffees are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence award and the coffee is auctioned to the highest bidder via an internet auction.


Procedure used by professional tasters to perform sensory evaluation of samples of coffee beans. The beans are ground, water is poured over the grounds, and the liquid is tasted both hot and as it cools. The key evaluation characteristics are Aroma, Acidity, Body, and Flavour.

Dark Roast
Coffee beans roasted until they exude oils. The style has fallen out of favor among many artisanal roasters who think it overwhelms certain flavors.

Direct Trade
When coffee roasters buy directly from farms rather than from brokers. Proponents say it increases coffee quality and gives farmers more power.

Drip Coffee
Coffee made with a filter, a press pot, a percolator or a countertop coffee maker. Flavor is extracted by contact with water not under pressure.


Coffee with roughly 97% or more of its naturally occurring caffeine removed is classified as decaffeinated. Decaf coffees are usually achieved through one of 3 methods, all done to the raw coffee – the Chemical Process (usually using Methyl Chloride), which is the cheapest method but perhaps the one to avoid; the critical Carbon Dioxide Process which uses carbon dioxide to remove the caffeine and the Swiss Water Process method which uses the concept of “flavour charged water” and carbon electrodes to remove the caffeine. The latter two are the preferred methods for specialty coffees, as they are less damaging to the coffees aromas and flavours.


The bulk of Ethiopia’s commercial coffee is Djimmah and it is widely used in blen

Double Shot

A double espresso, using a minimum of 14g of coffee

Dry Natural Coffee

In order to separate the coffee beans from the cherry, water is not used in this method of processing unlike “washed” coffees (although water may be used to clean the cherries). Here, the coffee cherry is dried in the sun and then the beans separated after drying is complete. When done well, this “natural” method lends the coffee more wild, gamey and winey flavours and a full bodied, sweeter taste. However, there is a danger of gaining particularly earthy flavours in the coffee and uneven quality – many of the world’s commercial coffees (Santos, Djimmah, much Robusta) are processed this way.
Drawing flavor from coffee grounds. Coffee can be underextracted and taste sour or overextracted and taste bitter.


Either a taste defect or a desirable exotic taste characteristic depending on who is doing the tasting and how intense the earthy taste in question is. Apparently earthiness is caused by literal contact of wet coffee with earth during drying. Indonesia coffees from Sumatra, Sulawesi and Timor are particularly prone to display earthy tones.

Estate Coffee

Really just another word for coffee farm, but often slightly larger plantations of coffee that may be family owned or company owned. Often used to describe coffee plantations in Kenya.

Fair Trade
A private program that certifies that farmers or coffee growers are paid a minimum price for coffee.

Filter Coffee
Drip coffee made with a ceramic, glass or plastic cone lined with a paper filter. Favored by professionals because it gives them control over water temperature — ideally 200 to 210 degrees. This coffee is sediment free, though some believe the filters add unwanted flavor.

French Press
Coffee made by steeping grounds with hot water in a vessel with a plunger and metal filter that pushes the grounds to the bottom. Often used in coffee bars for limited-edition coffees. Also called a press pot.


Coffee that has been purchased from farmers, at a "fair" price as defined by international agencies. The extra paid these farmers under fair trade arrangements is extremely modest, by the way.


The sensory experience of coffee just as it is swallowed (or, in the professional cupping procedure, just before it is spit out). Some coffees transform from first impression on the palate to finish; others stand pat.

Flat Bean

The generic term for the 2 raw coffee seeds (beans) found within a coffee cherry. The coffee beans have a one flatter side the other side is domed. If two flat beans fuse together during the cherry’s development, it forms a single coffee bean known as a peaberry.


Flavour in coffee is the combined sensory impression of both aroma and taste.

Flat White

The espresso-milk based drink of antipodean origin, which is the perfect anecdote to the poor, milk heavy “lattes” and “cappuccinos” often found in the UK. Seemingly a double shot of espresso made using more than the usual 14g of coffee with the addition of steamed, textured milk into a more classic sized cup (6 – 8 oz). There’s also a fine London coffee shop of the same name.


As a specialised term in cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee, fragrance describes the scent of dry coffee immediately after it has been ground but before it is brewed.

Greed Beans
Unroasted coffee beans.

Hard Bean

Coffee grown at relatively high altitudes, 4,000 to 4,500 feet. Coffee grown above 4,500 feet is referred to as strictly hard bean. This terminology says that beans grown at higher altitudes mature more slowly and are harder and denser than other beans and are thus more desirable.

Latte Art
The pattern formed by rhythmically pouring steamed milk into an espresso drink. Decorative and demonstrative; only properly steamed milk will hold a form.

Coffee from a single farm, or a specific part of that farm.


A trade term for high-quality Arabica coffees. Often contrasted with hard, or inferior, coffees.


Mechanical removal of the dry parchment skin from wet-processed coffee beans, or the entire dried fruit husk from dry-processed beans.

Nel Drip
Short for “flannel drip,” it’s a form of drip coffee that uses flannel filters imported from Japan. The filters are temperamental, and must be washed by hand and kept chilled when not in use.

New Crop

Coffee delivered for roasting soon after harvesting and processing. Coffees are at their brightest (or rawest) and most acidy in this state. Also see Old Crop
The filter basket and handle on an espresso machine.

Pour-Over Coffee
A method of drip coffee developed in Japan in which the water is poured in a thin, steady, slow stream over a filter cone. One cup of coffee takes as long as three minutes to brew. Some coffee bars have pour-over setups with several cones and distinctive swan-neck kettles from Japan.

Spent coffee from a portafilter or Clover.

Espresso shots are “pulled.” The term is a holdover from when machines were lever operated.

Past Crop

Coffee that has been held in warehouses before shipping. Old crop differs from aged or vintage and mature coffees in two ways: First, it has not been held for as long a period, and second, it may not have been handled with as much deliberateness. Depending on the characteristics of the original coffee and the quality of the handling, old crop may or may not be considered superior in cup characteristics to a new crop version of the same coffee.


A small, round bean formed when only one seed, rather than the usual two, develops at the heart of the coffee fruit. Peaberry beans are often separated from normal beans and sold as a distinct grade of a given coffee. Typically, but not always, they produce a brighter, more acidy, but lighter-bodied cup than normal beans from the same crop.


An optional procedure at the end of coffee processing and milling in which the dried, shipment-ready beans are subjected to polishing by friction to remove the innermost, or silverskin, and improve their appearance. Polishing does nothing to help flavor and may even hurt it by heating the beans, hence most specialty coffee buyers do not encourage the practice.


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

A cup of brewed coffee with espresso.

Espresso pulled short — with less water — for a smaller, more concentrated drink.

Unpalatable green beans are heated to create complex flavors that are extracted during brewing.

Roast Date
Most small-batch roasters print the roast date on bags of coffee. The rule of thumb is that coffee should be used within two weeks, and some coffee bars won’t sell beans more than a week after they have been roasted.

Seasonal Coffee
Coffee beans ripen at different times of the year in different regions, and can appear in markets and coffee bars for limited times.

Single Origin
Coffee from a particular region, farm or area within a farm.

A coffeemaking device, using vacuum pressure and a series of vessels, that originated in the 19th century. It recently gained popularity in Japan and is being used more in the United States. Despite its complications, it is known for producing fruity, bright coffee.

Slow Dripper
Unusual devices imported from Japan with a glass sphere and a series of tubes and valves that make coffee with cold water in about 12 hours.

Soft bean

Describes coffee grown at relatively low altitudes (under 4,000 feet). Beans grown at lower altitudes mature more quickly and produce a lighter, more porous bean.


Coffee that has been exposed to oxygen for too long. It becomes flat and has a cardboard taste.


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.

A high-tech single-cup coffee brewer introduced this year.

Wholebean Coffee

Coffee that has been roasted but not yet ground.

In A Coffee Shop

Cups - 
Instead of saying small, medium and large in terms of coffee you say tall, grande and venti
 Tall is a 12-ounce cup, grande is typically a 16-ounce cup and venti refers to a 20-ounce cup. 
For cold drinks, venti often refers to a 24-ounce cup. 
Short is another term used referring to cup size of coffee, this represents an 8-ounce cup.
Single or Double cup?
Asking for a double cup doesn't mean you'll get twice as much, it means you will get two cups stacked together so the cup won't be as hot to handle. 
Demitasse is the type of cup used for serving a shot of espresso straight up with no chaser.
Other things you may say when ordering coffee, what they mean ...

half decaf 


Why Bother
 Decaffeinated espresso served with non-fat milk.

With Room
A cup served with space at the top for either preventing spills or adding cream. 

No whip
No whipped cream. 

No foam
Steamed milk without the foam. 

With wings
 A cup with handles.


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