Coffee Glossary


The world of speciality coffee is filled with unfamiliar words, phrases and terms that can seam daunting. It is, however, important to understand this 'coffee speak' as it opens up a world of knowledge and enjoyment. We hope that our Coffee Glossary will become a resource for anyone interested in learning more about speciality coffee.


a-is-for-aromatic AA
Capitalised letters are indicators used to describe the grade or size of the bean. AA+ being the largest; a larger sized bean is generally associated with a higher quality coffee.
ACIDITY
Acidity usually denotes the pleasant tartness of a fine coffee. Along with flavour, aroma, and body, it is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters in cupping (the process of evaluation). When not used to describe cup characteristics the term acidity may refer to literal acidity; coffee has a relatively neutral pH between 5 and 6. When green coffee is stored for more than a year or roasted darker it will have a perceptible loss of flavour and acidity.
AEROPRESS
The AeroPress is a manually powered coffee maker that brews the coffee under ideal conditions, through the total immersion and rapid filtration of the grind. This results in a remarkable range of flavours, but with very low acidity.
AMERICANO
A shot of espresso diluted with hot water, lightening the taste.
AFFOGATO
Meaning "drowned" in Italian, this coffee based dessert usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured on top. A shot of amaretto or other liquors can be added to taste.
ALTURA
Meaning “heights” in Spanish, it refers to a Mexican coffee bean that has been high-altitude or mountain-grown.
ARABICA
Also known as the Arabian coffee, indigenous to Yemen. Arabica is the earliest cultivated species of coffee tree and it is still the most widely grown. It accounts for approximately 70% of the world’s coffee production, and is vastly superior in cup quality to the other principal commercial coffee species, Coffea canephora or Robusta. All highly graded coffee, considered as specialty coffee come from Coffea arabica trees. However, this does not guarantee quality and there are far more commercial quality Arabica than speciality.
AROMA
Is the fragrance of brewed coffee and is closely related to flavour. Without our sense of smell flavour is limited to; sweet, sour, salty, & bitter. Many nuances of a coffee are reflected in the smell, or "nose". Typical coffee aromas include floral, winey, chocolatey, spicy, tobaccoy, earthy, & fruity. Aroma is also experienced after drinking, in the nasal passage & is responsible for much of a coffee's aftertaste. Highest shortly after roasting it then declines rapidly, freshness can be maintained for months if stored correctly immediately after roasting.
b-is-for-barista BALANCE
Tasting term applied to coffees for which no single characteristic overwhelms others, but that display sufficient complexity to be interesting. A well balanced coffee has flavours that can be sensed evenly across the tongue. Balance, however, is not necessarily a positive attribute, since some people prefer coffees with strong flavour distinctions.
BARISTA
An Italian word literally meaning bartender. The term has since been taken by popular culture to refer to any professional coffee maker. Much like the mixologist or sommelier, the barista has become increasingly specialised profession.
BASKET
The size of an espresso depends on the basket size. The basket sits in the group head, which in turn is locked in place to make each shot. Sizes range from 14g for a single to 22g for double shots.
BLEND
Coffees are often blended before and sometimes after roasting. The reasons for doing this can be varied; from adding balance, body and crema, to bring different flavour characteristics together, and to maintain flavour consistency across different bean crops. Sadly, it is also frequently used to save money by hiding low quality product.
BODY
The physical mouth feel and texture of a coffee. Full bodied coffees have a strong, creamy, and pleasant, mouth feel. A coffees body (light, medium, or full) is its thickness due to the amount of dissolved and suspended solids and oils extracted from the coffee grounds, and may range from thin and watery to thick and creamy.
BURR
A burr grinder, or mill, uses rotating flat to conical metal or ceramic disks with sharp ridges, or burrs, which evenly grind the coffee beans. A bur grinder is typically adjustable from very fine to coarse and produces a consistent particle size compared to a blade grinder. Consistent particle size is important in the brewing process, making burr grinders the choice of coffee professionals.
BOUQUET
Is one of the more elusive tasting terms and is considered to be a combination of a coffee's; fragrance, aroma, nose, and after-taste. The bouquet may range from and is frequently described as nutty to caramelly to malty.
c-is-for-crema C-MARKET
The Coffee C Market is the world benchmark for Arabica coffee. It is the global commodities market for exchange-grade green beans, consisting of 20 countries of origin. A significant premium is paid for speciality coffee due to its higher quality.
CAFETIÈRE
A coffee brewing device invented by Paolini Ugo in 1929. It works best with coffee of a coarser grind than used in a drip brew coffee filter, about the consistency of kosher salt. Finer grounds, when immersed in water, have lower permeability, requiring an excessive amount of force to be applied by hand to lower the plunger and are may seep through the press filter into the coffee. Additionally, finer grounds may over-extract causing the coffee to taste bitter. Americans know this as the French Press.
CAFFEINE
The world's primary source of caffeine is the coffee bean from which coffee is brewed. Caffeine content in coffee varies widely depending on the type of coffee bean and the method of preparation used; even beans within a given bush can show variations in concentration. The chemical in coffee and tea that creates a stimulating effect in the human brain and nervous system.
CAPPUCCINO
An Italian drink made from espresso, hot milk, and frothed milk. A Cappuccino is made using equal parts of espresso, hot steamed milk, and velvety milk froth. A dry Cappuccino is the same drink without the hot milk. Cappuccinos are traditionally served in a small cup, or demitasse.
CASCARA
Derived from the Spanish word for shell. It is the name given to the dried husk of the coffee cherry after the bean's extraction. Once considered a by-product of production, it is now used in a variety of drinks due to its unique flavour profile and as it is said to be a healthier alternative to coffee due to antioxidants.
CATURRA
A modern hybrid of Coffea Arabica which is becoming increasingly popular with farmers as it generally matures more quickly, produces more coffee, and is more disease resistant than older, traditional arabica varieties. Many experts, however, believe that it has an inferior cup quality to the coffee produced by the traditional arabica varieties.
CHANNELLING
Refers to the way in which water passes through the coffee bed when using an espresso machine. The water must pass through the ground coffee evenly to ensure the flavour is fully extracted. Channelling is when the water passes through in an unevenly. It is usually cause by overfilling the basket, over tamping and grind inconsistencies.