Glossary of Coffee Terms

This section is for YOU, so if you have any terms you would like to see defined here, please e-mail me with your requests.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Macchiato - An espresso serving topped with hot, frothed milk.

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

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.

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.

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. Read more about how coffee is made.

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. Read more.

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

Robusta - A high yield, low-growing coffee tree.

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.

Wet-Processed - A coffee processing method that removes the pulp and skin of the coffee bean while the coffee fruit is still fresh.

Happy Roasting!

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