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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 us with your requests.

Acidity - This term has nothing to do with the bitterness or acidity associated with too much stomach acid. In this case, it is an old cupping term that refers to the degree of flavor in your coffee. For example, you would consider a coffee “flat” if it had a low acidity score. We came up with a different term that may help you picture this characteristic better – Brightness.

AeropressA coffee brewing device that makes a pseudo espresso shot (i.e. very strong coffee). After steeping, the coffee grounds are pushed through a filter with a plunger. This pressure creates the espresso-like qualities that make this coffee so popular. 

Affogato - An Italian inspired coffee drink where espresso is poured over gelato. In Italian, “affogato” means drowned, so you “drown” the ice cream with espresso!

Aged Coffee - Coffee beans that have been deliberately stored for a longer period of time, which decrease the coffee’s acidity and increase its body.

Arabica - A type of cultivated coffee tree that makes up nearly 70% of the 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, in coffee bean form, can tell us a lot more about the coffee than when it’s in the cup. 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. That’s the epitome of ideal balance – A true 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 – Brewing multiple cups of coffee at once. This ensures consistency in taste for everyone who wants to enjoy it!

Bean Belt - The equatorial region across the world that has the ideal coffee growing conditions.

Body – In the coffee world, body doesn’t refer to the thing that keeps your hat from resting on your shoes. Instead, when we say body, we mean the sensation of fullness or heaviness in your mouth when you take a sip (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 the 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 and then exported 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”. Acidity has been around to describe coffee for eons but was rarely used. As the home roasting industry grew, more and more people became confused by the term, so I thought “brightness” may be 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 equal parts espresso and steamed milk with a little foam on top.

Caramelization – Also referred to as the Maillard reaction, this is when the sugars in the green coffee beans start to breakdown. This, in turn, releases the bean’s inherent aromatics.  

Catimor - A coffee varietal developed in Portugal in 1959 that combined the Timor and Caturra varietals.

Catuai - A coffee varietal developed in Brazil in the 1950s that combined the Caturra and Mundo Novo varietals.

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 your coffee beans as they expand during the roast cycle. Prior to roasting, it is known as silverskin, which is a naturally occurring, protective coating on green coffee beans.

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

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

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

Coffee Leaf Rust - A highly destructive fungal disease that causes 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. It’s been used by coffee cuppers ever since.  

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 - 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 equal amount of steamed milk.

Crema – A creamy, brownish foam that rests on top of an espresso shot.

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

Elevation – Elevation refers to how high above sea level 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 slightly mutes the flavors and brings the oils to the surface.

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

Degassing - A natural process in which recently roasted coffee releases carbon dioxide.

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.

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

Filter Method - Any method of coffee brewing where 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 after you’ve taken a sip.

First Crack - The part of the roasting process where the surface of the coffee beans begins to crack. This usually occurs around 380-400 degrees Fahrenheit, as pressure builds up within the bean. 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 steamed milk.

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

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 pushing a filter down to isolate the brewed coffee from the grounds.

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 by Hacienda La Esmeralda.

Grainpro Bag - A multi-layered plastic bag used for green coffee storage. These types of bags are known to preserve the green beans, and their unique flavors, better than jute or burlap.

Green Coffee - The term used for unroasted coffee beans. Coffee Bean Corral only sells green coffee beans.

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 higher.

Honey Processed - A type of coffee processing where the coffee’s skin is removed but the mucilage is left. The mucilage is a sweet, sticky layer beneath the skin. It’s often amber or honey colored, which lead to the name of 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 where brewed coffee is either freeze-dried or spray-dried to form fine coffee particles that are packaged and then sold. You can easily turn it back into coffee with just the addition of water. This type of coffee is said to be overly bitter, woody, and harsh. We came up with our own version of instant coffee, using your pre-roasted coffee beans. Follow our recipe and let us know what you think!

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

Kaldi - The name of the goat farmer in the Ethiopian folktale who discovered the coffee tree. As the story goes, his goats ate the coffee berries and became extremely energetic.

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

Latte - An espresso-based drink with three times as much steamed milk as espreso.

Macchiato - A type of espresso drink with a dot of frothed milk.

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

Maillard Reaction - The chemical process that turns the coffee bean brown during the roasting process. As the amino acids and sugars in the coffee bean break down, the coffee gets its distinct aroma, flavor, and color.

Micro Lot - Coffee that originates from a specific coffee farm or even a specific part of the farm. You can find more information on micro lots over at our blog post.

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. This reduces its acidity and further develops the 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. It’s named after the place in Brazil where it was created.

Natural Process – Similar to dry processed coffee, the coffee cherries are dried whole out in the sun.

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 processing to washing. Read more about how coffee is made at our blog post.

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

Patio Drying - A traditional alternative to machine drying where the de-pulped coffee bean has been spread and raked 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 coffee grounds in a filter cone.

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

Rainforest Alliance (RFA) – The growing techniques for RFA coffees minimize the impact on the local ecology to preserve the remaining rainforests. You can read more here.

Q Grader - A person who has been officially 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 bring out specific flavors.

Roast Log - A journal to record data and other information during the roasting process.

Roast Profile - The temperature and time it took to achieve the desired flavors and aromas for a specific coffee bean.

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

Rust Resistant – Coffee plant varietals that are resistant to 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 processing method where the outer skin and pulp is removed but the mucilage is left on. During the next stage, the mucilage is washed off and the seed is partially dried and then processed once again.

Shade Grown – The term for coffee that has been grown under the canopy shade. This reduces the need for inorganic pesticides. Most organic coffee is shade grown.  

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

SHB/SHG - "Strictly hard bean" and "Strictly high grown" mean the same thing. Coffee grown at higher altitudes tends to grow more slowly and form denser beans, thus the nomenclature. These typically command higher prices than lower-altitude beans due to their uniformly dense nature 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. The mixture is then added to a large saucepan of boiling water. Swedish egg coffee is 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.  

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 remove 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. This processing method is most notably used for Sumatran coffees.

Happy Roasting!

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