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      Coffee Glossary
      The Ultimate Guide
      To Coffee Terminology

      Coffee, a cherished beverage with a rich tapestry of history and culture, boasts a vast array of terms that even the most seasoned enthusiast may not be familiar with. In this guide we’ll provide clarity and insight into the world of coffee by breaking down its phrases, terminology and jargon.  Whether you're a budding barista or a coffee aficionado, understanding these terms will deepen your appreciation and experience of this delightful drink.

      A

      Acidity

      Not to be confused with sourness, acidity in coffee is a bright, sparkly, sparkly, tangy, crisp, or clear quality. A coffee with high acidity will often have a flavour profile reminiscent of certain fruits. Coffees grown at high altitudes often have noticeable acidity.

      AeroPress

      The AeroPress consists of a cylindrical chamber and a plunger, creating air pressure to extract flavours from coffee grounds. Coffee is steeped for a brief period before being pushed through a paper or metal filter into a vessel.

      Affogato

      An Italian dessert that seamlessly blends coffee and dessert. It consists of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream drowned with a shot of hot espresso, creating a delightful contrast.

      Americano

      A coffee drink made by diluting a shot or two of espresso with hot water, resulting in a beverage similar in strength but different in flavour from regular drip coffee.

      Arabica

      Originating from the Coffea arabica plant, Arabica beans are prized for their sweeter, more delicate flavour and higher acidity. They are grown primarily in higher altitudes and represent about 60-70% of global coffee production.

      Aroma

      The scent emitted by coffee, which can range from floral to nutty, smoky to fruity. Aroma plays a crucial role in our perception of flavour and can hint at a coffee's origin or roast level.

      B

      Balance

      Refers to no single trait overshadowing others. In a balanced coffee, acidity, sweetness, body, and flavour exist in harmonious proportion.

      Barista

      A professional skilled in preparing and serving coffee, often working in cafes or coffee shops. They master various brewing techniques and often have in-depth knowledge of coffee origins and flavours.

      Bean to Cup

      A bean to cup machine grinds coffee beans before passing water over the grinds to produce an espresso style coffee, which can also be combined with water and milk. Bean to cup machines automate the process and are ideal for busy commercial spaces.

      Bitter

      One of the basic taste sensations; it can be a desirable trait to a certain extent, adding depth to a coffee's flavour. Overly bitter coffee, however, can result from over-roasting or over-extraction during brewing.

      Blade Grinder

      A type of coffee bean grinder that uses spinning blades to chop coffee beans into smaller pieces. The blades whirl at a high speed, cutting the coffee beans in a manner similar to a food processor.

      Blend

      A mixture of coffee beans from different geographic regions, varietals, or roast levels. The aim of blending is to create a balanced flavour profile that combines the best attributes of each component.

      Body

      Describes the weight or thickness of coffee on the palate. A coffee with a full body may feel creamy, like whole milk, while a light-bodied coffee might feel more like skim milk or even water.

      Bright

      A term used to describe coffees that have a dominant acidity. Bright coffees are lively on the palate and can be tangy or sparkly.

      Briny

      A salty sensation often caused by over-roasting or coffee left on a hot plate too long. It's generally considered an undesirable taste characteristic.

      Burr Grinder

      A type of coffee grinder that uses two abrasive surfaces, or "burrs," to crush coffee beans into a uniform size. This results in better extraction and a more balanced flavour profile when brewing. Burr grinders come in various forms, including flat burr, conical burr, and even hybrid designs.

      C

      Cafe Au Lait

      A French term that translates to "coffee with milk." It consists of equal parts of brewed coffee and steamed milk, resulting in a creamy, rich beverage that is less potent than an espresso-based latte.

      Cafetière

      Often termed "French Press," Cafetière is a brewing method that involves steeping coarsely ground coffee in hot water. After steeping, a mesh plunger is pressed to separate the grounds, yielding a rich brew.

      Caffeine

      The natural stimulant found within coffee beans. It's responsible for the alertness and energy boost many seek from coffee. Its concentration varies based on bean type and brewing method.

      Cappuccino

      A popular coffee beverage that consists of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third frothed milk. The thick layer of microfoam on top is its distinguishing feature.

      Chemex

      A manual pour-over brewing method distinguished by its hourglass-shaped glass container. It uses specially designed paper filters, resulting in a clean, bright cup of coffee free from sediments.

      Cherry

      The fruit of the coffee plant. Each cherry typically contains two coffee beans. The flesh of the cherry is removed during processing, and the beans inside are dried and roasted.

      Clean

      A term used to describe coffee that has a clear and distinct flavour profile, free from any muddiness or overpowering bitterness. The individual flavour notes are easily identifiable, allowing for an enjoyable and nuanced drinking experience.

      Coffee Bean

      The seed of the coffee cherry, the fruit produced by the Coffea plant. Coffee beans are the primary material for coffee production and are traded globally. They come in various varieties, including Arabica and Robusta, each with their own distinct flavours, growing conditions, and quality grades. Roasted coffee beans are then used to make and serve coffee to drinkers.

      Coffee Berry Borer

      A tiny beetle that's a primary pest in coffee agriculture. It burrows into coffee cherries, feeding on the beans inside and can significantly affect yields and quality.

      Coffee Leaf Rust

      A devastating fungal disease that affects coffee plants, causing defoliation and significant yield losses. Its presence can impact the livelihoods of entire coffee-growing communities.

      Coffee Producer

      An individual, cooperative, or company engaged in the cultivation of coffee plants and the harvesting of coffee cherries. The role of a coffee producer is multifaceted, encompassing various tasks such as planting, fertilising, pruning, protecting against diseases and pests, and finally, picking the ripe cherries.

      Coffee Syrup

      A flavoured syrup that can be added to hot or cold coffee to enhance or change the flavour. There are a wide range of flavoured coffee syrups available that can be used to create unique and delicious coffee based drinks.

      Cold Brew Coffee

      Coffee grounds steeped in cold water for an extended period, typically 12-24 hours. This process extracts flavours slowly, resulting in a smoother, less acidic brew, perfect for warm weather.

      Cold Drip Coffee

      A method where water drips slowly, drop by drop, onto coffee grounds over many hours. Using cold water reduces acidity, producing a mellow and complex flavour profile.

      Complexity

      The range and interplay of flavours, aromas, and sensations that can be detected in a single cup. A complex coffee will have multiple identifiable taste notes, like floral, fruity, spicy, or nutty, and may even evolve in flavour as it cools. Complexity is often a sign of high-quality, specialty coffee beans and expert brewing techniques.

      Convection Roasted

      Coffee that has been roasted using a special process that involves roasting the beans evenly on a bed of hot air. Convection roasting provides an even roast, minimising bitter and burnt taste and delivering a smooth flavour profile.

      Cortado

      A coffee drink that combines equal parts of espresso and steamed milk to cut the espresso's intensity, delivering a harmonious blend without the froth.

      Crema

      The golden layer of foam on top of a freshly brewed shot of espresso. It's composed of coffee oils and trapped gases and can be an indicator of a quality espresso shot.

      Cup of Excellence

      An annual competition and auction, promoting the highest quality coffees produced in participating countries. Winning beans often fetch premium prices due to their outstanding quality.

      Cupping

      A standardised method for evaluating coffee's aroma and taste. Roasted beans are ground, steeped, and tasted to assess quality, flavour profiles, and defects.

      Current Crop

      Refers to coffee beans harvested in the most recent growing season. These beans are typically fresher and of better quality than older beans.

      D

      Degassing

      The natural process by which freshly roasted coffee beans release carbon dioxide gas. During the roasting process, chemical reactions occur within the beans that produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

      Dopio

      An Italian term that translates to "double," and in the context of coffee, it refers to a double shot of espresso.

      Drip Coffee

      Utilises a filter and gravity to brew. Hot water is poured over coffee grounds, and as it seeps through, it extracts flavours, dripping into a carafe or pot below.

      E

      Earthy

      A taste descriptor suggesting the flavour or aroma of fresh soil or wet earth. It can be found in coffees from regions like Sumatra and can be either desirable or indicative of a defect based on its intensity.

      Espresso

      A concentrated coffee made by pushing hot water through finely ground coffee under high pressure. It serves as the base for many coffee beverages and is characterised by its robust flavour and crema on top, and is most often made using a commercial espresso machine.

      Extraction

      The process of pulling flavour compounds, oils, and aromas from coffee grounds during brewing. It's a critical phase that significantly influences the taste, strength, and quality of the finished cup.

      F

      FairTrade

      A certification that ensures coffee farmers receive a fair and stable price for their beans. FairTrade coffee promotes ethical trading practices, sustainability, and better working conditions for those in the coffee supply chain.

      Filter Coffee

      Coffee made by passing hot water over ground coffee that is contained within a basket or filter (often made from paper). Once it has passed through the ground coffee, the liquid is usually collected in a glass jug. Commercial filter coffee machines can produce larger batches of coffee, and keep the drink warm using a hot plate below the jug.

      Finish

      The lingering sensations and flavours experienced after swallowing a sip of coffee. It's the aftertaste that remains on the palate and can offer additional insights into the coffee's complexity and quality.

      First Crack

      A crucial moment in the coffee roasting process, signifying the point where the internal moisture in the coffee bean has heated to the extent that it causes the bean to expand and crack open.

      Flat White

      Originating from Australia/New Zealand, this drink is made with espresso and steamed milk. It's similar to a latte but has microfoam (a velvety milk), and typically less volume.

      Frappe

      A cold coffee drink originating from Greece, often enjoyed as a refreshing beverage in hot weather. It is made by blending instant coffee, cold water, and sugar (optional) together until a frothy texture is achieved. The mixture is then poured over ice and topped with milk, if desired. Frappe mixes are also available as a convenient way to make and serve this popular drink.

      French Press

      Identical to Cafetière; this method immerses coffee grounds in hot water, extracting flavours over several minutes, then a plunger separates the brew from the grounds.

      French Roast

      A specific level of roasting coffee beans, known for producing a dark, oily appearance and strong, smoky flavours. During the French roasting process, beans are heated to a high temperature, usually between 240 to 245°C (464 to 473°F), until they reach the second "crack," a point where the beans make a cracking sound due to the intense heat.

      G

      Great Taste Award

      The UK’s largest food and drink accreditation scheme, serving as a reliable stamp of excellence for products of exceptional quality.

      Green Beans

      Unroasted coffee beans. They are the seeds taken from the coffee cherry, and their roasting will determine the flavour profiles of the coffee.

      H

      Hand-Picking

      A selective method of harvesting coffee cherries. Workers choose only the ripe cherries, ensuring a more consistent quality, though it's labour-intensive.

      Honey Process

      A coffee processing method where some of the fruit's mucilage (or "honey") is left on the beans during drying. This method can imbue the beans with a sweet, syrupy flavour.

      Hopper

      The container attached to a coffee grinder that holds the whole coffee beans before they are ground. The hopper feeds the beans into the grinding mechanism, where they are then transformed into grounds suitable for brewing.

      I

      Immersion

      A general brewing style where coffee grounds are fully submerged in water, ensuring uniform extraction. After a set time, the liquid is separated, either through a filter or a decanting process.

      Irish coffee

      A popular coffee cocktail that combines hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and a layer of cream on top. Originally created in Ireland, this beverage is now enjoyed worldwide, especially as an after-dinner drink or as a warmer on cold days.

      K

      Kopi Luwak

      A controversial coffee made from beans eaten, then excreted by civets. The beans undergo fermentation in the animal's gut, resulting in a distinct flavour, though it raises ethical and quality concerns.

      L

      Latte Art

      The practice of creating designs or patterns on the surface of a latte by pouring steamed milk over the espresso. Latte art requires skill and is both an art and a demonstration of a barista's expertise.

      Latte

      A creamy coffee drink made with one or two shots of espresso and steamed milk, typically topped with a small amount of foam.

      Lungo

      An espresso shot that is pulled using more water than a regular espresso. The result is a longer, more diluted shot of espresso with a different flavour profile.

      M

      Macchiato

      Meaning "stained" or "spotted" in Italian, it's an espresso "stained" with a dash of frothy milk. It gives a potent coffee hit with a hint of creaminess.

      Micro-lot

      A specific batch of coffee beans from a single field at a farm, processed separately. It's known for its unique and high-quality flavour profiles.

      Mocha

      A delectable blend of espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate, often topped with whipped cream. Named after the Yemeni city of Mocha, once a centre of the coffee trade, but the drink's chocolate twist is more modern.

      Mouthfeel

      The tactile sensation coffee produces in the mouth, including its body and texture. Descriptors might include creamy, velvety, rough, or watery.

      N

      Natural/Dry Processing

      A method where coffee cherries are dried whole without removing the fruit or pulp. This process can result in sweet, fruity flavours in the coffee.

      O

      Old Crop

      Refers to coffee beans that were harvested in previous seasons. They might have lost some freshness and can have a more muted flavour profile compared to current crop beans.

      Origin

      The geographical location where coffee beans are grown. Different origins can have vastly different flavour profiles due to variations in climate, soil, and local processing methods.

      P

      Peaberry

      A natural mutation where a coffee cherry develops a single, rounded bean instead of two flat-sided beans. Peaberries are often separated and sold at a premium due to their distinct flavour profile.

      Pods

      Coffee pods are used with a compatible machine and generally offer a convenient way to make a single cup. The machine pierces the pods, which contains ground coffee, and passes hot water over the grounds to produce coffee in a cup placed on the machine. ESE coffee pods meanwhile, provide a convenient way to make coffee using an espresso machine.

      Portafilter

      A key component in espresso machines, serving as the holder for the coffee grounds during the extraction process. It consists of a handle and a metal basket, where the finely ground coffee is tamped down before being locked into the machine.

      Pour-Over Coffee

      A manual method requiring a brewer to pour hot water over coffee grounds in a circular motion. This controlled method allows for even extraction and a customizable brew strength.

      Processing

      The methods used to transform the raw coffee cherries into dried green coffee beans. Common methods include washed, natural, and honey processes, each influencing the flavour of the beans.

      Puck

      The compressed cake of used coffee grounds post-espresso extraction. A well-formed puck indicates proper tamping and grinding.

      Pulping

      A key step in the processing of coffee cherries after they have been harvested. The objective is to remove the outer skin and some layers of mucilage from the coffee bean, which is encased within the cherry. Pulping is often the first step in what is known as "wet" or "washed" processing.

      Q

      Q Grading

      A system to evaluate and score coffee quality. Certified "Q Graders" assess beans based on aroma, flavour, defects, and other criteria.

      R

      Ristretto

      An espresso shot that uses the same amount of coffee but half the amount of water. The result is a shorter, more concentrated shot, highlighting the coffee's most expressive flavours.

      Roast Date

      The date when coffee beans were roasted. Freshness impacts flavour, so many enthusiasts seek beans used within weeks of this date.

      Roast Profile

      The detailed description or recipe of how a bean is roasted, including temperature changes and roast duration. It helps replicate desired flavours consistently.

      Roasting Degree

      Refers to how light or dark coffee beans are roasted. Different degrees, from light to dark, influence flavour and aroma profiles.

      Roasting

      The process of heating green coffee beans to transform their chemical and physical properties, bringing out flavours and aromas inherent in the bean.

      Robusta

      Harvested from the Coffea canephora plant, Robusta beans possess a bolder, more bitter taste and contain more caffeine than Arabica. Typically grown at lower elevations, they're often used in instant coffee blends.

      S

      Seasonal Coffee

      Beans harvested in their optimal season, ensuring freshness and quality. Like fruits, coffee beans have peak harvesting times.

      Second Crack

      A second, more violent cracking sound that occurs after the "first crack." This usually happens when the internal temperature of the coffee bean reaches approximately 224-230°C (435-446°F). The second crack is the starting point for what is generally considered a dark roast.

      Semi-Washed Honey Process

      A hybrid method where the outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed, but some mucilage remains during drying. It's a balance between washed and full honey processes.

      Single Origin

      Single origin refers to coffee beans sourced from a specific locale, whether it be a single country, region, or farm. Single origin beans showcase unique flavour profiles and characteristics tied to their specific growing conditions and environments.

      Specialty Coffee

      Often used interchangeably with "speciality coffee," it signifies beans of exceptional quality and distinct flavour profiles.

      Strictly Hard Bean

      "Strictly Hard Bean" (SHB) is a classification term used primarily in Central American countries to denote coffee beans grown at high altitudes, usually above 1,200 metres (approximately 4,000 feet).

      Strip Picking

      A harvesting method where all cherries, ripe or not, are stripped off a branch at once. It's faster than hand-picking but can compromise quality.

      Sweetness

      Essential for balancing out a coffee's acidity. A good coffee should have a certain degree of sweetness, which can evoke flavours of sugar, syrup, fruit, or even chocolate.

      Swiss Water Decaffeination

      A chemical-free process used to remove caffeine from coffee beans. Unlike other decaffeination methods that use solvents like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, the Swiss Water Process utilises only water, temperature, and time.

      T

      Tamper

      A tool used to compress ground coffee into an espresso machine's portafilter, ensuring even extraction during brewing. Proper tamping is vital for a balanced espresso shot.

      Terroir

      Borrowed from the wine industry, it refers to how a particular region's climate, soils, and overall environmental factors influence the taste of the coffee.

      Trigonelline

      A compound found in coffee that breaks down during roasting, forming various aroma compounds and influencing the final flavour profile of the coffee.

      Turkish Coffee

      Finely ground coffee beans, cold water, and sugar (optional) are combined in a special pot called a "cezve." The mixture is then brought to a gentle boil over low heat, allowing for a thick layer of foam to form. The coffee is not filtered, resulting in a strong and concentrated beverage.

      Typica

      One of the oldest and most genetically pure varieties of Arabica coffee. Originating from Yemen and Ethiopia, this variety has been the basis for many other types of Arabica coffee cultivated around the world.

      V

      V60

      A cone-shaped pour-over dripper known for its spiral ridges and large central hole. The design, paired with its 60-degree angle, facilitates even extraction, yielding a clean and vibrant cup of coffee.

      Viennese Roast

      A level of roasting coffee beans that falls between a medium and a dark roast. During the roasting process, the beans are heated to a temperature typically ranging from 218 to 224°C (425 to 435°F).

      W

      Washed Process

      Also known as "wet processing," a method of preparing coffee beans that involves removing both the outer skin and the mucilage of the coffee cherries through mechanical pulping and then fermenting the remaining pulp to detach it from the bean. The objective is to expose the bare coffee bean, which is then dried and prepared for roasting.


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