Ethiopia was formerly known as Abyssinia. Abyssinia is also a cultivar brought to Java in 1928.
The Acaiá genotype was derived by selection from progenies of the Mundo Novo germplasm, which arose from natural hybridization between Sumatra and Bourbon cultivars.
Aceh District is north of North Sumatra and produces some very classic Sumatra coffees. The center of coffee in Aceh is Lake Tawar and Takengon, the city by the lake.
High acid coffees have a sharp, pleasing, piquant quality that gives them a snap, verve, liveliness in the cup. Acidity is a characteristic of high-grown coffees.
It is almost always considered a positive flavor attribute, yet the term can sound unattractive. Acidity in coffee might be described by terms like bright, clear, piquant, sweet, tangy, dry, clean, winey, etc.
The Aeropress is a brewing method that combines total immersion and gentle pressure to produce coffee flavors. Coffee grounds are in the bottom of the device, and when you depress the plunger it pushes water through the grounds and into a cup. Since the brew happens under pressure, some of the chemicals found in espresso (but not in brewed coffee) end up in the cup, resulting in a high-body cup reminiscent of an Americano. Aeropresses are extremely easy to clean, portable, and brew directly into a cup, making them a good choice for a brewer while traveling.
African coffee is known for its wild flavors, from bright Kenyas, to floral Ethiopia Yirgacheffes, to rustic, earthy Ethiopia Sidamos. While coffee is widely grown in sub Saharan Africa, specialty coffee African origins include are generally in eastern and southern Africa.
Aftertaste refers to lingering residual sensations in the mouth after coffee has swallowed. It might be distinguished from „finish” which is the final sensations of the coffee while it leaves the mouth.
There are different methods for ageing coffee – either holding the beans in burlap and rotating the coffee frequently as is done in Sumatra, or monsooning, where the beans are held in a warehouse and exposed to the moist monsoon winds as is done in India.
A branch of agriculture dealing with field-crop production, soil management and physiology, etc. Agronomy is an umbrella term dealing with all this and more.
Agtron colormeters are used in the coffee industry and also in other lab applications for color matching, color analysis, sorting, and other scientific measurements. Examples of colorimeter machines: Javalytics, Agtron, Colotrack, etc.
Along with Ketones, Aldehydes are an important factor in coffee aromatics, partially formed in roasting by the interaction of fatty acids and oxygen. They are partially formed by the Strecker Degradation of amino acids in the coffee roast environment.
A taste sensation characterized by a dryness and related bitter flavors, sometimes at the posterior of the tongue, usually sensed in the aftertaste.
The height above sea level that a coffee is grown. Coffee grown at higher altitude is often considered better in quality, though this is far from a rule. Higher-grown coffee tend to mature more slowly and have a denser bean, which may result in a more even roast. Overall quality, especially acidity, increases with altitude. In South and Central America, coffees are graded and classified based on altitude.
Amber beans are found in Yemen and Ethiopia dry-process coffees, and sometimes in other origins. They are pale yellow and slightly translucent. While not an outright defect, they are caused by iron deficiency in the plant, and/or high soil PH. They are sometimes separated and sold at a premium, with the false belief that they have better cup quality.
A coffee beverage made by combining espresso with hot water. It is the closest thing to „American-style” brewed coffee that can be made with an espresso machine, hence the name. Because espresso has a different chemical makeup from brewed coffee, an Americano has quite a different flavor profile from a cup of brewed coffee.
Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the species name of the genus responsible for around 75% of the world’s commercial coffee crop. Coffea Arabica is a woody perennial evergreen that belongs to the Rubiaceae family (same family as Gardenia). The other major commercial crop is Coffea Canephora, known as Robusta coffee. Arabica and Robusta differ in terms of genetics and taste. While Robusta coffee beans are more disease-resistant than the Arabica, they generally produce an inferior tasting beverage and has more caffeine. Coffea arabica is a tetraploid (44 chromosomes) and is self-pollinating, whereas Robusta is diploid with 22 chromosomes. There are 2 main botanical cultivars of Arabica: C. Arabica Var. Arabica (Typica) and C. Arabica Var. Bourbon. Arabica was used originally to indicate Arab origins because coffee was taken from Yemen to the Dutch colony Batavia on the island of Java (via India), although C. Arabica originates in the Western Ethiopian region of Kaffa.
An interspecific hybrid of coffea arabica and coffea canephora (robusta). This has been used widely in Africa to create coffee plants that do well in lowland areas, especially West Africa. It is not known for cup quality.
Refers to the smell of coffee when water has been pour on the grounds. In cupping, we describe the dry smell as fragrance and the wet grounds as aroma. High quality coffees should have pleasant aromatics in the cup. The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence its flavor profile and come from the perception of the gases released by brewed coffee. Aromatics as a term may encompass the entire aroma experience of a coffee. Aromatics reach the olfactory bulb through the nose and „retro-nasally” through the opening in the back of our palate. While some taste is sapid, perceived through the tongue and palate via papillae, or taste buds, most of flavor quality is perceived through the olfactory bulb.
A quality in aroma or flavor similar to that of an ashtray, the odor of smokers’ fingers or the smell one gets when cleaning out a fireplace. Ashy flavors can hint at roasting defects, anything from smokey unclean air being recycled through a roasting drum.
Astringency is a harsh flavor sensation, acrid flavor, that provokes a strong reaction. It can have dryness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness as components. It is certainly the opposite of sweetness and cleanness in coffee, always a defect flavor. It can be caused by substantial amounts of salts provoked by acids.
Aging coffees are at risk of showing this quality. Coffee is a very porous product and is susceptible to absorbing odors and flavors. Since most green coffees are stored in burlap or jute sacks, the coffee can take on this characteristic. Baggy flavors are the result of several factors: the fats in the coffee absorbing the smell of burlap, the loss in moisture content as the coffee ages, and other chemical changes. For some origins these changes in flavor can emerge in 1 year, 9 months, even 6 months for some decafs. Many times a darker roast on these coffees will conceal this taint.
Baked flavor happens during a roast when coffee does not develop properly, but rather when the roast goes too long without sufficient heat. Flavors are typically flat, dry, and can sometimes be astringent.
Balanced implies harmony between the different categories: acidity, flavor, body, aftertaste. A synonym for a balanced coffee is round.
„In the mouth” sensations derived from the basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory (umami). These are the core sensations that can be experienced without the input of the olfactory, through the papilla located in taste buds on the tongue.
In Latin American countries, a wet mill is called a Beneficio, where fresh coffee cherries are brought for pulping, fermentation, and drying.
Bergamot orange is used to scent Earl Grey tea, in perfumery and confection baking. It is the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and has a pleasant fragrance. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. It is only grown commercially in Calabria, Italy.
Bitter is one of the basic flavors, along with salty, sweet, sour and savory (umami). It is a harsh, unpleasant taste detected on the back of the tongue. It is typically found in overextracted brews as well as in overroasted coffees and those with various taste defects. Bitterness can be a positive quality when balanced with sweetness, thus using the term bittersweet, as found in darker chocolate flavors.
Blackberry is found as a fragrance, aroma or flavor in some coffees. It might be found in a wide range of origins, from Rwanda and Kenya, to Guatemala and Colombia.
A blend is a mixture of coffees from multiple origins or multiple processing methods. Coffees are typically blended to produce a more balanced cup. Among others, there are two types of blends: “tension” and “harmonious”. A tension blend combines two coffees that have different dominate flavor notes (i.e. Kenya (citrus) and Brazil (chocolate, nutty). A harmonious blend combines two flavors with similar characteristics and flavor notes (i.e. two Ethiopian washed Yirgacheffes).
Blue Mountain Cultivar
A C. Arabica Var. Typica coffee that shares other features of Typica plants, but also shows some resistance to CBD: Coffee Berry Disease. It is said to be grown in Papua New Guinea but pure lots have not been found, but can be found in various places such as Kona, Hawaii.
The tactile impression of weight and texture in the mouth. Coffees may be watery, thin, light, medium, fully, heavy, thick or even syrupy in the body, as well as buttery, oily, rich, smooth, chewy, etc. in texture.
An espresso portafilter with the bottom machined off so the bottom of the filterbasket is exposed. Bottomless portafilters allow you to view distribution problems and channeling: if the flow is uneven across the bottom of the filterbasket, the distribution of grounds in the basket is uneven.
Bourbon, along with Typica, are main Coffea Arabica cultivars. Bourbon was developed by the French on the island of Bourbon, now Reunion, in the India Ocean near Africa. The seeds were sold to the French by the British East India Company from Aden, Yemen, and were planted in 1708. Bourbon has slightly higher yields and is more robust than Typica in general. It has a broader leaf and rounder cherry (and green bean) than Typica, a conical tree form, and erect branches. It has many local variants and sub-types, including Tekisic, Jackson, Arusha, and the Kenya SL types. In general, Bourbon can have excellent cup character. The cherry ripens quickly, but is at risk from wind and hard rain. It is susceptible to major coffee diseases. Bourbon grows best at altitudes between 1100 – 2000 MASL. Bourbon coffees should have green tips (new leaves) whereas Typicas should have bronze-to-copper tips.
In coffee cupping, the „breaking of the crust” of floating grounds, is part of the aromatic evaluation. You add water to the coffee grounds, filling the cup, and wait 4 minutes. At this point there is still a crust of floating coffee grinds. You put your nose right above the cup and „break” this crust by stirring it with the spoon three times. The grinds sink, and the coffee can be tasted anywhere from 5-15 minutes after the break.
Brewed Coffee refers to all coffee preparations produced by adding non-pressurized water to coffee grounds. Contrasted with espresso coffee, which is produced under pressure, brewed coffee is primarily an extraction, and contains a lower amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) and has a thinner body.
A euphemistic term to describe acidity in coffee. A bright coffee has more high, acidic notes. Read more about acidity to understand its use as a flavor term, not in reference to the quantity of acidity in coffee.
Brown sugar is a type of sweetness found in coffee. It is a sweetness characterized by a hint of molasses, yet quite refined as well. Since Brown sugar of the common type is highly refined (made by recombining molasses with refined white sugar) it makes sense that it’s qualities are only mildly rustic. One might distinguish between mild light brown sugar and dark brown types.
Burlap bags are the traditional container in which green coffee is transmitted. Burlap is cheap, but long storage in burlap bags may result in a characteristic „baggy” defect taste. See baggy.
Burnt flavors in coffee are the result of over-roasting, fast roasting, or roasting in a high-heat environment. This often occurs when the initial roaster temperature when the green coffee is introduced is too high. Usually, scorching and tipping result in burnt flavors.
Buttery is primarily a mouthfeel description indicating an oily body or texture. It indicates a high level of lipids (fats) in the coffee, often. Buttery can also be a flavor description, or a combination of both mouthfeel and flavor. Denotes full and flavor.
An alkaloidal compound that has a physiological effect on humans, and a slight bitter flavor. It is found throughout the coffee plant but is more concentrated in the coffee bean. Arabica ranges from 1.0 to 1.6% caffeine, and Robusta ranges from 1.6 to 2.2% caffeine.
Caramel is a desirable form of sweetness found in the flavor and aroma of coffee, and is an extension of roast taste. This is a broad term, and can find many forms since it relates to the degree of caramelization of sugars; light or dark caramel, butterscotch, cookie caramel, syrupy forms, caramel popcorn, various types of candy, caramel malt.
Caramelization is the browning of sugars. Similar to the Maillard Reaction, caramelization is a type of non-enzymatic browning, however it is a slower process and requires higher temperatures. A sugar solution initially will be sweet with no aroma. Through caramelization it becomes both sour and a little bitter, as a rich aroma develops. The idea is to not roast to lightly or too dark for the sake of maintaining the sugars in the coffee.
An aromatic term that produces phenol-like sensations. It is a roast-related term referring to burnt flavors which are produced by darker roasts. Typically this is a negative term.
Catuai is a high-yield Arabica cultivar resulting from a cross of Mundo Novo and Caturra. The tree is short, with lateral branches forming close angles to the primary branches. It is robust and can tolerate areas with strong winds or rain. Catuai requires fertilization and care. It was developed by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil in the ’50s and ’60s, and is widely used in Brazil and Central America. There are yellow-fruited and red-fruited types, and many selections. In 2000, a new type called Ouro Verde was released with more vigor than Red Catuai.
Caturra is an Arabica cultivar discovered as a natural mutant of Bourbon in Brazil in 1937. It has a good yield potential, but was not ideal for Brazil growing conditions (due to lack of hardness and too much fruit in 3-4 production cycles). However, it flourished in Colombia and Central America and had good cup characteristics, possibly displaying citrus qualities. At higher altitudes quality increases, but production decreases, and it sometimes requires extensive care and fertilization. It has a good cup quality, and perhaps shows a more citric acidity, and lighter body than Bourbon.
Central American Coffee
Central American coffee is known for its „classic,” balanced profile. Centrals are primarily wet-processed since the climate is too humid for dry processing and hence cleaner and brighter than their dry-processed counterparts.
Chaff is paper-like skin that comes off the coffee in the roasting process. Chaff from roasting is part of the innermost skin (the silverskin) of the coffee fruit that still cling to the beans after processing has been completed.
Channeling refers to the formation of small water jets during espresso brewing due to poorly distributed grounds. When high-pressure water is forced toward the espresso puck, the water attempts to find the path of least resistance out, so if the coffee is not distributed evenly the water may form a small „channel” through the puck, rather than being forced through the coffee. This will result in a watery, under-extracted cup.
A decaffeination method where beans are soaked in hot water, which is then treated with a chemical that bonds to caffeine (either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate).
Either a flavor in the coffee, or referring to the fruit of the coffee tree, which somewhat resembles a red cherry.
Chicory was a popular coffee substitute and economizer for 2 centuries, back when coffee was more prized, and pure coffee was a luxury. In that time, it became a matter of cultural preference to use chicory in coffee, in the United States it was synonymous with New Orleans coffee. The specific taste of famous New Orleans brands is due to the blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory.
Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are important to coffee flavor, contributing to flavor when in the proper balance and level. They are a group of phenolic acids esterified to quinic acid, and account for up to 10% of the weight of green coffee. They are known to have antioxidant properties. Like all acids, its levels are reduced in roasting; darker roasts result in less acidity in the cup. Since it reduces to quinic acid in roasting, and quinic acid in high levels results in perceived bitterness and sourness, too much CGA is not desireable. Robusta coffees have roughly 25% more CGA than arabica.
Chocolate is a broad, general flavor or aroma term reminiscent of chocolate. There are so many forms of chocolate, either in its pure state, or as part of another confection. Chocolate flavors are often a „roast taste”, and are dependent on the degree of roast. Look for more specifics; bittersweet chocolate, bakers chocolate, toffee and chocolate, rustic chocolate, cocoa powder, Dutch cocoa, cocoa nibs, Pralines and chocolate, milk chocolate.
Citric acid is, in moderate amounts, a component of good, bright coffees. It is a positive flavor acid in coffee that often leads to the perception of citrus fruits and adds high notes to the cup. Fine high-grown arabica coffees have more citric acid than robusta types.
Qualities in coffee that are reminiscent of a citrus fruit; orange, lemon, grapefruit, kumquat, etc. Usually these terms imply a brightness in the coffee, a more acidic, wet-processed type of coffee.
Clean cup refers to a coffee that is free of taints and defects. It does not imply sanitary cleanliness, or that coffees that are not clean (which are dirty) are unsanitary. It refers to the flavors, specifically the absence of hard notes, fruity-fermenty flavors, earthy flavors or other off notes.
Clarity refers to well-defined characteristics in the cup, aromas or flavors that come into sharp focus and are recognized easily and distinctly. It also implies clarity of the brew, perhaps lighter mouthfeel, and sharper (good acidic) qualities.
Coffee is a flowering shrub that produces fruit. The seeds of the fruit are separated through various processing methods (wet or dry processing, or something in between) and dried to about 12% moisture for long term storage. The seeds are roasted and ground prior to being prepared as an infusion. The term „coffee” is applied to the plant, the seeds and the infusion alike.
Coffee Berry Disease
A fungal disease that results in cherry dying and dropping to the ground before it is ripe. It is a serious problem in Kenya, and most of East Africa, and can be transmitted by the coffee seed.
The process of making an infusion of roasted, ground coffee beans. In the most basic sense, hot water is added to coffee ground to produce a drink. Some brewing methods (espresso, turkish coffee) produce a dense concentrate while other methods (filter drip, vacuum pot) produce a cleaner, more refined cup. Coffee brewing methods have changed much over time and are likely to continue to do so.
Coffee is a fruit from a flowering shrubby tree; we have come to call the whole fruit coffee cherry. It usually ripens to a red color, although some types ripen to yellow, and is smaller than most real cherries, but close enough. In other regards, the tree and fruit do not resemble a cherry. Old European texts often refer to the fruit as the „coffee berry”. Coffee cherry can also be a flavor accent in the cup.
Coffee Crop Cycle
The Coffee Crop Cycle refers to the period of growth of the cherry to maturation and harvest. Coffee has one harvest period a year, although in some there is a second small harvest. From the flowering, to the fruit development and ripening, the coffee fruit is on the tree for a long period. The crop cycle differs for many origins.
Coffea Arabica is susceptible to a host of diseases, such as Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), Coffee Berry Borer (CBB, also known as Broca), and Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR). There are many others, but these diseases do the most economic damage to the coffee crop worldwide.
A mechanism (usually paper or a metal or nylon mesh) for straining coffee ground from brewed coffee.
Coffee grading is the technical skill of evaluating and scoring of physical coffee defects in green coffee. The sample is 350 grams, and there is a particular point system to score the intensity of each defect, based on the full „black bean” which equals 1.
Coffee Growing Regions
Coffee is grown in a belt around the world – roughly from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, in 50 different countries. For specialty grade coffee, altitude ranges from 1800- 6000 feet. The optimum temperature is between 15-24ºC (59-75ºF) year round. Soils and rainfall vary widely from one origin to the next – or even within a large coffee producing country like Ethiopia.
Sorting coffee by removing beans that have a color that indicates a defect. Color coffee sorting is often done by an optical sorting machine, which has a high speed camera that watches a stream of beans and actuates a jet of air to remove off-colored beans. Most high quality coffee also involves hand color sorting, which is traditionally done by women sitting either at conveyor belts or at tables.
The co-presence of many aroma and flavor attributes, with multiple layers. A general impression of a coffee, similar to judgments such as „balanced” or „structured”.
The transfer of heat between matter. In coffee, conduction heating is contrasted with convection heating, which occurs in a moving fluid.
Transfer of heat through the bulk movement of a fluid. In the case of coffee roasting, we discuss convection in the context of heated air moving as a fluid through a roast chamber.
Conventional means that a coffee is not organic certified, in the coffee trade.
Country Of Origin
Country of Origin is where the coffee is grown in general terms. Region is a more specific area within the country. Arabica coffee grows in only in particular environments with adequate rainfall, temperate climates, good soil (often volcanic), sufficient altitude, and roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
An audible popping sound heard during roasting. In coffee, one refers to „first crack” and „second crack,” which come from two different classes of chemical reactions.
A mouthfeel description indicating thickness and soft, rounded texture.
Crema is a dense foam that floats on top of a shot of espresso. Basically, it is an emulsion of oils, gases and water. It ranges in color from blond to reddish-brown to black. Blond crema may be evidence of under-extraction or old coffee, while black crema is a sign of over-extraction or an overly hot boiler. Crema also contains various fatty substances called lipids.
A burnt flavor taste caused by phenolic compounds from dark roast levels.
Crisp can have several meanings, since it modifies other flavor terms. Crisp acidity might mean bracing, fresh fruit acids. Crisp chocolate notes might refer to tangy bittersweetness. It involves something that occurs briefly, and that provokes reaction, normally positive.
In the official SCAA protocol for coffee cupping (tasting), you first judge the dry fragrance by smelling the ground coffee. Then you add hot water and judge the wet aroma. This is done in 2 steps: first by sniffing the crust of floating grounds that naturally caps the liquid mixture, then by „breaking” the crust with a cupping spoon.
A cultivar is a particular variety of a plant species or hybrid that is being cultivated. The plant chosen as a cultivar may have been bred deliberately, selected from plants in cultivation.
In-the-cup coffee flavors (and in extension aromatics) that result from the plant material used to produce the coffee. In general, the Coffea Arabica sub-species does not display strong flavor distinctions between cultivars as one might find with wine or other fruits. Any flavors from the cultivar are highly influenced by the growing environment and processing, but in some cases cultivars have distinct taste recognizable to most coffee drinkers, as with Pacamara or Gesha types. Robusta and Liberica have distinct flavors, but these are different sub-species: Coffea Canephora (robusta) and Coffea Liberica.
Cup Of Excellence
The Cup of Excellence (COE) is a competition held more-or-less yearly in many coffee producing countries. Until 2008, the COE was limited to Central and South America, but with the 2008 Rwanda Cup of Excellence the competition has expanded to Africa, as well. In the COE, coffees are rated by an international jury and then auctioned off. COE coffees regularly fetch many times normal market rates for coffee, with the top coffees ofter selling for more than $20/pound. The Cup of Excellence was founded in 1999 in Brazil and expanded to other countries in the coming years.
A cupper is a professional coffee taster who analyzes the quality of the coffee.
Cupping is a method of tasting coffee by steeping grounds in separate cups for discrete amounts of ground coffee, to reveal good flavors and defects to their fullest. It has formal elements and methodology in order to treat all samples equally and empirically, without bias. A discrete amount of ground coffee is dosed into multiple cups or bowls for each sample, dry fragrance in evaluated, hot water is added, wet aroma is evaluated, the floating crust of grounds are „broken” with a fancy „cupping spoon” and the aroma is again evaluated, the cupper waits for a cooler temperature and skims the lingering foam from the top, then, after cleaning a spoon in hot water, carefully removes coffee from the top of the cup without stirring, and sucks the liquid across the palate, atomizing it into the olfactory bulb as much as possible, judging flavor, acidity, aftertaste, mouthfeel, and any other number of quality categories.
A cupping spoon is specifically designed for the tasting procedure of the same name, cupping. It is similar to some bouillon spoons or gumbo spoons, and features (usually) a round deep bowl and arched handle. There are many different materials used for cupping spoons: stainless steel, silver plated and sterling silver.
Refers to any coffee that has not been replaced by new crop shipments, even if it was shipped from origin many months before. See Past Crop and New Crop as well.
Coffee from which caffeine has been removed, either chemically or using water filtration. A variety of methods for decaffeination exist, but all operate on the same basic principle: coffee is soaked in a liquid (water or pressurized carbon dioxide) bath and the caffeine is extracted from the liquid. See SWP, CO2 process, Ethyl Acetate. Decaffeinated beans have a much darker appearance and give off little chaff when roasting. Decafs will roast differently than regular coffees because of their altered state; in most roasting methods, they will roast faster than regular beans.
In coffee, a defect refers to specific preparation problems with the green coffee, or a flavor problem found in the cupping process. Bad seeds in the green coffee sample are termed defects, and scored against the coffee to determine it’s grade. Also, defect flavors are those found in cupping the coffee, and described by a host of unfavorable terms, such as Skunky, Dirty, Cappy, Soapy, Animal-like, Sour, etc. Roast problems can produce defect flavors, as well as poor sorting or preparation of the coffee, mistakes in transportation and storage, problems at the wet mill, bad picking of the fruit or problems going back to the tree itself.
Degassing, or resting refers to the step after home roasting a batch; coffee brewed immediately has so much C0-2 coming off it that it prevents good extraction or infusion of water. Time is often needed to allow the coffee to off-gas. Also, certain characteristics are not developed immediately after roasting, such as body. A rest of 12-24 hours is recommended, or up to 3-5 days for some espresso coffees.
Degree Of Roast
Degree of Roast simply means the roast level of a coffee, how dark it has been roasted. The longer a coffee is exposed to a constant heated environment, the darker it roasts. One part of roasting consistency is to match degree-of-roast from batch to batch, if that is desired. The second is to match the Roast Profile, the time-temperature relationship that was applied to the roast.
Mucilage is the fruity layer of the coffee cherry, between the outer skin and the parchment layer that surrounds the seed. In the traditional wet-process method, the mucilage is broken down by fermentation and then washed off.
The density of a coffee bean is often taken as a sign of quality, as a more dense bean will roast more evenly. The higher a coffee is grown, the more dense it is likely to be. Coffee is sorted at origin by density, with the most dense beans graded as specialty coffee.
Density sorting is a step at the dry mill where coffee is run across a density table. Tilted at an angle, the table vibrates and dense coffee beans travel to the TOP or the highest side of the table, whereas less dense seeds go to the LOWER angle of the table. Less dense seeds are either outright defects, or tend to have poor cup character because they are damaged, or under-developed. The density table is often called an Oliver table, and there are inferior air-based sorters as well.
A term used by coffee sellers to indicate that the coffee was purchased through a direct relationship with the farmer. Unlike Fair Trade and Organic certifications, Direct Trade is not an official, third-party certification.
Dirty cup is a general term implying some form of taint, usually an earthy defect, but also a mixed defect of ferment, hardness, dirt, moldy flavors etc. An undesirable unclean smell and taste, slight to pronounced.
A roaster with a rotating drum that provides agitation to the beans, while a heating element (typically either electric or gas) provides heat. The metal drum conducts heat to the beans, so drum roasters heat beans both by convection and conduction. Drum roasters typically roast more slowly than air roasters, and impart a more rounded, less bright flavor profile.
In the cupping procedure for tasting and scoring coffee, this is the smell of the dry, ground coffee before hot water is added. The term fragrance is used since it is normally applied to things we smell but do not consume (perfume, for example), whereas aroma is usually applied to foods and beverages.
A facility that accepts dried coffee cherry and mechanically separates the coffee bean from the dried fruit and parchment layer. The facility can be highly mechanized, as in Ethiopia, or very simple, as in Yemen.
Dry process is a method to transform coffee from the fruit of the coffee tree to the green coffee bean, ready for export. Dry processing is the original method, and the wet process was devised later (as well as the very recent pulp natural process). It is a simple method, using less machinery and more hand labor, and has been a tradition in some growing origins for centuries. It risks tainting the coffee with defect flavors due to poor handling, drying, or ineffective hand-sorting. In dry processing the fruit is picked from the tree and dried directly in the sun or on raised screens, without peeling the skin, or any water-based sorting or fermenting.
In both dry-process and wet-process (and the other hybrid processes like pulp natural and forced demucilage) the coffee must always be dried before processing. In dry process you simply pick the coffee cherry fruit from the tree and lay it out in the sun to dry. In wet process you pulp the seed out of the fruit skin, ferment it to break down the fruity mucilage, wash it, and then dry it. Drying on raised beds is usually preferable by buyers like us, rather than on the ground or in a drying machine (a Guardiola).
Sumatra coffees can have a positive earthy flavor, sometimes described as „wet earth” or „humus” or „forest” flavors. But Earthy is a flavor term with some ambivalence, used positively in some cases, negatively in others. Usually, if we use the term dirty or swampy, we are implying a negative earth flavor, but earthy itself in Indonesia coffees is a positive assertion. Earthy in a Central America wet-process coffee is NOT a positive term though, since it is out of character, and does not fit the flavor profile
While coffee is not a carbonated beverage, at times a combination of factors (brightness/acidity with a light mouthfeel) can make the coffee dance on the palate.
In coffee, „emulsion” typically refers to the suspension of coffee oils in water. While brewed coffee is primarily an extraction, espresso is both an extraction and an emulsion because it occurs under pressure.
A term applied to chemical reactions, referring to a reaction that absorbs heat. Most parts of the coffee roasting process are endothermic.
The temperature of the roasting environment determines the specific types of chemical reactions that occur. There is a window of temperatures that produce favorable reactions for the ideal cup characteristics. Temperature values outside of this window have a negative effect on quintessential cup quality.
In its most stripped-down, basic form, this is a working definition for espresso: A small coffee beverage, about 20 ml, prepared on an espresso machine where pressurized hot water extracted through compressed coffee. A smaller version where extraction is restricted is called a Ristretto.
A „coffee estate” is used to imply a farm that has it’s own processing facility, a wet-mill. In Spanish this is called an Hacienda. A Finca (farm) does not necessarily have a mill. (And Finca is not a coffee-specific term). In a strict sense an Estate would have both a wet mill and dry mill, meaning they prepare coffee from the tree all the way to ready-to-export green coffee in jute bags. Estate coffee is not necessarily better than any other type, except that they have the possibility of controlling quality all through the process.
Coffea Excelsa is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea, and has Robusta-like form. It can be confused with Robusta and Liberica because of it’s form, and robusta-like cup. Not to be confused with the Colombian coffee grade Excelso, which is unrelated. The correct scientific name is Coffea Dewertii.
A Colombian coffee grade referring to screen size of 15-16. In the traditional bulk Arabica business, Excelso is a step below the large bean Supremo grade, which indicates screen size 17-18.
A term applied to chemical reactions, referring to a reaction that releases energy. A classic example is burning. Most parts of the coffee roasting process are endothermic, but first crack is exothermic.
Refers to the process of infusing coffee with hot water. Hot water releases or „extracts” the flavor from the roasted, ground coffee.
A general characterization that cup flavors are diminishing in quality due to age of the green coffee, and loss of organic compounds.
Fazenda is the Portuguese word for farm, hence it is the term used in Brazil. Fazenda is not a coffee-specific term.
Ferment is the sour off flavor, often vinegar-like, that results from several possible problems. It might be the result of seriously over-ripe coffee cherry. It can come from coffee cherry that was not pulped the same day it was picked, and/or was exposed to high heat between picking and processing. Often it comes from poor practices at the wet mill, when coffee is left too long in the fermentation tank, or old coffee that is over-fermented is mixed with new coffee.
A key part of the wet process of coffee fruit is overnight fermentation, to break down the fruit (mucilage) layer that tenaciously clings to the coffee seed, so it can be washed off. Fermentation must be done soon after picking the cherry from the tree, and lasts 12 – 24 hours depending on temperatures and other factors. When you feel the slimy coffee and the parchment layer feels rough like sandpaper, the coffee is ready to wash. Good fermentation and subsequent drying can lead to the cleanest coffee flavors in wet-process lots.
As a defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. Fermented flavor can be the result of poor wet-processing, over-ripe cherry, or some other contamination in the processing. As a processing step, all wet-process coffee is fermented to break down the mucilage. Coffee is fermented for 12-24 hours, sometimes longer, so the mucilage can be washed off the parchment layer.
A defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. This often takes the form of vinegar-like aroma and flavor. Fermenty or vinegar flavors can result from high levels of acetic acid, whereas moderate levels lead to positive winey flavors.
This is the part of the French Press that actually filters the coffee as the plunger is being pushed downward. It is a circular mesh screen either made of nylon or stainless steel and threads onto the plunger shaft. The screen must be cleaned after use and replaced periodically.
Finca is the Spanish word for farm. Sometimes the term Hacienda is used to imply an Estate, which would mean the farm has it’s own wet-mill. A Finca does not necessarily have a mill. Finca is not a coffee-specific term.
Similar to aftertaste, but it refers to the impression as the coffee leaves the palate. Aftertaste is the sensations gathered after the coffee has left the mouth.
First crack in one of two distinct heat-induced pyrolytic reactions in coffee. It is distinguished by a cracking or popping sound in the coffee, and occurs between 390 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit in most coffee roasters. It has a sound more similar to the popping of popcorn, whereas the Second Crack that occurs around 440 to 450 Fahrenheit has a sharper, faster sound. First crack involves a rapid expansion of the coffee seed, and marks the point where water and carbon dioxide fracture, leading to the liberation of moisture from the coffee in the form of steam. First crack opens the crease in the bean enough to release remaining silverskin, or chaff. First crack is a clue to the roaster-operator about the roast level, and it’s termination generally marks the first stage (City Roast) where coffee is acceptably dark enough to enjoy.
The normal coffee fruit has 2 seeds inside, facing each other on their flat side. A percentage of each plant has peaberries, which are fruits where one of the ovules aborts and the remaining single seed grows to a rounded form; a „peaberry”. Usually it goes without saying that a coffee is a flat bean, but in some origins like Tanzania with high percentages of peaberry, the term is used.
The total impression of aroma, acidity and body. Specific taste flavors may suggest spices, chocolate, nuts, or something less complimentary — straw, grass, earth, rubber, etc.
A term that probably refers to the SCAA Flavor Wheel, an analysis tool adapted from the wine industry. Half of it is dedicated to chiefly negative, defective flavors, while the other is mainly positive aspects. The hierarchy of flavor and aroma origins it connotes is highly questionable, but it remains a useful (if limited) tool for assigning language to sensory experience.
In the wet process, and sometimes in Pulp Natural or Forced Demucilage process, coffee cherries or parchment are floated in a tank of water. Good cherries or seeds are dense and sink. A coffee bean that did not mature inside the parchment layer will float in wet-processing.
During the wet-process method, coffee cherry or the de-pulped (without skin) coffee seeds are floated in a water bath and/or transported down a channel in water. At this time, floating fruit can be skimmed off, whereas good fruit/seeds will sink. Coffee will float if the bean is hollow, undeveloped, under-developed, damaged by the coffee berry borer or other pest.
Primarily an aromatic quality, but also a flavor, reminiscent of flowers. If generally perfumey and flower-like, it might be described simply as floral, but usually a specific type is described; jasmine, rose-like, fruit blossoms (cherry, orange, peach, etc).
A simple coffee brewer: grounds and hot water are added to a carafe, allowed to sit for several minutes, and then a filter is pushed down to hold the grounds at the bottom of the carafe. French presses have the advantage that they are very easy to control: dose/grind, water temperature, and extraction time are all manageable. Presses result in a high-body cup with more residual grounds that most brewing methods.
In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. Is it fresh, aromatic, sweet fruit? Is it ripe, or is it over-ripe, fermenty, vinegary fruit? And there’s a side argument as well: did the fruit flavors come from well-prepared coffee, or did it emerge in a process where the coffee had too much contact with the mucilage of the coffee cherry. (This might happen in over-fermenting, in a hybrid process such as Indonesia wet-hulling, or in poorly executed dry-processing).
Gesha (often wishfully misspelled as Geisha) is a long-bean Ethiopia cultivar selection with a unique, unparalleled jasmine, floral aroma and a very sweet, savory and refreshing flavor profile. It was originally distributed from the far West of Ethiopia (Gesha forest) via Tanzania and Kenya to the coffee garden at CATIE in Costa Rica, and displayed some rust-resistant properties. Gesha is a town in Western Ethiopia.
Golden Beans (also Amber Beans)
Golden beans are found in Yemen and Ethiopia dry-process coffees, and sometimes in other origins. They are pale yellow and slightly translucent. While not an outright defect, they are caused by iron deficiency in the plant, and/or high soil PH. They are sometimes separated and sold at a premium, with the false belief that they have better cup quality.
Nearly every county of origin has its own grading scale. It can be incredibly confusing. Sometimes the coffee earns a higher grade than it deserves, sometimes the grade is actually lowered to avoid tariffs! Central and South Americans tend to follow the SHB and SHG model (Strictly Hard Bean and Strictly High Grown indicates altitudes above 1000m).
GrainPro SuperGrain Bag
A multi-layer plastic bag with a gas barrier enabling coffee „to build up a modified atmosphere, similar to the principle of the Cocoon” (quoted from the GrainPro literature). The bags can be used with any kind of commodity, and in tests using coffee, the bags have been shown to extend the flavor life of the coffee.
A roast-related flavor, sometimes used negatively, but it can also be a positive flavor attribute. Usually grain flavors indicate a too-light roast, stopped before 1st crack concluded, like under-developed grain flavor. It can also result from baking the coffee, long roasts at low temperatures. Grain sweetness in some coffees is desirable, like malted barley, wheat, toast, brown bread, malt-o-meal, graham cracker, etc.
Greenish flavor in the cup, usually indicating early crop, unrested coffee. This is a fresh cut grass flavor, chlorophyll-like, not a dried grass or hay flavor that would indicate old, past crop coffee.
Green coffee is a dense, raw green-to-yellow colored seed. In it’s essence, coffee is the dried seed from the fruit of a flowering tree – each fruit having 2 seeds facing each other (the flat side of the coffee „bean”) or in the case of the peaberry, a single rounded seed.
Green Coffee Storage
Green coffee in general can be stored up to one year from the date of processing with no noticeable changes in flavor. Bright, delicate coffees can fade faster; earthy coffees can last a bit longer. Very often the type and quality of the processing methods used on the coffee will determine how long a coffee will hold up.
A smell or flavor of fresh-cut green plants, vegetable leaves or grass, usually indicating fresh new-crop coffees that have not fully rested in parchment. Part of the expertise of cupping lots at origin before export is to see the potential cup quality despite the greenish flavors of young, unrested coffee.
A tropical fruit with distinct sweet flavor of strawberry-pineapple as well as a tart citrus accent, found in some coffees (Colombia Huila and Cauca comes to mind).
Sometimes the term Hacienda is used to imply an Estate, which would mean the farm has it’s own wet-mill. A Finca (farm) does not necessarily have a mill. Finca is not a coffee-specific term.
Practiced around the world, with both wet processed and dry processed coffees, hand sorting is generally the final step in the preparation of specialty coffees. Whether on conveyor belts or tables, the work of hand sorting is usually done by women at the mill just before coffee is bagged and labeled for export. Hand sorting removes any defective (small, broken, or discolored) that were not caught by the optical color sorter (if it was used). In the most sophisticated and the most basic coffee processing alike, hand sorting is crucial for controlling the quality of the cup.
Brazilian coffee grading has a different logic than much grading in the rest of the coffee world. Terms like „hard” and „soft” describe the flavor, not the bean itself. So „hard” refers to a harsh, astringent mouth feel, „soft” is mild and fine. Note that hard in terms of bean density signifies quality and has nothing to do with hard flavors in the cup, such as SHB grade coffee – Strictly Hard Bean – from Central America.
The hectare is a unit of area, defined as being 10000 square metres, is primarily used in the measurement of land. 1 Hectare = 10000 Square Meters = 2.471 acres
A flavor descriptor in coffee reminiscent of herbs, usually meaning aromatic, savory, leafy dried herbs. Usually, more specific descriptions are given, whether is is a floral herb, or sage-like, etc. In reality, there are very different herbal notes, from grassy types, to dried vegetal, to floral, to green. It could hint at rustic qualities, it could indicate an unclean cup flavor, or it could also be a clean and refined cup quality. So it is important to look at the context the term is used within.
This descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the smell of animal hides, similar to leathery. It is not necessarily considered as a negative attribute but is generally used to describe strong notes. Hidey flavors can be found in Yemeni coffees as part of their rustic qualities, but in a clean coffee such as a Ethiopia wet-process, hidey would certainly be a defect flavor.
High Grown, or HG, is the highest quality Mexican coffee designation but in Nicaragua it means 2nd quality.
In coffee, honey-like sweetness is often found. This form of sweetness is largely a dynamic of roast levels and roast profiles as well. Honey (or its Spanish translation „Miel”) can also refer to a pulp natural coffee.
Hulling is the step at the dry mill where the green coffee bean is removed from the parchment shell. (See Wet Hulled for the Indonesia method).
A pot for making turkish coffee with wide bottom, narrow neck, and long handle. „Ibrik” is the Turkish word for this coffee pot. It is usually made out of copper or brass and lined with tin. The word ibrik is likely derived from the Greek mpriki or biriki. See our Ibrik Tip sheet for further information on this brewing method.
The ICO, International Coffee Organization, is the governing body for the world coffee trade. The ICO was responsible for the quota system that limited exports from each country, and helped maintain stable prices in the NYBOT (New York „C”) coffee market, until it was dissolved in 1989.
A very positive floral quality in coffee, usually with a strong aromatic component, reminiscent of jasmine flower or tea. There are many forms of jasmine; the common flowering vines, teas, potpourri, etc. The infamous Geisha coffee is known for the invigourating jasmine fragrance and aroma.
JBM is short for Jamaica Blue Mountain, which is both a trade name for certain Jamaica coffee, and a Typica cultivar. As a cultivar, it is one of the older New World Typica types since the Typica was circulated around the Carribean isles long before it was planted in the mainland of Central America. Not all Jamaica-grown coffee is necessarily JBM cultivar. As a trade name, it supposedly signifies the higher grown coffee from Jamaica, as opposed to Jamaica High Mountain, which is lower grown (!). There is no blue shade to the coffee or the mountain, or a specific geographical designation it indicates.
Along with Aldehydes, Ketones are important carbonyl compound that contribute over 20% to coffee aromatics. Formed from carbohydrates in the roast process, they result in aroma and flavor ranging from floral, herbaceous, buttery, caramel, vanilla, milky, saffron, beef, etc.
An espresso-based beverage with steamed silky milk on top, averaging 190-220 ml with 20 ml espresso, served in a ceramic cup or bowl.
This descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the leather, and is sometimes distinguished as „fresh leather”. It is not necessarily a defect, but does describe a quality that is intense and rustic. Yemeni coffees can have leathery character as a positive attribute, but a wet-process Panama, for example, should not be leathery!
Coffea Liberica is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea originating in Liberia, West Africa. It is a tree-like form, with mild cup that is more similar to Robusta in terms of the plant and the cup quality, than to Arabica. The branches and leaves have an inclined attitude in relation to the trunk, the seeds are large and skin tough. It is found in Indonesia and other parts of Asia. A varietal of Liberica, known as Baraco, is a major crop in the Philippines.
Another euphemistic term to describe acidity in coffee. A lively coffee has more high, acidic notes.
Coffee can be separated by lot in any number of ways usually by the processor to distinguish one area of the farm, a particular altitude, particular trees, a particular day’s pickings or a particular processing method.
The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, induced by heat in the coffee roasting process. It results in the browning color of coffee (from melanoidins, which are key to espresso crema too), as well as many volatile aromatics and flavors. It is not unique to coffee, and is at work in a variety of food conversion or cooking operations: toasted bread, malted barley, roasted or seared meat, dried or condensed milk.
Malic acid is yet another of the many acids that adds to favorable perceptions of cup quality; malic acid often adds apple-like flavors. In Kenya coffees, it reaches levels of 6.6 g/kg whereas robusta coffees measure about about one-third to one-half of that level.
A trade name used for wet-hulled Sumatra coffees. It is an area and a culture group as well (spelled Mandailing often) but there is little coffee production in this area anymore. Mandheling coffees might have originated from anywhere in North Sumatra or Aceh provinces. They are graded on flavor defects in a very loose way, so a „Grade One” Mandheling might, in fact, have many physical defects.
As the name indicates cross between large-bean Maragogype and Catuai cultivars. It has a larger than average bean and interesting cup flavors, similar to Pacamara.
As the name indicates cross between large-bean Maragogype and Caturra cultivars. It seems to be found most in Nicaragua, although I am not sure exactly why. It can be grown elsewhere, certainly. It has a larger than average bean and interesting cup flavors, similar to Pacamara.
Maragogype is a mutation of Typica coffee and was discovered near the town Maragogype in Brazil. The Maragogype is a large plant with big leaves, low production and very large fruits (and seeds / green beans). It has been called the „Elephant Bean coffee.” Maragogype adapts best between 2,000-2,500 feet. The mild cup characteristics and bean size were historically sought-after in Europe. Roasting can be difficult. It benefits from gentle warm-up in the roaster, and long, gentle roast times temperature profiles.
Generally refers to the altitude or elevatrion. Meters Above Sea Level.
Mechanical dryers are used as an alternative to sun-drying coffee on a patio, either due to poor weather, or when the patio does not have enough capacity. It is not considered as good as sun-drying coffee. The drum type dryer, called a Guardiola, is considered better than the vertical dryers.
A defective flavor characterized by a penetrating medicine-like, alcohol or chemical type taint flavor. This type of defect usually comes from poor processing or storage, but could indicate that the coffee has absorbed the smell of some industrial material: tainted jute bags, stored it plastic at high temperatures, etc.
A Bourbon cultivar variant from Rwanda and Burundi. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it.
Micro-Lot is a term ripe and ready to be abused. It already is. It’s a term that designates not only a small volume of coffee, but a lot produced separately, discretely picked or processed to have special character. In other words, a Micro-lot should have been harvested from a particular cultivar, from a particular plot of land, from a particular band of altitude, processed in a separate way or a combination of these aspects.
A Micro-Mill is a tiny low-volume, farm-specific coffee producer who their lots separate, mill it themselves, gaining total control of the process, and tuning it to yield the best possible flavors (and the best price!)
Micro-Region is more specific coffee-producing zone. For example, if the Country for a specific lot is Panama, the region might be Boquete, the Micro-Region might be Horqueta, and then perhaps the name of a local area would locate the coffee even further.
Off aroma and flavor that reminds one of a dank, moldy closet. This flavor can hint at a dangerous coffee mold and should not be consumed. Most common in Sumatra coffees that ship with a high moisture content, and industrial grade robusta coffees.
A coffee mill might mean a coffee grinder, but we usually use the term to refer to a coffee processing facility, either a Wet-Mill or a Dry Mill. A wet mill will be part of the wet-process, where coffee is pulped (peeled), fermented in concrete tanks, and then washed and dried. Then it is ready for the dry mill, which may or may not be at the same location. At the dry mill it is hulled out of the parchment skin that surrounds the green bean, classified by density and size, sometimes by color too, and bagged for export. A wet mill can be called a Washing Station or a Factory (Kenya) or a Beneficio Humido (as opposed to a Benificio Seco for a Dry Mill).
A flavor hint of mint found in coffee, which could indicate a clean and brisk mint hint, or a more rustic dried mint. It might even suggest a medicinal mint note, but this would be clear from the context it is used within. Most often we would use it to indicate a mouth-refreshing, clean, positive quality.
Moka Yemeni type of coffee, both in terms of the family of cultivars planted there, and the general trade name. The alternate spellings are Mocca, Mokha, Mocha. The name refers to the former coffee port on the Red Sea called Al Mahka, and all the spellings are derived from a phonetic interpretation of the Arabic pronunciation for this town. It is no longer a coffee port, and most Yemeni coffee ships from Hodeidah, also on the Red Sea. In terms of cultivar, all types of Moka coffee are proved to come from Harar, Ethiopia or other areas on the Eastern side of the Rift Valley. Yemeni Moka coffee is the first commercially planted „farms” (the coffee is grown on stone walled terraces) and the souce for what would become Typica and Bourbon cultivars. So all coffee comes from West Ethiopia and the Boma plateau of Sudan, then to Eastern Ethiopia and Harar via the slave trade route, then to Yemen, then to the rest of the world. Moka is an established cultivar as well, found in many ICO coffee research gardens and grown in some locales (such as Maui, Hawaii).
Monsooned coffees are stored in special warehouses until the Monsoon season comes around. The sides of the structure are opened and moist monsoon winds circulate around the coffee making it swell in size and take on a mellowed but aggressive, musty flavor. The monsooning process can take around 12 to 16 months, the beans swelling to twice their original size and turning into a pale golden colour.
A major component in the flavor profile of a coffee, it is a tactile sensation in the mouth used in cupping. quite literally can refer to how a coffee feels in the mouth or its apparent texture.
Indicating the fruity layer of the coffee cherry, between the outer skin and the parchment layer that surrounds the seed.
Mundo Novo is a commercial coffee cultivar; a natural hybrid between „Sumatra” and Bourbon, originally grown in Brazil. In my experience, when some farmers and brokers refer to „Brazilian Bourbon coffees”, they might mean Mundo Novo. It has a rounded seed form. The plant is strong and resistant to disease. Mundo Novo has a high production, but matures slightly later than other kinds of coffee. It does well between 1000-1200 MASL, which suits Brazil coffee altitudes, with an annual rainfall of 1,200-1,800 mm.
Musty refers to an aroma and/or flavor that ranges from slight intensity to mildewy defect flavor. Unlike Mildew taint, musty can have a slight (VERY slight) positive connotation when it is extremely mild, and linked to foresty flavors in Indonesia coffees. It can also relate to the hidey, leathery flavors of dry-process Yemeni coffees. In any greater intensity, or in a coffee profile that should be clean, musty is NOT a positive quality.
Refers to fresh shipments of green coffee within the first month or two of the earliest arrivals … not quite the same as Current Crop.
New York „C”
The New York „C” market is the NYBOT (New York Board of Trade) trading platform for arabica coffees that determine base contract pricing. Prices on coffee futures are fixed against the C market.
Pushing nitrogen, an unreactive gas, into a bag of coffee to force out oxygen, which is more reactive. Nitrogen flushing is often done as part of vacuum packaging, since vacuuming out oxygen is not sufficient to remove all oxygen in a bag.
Nutty is a broad flavor term, reminiscent of nuts. It is tied intrinsically to roast taste and the degree of roast, since a coffee that cups nutty at City+ will not be so at FC+. Nutty is usually a positive term but varies greatly as there are so many forms: hazelnut, walnuts, peanut, cashew, almond, etc. Occasionally, nutty can be a negative taste term, especially if it is out of character for a coffee. Some lower grown coffees can have less favorable nut flavors that imply a softness in bean density, and lack of quality. Nut skins is also a flavor tied to a drying, slightly astringent mouthfeel.
A variation of Bourbon that ripens to an orange color. While the cup quality is excellent, the added challenge to harvest ripe cherries is daunting. (With red bourbon, determining ripe color is easier for the pickers). Found mainly in El Salvador. See Bourbon for the full definition.
Organic coffee has been grown according to organic farming techniques, typically without the use of artificial fertilizers. Some farms have more local Organic Certification than the more well-known USDA Organic branding. In the US, when the „organic” label is used, it means (or it should mean) that the coffee is certified organic. There are plenty of areas where farmers are too poor to afford pesticides and so use other non-chemical methods to manage production and pests, but alas, they are also too poor to afford organic certification. In areas where coffee is handled many times between the farmer and the mill, and hence the exact location of its production is not known, organic certification is unavailable.
In coffee talk, it refers to a coffee-producing region or country; such as, „I was just at origin.”
As the name implies, Pacamara is a large bean cultivar, a cross between Pacas and Maragogype with unique flavor properties. This variant originated in El Salvador in 1958, and has spread to nearby Central American countries, but is still chiefly grown in El Salvador. It has unique flavors that range from chocolate and fruit, to herbal or, in the worse coffees, vegetal (green onion specifically).
Pacas is a natural mutation of Bourbon cultivar that appeared in El Savador in 1949. It has good cup character, and is an input into Pacamara cultivar as well. Caturra and Villa Sarchi are also natural dwarf Bourbon mutations. In the cup, Pacas is similar to Bourbon and -overall- the shrub is more wind-resistant than Bourbon.
Pache is a dwarf mutation of Typica coffee first observed at Finca El Brito, Guatemala. It is also called Pache Comun. A varitety called Pache Colis is a cross of Caturra and Pache Comun, and is extremely short in form.
Papilla (or Papillae in plural) mushroom-like projections on the tongue that contain taste buds. These perceive basic flavors and textures, whereas much of what is sensed as flavor is informed by the aromatics perceived by the olfactory.
Green coffee still in it’s outer shell, before dry-milling, is called Parchment coffee (pergamino). In the wet process, coffee is peeled, fermented, washed and then ready for drying on the patio, bed, or a mechanical dryer. It is called parchment coffee because it is protected by an outer shell, which will be removed as the first step of dry milling, when the coffee is ready to export. While in parchment, it is critical that parchment coffee is rested for between 30-60 days. In Spanish, parchment coffee is called pergamino.
It is native to South America and widely grown in India, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, California, southern Florida, Hawaii, Australia, East Africa, Israel and South Africa. The passion fruit is round to oval, yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit can be grown to eat or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma. It is known as Maracuya, or Maracuja in Latin America
Refers to an older coffee not from the „New Crop” or the „Current Crop”. Cuppers will even use it as a general term for baggy, old hay or straw flavors; faded sensations of what it might have been when the green coffee was fresh; Past-Cropish.
Patio-drying is a term to indicate that a coffee was dried in the sun after processing, on a paved or brick patio. Drying in the sun is the traditional method and is slower and more gentle than mechanical drying techniques. Coffee is raked on the patio to ensure even drying from top to bottom. Even better is screen-drying on raised „beds” which allows for air movement through the coffee.
Coffee is the dried seed from the fruit of a flowering tree – each fruit having 2 seeds facing each other (the flat side of the coffee „bean”) or in the case of the peaberry, a single rounded seed. On the coffee tree, there is usually a percentage of fruit that has one seed within, ie a peaberry, and many more that are „flat beans” with the usual 2 seeds per fruit.
Peak Of Harvest
In some coffee-producing origins, there is a period of time in the middle of the crop where the higher altitudes mature, and where each tree has the highest percentage of mature cherry. Under the best conditions, this is a time when the cup is possibly better, because the pickers bring in fewer under-ripe green cherries, and because the most dense, slow-to-mature cherries are including in their pickings. Of course, other problems can emerge (too much coffee cherry, the mill can’t keep up, ripe cherry sits) that actually work against this heavy load; it would be lazy to say „mid-harvest” coffee is better. But it is rarely true that the very first pickings, nor the last where the trees are being „cleaned” of cherry yield good results.
One of many acids that contribute to positive flavor perception in coffee. More phosphoric acid might lead to the sense of higher acidity overall. Since perception of acidity gives a cup finer cup quality, brightness and vibrancy, phosphoric acid is considered desirable in arabica coffees. It itself, it is very tart. Also noteworthy is the fact it is not an acid that can be detected by smell, and is not an organic acid.
A slightly resinous pine sap flavor, unusual but attractive in some cases.
Meaning pleasantly pungent or zesty in taste, spicy, provocative, sapid.
New attention is being given to pour-over drip brewing, but the terminology is definitely not set yet. Pour-over drip brewing is simple and can yield great results based on technique. The older methods are Chemex and Melitta type filter cones. These use paper filters, usually. Newer types are the Hario V60, a modified ceramic come with a large orifice like the Chemex, and the Clever Coffee Dripper.
An espresso machine is said to use pre-infusion if it applies a moderate amount of pressure to the coffee before applying full brew pressure. Pre-infusion is often said to improve extraction by causing the coffee to swell, filling fissures in the puck that might otherwise cause channeling
Preparation refers to the dry-milling steps of preparing coffee for export: hulling, grading, classifying, sorting. Sorting means using density sorters (like the Oliver table), optical color sorting, and hand sorting. Then the coffee is bagged and ready to load in the shipping container. EP is a standard called Euro Prep.
Coffee is either wet-processed (also called washed or wet-milled) or dry-processed (also called wild, natural or natural dry, and we abbreviate it DP sometimes). The type of processing is chosen to produce different cup qualities, or sometimes is just a matter of tradition, logistics or economics. In a nutshell, washed coffees are brought to a mill soon after picking, the coffee cherry is depulped, allowed to ferment, washed to remove all pulp, laid on patios or run through an electric dryer, removed from their final skin called parchment, and sorted. Dry -processing involves laying out the cherries on patios or roofs, and later removing the skin, pulp and parchment in one fell swoop. Dry processed coffees are more yellowish-green because there’s more silverskin (chaff) attached to the bean. They look rangy, but often have more body and character in the cup.
Pulped natural is a hybrid method of processing coffee to transform it from the tree fruit to a green bean, ready for export. Specifically, it involves the removal of the skin from the coffee, like the first step of the wet process, but instead of fermenting and removing the fruity mucilage, the coffee is dried with the fruit clinging to the parchment layer. Pulped natural can be performed with a traditional pulper, or with newer forced demucilage equipment, which allows for greater control of exactly how much mucilage is left to dry on the coffee. Pulped natural coffees tend to have more body and less acidity than their wet process equivalents, and can have a cleaner, more uniform quality than full natural dry-process coffees. This is called „Miel” process in Costa Rica, meaning „honey.”
The first step in processing wet-process coffee, pulp natural or forced demucilage coffees. Pulping simply refers to removing the skins from the coffee fruit, leaving parchment coffee.
Refers to an aggressive, intense aroma or flavor, often related to spices (pepper) or roast tastes. Pungent foods are often called „spicy”, meaning a sharp or biting character, but not unpleasant. Bittersweet tangy roast flavors are something we sometimes call pungent, but otherwise it is strong spice notes.
Pyrolysis is the chemical decomposition of a condensed substance by heating. It is a special case of thermolysis, and is most commonly used for organic materials. At lighter levels, caramelization of sugars is an important result of the pyrolysis of coffee, the release of CO-2, and a host of other chemical and physical changes in the coffee. There are two stages of pyrolysis in coffee which we call „First Crack” and „Second Crack.” Extreme pyrolysis, which leaves only carbon as the residue, is called carbonization and leads to charred flavors in very dark coffee roasts. Pyrolysis often occurs spontaneously at high temperatures, for example in fires and when organic materials come into contact with lava in volcanic eruptions, and has been assumed to take place during catagenesis, the conversion of buried organic matter to fossil fuels. It is an important chemical process in several cooking procedures such as baking, frying, grilling, and caramelizing.
A quaker is an industry term to describe under-ripe, undeveloped coffee seeds that fail to roast properly. These are most often the result of unripe, green coffee cherry making it into the final product. Normally, these are skimmed off as floaters (in the wet-process) or visually removed in the dry-process method. They are removed on the density table (Oliver table) as well. They occur much more often in dry-process coffees due to the lack of water flotation of the fruit, and the difficult task of removing them visually. Even the best coffees might have occasional quakers, and they can be removed post-roast when they are easy to see. Under-developed coffees do not have the compounds to have a proper browning reaction in the roaster (Maillard Reaction, caramelization), so they remain pale in color.
Qunic acid is another double-edged proposition in coffee. In moderate amounts it adds a slight astringency, positive in brighter coffees such as Kenyas or high-grown Centrals. Because of how it reacts with salivary glands, this can lead to heightened senses of body. But too much leads to sour, unfavorable astringency. Chlorogenic acids are largely transformed to quinic acids in the roast process. Quinic Acid melts in pure crystalline form at 325 degrees E, well below the temperatures associated with the roasting environment. Quinic Acid is water soluble and imparts a slightly sour (not unfavorably as in fermented beans) and sharp quality, which adds to the character and complexity of the cup. Surprisingly, it adds cleanness to the finish of the cup as well. it is a stable compound at roasting temperatures.
Rainforest Alliance certification is a broad certification guaranteeing that an agricultural product has met certain economic, ecological, and social standards.
Raised beds, also referred to as „african-style beds” are elevated beds used for drying coffee when dry-processing. Coffee can either be dried on raised beds or patio-dried (dried on the ground). Raised beds promote airflow, and thus they may promote even and rapid drying.
Refined sugar refers to common white sugar. In coffee tasting, it refers to a clear, clean sweetness, with an absence of other characteristics, as might be found in Muscavado, Turbinado or Brown sugars.
Region is a more specific area within the country. Arabica coffee grows roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Country of Origin is where the coffee is grown in general terms. Micro-Region is more specific. For example if a Country for a specific lot is Ethiopia, the region might be Harar (a state as well), the Micro-Region might be East Harar, and then perhaps a nearby city name would locate the coffee even further.
Resting might refer to „reposo”, the time after drying the parchment coffee, when it is held for 30-60 days to stabilize. In Brazil, the reposo time is longer. This step is critical for longevity of the coffee and occurs before processing/removal of the parchment. Coffee that is not rested in this way will fade quickly, becoming baggy. Resting might also refer to the step after home roasting a batch; coffee brewed immediately has so much C0-2 coming off it that it prevents good extraction or infusion of water. Also, certain characteristics are not developed immediately after roasting, such as body. A rest of 12-24 hours is recommended, or up to 3-5 days for some espresso coffees.
Result of continued enzyme activity when coffee beans remain in the fruit and the fruit dries on the shrub. Usually associated with natural processed coffees grown in Brazil. The Brazil grading rates coffee as Strictly Soft (the best), Soft, ‚Soft-ish’, Hard (+1, +2), Riado, Rioy, Rio Zona (the worst).
A smaller version of espresso where extraction is restricted is called a Ristretto. While espresso usually averages 20 ml, a ristretto is 15 ml or less.
Roast defects indicate a problem with the roasting machine or process, resulting in off flavors in the cup. These are distinct from flavor defects that are a result of green coffee processing, or other factors from the plant itself. While roasting cannot make bad coffee good, it can easily make good coffee bad! Roast defects are sometimes characterized by a lack of sweetness, whether that be caramel, sugar, chocolate, syrup, etc.
Roast Profile refers to the relationship between time and temperature in coffee roasting, with the endpoint being the „degree of roast”. Roast profiling is the active manipulation of the „roast curve” or graphed plot of bean temperature during the roast, to optimize the results in terms of flavor. Two batches might be roasted to the exact same degree of roast, temperature endpoint or time, and have very different cup results due to different roast profiles. It’s not just important how dark a coffee is roasted, it is equally important how it got there, and that is expressed in the roast profile.
Roasted Coffee Storage
As coffee rests after roasting, it releases CO2. This process is called „degassing”. This generally prevents staling, or oxidation, for the first few days of a roast. Dark roasts will out gas longer than medium or light roasts, and hence they can benefit from a longer resting period. Generally coffee is best rested for 24 hours before brewing. Once cool, roasted coffee is best stored in an air tight container or container with a one-way valve designed to release CO2.
Coffee roasting is a chemical process induced by heat, by which aromatics, acids, and other flavor components are either created, balanced, or altered in a way that should augment the flavor, acidity, aftertaste and body of the coffee as desired by the roaster. Pyrolysis, Caramelization and the Maillard Reaction are several thermal events that are important to the conversion of the many complex raw materials in the green coffee seed to positive flavor attributes in the roasted coffee bean.
Robusta usually refers to Coffea Robusta, responsible for roughly 25% of the world’s commercial coffee. Caffeine content of Robusta beans is about twice that of Arabica.
Usually referring to mouthfeel, a sense of completeness and fullness.
A taste fault giving the coffee beans a highly pronounced burnt-rubber character. Result of continued enzyme activity in the coffee bean when it remains in the fruit and the fruit is allowed to dry on the shrub. Usually associated with natural processed robusta coffees grown in Africa.
Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the ’70s and released in 1986. The initial test were with Hibrido de Timor (a cross between Arabica and Robusta, resistant to Coffee Leaf Rust) and Rume Sudan, an original coffee strain resistant to CBD, Coffee Berry Disease. Later they added SL-28 and SL-34 imputs due to poor cup character of the early tests. The Robusta content of Ruiru 11 is still an issue, and the cup does not match the quality of the SL types
Rust Fungus is a big problem in Colombia, but is found in many coffee producing countries. Known as La Roya in the Americas, this disease diminishes fruit production and ultimately kills the plant. Combating the disease with selectively-applied fungicides, especially in seasons with heavy rains, is key to saving the coffee plants.
A flavor hint of sage found in coffee, either leafy sage, dried sage, or sage flower. This could indicate a more rustic cup quality, or even defect flavor in dried sage, or a very clean floral aspect.
Salty is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, saltiness is not usually a positive quality.
Pleasant tastes, referring to „in the mouth” sensations derived from the basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory (umami). In a broader sense, sapid means „pleasing to the mind”, referring to the intersection between pleasant sensory input and mental enjoyment.
The SCAA stands for Specialty Coffee Association of America, and is a trade association. The SCAA was formed by a group of roasters and importers who felt they did not have a trade association that represented their interests. The main commercial coffee group is the the NCA (National Coffee Association), which tends to cater to larger roasters, although that has changed over time. The annual SCAA trade show in one of the major gatherings for coffee people from all parts of the business, and all over the world. There is also the SCAE for Europe and SCAJ for Japan, who also have smaller trade shows each year.
Mineral buildup formed over time as hard water is heated in a boiler. Excess scale causes brew problems and eventually shortens the life of a machine, so espresso machines and brewers should be regularly descaled.
Scorching refers to a roast error that can be discerned by inspecting the roasted coffee, where darker burn marks appear in patches, especially on the flat surfaces. These can be seen as the coffee reaches 1st crack, but can sometimes be hidden by roast color at darker roast levels. But the flavor defect that results will remain. It can easily be tasted in the cup; burnt or smoke flavors, or a lack of sweetness. It is usually the result of an over-heated roast environment (initial drum temperature too high), or over-charged roast drum (too much coffee in the drum, or possibly not enough air movement. Natural coffees from lower-grown sites can be more susceptible to tipping and scorching. Scorching is also called Facing.
Screen-drying is also called Raised Bed or Africa Bed drying because of it’s original use in Ethiopia. It is a method of drying coffee in the sun, laying it on elevated screens or mats to allow air movement through the coffee. It is now used in many countries because it allows for even drying with both sun and convective air movements through the elevated coffee beds. It is considered better than Patio-drying by many.
Running coffee through a screen with holes of a fixed size to sort beans for size.
Second Crack is the second audible clue the roaster-operator receives about the degree-of-roast, following First Crack. Whereas First Crack sounds a bit like popcorn popping, Second Crack has a faster pace. Second crack is a further stage of the pyrolytic conversion of compounds in coffee and occurs around 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The 2nd crack is a physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee, and results in an eventual migration of oils to the outside of the bean, as they are freed from their chambers within the coffee.
Semi-washed has been used, most commonly in Brazil, to describe a hybrid coffee process. But it is uncertain if the term always indicates the same method. Semi-washed coffees are also very common in Sumatra, where they are called Giling Basah. Semi-washed coffees are best described as „wet-hulled”, and will have more body and often more of the „character” that makes Indonesians so appealing and slightly funky. In this process, the parchment coffee (the green seed with the parchment shell still attached) is very marginally dried, then stripped of the outer layer, revealing a white-colored, swollen green bean. Then the drying is completed on the patio (or in some cases, on the dirt), and the seed quickly turns to a dark green color.
Sensory Analysis is a broader term for all qualitative evaluation of food and beverage. In coffee, it is a better term for what we call „cupping”
An ambiguous term used to describe coffee grown under shade. Shade grown coffee is said to better preserve animal habitats and avoid mono-culture on farms, but the truth of this may depend on the growing region. If a farm exists on the top of an arid plateau, for instance, it might be above the tree-line and, hence, naturally exposed to the sun. „Shade Grown” is also not an official certification (e.g. „Organic,” „Fair Trade”), so no official standards for determining „shade grown” status exist.
A mouthfeel description indicating a delicate, light, elegant softness and smoothness. Usually refers to a lighter body than terms such as velvety, or creamy.
On dried green bean coffee, the thin inner-parchment layer that clings to the bean and lines the crease on the flat side. Silverskin becomes chaff and falls off the bean during roasting. It is a fine inner layer coating the seed, between the thicker parchment and the bean. Formerly, dry mills would polish coffee to remove the silverskin, since the coffee looked better to the buyer. But this generates heat that damages cup quality, so the polishing step is discouraged.
„Single Origin” refers to coffee from one location, in contrast to blended coffee. This term is particularly useful in discussing espresso, since most commercial espressos are made from blends. This is what the term „SO Espresso” means.
This smell and flavor is similar to fireplace effluence, campfire, or burnt food. Dark-roasted or oven-roasted coffees can have smokey flavors, or roasters where the air is recycled in the roast drum (or does not vent at all). Sometimes green coffee can have a smokey hint, and this might be found in the roasted coffee too, suggesting bad mechanical drying at the coffee mill. Smokey hints might be a positive quality in certain exotic coffees (Monsooned India, Aged Java and Aged Sumatra come to mind) or in rustic Yemeni coffees.
SO (Single Origin) Espresso
Short for Single Origin espresso, meaning using one origin specific coffee to make espresso, as opposed to using a blended coffee.
Brazil has it’s own grading system for coffee, and Soft is the grade just under Strictly Soft, meant to describe clean, mild cup flavors, and as opposed to „Hard” the grade below it.
Sorting refers to several steps performed in the preparation of coffee for export. Coffee is sorted by size on a grader or screener (and peaberry is sometimes removed as well). It is sorted by density on a density table (Oliver table, or rarely an air density sorter). It is sorted by color with a high tech optical color sorter, and/or by hand, visually.
Sour is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sourness in moderate amounts os favorable, although the term has negative connotations. Sourness can result from too-light roasts, which have a corresponding bitterness. It can also be the result of acidity, which is usually a favorable characteristic.
A „sour” is a physical coffee bean defect due to excess fermentation where bacteria or xerophilic mold attack the seed. They range from yellow to brown in color, and can occur from several conditions: over-fermentation, falling to the ground, excessive time between harvest from the tree and processing. The flavors from sour beans are (no surprise) sour, fermented, acetic, fruity, sulfurous, vinegary.
Sparkles is a key coffee quality term, and refers to brightness in the cup. Bright things often shine, both visually and in a gustatory sense, and that is expressed among tradespeople as sparkley, sparkles, or „this coffee is well-sparkled.” It is not related to crystals, as in the proprietary „flavor crystals”.
Specialty coffee was a term devised to mean higher levels of green coffee quality than average „industrial coffee” or „commercial coffee”. At this point, the term is of limited use, since every multi-national coffee broker opened a „specialty division” and because, under the same term, coffees of highly varying quality, high to low, are imported. Some say Erna Knutsen, the San Francisco coffee broker, coined this term.
A reference to the mouthfeel of a coffee when it leaves a tactile impression of sponges. This is often found in Liberica coffees, and can be unpleasant if excessive.
Green coffee in general can be stored up to one year from the date of processing with no noticeable changes in flavor. Bright, delicate coffees can fade faster; earthy coffees can last a bit longer. Very often the type and quality of the processing methods used on the coffee will determine how long a coffee will hold up.
A dried hay-like character due to age of the green coffee and the corresponding loss of organic material storage.
The Strecker Degradation is an interaction of amino acids (AKA proteins) with a carbonyl compound in an environment with water, resulting in the creation of CO2 and an Aldehyde or Ketone. The later two components are important for volatile aromatics and flavors, and the Strecker Degradation contributes to browning. It involves compounds formed in the Maillard reaction and is therefore necessarily linked to it in coffee roasting.
Strictly Hard Bean
In Costa Rica, a classification/grading for specialty coffee. indicates the coffees was grown at an altitude above 1200 meters/4000 feet. Beans grown at a higher altitude, have a greater density, and thus a better specialty cup.
Strictly High Grown
A general Specialty Coffee classification/grading. It indicates the coffees was grown at an altitude above 1200 meters/4000 feet. Beans grown at a higher altitude, have a greater density, and thus a better specialty cup. It is pretty much synonymous with SHB, Strictly Hard Bean, the classification used in Costa Rica for the same grade of coffee.
Brazil has it’s own grading system for defects in the cup – Strictly Soft is the highest grade in the schema. Hard is considered a middle grade defective/commercial level coffee, so the term soft expresses clean, mild flavors.
Many people say that they like „strong coffee” but this term needs to be pulled apart a bit to have any meaning. Some origins can be more pungent or intense than others, usually due to the processing methods or the preparation. Dry-processed coffees will in general have more earthy and potentially wild flavors. Strong is in opposition to „weak” and can only mean brew strength, the intensity of the brewed coffee, if it is brewed in a more concentrated way, with too much ground coffee in respect to the amount of water used. Espresso is obviously one of the strongest coffee drinks since by definition it is a coffee extract, i.e. very little water in proportion to a large dose of coffee. Strong might also be interchangeable with „Bold”, another vague descriptor and both of these could also refer to a dark roast level.
Like Balance, structure is an esoteric term. After all, you can’t taste a „structure” nor can you taste a „balance.” They come from a sense of all the sensory components of a coffee, characterizing the relation between flavors, acids, mouthfeel and aftertaste as well-defined and comprehensive.
A Colombian coffee grade referring to screen size of 17-18 screen. In the traditional bulk Arabica business, Supremo was the top grade Colombia, with Excelso one step below at 15-16 screen. Neither of these refer to cup quality, only bean size.
Sweetness is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sweetness is a highly desirable quality, and the green bean has many sugars and polysaccharides. However, the main sugar, sucrose, is largely destroyed by roasting, with only 2.9% remaining at a light roast, and 0% at a darker roast. When caramelized sugars have aromatic sweetness, but not sapid sweetness on the palate. Hence, over-roasting is to be avoided to preserve some sweetness.
A brand of reusable metal filter for drip coffee brewing. Swissgolds are alternatives to paper coffee filters. They have the advantage that they do not impact a taste to the cup (paper filters can give a paper-y taste), and they are reusable. Swissgolds have larger pores than paper filters, which means larger particles make their way into the cup.
A handheld instrument for compacting („tamping”) ground coffee for espresso into a portafilter basket. Tampers should match the size of a machine’s basket, with common sizes including 53mm and 58mm.
Compacting coffee grounds for espresso into a portafilter basket, usually by means of a tamper. Proper tamping technique is critical to proper espresso extraction: a tamp should be level, properly seal the grounds against the sides of the basket, and fill any fissures in the espresso „puck.” It is generally recommended that 30 pounds of tamping force be applied, though it is more important that the tamp be consistent between shots than that it be exactly 30 pounds.
An adjective modifying a flavor descriptor, describing a sharp effect; tangy citrus, tangy bittersweet flavor, tangy green apple.
The term Tannins refers to the use of wood tannins from oak in tanning animal hides into leather. Having the bitterness or astringency of Tannins. Tannins are plant polyphenols found across the flora kingdom.
A dark roast-related flavor of pungent, intense bitter roast flavor, reminiscent of the smell of tar.
A term used to describe coffees with light, astringent body and potent aromatics. A flavor associate with Indian Specialty coffee more than not as well as some Rwandan flavor profiles.
The Technivorm is a Dutch-made electric drip brewer for the home that is known for it’s good design, and good results. You can find them for sale on our site, the only standard electric drip brewer we carry.
The name in Amharic for Rue, used as an herbal additive to coffee. You can find the flavor of tenadam in some Ethiopia coffees (without actually adding it to the cup!) Rue is Ruta chalepensis and has properties as a medicinal herb as well, for common cold, stomach ache, diarrhea, and influenza. In Oromo it is called Talatam.
Originally, Terroir is a wine term and refers to the set of properties, conditions and practices which define the characteristics and ultimate flavor profile of the coffee. Terroir of coffee is created by variety, soil conditions, micro-climates, specific processing practices and (culturally driven) agricultural practices.
Tipping refers to a roast error that can be discerned by inspecting the roasted coffee, where the ends of the elongated bean appear burnt. It can easily be tasted in the cup too; burnt or smoke flavors, or a lack of sweetness. It is usually the result of an over-heated roast environment (initial drum temperature too high), an over-charged roast drum (too much coffee in the drum), or possibly not enough air movement. Natural coffees from lower-grown sites can be more susceptible to tipping and scorching.
Transparency is a flavor characterization synonymous with clarity, or a business ethics term, implying that as much information as possible about a coffee is made available to the consumer.
This name designates a particular type of dry process coffee where the fruit dries partially or entirely while still on the tree branch. It is possible only in some areas (parts of Brazil, as well as some areas of India, sometimes in parts of Central America and East Africa), where there are dramatic dry seasons.
Typica is one of the main cultivars of Coffea Arabica, and one from which many other commercial types have been derived. It has a longer seed form than the other main cultivar, Bourbon. Typica coffee plants are tall and have a conical shape with branches that grow at a slight slant. It has a rangey, open form. The lateral branches form 50-70° angles with the vertical stem. It has fairly low production and good cup quality. Typica was the first coffee in the New World; Java-grown plants were a gift from the Dutch to Louis XIV, were cultivated in Parisian gardens, then thousands of seedlings were sent to the French colony in Martinique in 1720.
Umami is a Japanese word meaning savory, a „deliciousness” factor deriving specifically from detection of the natural amino acid, glutamic acid, or glutamates common in meats, cheese, broth, stock, and other protein-heavy foods. The action of umami receptors explains why foods treated with monosodium glutamate (MSG) often taste „heartier”. In coffee, savory relates to specific brothy, food-like character and can conflict with other basic flavors such as sweet, but is not undesirable.
A general negative description of dirty or hard flavors in a coffee that should have none. These are flavors without positive qualities, that distract from the cup. Also simply called „off”.
Under-developed refers to roast problems, usually too-light roasts. If a coffee is not roasted until the reactions responsible for the audible First Crack are completed, there will be astringent and un-sweet flavors (high trigonelline levels) and a grainy roast taste.
USDA is The United States Department of Agriculture, that inspects coffee shipments and sets guidelines for importation. It is also an Indonesian cultivar of Ethiopian heritage that was part of varietal tests in the 1950’s.
A vacuum brewer works by heating water, pushing it into a chamber with coffee grounds, and then sucking the water back. Vacuum brewers produce a clean, aromatic cup.
Sealing coffee in an air-tight container, with the air removed via vacuum. Green coffee and roasted coffee can both be vacuum packed to extend shelf life.
Varietal is commonly used to indicate Variety of a particular plant material, a type that results in specific flavors.
A mouthfeel description indicating elegant softness, refined smoothness. See Silky as well.
Vinegar-like qualities are a defective flavor taint in coffee, resulting perhaps from poor processing, fermentation, sanitation. Usually, this comes from high levels of acetic acid, and come with a sour edge. Lower levels can lead to positive winey notes. Over-ripe coffee cherries, or delays in getting picked cherry to the mill can be the cause as well.
In Rwanda and some other East African countries, a wet mill is called a Washing Station. In Latin American countries, a wet mill is called a Beneficio, where fresh coffee cherries are brought for pulping, fermentation, and drying.
„Well-knit” is yet another esoteric term, being something that you cannot directly smell or taste. It describes the good inter-relation of independent sensory characteristics, distinct yet welded together in a positive way. It is also referred to as „tightly knit” to mean closely-paired flavors.
In cupping, wet aroma refers to the smell of wet coffee grinds, after hot water is added. The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence it’s flavor profile, and comes from the perception of the gases released by brewed coffee. Aroma is greatest in the middle roasts and is quickly overtaken by carbony smells in darker roasts. Aroma is distinct from the dry fragrance from the coffee grounds; in general fragrance describes things we do not eat (like perfume) and aroma pertains to food and beverage we consume. Aromatics as a term may encompass the entire aroma experience of a coffee. Aromatics are a huge part of flavor perception (remember the ‚hold your nose and eat an onion experiment). Aromatics reach the olfactory bulb through the nose and „retro-nasaly” through the opening in the back of our palate. While some taste is sapid, perceived through the tongue and palate via papillae, or taste buds, most of flavor quality is perceived through the olfactory bulb.
Wet Hulled Process
Wet-hulled process is a hybrid coffee method used in parts of Indonesia, especially Sumatra. It results in a dark, opal-green coffee with little silverskin clinging to it, and a particular low-acid, earthy, heavy body flavor profile. In this method, the farmer picks ripe coffee cherry, pulps off the skin and either dries it immediately for one day, or lets it sit overnight in a bucket (with our without water), then washes it the next day and dries it. In either case, the coffee is partially dried with some or all of the mucilage clinging to the parchment-covered seed. It is then sold at a local market to a coffee processor.
The wet mill goes by many names (Beneficio, Factory, Washing Station, Receiving Station) and can serve several different functions. Wet mill, as the name implies, involves water to process and transport coffee, but new ecological wet mills might use very little. But in nearly all cases, it is the place where whole coffee cherry fruit is brought for the first stages of it’s transformation to dried green, exportable coffee. In traditional wet-processing, the wet mill is where the coffee is pulped (the outer fruit skin removed), floated in water (to remove defective beans), fermented (to break down the fruit mucilage layer), washed (to remove the fruit) and dried on a patio, a screen (raised bed), or a mechanical dryer. At this point green coffee seed is inside an outer parchment shell.
Wet-process coffee (or washed coffee) is a method to transform the fruit from the tree into a green coffee bean for roasting. This process uses water at the wet mill to transport the seed through the process, allowing for the removal of defects that float to the surface. In traditional wet-processing, the wet mill is where the coffee is pulped (the outer fruit skin removed), floated in water (to remove defective beans), fermented (to break down the fruit mucilage layer), washed (to remove the fruit) and dried on a patio, a screen (raised bed), or a mechanical dryer. At this point green coffee seed is inside an outer parchment shell, rested for a period of time (reposo) then milled at the dry mill into the green bean. Wet processing often produces a brighter, cleaner flavor profile, with lighter body than dry process coffees or the hybrid pulp natural process. Wet process coffees are referred to also as washed coffees, or fully washed.
Wild flavors in coffee is a general characterization that connotes something foreign or exotic in a flavor profile, usually somewhat unclean. This can be found in some East African coffees, although it is usually the result of poor processing or handling. For example Yemeni coffees have wild notes of hide, leather, earth, and such. To some these are defect flavors.
Describes a wine-like flavor with a similar perceived acidity and fruit. Found most commonly in East African specialty coffees as well as in some centrals like Costa Rica. I will use it to describe ripe fruit notes, pleasantly so, but not pushed to the point of vinegar sourness (which would be over-ripe, fermenty flavor… not good).
Generally a taste defect from age; old green coffee, perhaps yellowing in color. This is due to the drying out of the coffee over time, and as the moisture leaves the seed it takes organic compounds with it. Also, when coffee rehydrates itself, it brings in foreign odors, baggy and dirty tastes and smells. Aged coffees can have a positive hickory-like taste and aroma. This entry does not address positive wood qualities like cedar, and such. Also not to be confused with foresty or woodsy character in Indonesia coffees.
A defect term referring to „honey” flavor but a bad rustic, yeast-like flavor. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum away from pure honey-like tastes
Yellow Bourbon is a sub-type that has fruit which ripens to a yellow color, found mainly in Brazil where it was first grown. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it. It is possible that Yellow Bourbon is a natural mutation of a cross between Bourbon and a yellow-fruited Typica called „Amarelo de Botocatu”.
Technically, Yemen is on the Asian continent (on the Arabian Peninsula) although it is really just a stone’s throw from Africa, across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. For coffee reasons, and since there is no other „Arabian” coffee, we put it in the family of tastes that are North African.
A flavor or mouthfeel characteristic, hinting at a tingly, prickly, lively or piquant aspect. Peppers, spice or citrus can all be zesty.