We’ve created this succinct list to help you navigate through the labyrinthine world of coffee terminology.
One of the principal terms used to describe coffee’s flavour, acidity refers to the pleasant sharpness at the front of the mouth.
A unique coffee brewing method (link to brewing method on our site) that utilises a plunger type device invented in 2005 by Aerobie Inc.
A coffee based bittersweet dessert, typically a scoop of vanilla gelato topped with a shot of hot espresso.
Green coffee beans that have been stored in warehouses for several years characterised by low acidity and a distinct flavour. Also known as vintage coffee.
A coffee plant species representing 70% of the world’s coffee production. Known to be flavourful compared to the one other popular species Robusta, but with about half its caffeine content. Most (but not all) specialty/ gourmet coffee is Arabica.
A fault in taste created by improper roasting. Baked coffee when brewed results in a flat, insipid flavour.
Pleasant tasting coffee that contains all seven taste characteristics i.e. flavour, body, acidity, aroma, sweetness, bitterness and aftertaste, yet with no one characteristic overpowering the other.
A unit of measurement of pressure. The term is often used when brewing a shot of espresso: recommended pressure being 9 bars.
Tasting term applied to coffees for which no single characteristic overwhelms others, but that display sufficient complexity to be interesting.
An unpleasant taste characteristic towards the back of the tongue associated with defective coffee beans or over-roasted coffee beans. In some parts of the world coffee is intentionally roasted dark (dark roasts) to make the brew taste bitter.
When two or more coffee beans are mixed together to achieve a distinctive flavour or to achieve a certain price. Can be done before or after roasting.
One of the seven principal taste characteristics of coffee. Defined as a sense of richness associated with good coffee.
Professional term used to describe the coffee’s aroma profile i.e. fragrance and aftertaste. Also referred to as a coffee’s ‘nose’.
Refers to any method used to prepare a beverage (brew) from water and ground roasted coffee.
The water to coffee ratio used to create the optimal coffee strength. This formula varies with the brewing method.
Like bitter, burnt can be a desirable or undesirable taste characteristic. Often used to describe a smoky aroma associated with dark roasts.
A coffee brewing method and the name of the coffee equipment used. Often considered the best method to brew specialty coffee. Also known as French-press or plunger pot.
The scientific name of Robusta beans, one of the two main commercially cultivated coffees along with Arabica (Coffea arabica). Used mostly in instant coffee possibly due to being less expensive and more caffeinated than Arabica. This species is easy to grow and considered ‘robust’. Hence the name.
A flavour characteristic caused when naturally occurring sugars in the coffee caramelize during the roasting process.
Fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry or pod contains two halves or beans or one peaberry.
Refers to the root of the endive plant. Used as a coffee substitute, to impart a distinctive flavour (see South Indian filter coffee).
Professional term used to describe a brew with a pure coffee flavour free of any favour/taste defects. Also referred to as smooth and clear.
A long brewing method in which ground coffee is soaked in cold water for several hours to produce a light, delicate brew.
Branded, packaged roasted coffee available in superstores that are pre-ground Typically packaged pre-ground (pre-brewed in the case of instant or soluble) coffees sold by brand name.
A tasting term associated with gourmet/ speciality coffee that have multiple layers of pleasant flavours.
An activity carried out by coffee professionals to sip brewed coffee to assess their overall taste and flavour characteristics.
Meaning ‘half cup’ in French, it is a thick porcelain cup used to serve a standard espresso shot, and is meant to retain heat.
The amount of coffee used per serving.
A brewing method utilising a automatic coffeemaker or percolator where heated water trickles through ground coffee held in a filter into a cup or pot. Also referred to as filter-drip method or filter method.
A taste characteristic reminiscent of cellars, damp soil. Also known as mustiness or wildness, it can be pleasant or unpleasant depending on the intensity and/or individual preferences.
A coffee plantation. Estate coffees or single-estate or single-origin coffees are usually traceable to the plantation it came from, and often sell at a premium due to better quality control practices. These coffees are marketed without being mixed with other coffees and hence the name.
The process by which water takes on the flavours of coffee when they come in contact with one another. Grind size, coffee quantity, brewing method and time are all determinants of extraction. An over-extracted coffee is unpalatably bitter whereas an under-extracted coffee is unpleasantly sour and salty.
A wet process by which naturally occurring sugars in coffee are broken down to acids. The latter adds complexity to the coffee when brewed. However, if the fermented beans are not rinsed thoroughly it could result in an unpleasantly sour taste when brewed.
The pleasant, lingering sensation on the palate. Can range from being long and acidic to crisp and sweet.
A lack-lustre flavour associated with the lack of acidity. Opposite to complex coffee.
High quality coffee processed with care to ensure the unique aroma and distinctive tastes of the terroir is preserved. Also known as specialty coffee.
The process of rating coffee beans according to one or more of the following criteria such as processing methods, bean size, number of defects, altitude of the plantation, region et al. This process varies with regions and countries. Specialty coffee have the highest of grades.
Unroasted coffee beans.
The particle size of ground coffee. It varies according to the brewing method, and is one of the key determinants of a good brew. The grind is fine for espresso and coarse for French-press.
Also known as high-grown coffee, it refers to beans grown at elevations ranging from 4000 ft. above sea level and higher (in some regions 2000 ft. ASL onwards). These beans mature slowly, take on complex characteristics and are therefore more desirable. Most specialty coffees are grown in high altitudes.
A signature blend of coffee created by a company to differentiate itself from its competitors.
Indian filter coffee
A unique brewing method that utilises a 4-part metal contraption known as the Indian Filter. Common in the southern states of India, the brew is served with added milk and sugar in traditional utensils called the tumbler and the dabarah.
A term used to describe coffee with a delicate, mild character.
Refers to the brewing method and the equipment used to brew coffee. Also known as stove-top espresso maker.
Single origin coffee from the Malabar region of southern India. The coffee is dry-processed and stored in open warehouses where they lay exposed to the monsoon rains and winds. The beans swell and lose some of its acidity resulting in a heavy, full-bodied, chocolatey, earthy taste.
A common characteristic of Indian and South American coffees, it is a pleasing taste characteristic reminiscent of roasted nuts.
Coffee grown and processed without the use of pesticides or other similar chemicals.
The inside of a coffee cherry producing one bean as opposed to the usual two halves. These are separated from the rest of the crop and sold as a higher grade due to its higher density and richer taste.
The cupped handle on an espresso machine which holds the ground coffee Pour-Over An efficient brewing method that has gained popularity due to its ease of use and the distinct quality of coffee it produces.
Techniques used to separate the coffee bean from its fruit that vary from farmer to farmer. Methods include Wet Processing (Washed), Dry Processing (Natural, Sun Dried), Pulped Natural Processing, and Semi-Washed Processing.
The chemical reaction that releases the delicate oils (flavour and aroma) from the green coffee beans during roasting.
Also known as full-bodied or heavy. A pleasing, complex flavour associated with high quality coffees.
The process that transforms green coffee beans into aromatic roasted coffee through the chemical reaction of pyrolisis. Can also refer to the colour level of roasted coffee ranging from Light to Medium to Dark roast.
A professional who skilfully manipulates roasting temperature and time to bring out the best flavours of a particular coffee.
Shade Grown Coffee
Coffee grown under the shade of trees. The shade slows the development of the cherry resulting in a flavourful, nutrient-dense coffee. The coffee beans can also take on the subtleties of the tree its grown under.
Coffee sourced from a single country, geographical area/region and crop. Also see Estate
A vapid, flat taste characteristic associated with coffee that has been oxidized (exposed to oxygen/ moisture). Unlike popular notion, roasted coffee is a perishable product, and attains the stale taste when it is not stored properly and/or used beyond its optimal shelf-life of 3-4 weeks.
An aromatic sensation reminiscent of malty, grain-like flavour.
Packaging fitted with one-way valves that allow gases to escape but block moisture from getting in and staling the coffee. Used by the specialty coffee industry to extend the shelf-span of freshly roasted coffee.
A taste term used to describe coffee that is flat and has a light body.
Coffee that has been roasted but not ground yet.