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Coffee Terms



ACETIC ACID A naturally occurring acid in coffee that contributes to its overall acidity and flavor profile. When present in balanced amounts, acetic acid can impart fruity or wine-like notes to the coffee.

ACETALDEHYDE A volatile compound found in coffee that contributes to its aroma, often described as fruity, floral, or sweet, depending on its concentration and interaction with other compounds.

ACIDITY The pleasant tartness of a fine coffee, often referred to as brightness or liveliness that carries the high notes of flavor in a coffee.

AEROPRESS A device for brewing coffee. Coffee is steeped for 10–50 seconds (depending on grind and preferred strength) and then forced through a filter by pressing the plunger through the tube.

AFFOGATO Ice cream (traditionally vanilla) “drowned” with a shot of espresso.

AGED COFFEE Coffee that is held in warehouses for several years, sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently. Such aging reduces acidity and increases the body.

AMERICAN ROAST Also known as a "City Roast," coffee beans are medium brown and offer full flavor, acidity, and varietal character; the roast style traditionally preferred in the U.S.

AMERICANO An espresso that is cut with very hot water to fill an American-size cup.

ARABICA The earliest cultivated species of coffee tree (Coffea arabica), it accounts for 70 percent of the world's coffee and is dramatically superior in cup quality to other coffee species.

AROMA The smell that is released from freshly ground coffee (dry aroma) and from freshly brewed coffee.

AUSTRALIAN SPECIALTY COFFEE ASSOCIATION (ASCA) An important and influential association of specialty coffee roasters, wholesalers, retailers, importers, and growers.

AERATION The process of exposing freshly roasted coffee beans to oxygen, which helps to release gases and develop flavors, contributing to the overall quality and complexity of the coffee.

ALTITUDE The elevation at which coffee is grown, which can significantly impact its flavor profile. Higher altitudes generally result in slower bean maturation and more nuanced flavors in the coffee.


  • Bourbon: An heirloom botanical variety of Coffea arabica, known for its quality but relatively low yields.
  • Typica: One of the oldest and most traditional coffee varieties, known for its quality, especially in Latin America.
  • Geisha (or Gesha): A variety known for its unique floral and sweet flavor profile, originating from Ethiopia but now grown in several regions.
  • SL28 and SL34: Varietals developed in Kenya for disease resistance and quality.
  • Pacamara: A hybrid known for its large bean size and complex flavor profile.
  • Ethiopian Heirloom: A diverse mix of indigenous Ethiopian coffee varieties known for their exceptional diversity and unique flavor profiles.

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BALANCE A tasting term applied to a coffee for which no single characteristic overwhelms the others, yet the coffee displays sufficient complexity to be interesting.

BARISTA Italian term for a skilled, experienced espresso bar operator.

BATCH ROASTER A machine that roasts a given quantity or batch of coffee at a time.

BLADE GRINDER A device that uses a propeller-like blade to grind coffee.

BLAND The weak flavor is often found in low-grown robusta coffees. Also caused by under-extraction when too little coffee or too coarse a grind is used.

BLEND A mixture of two or more single-origin coffees.

BODY The perceived thickness, richness, or viscosity of brewed coffee. A full-bodied coffee is one with a heavy mouthfeel.

BOURBON An heirloom botanical variety of Coffea arabica, known for its quality but relatively low yields.

BRINY The salty sensation caused by excessive heat when coffee has been left on the warming element too long after brewing, e.g., truck-stop coffee.

BURR GRINDER Coffee grinder with two adjustable shredding discs or burrs, preferred over the blade grinder for its precision.

BREWING The process of preparing coffee from roasted and ground coffee beans, involving various methods such as espresso, drip, French press, AeroPress, etc.

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CAFÉ AU LAIT Coffee drink combining one-third drip-brewed coffee with two-thirds hot, frothed milk.

CAFFEINE An odorless, bitter compound responsible for coffee's stimulating effects.

CAPPUCCINO An espresso drink created with one serving of espresso topped with steamed milk and froth.

CHERRY The fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry contains two coffee beans or one "peaberry."

CHEMEX The classic hourglass-shaped filter coffee brewer. Chemex filters are denser than other paper filters, and many believe that this creates a sweeter, well-balanced cup of coffee.

CHOCOLATEY A flavor descriptor used to describe coffees with pronounced cocoa or chocolate notes in their flavor profile, often associated with darker roasts and certain coffee varietals.

CITRUS A flavor descriptor used to describe coffees with bright, tangy, or zesty citrus notes, reminiscent of lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime, often found in coffees from certain regions or varietals.

CLEAN A term used to describe coffee with no discernible defects in its flavor.

CLOVER BREWER A high-tech, high-end, single-cup brewing machine.

COLD-BREW COFFEE A brewing method where coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for an extended period (usually 12-24 hours) to extract flavor, resulting in a smooth, low-acid coffee concentrate that can be served over ice or diluted with water or milk.

COMPLEXITY A term describing coffees whose flavors layer pleasurably, giving the impression of depth and resonance.

CREMA Thick, caramel-colored foam that covers the surface of an espresso.

CUPPING A process used by professionals to sample and evaluate coffees. Ground coffee is placed into cups, water is poured over the grounds, and the liquid is tasted.

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DARK ROAST Coffee beans roasted to a medium-dark color and beyond; coffee oils appear on the surface of the beans, and varietal flavors are muted.

DECAFFEINATED Coffee that has had at least 97% of its caffeine removed is classified as decaffeinated.

DEGASSING A natural process in which recently roasted coffee releases three times its volume as carbon dioxide gas, protecting coffee from the staling effect of oxygen for several days.

DRIP METHOD Brewing method that allows hot water to settle through a bed of ground coffee.

DRY (OR NATURAL) PROCESS Coffee processed by removing the husk or fruit after the coffee fruit has been dried. When done carefully, dry-processed coffee can be fruity and complex.

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EARTHINESS A taste characteristic found primarily in coffees from Sumatra and Sulawesi in which wet coffee has come into contact with earth during drying.

ESPRESSO ROAST Term for coffee taken to a medium-dark roast where acidity diminishes and bittersweet flavors emerge, also known as a Full-City or Viennese Roast.

ESPRESSO A brewing method in which hot water is forced under pressure through a compressed bed of finely ground coffee; typically less than 2 ounces of espresso is produced.

EXTRACTION The process of dissolving coffee solubles (desirable compounds that occur naturally in coffee beans) into water. This can be done with hot or cold water. The level of extraction influences the flavor you get.

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FAIR-TRADE COFFEE Coffee purchased from farmers at a "fair" price as defined by international agencies.

FILTER METHOD Any method in which water filters through a bed of ground coffee. It also describes drip method brewers using a paper filter to separate grounds from brewed coffee.

FILTER ROAST A light roast, pale brown in color where acidity and fruit characteristics of the coffee are most prominent. This style of roast is normally used for delicate filter brewing methods.

FLAT WHITE Espresso topped with flat, steamed milk.

FLAVOUR Flavour is what distinguishes the sensory experience of coffee once its acidity, body, and aroma have been described.

FRENCH PRESS Also known as a press pot or plunger pot, coffee grounds are steeped with water. A strainer plate is pushed down to separate the brewed coffee from the spent grounds.

FRENCH ROAST Beans become very dark brown in color with an oily surface; acidity and varietal qualities fade; bittersweet notes dominate.

FULL-CITY ROAST Coffee taken to a medium-dark roast which produces some oil on the bean surface; varietal qualities mellow, body and sweetness increase, acidity diminishes.

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GEISHA COFFEE Geisha coffee, sometimes referred to as Gesha coffee and is a variety of coffee tree that originated in the Gori Gesha forest, Ethiopia, though it is now grown in several other nations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. It is widely known for its unique flavor profile of floral and sweet notes, its very high selling price, and its exclusivity as its demand has increased over the years.

GREEN COFFEE Term used for unroasted coffee beans.

GROUP The fixture protruding from the front of most espresso machines into which the portafilter and filter clamp.

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HARD BEAN Coffee grown at altitudes of 4,000 to 4,500 feet. The higher altitudes and lower temperatures produce a slower-maturing fruit and a harder, less porous bean.

HIGH-GROWN Arabica coffee grown at altitudes of 3,000 feet and beyond are generally superior in taste quality to coffee grown downslope.

HULLING Removal of the coffee bean’s skin, called parchment, just prior to sorting.

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ITALIAN ROAST Coffee is generally roasted dark brown in color and is rich and bittersweet in flavor, but the color may range to nearly black and the flavor to nearly burned.

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JAVA A term sometimes used to refer to coffee in general or specifically to coffee beans from the island of Java in Indonesia, known for their earthy, full-bodied flavor profile and historical significance in the coffee trade.

JUTE BAGS Traditional sacks made from jute fibers used for transporting and storing green coffee beans, valued for their durability, breathability, and biodegradability, often adorned with colorful markings and logos.

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KNOWLEDGE SHARING The exchange of information, expertise, and best practices among coffee professionals, researchers, farmers, and consumers to promote innovation, sustainability, and continuous improvement in the coffee industry.

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LATTE A serving of espresso combined with nearly three times as much steamed milk topped with froth.

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MACCHIATO A serving of espresso "stained" or topped off with a small quantity of hot, frothed milk.

MACHINE DRYING After coffee beans have been de-fruited, they are dried in machines with rotating drums or cascading slides. The other option is to dry the beans on open patios or raised beds.

MICRO LOT Coffee from a single farm or from a specific part of the coffee farm.

MOCHA Espresso combined with chocolate and steamed milk.

MONSOONED COFFEE Dry-processed, single-origin coffee from India deliberately exposed to monsoon winds in open warehouses with the aim to increase body and reduce acidity.

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NEW CROP Coffee is roasted soon after harvest when the beans are at their freshest and brightest.

NATURAL FLAVORING Additives or extracts derived from natural sources, such as fruits, spices, or herbs, used to enhance or modify the flavor of coffee-based beverages without artificial ingredients or synthetic flavors.

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ORGANIC COFFEE Coffee that has been certified by a third-party agency as having been grown and processed without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or similar chemicals.

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PARCHMENT A thin skin that covers wet-processed coffee beans after the coffee cherries have been skinned, the pulp removed, and the beans dried.

PATIO DRYING A more traditional alternative to machine drying, patio drying exposes depulped coffee beans to the sun's heat by spreading and raking them in thin layers on open patios.

PEABERRY A small, round bean formed when only one seed, rather than the usual two, develops at the heart of the coffee fruit.

PISTON MACHINE An espresso machine that uses a piston operated by a lever to force brewing water at high pressure through a compacted bed of ground coffee.

PORTAFILTER In espresso brewing, a metal object with a plastic handle that holds the coffee filter and clamps onto the group.

POUR-OVER COFFEE A method of drip coffee in which water is poured in a thin, steady, slow stream over a filter cone filled with ground coffee. One cup of coffee requires three minutes to brew.

PUCK Spent coffee from a portafilter forms the shape of a hockey puck.

PULL Espresso shots are “pulled.” The term is a holdover from the time that machines were only lever-operated. One pull produces either a single or a double shot of espresso.

PULPING Process of removing the outermost skin of the coffee cherry or fruit.

PUMP MACHINE An espresso machine that uses a pump to force brewing water at high pressure through a compacted bed of ground coffee.

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QUAKERS Defective coffee beans that fail to roast properly, remaining pale-colored.

Q GRADER The Q grader is a professional coffee taster certified by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) to grade and score coffees based on their sensory characteristics, including aroma, flavor, acidity, body, and balance.

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RAISIN A flavor descriptor used to describe coffees with a dried fruit sweetness reminiscent of raisins, often found in coffees with natural or honey processing methods.

RED EYE A coffee drink consisting of brewed coffee with a shot of espresso added to it, providing an extra caffeine kick.

RESIDUAL Any coffee flavor or sensation that remains on the palate after the coffee has been swallowed, such as bitterness, sweetness, acidity, or astringency.

ROBUSTA A species of coffee (Coffea canephora) known for its hardiness and higher caffeine content compared to Arabica beans. Robusta is often used in espresso blends for its strong flavor and crema-enhancing properties.

ROAST The process of heating coffee beans to transform them from green seeds into aromatic, flavorful coffee. Roasting develops the beans' flavor, aroma, and color through caramelization and the Maillard reaction.

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SINGLE ORIGIN Coffee sourced from a single geographical location, often a single farm or cooperative, offering unique flavor profiles characteristic of its terroir.

SLUDGE A term referring to the thick, bitter, over-extracted coffee that results from using too fine a grind or allowing the coffee to steep for too long.

SOUR A flavor defect in coffee characterized by a sharp, acidic taste often caused by underdeveloped beans, improper processing, or over-extraction during brewing.

SULAWESI An Indonesian island known for producing coffee with a distinct earthy, spicy, and full-bodied flavor profile, often attributed to its unique growing conditions and processing methods.

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TAMP The act of compressing finely ground coffee into a dense puck in the portafilter basket before brewing espresso, ensuring even extraction and optimal flavor.

TANGY A flavor descriptor used to describe coffees with bright, lively acidity reminiscent of citrus fruits like lemon, orange, or grapefruit, adding a refreshing zing to the cup.

TERROIR The combination of environmental factors, including soil, climate, altitude, and topography, that influence the unique flavor profile of coffee grown in a specific geographic location.

THERMAL CARAFE A double-walled insulated container used to keep brewed coffee hot for an extended period, preserving its temperature and flavor without the need for a heating element.

TURKISH COFFEE A traditional method of brewing coffee in which very finely ground coffee is simmered in water with sugar (optional) in a special pot called a cezve or ibrik, producing a thick, strong, and aromatic brew served in small cups.

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UNIFORMITY Consistency in the size, shape, color, and density of coffee beans within a batch, ensuring even roasting and optimal extraction during brewing for a balanced and flavorful cup.

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VARIETAL A distinct coffee cultivar or botanical variety with unique genetic traits, such as flavor profile, disease resistance, and growing characteristics, influencing the taste and quality of the coffee beans.

VELVETY A mouthfeel descriptor used to describe the smooth, creamy texture of certain coffees, often resulting from well-balanced acidity, full body, and fine particulate matter suspended in the brew.

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WASHED PROCESS A coffee processing method in which the coffee cherries are pulped to remove the fruit before fermentation, followed by washing to remove any remaining mucilage, resulting in clean, bright flavors and acidity in the cup.

WEIGHT A sensory attribute of coffee referring to its perceived heaviness, richness, or viscosity on the palate, often associated with full-bodied coffees with dense, syrupy textures.

WET PROCESS A coffee processing method in which the coffee cherries are pulped to remove the fruit before undergoing fermentation, followed by washing to remove the mucilage, resulting in clean, bright flavors and acidity in the cup.

WHITE COFFEE A beverage made from lightly roasted coffee beans that have not undergone the Maillard reaction, resulting in a lighter color and milder flavor profile compared to traditional roasted coffee.

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XEROPHYTE A plant adapted to survive in arid or desert environments with minimal water availability, such as certain coffee species cultivated in regions with dry climates.

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YEASTY A flavor descriptor used to describe coffees with a distinct yeast-like aroma or flavor, often associated with fermentation during coffee processing or aging, adding complexity to the cup.

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ZESTY A flavor descriptor used to describe coffees with bright, lively acidity reminiscent of citrus fruits like lemon, orange, or grapefruit, adding a refreshing zing to the cup.