If you've been looking for a coffee encyclopedia, you're in the right place. Below are coffee terms that are used in the specialty coffee industry, spanning coffee drinks, to coffee methods, growing, processing, brewing, and more.
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1st Wave Coffee — 1st Wave Coffee is coffee that is lower quality and does not have a strong focus on sourcing or processing.
2nd Wave Coffee — The rise of coffee brands like Starbucks, Peet's Coffee and similar chains introduced what’s known as 2nd Wave Coffee. These brands were among the first to explore higher quality coffee and introduced the idea of creative coffee drinks.
3rd Wave Coffee — Known as specialty coffee, 3rd Wave refers to the rise of small roasters and cafes emphasizing the flavors in coffee. This shifted the focus away from the cafe experience and onto the coffee beans themselves.
Acidity — Acidity is the bright, dry sensation when experience when you taste coffee . Without acidity, coffee can taste dull. Acidity in coffee is not a sour sensation like eating a lemon, though coffee can be sour if brewed incorrectly.
AeroPress — "The AeroPress is a manual coffeemaker invented by Alan Adler, founder of AeroPress, Inc. It consists of a cylindrical chamber, and a plunger with an airtight silicone seal, similar to a syringe. Ground coffee beans and water are steeped inside, then forced through a filter by pressing the plunger through the chamber." (Source)
Affogato — A coffee dessert featuring scoops of vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso.
Aged Coffee — Coffee that is carefully aged, usually for six months to three years. It is regularly monitored and the beans are rotated to distribute moisture and even out the aging process between coffee bags. This is similar to how you age wine or whiskey! The coffee takes on a new set of flavors and aromas.
Agtron — A machine that accurately reads a coffee bean's roast color. It works by reflecting light on a sample of coffee, like a spectrophotometer, and accurately assigns a number to the beans' roast color.
American Roast — Also known as City or Breakfast roast. Coffee beans with a medium brown color and a non-oily surface. It is the traditional and preferred roast for American coffee. It produces a flavorful, complex cup of coffee.
Americano — An iced or hot coffee beverage made with a shot of espresso and water.
Arabica — The world's most popular type of coffee made from the beans of the Coffea arabicaplant. It's flavor notes include chocolate, nuts, caramel, fruit and/or berries.
Aroma — At its core, coffee aroma is the smell of coffee. There are over 800 aromatics in coffee and it's also responsible for many non-taste attributes in coffee. You can judge the quality of coffee based off of aroma alone.
Balance — In coffee, it means that no one characteristic overwhelms the rest, but there is complexity in the coffee.
Blade Grinder — A machine that chops coffee beans and/or spices with a blade that looks like a propeller, similar to a blade in a blender or a food processor.
Bland — A lack of flavor.
Blend — Coffee bean blends are a combination of coffee beans, usually 2 or 3 different types used to bring out different flavors of the coffees.
Baratza — Manufacturer of popular precision burr coffee grinders.
Barista — A person whose job involves preparing and serving different variations of coffee beverages.
Bean — The seed of the Coffea plant and when dried and processed, becomes coffee. It is the pit inside the red fruit often referred to as a coffee cherry.
Bitter — One of the five basic tastes in coffee. It is a flavor sensation, like a twinge or aftertaste, primarily detected/perceived towards the back of the mouth. It is often characterized as a solution of caffeine and other alkaloids.
Bird-Friendly — "The Bird Friendly® program aims to protect the most quality habitat from the threat of deforestation under the Bird Friendly seal. Coffee that comes from farms using a combination of foliage cover, tree height and biodiversity to provide quality habitat for birds and other wildlife." (Source)
Bloom — The release of carbon dioxide from ground coffee beans when hot water is poured over them. It is light brown in color and often looks like a shallow foam.
Brew Ratio — The ratio of coffee beans to water when brewing. Different brewing methods of coffee utilize different brewing ratios for optimal flavor.
Brew Temperature —The temperature of the water used to brew coffee. The brew temperature depends on the type of coffee, roast, grind size, variety, and other characteristics of coffee.
Brew Time — The time it takes for coffee to brew. Like brew temperature, it is also dependent on the characteristics of coffee beans.
Bright — A coffee flavor characteristic. It is a term used to describe a coffee that has more high, acidic notes.
Briny — A salty taste often caused by under-extracting coffee. It can also be caused by mineral rich water used in brewing.
Burr Grinder — Also called a burr mill, a burr grinder is made up of two revolving burrs which grounds coffee in between them. The beans are crushed between a moving grinder wheel and a non-moving surface.
Cafe Au Lait —A hot coffee beverage made of equal parts steamed milk and hot strong coffee (commonly drip coffee). French for "coffee with milk".
Caffeine — A natural stimulant found in tea, coffee, and cacao plants and is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
Cappuccino — A hot or cold coffee beverage made of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.
Chemex — A manual pour-over style glass coffeemaker, invented by Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. The shape was inspired by an Erlenmeyer flask.
Clean — A term used to describe a coffee that balances acidity and sweetness, such that there is no other flavor that defects the taste.
Clever Dripper — A immersion and drip style plastic coffee maker with a plate on the bottom with a valve that is closed unless placed onto a mug or cup.
Clover Brewer —Innovative brewing system that brews one cup at a time using their VacuumPress Technology. (More in depth how it works here)
Coffee Cherry — Not to be confused with actual cherries, the fruit that coffee beans come from are referred to as cherries because of its red color. Coffee gets its flavor from the sugars that the cherry imparts on it, since it is the seed of the fruit.
Cold Brew — A type of coffee brew where coffee grounds sit in cold or room temperature water for at least 12 hours. The resulting liquid is a strong, often concentrated coffee.
Complexity — A term used to describe the spectrum of flavors in coffee. The more subtle or distinct flavors you can discern from a single coffee, the higher its complexity rating.
Cortado — A hot coffee beverage consisting of espresso mixed with an equal amount of steamed milk. Cortado means “the cut” which refers to the milk cutting the espresso.
Crema — The tan silky froth that sits on top of espresso. It is comprised of microbubbles of CO2 gas that are suspended in water. The bubbles attach to the natural oils and fats present in coffee, then rise to the top of the liquid.
Crop — A cultivated plant or animal product, usually grown in bulk and harvested for profit. Coffee is a crop.
Cup of Excellence — The most prestigious competition and auction for high quality coffees. It is an annual competition held in several countries to identify the highest quality coffees produced and reward farmers.
Cupping — Coffee tasting technique to compare coffees and practice identifying different flavors.
Here's a beginner's guide to coffee tasting:
Dark Roast — Coffee beans that have been roasted to a dark brown color or beyond. Dark roast coffees are generally chocolatey in taste and have an oily surface.
Decaffeinated (Decaf) — Coffee that has had majority (97%) of the caffeine in it stripped away or processed out. Decaf coffee still has caffeine but a very tiny amount compared to regular coffee.
Decanter —Traditionally, a glass carafe or glass that you brew coffee into and pour out of.
Degassing — A natural process when carbon dioxide gas is released from recently roasted coffee.
Doppio — Also known as doppio espresso, a double shot of coffee.
Drip Brew — A coffee brewing method utilizing a filter, hot water, and coffee grounds where the hot water drips slowly out of the coffee. An example of this is a pour over style brew or coffee brewed in a phin filter. This can also be done cold, like a kyoto style drip coffee.
Dry Processed Coffee — One of the four types of coffee processing. The process in which the husk of the coffee fruit is removed after it has dried.
Earthy — The aroma characteristic of fresh earth or wet soil. It can be used ambivalently, meaning both positive or negative connotations based on context.
Espresso —The result of a brewing method in which hot water is forced under pressure through a compressed bed of finely ground coffee. Typically 1 ounce in size.
Estate-Grown — A specific type of single-origin coffee . These are generally grown on one massive farm or a collection of farms that all process their coffee at the same mill.
Extraction — The extraction of desirable compounds from coffee beans during brewing. Extraction is when hot water is poured over coffee, causing these compounds to transfer into the water.
Fair Trade — An arrangement designed by international agencies to help producers in growing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. Members of the fair trade movement add the payment of higher prices to exporters and strive to compensate workers "fairly".
Farmer — A person who owns or manages a farm, including planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops.
Filter — A porous device used to remove impurities or solid particles from a liquid passed through it. In coffee, it can refer to a paper or metal/mesh filter used to hold the coffee grounds when brewing.
Finish — The immediate sensation after the coffee is spit out or swallowed, in which some coffees further develop their flavor.
Flat White — A hot coffee beverage made with espresso and microfoam. It is similar to a latte, but smaller in volume and has less microfoam, therefore having a higher ratio of coffee to milk.
Flavor — A subjective sensory description of coffee's aromatic and taste characteristics, including, but not limited to body, acidity, aroma, bitterness, sweetness, and aftertaste.
French Press — An immersion style coffee brewer typically made of glass and has a mesh filter that is plunged down on the coffee when it's done brewing.
Green Coffee —Unroasted coffee beans. Coffee roasters will typically buy green coffee from producers.
Honey Processed Coffee — One of the four coffee processing methods in which part of the coffee cherry, called mucilage, is left on the coffee bean while it is drying. The mucilage has a sticky texture and imparts a sweet flavor on the coffee beans; it is also golden amber in color like honey.
Hulling —The process of removing the skin from coffee cherry fruit before it is sorted.
Italian Roast — Also known as espresso roast, it is a dark coffee roast with very dark, oily beans. This is usually the darkest roast available and is often used to brew espresso.
Immersion —Any manual brewing method where coffee grounds are immersed in water.
Kalita Wave — A manual pour over style dripper with a flat bottom and three extraction holes.
Kopi —Indonesian for coffee. Most commonly known for kopi luwak, an expensive Indonesian coffee made from partially digested beans, eaten and defecated by a civet.
Latte — A hot or iced coffee beverage made of steamed milk and 1-2 shots of espresso.
Latte Art — A method of preparing a latte by pouring microfoam (from steamed milk) into a shot of espresso, resulting in a pattern or design on the surface of the drink.
Long Black — Similar to an americano, it is a hot or cold coffee beverage made by pouring a double-shot of espresso over hot water.
Long Macchiato — A hot coffee beverage made with a double shot of espresso with a dash of steamed milk.
Macchiato — Also called an espresso macchiato or caffe macchiato, it is an espresso coffee drink with a small amount of frothed milk on top. Compared with the long macchiato, the macchiato usually only has one shot of espresso.
Machine Drying — The process where coffee beans are tumbled and dried in rotating drums after being removed from the coffee cherry.
Micro-Lot Coffee — Term most commonly used to refer to coffee traceable to a particular region, small farm, or processing station.
Mocha —Also known as a caffe mocha, a hot or iced coffee beverage made with milk, coffee, and chocolate or cocoa powder.
Moka Pot — A stovetop coffee maker often made from aluminum. It works by producing steam in the bottom chamber that eventually pushes hot water way through a bed of coffee grounds into the top chamber that holds coffee.
Monsooning — The process in which coffee is exposed to seasonal monsoon winds with the end goal of reducing it’s acidity and further developing the bean’s body. The brew has a chocolatey aroma with notes of spice and nuts.
Natural Processed Coffee — One of the four coffee processing methods where the entire coffee cherry is dried before the fruit surrounding the coffee bean is removed. Produces a heavy bodied and fruitier cup of coffee.
New Crop — Coffee delivered for roasting immediately after harvest and processing.
Nitro — Refers to coffee on tap that's infused with tiny nitrogen bubbles, giving it the appearance of beer and a smooth mouthfeel.
Old Crop — Coffee held in warehouses for a period of time before being delivered for roasting.
Organic — Coffee grown and produced without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Patio Drying — One of the two main ways coffee is dried where coffee beans are raked and spread out thinly onto raised beds and left to dry in the sun.
Peaberry — A round, small coffee bean that only has one seed. Regular coffee fruit produces two seeds. Peaberries occur as a result of a natural mutation, inside a coffee cherry, where one ovule fails to grow and as a result, a larger and rounder seed grows inside. These seeds are considered superior in flavor.
Percolator — A type of pot that brews coffee by continually cycling the boiling or nearly boiling water brew through the grounds using gravity until the desired strength is reached.
Piccolo — A ristretto topped with milk and served in a small glass, typically 3-4 ounces.
Piston Machine — A type of manual espresso machine powered by a person pumping a lever, which exerts pressure on the hot water and forces it through a compact bed of ground coffee to brew espresso.
Producer —Term used interchangeably with coffee farmer, meaning a person who produces or harvests coffee.
Portafilter — A piece of an espresso machine. It is a ladle like device that holds compacted ground coffee in it and screws into the espresso machine.
Pour Over Brewing — A type of manual coffee brewing where hot water is streamed into a bed of coffee grounds in a circular motion and left to drip through a filter. Produces a crisp and clean cup of coffee.
Puck —The compressed coffee grounds remaining after being brewed by an espresso machine or Aeropress. It's called a puck because it resembles the shape of a hockey puck.
Pull (Espresso) — The process in which an espresso shot is extracted. It is referred to as a "pull" because before motorized espresso machines were made, humans had to push a lever to extract espresso, hence the name pull.
Pulping — The step after sorting and cleaning coffee cherries where the pulp of the coffee cherry is removed to expose the seed inside.
Q Grader — A Q Grader is the wine sommelier equivalent to the coffee industry; they are licensed professionals who are capable of scoring the quality of roasted coffees.
Quakers —Coffee beans that don't turn dark brown when roasted. Specialty coffee beans must be free of Quakers in order to be classified as specialty coffee.
Red Eye — A hot or cold drip coffee with added shots of espresso.
Ristretto — A "short shot" of a more highly concentrated espresso.
Roasting — The process in which green coffee beans are exposed to heat and develop more flavors as a result.
Roast Date — The date in which green coffee is roasted. Important to look at when shopping for roasted coffee beans.
Robusta — A coffee plant that is able to grow in lower altitudes and diverse climates around the world making it a more resilient species of coffee. Robusta has a strong taste, with an oatmeal-like taste and peanutty aftertaste.
Seasonal Coffee — Coffee that is only produced during seasons where it is at its peak flavor.
Shade Grown Coffee —Coffee than has been grown under canopy shade. This is a more sustainable method of growing coffee compared to sun grown coffee.
Shot (Espresso) — A single serving of espresso, generally 1 ounce.
Single Origin Coffee — Unblended coffee beans hailing from a single country, region, and/or crop.
Siphon — A vacuum coffee maker that brews coffee using two chambers: one filled with water and the other with coffee grounds, where vapor pressure and gravity produce coffee. It works similar to a moka pot or stovetop coffee brewer.
Specialty Coffee — The SCAA defines specialty coffee as coffee that is free of primary defects, has no quakers, and is properly sized and dried. It’s used to describe the highest quality of coffee available, making up only 10% of the entire coffee supply.
Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) — A non-profit trade organization founded in 1982 for the specialty coffee industry. It provides standardization in the specialty coffee industry and is based on scientific testing.
Strip Picking — A method of harvesting coffee by taking hold of a branch of the coffee plant and using a single motion to pull off all the coffee cherries at once.
Tamper — In espresso brewing, this is the small, pestle-like device with a circular flat end that compresses ground coffee inside an espresso machine portafilter.
Terroir — Refers to a specific climate or growing regions of coffee that cannot be reproduced anywhere else. For example, kona coffee is classified as a terroir coffee.
Trigonelline — The chemical compound responsible for bitterness in coffee.
Typica — A variety of Arabica coffee.
Turkish Coffee — A style of preparing coffee that uses very finely ground coffee without filtering it. This produces a thick and frothy coffee that is often sweetened.
Varietal — Similar to wine, a coffee varietal is a type of coffee made from a single type of coffee. For example, gesha, typica, or bourbon coffees are all varietals.
V60 — A manual pour over style dripper, most known for its sleek appearance and spiraling ridge design. The interior ripples are inspired by the shape of the parabola.
Wet Processed Coffee — One of four coffee processing methods where the fruit is separated from the beans with water before being dried.
Washed Coffee — One of four coffee processing methods where the fruit is stripped off of the bean after being harvested. The beans are then washed, removing any remaining sticky mucilage from the bean, before being dried.
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