Coffee Definitions

Coffee Definitions

To help you understand some terms we use when describing our coffees, we’ve put together a little glossary for you. Please note that when we describe flavors like “nutty” or “chocolatey” we’re describing innate flavor characteristics of the bean, not any artificial flavor additives.

Acidity:
A positive and bright flavor attribute of some coffees. Think of the sensation you get when you bite into a crisp green apple. Acidity in coffee refers to flavor, not to the pH balance.

Aftertaste:
A flavor that lingers after the coffee is swallowed. Also referred to as finish.

Arabica:
The earliest cultivated coffee plant species, Coffea arabica is also the most widely grown. Arabica plants are less hardy than their robusta relatives, but have less caffeine and better flavor.

Balance:
How the different attributes of the coffee interact. Well-balanced coffees don’t have any one characteristic that stands out prominently.

Body:
The way a coffee physically feels in the mouth. Body can range from light and silky to heavy and gritty. Sometimes referred to as mouthfeel or viscosity.

Cherry:
The fruit of the coffee tree, which contains two coffee seeds or just one peaberry.

Clean:
Lacking any flavors of defects.

Complex:
Having multiple flavors and aromas simultaneously.

Crema:
In espresso coffee, crema is the creamy layer of tiny bubbles that top a properly prepared shot. During the espresso extraction process, CO2 left over from the roasting process is released and trapped by the coffee oils, forming the crema bubbles. Crema coats your entire palate, lending an aftertaste that lasts for several minutes.

Cupping:
A method of evaluating roasted coffee that involves intently analyzing aroma and flavor. Cupping is a technique that allows coffee tasters to understand differences between coffees from different origins, get an accurate sense of a coffee’s characteristics, and test for defects.

Defects:
Problems in green coffee that come from improper picking, processing or storage. Defects have strongly unpleasant flavors.

Earthy:
Flavors and aromas of peat, soil, or wet earth. Most frequently found in Indonesian coffees.

Espresso:
A coffee drink or method of preparing coffee. You can make espresso from any type of coffee beans.

Flavor Profile:
The overall impression of acidity, aroma, body, sweetness and aftertaste in a coffee.

Floral:
Flavors and aromas of flowers, like honeysuckle, jasmine and rose. Frequently present in Ethiopian coffees.

Fruity:
Innate flavors and aromas of fruit, most commonly berries or citrus.

Green Coffee:
Unroasted coffee beans

Herbal/Herbaceous:
Aromas and flavors of herbs.

Malty:
Flavors and aromas of cereal, roasted grains, or malt.

Peaberry:
A small, round bean that forms when only one seed develops in a coffee cherry.

Processing:
How coffee beans are prepared after they are harvested. The type of processing method can change the flavor profile of a coffee significantly.

Pulp:
The “meat” of the coffee cherry that is removed during processing. Also called mucilage.

Robusta:
Coffee species that makes up about 20 percent of the world’s production. Coffea canephora, commonly know as robusta, has a higher caffeine content than arabica and often tastes like burnt popcorn. Robusta is generally not sold in the specialty coffee trade.

Single-Origin Coffee:
Coffee that comes from one country, region, or crop.

Specialty Coffee:
Coffee that has been grown and processed with care to have a generally recognized quality, having few defects and an enjoyable flavor profile.

Spicy:
Flavors and aromas of sweet spices, like cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg.

Terroir:
The character of a coffee that comes from its place of origin.

Velvety:
Coffee with a heavy body and low acidity.

Winey:
A combination of acidity, flavor, aroma, and body reminiscent of wine.