If you’re passionate about coffee or are just starting to explore the world of Java, understanding the terminology can help enhance your appreciation for this beloved beverage.
In this comprehensive glossary, we’ve compiled essential coffee terms and their definitions, organized into categories that will guide you through the journey from bean to cup. So, whether you’re a home barista, a curious coffee drinker, or simply want to impress your friends with your coffee knowledge, this glossary has you covered!
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Coffee Beans Basics:
Green Coffee is unroasted coffee beans that have been processed and dried but not yet roasted, preserving their original characteristics.
Roasting is the process of heating green coffee beans, transforming their chemical composition and unlocking their flavors, aromas, and colors.
Roast Level refers to the degree of coffee bean roasting, affecting color, flavor, and aroma, with categories like light, medium, or dark roast. Read more about coffee roast levels.
Dark Roast describes coffee beans roasted to a darker color, creating a bold, robust flavor with lower acidity and increased caramelization of sugars. In a dark roast, the beans are roasted past the second crack, which typically occurs at higher temperatures, around 437-446°F.
Light Roast involves roasting coffee beans to a lighter color, preserving natural flavors and characteristics, and generally featuring higher acidity and brighter notes. It usually goes just past the first crack, which occurs at a temperature of around 380-401°F.
Medium Roast coffee beans are typically removed from heat during the period between the first and second cracks, striking a balance between light and dark roast flavors.
Coffee Bean Anatomy and Processing:
Coffee Cherry is the fruit containing the coffee bean, with two beans surrounded by pulp, mucilage, and parchment.
Parchment is the thin, papery layer enclosing coffee beans within the coffee cherry.
Mucilage is the sticky, sugary substance surrounding the coffee bean, found between the parchment and the pulp in a coffee cherry.
Processing Method is the technique for removing coffee cherry components after harvesting, which influences the bean’s flavor.
Natural (Dry) Processing dries coffee cherries in the sun with fruit attached to beans, resulting in a sweeter, fruitier flavor profile.
Wet (Washed) Processing removes the coffee cherry’s pulp and ferments beans in water to break down mucilage, producing a cleaner, brighter, and more acidic flavor.
Honey Processing removes the coffee cherry’s pulp but leaves some or all mucilage on beans during drying, creating a flavor profile between natural and wet-processed coffees.
Degassing is the release of carbon dioxide from roasted coffee beans, which can impact freshness and flavor.
Coffee Bean Types and Selection:
Single-Origin coffee is sourced from a specific geographical region, often highlighting the unique flavor characteristics of that area. Read more about single-origin coffee.
Coffee Blend is a mix of coffee beans from different origins or varieties, aiming for a specific flavor profile or balance. Read more about coffee blends.
Decaffeination and Instant Coffee:
Decaf Coffee removes most of the caffeine by a certain decaffeination process, providing an alternative for those who want to enjoy coffee’s flavor without the stimulating effects of caffeine.
Swiss Water Method is a chemical-free decaffeination process that uses water, temperature, and time to remove caffeine from green coffee beans, resulting in a decaf coffee that retains much of its original flavor and aroma.
Instant Coffee is a coffee product created by brewing, concentrating, and drying or freezing coffee, resulting in soluble coffee powder or granules that can be quickly reconstituted with hot water for a convenient and fast cup of coffee. Find the best instant coffee selection here.
Freeze Dried Instant Coffee is a type of instant coffee produced by freezing brewed coffee and then removing the ice through a process called sublimation, resulting in coffee granules that dissolve quickly in hot water, often considered higher quality compared to spray-dried instant coffee.
Coffee Industry Movements and Quality:
Coffee Waves refer to the distinct historical movements or trends within the coffee industry, often categorized as the first wave (mass-produced coffee), second wave (coffee shop culture), and third wave (specialty coffee focus). Read more about coffee waves.
Third Wave Coffee is a movement that emphasizes high-quality, sustainably sourced beans, artisanal roasting, and precise brewing methods, aiming to highlight the unique flavors and characteristics of each coffee.
Specialty Coffee describes high-quality coffee beans that have been carefully sourced, roasted, and brewed to showcase their unique flavor profiles, often associated with third wave coffee and scoring 80 points or above on the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) scale. Read more about specialty coffee.
Acidity in coffee describes the tangy, bright, or fruity taste that can be perceived on the palate. It’s often associated with high-quality beans and lighter roasts, perceived as liveliness or crispness on the palate.
Aroma is the fragrance emitted by coffee beans or brewed coffee, contributing to the overall sensory experience.
Body is the perceived texture or mouthfeel of coffee, ranging from light and delicate to heavy and full.
Finish is the aftertaste or lingering flavors left in the mouth after swallowing coffee, which can range from clean and crisp to long-lasting and complex.
Complexity is the range and interplay of various flavors and sensations within a coffee, contributing to a multi-dimensional and interesting taste experience.
Flavor Notes are specific tastes or aromatic qualities in coffee, such as fruity, floral, spicy, or earthy, which can help describe and differentiate coffee profiles.
Read more about the best coffee beans around the world.
Coffee Types And Varieties
Peaberry is a single, round coffee bean formed inside the coffee cherry instead of two flat-sided beans, believed to have a more concentrated flavor due to shared nutrients. Read more about peaberry coffee.
Arabica, a coffee plant species, produces high-quality coffee beans known for nuanced flavors, aroma, and acidity, making up most specialty coffee production.
Robusta, another coffee plant species, produces beans with a robust, earthy flavor, higher caffeine content, and lower acidity compared to Arabica beans, often used in espresso blends and instant coffee.
Typica is one of the original and most widely planted Arabica coffee varieties, known for its excellent cup quality and balanced flavor profile, often used as a benchmark for other coffee varieties.
Bourbon, a historically significant Arabica coffee variety, is prized for its sweet, complex flavors and balanced acidity, often found in specialty coffees from Central and South America, as well as Africa.
Caturra is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety, characterized by its shorter stature and higher productivity, commonly grown in Colombia and Central America, known for its bright acidity and pronounced fruitiness.
Catuai, a hybrid of Caturra and Mundo Novo varieties, is an Arabica coffee variety with a high yield and disease resistance, often grown in Brazil and Central America, and known for its sweet, fruity flavors.
Mundo Novo is a hybrid of Typica and Bourbon varieties, created for its high yield and disease resistance, commonly grown in Brazil, and known for its chocolate and nutty flavor notes.
SL28 and SL34 are Arabica coffee varieties developed by Scott Laboratories in Kenya, known for their exceptional cup quality, bright acidity, and complex fruity flavors, often associated with Kenyan specialty coffees.
Pacamara, a hybrid of Pacas and Maragogipe varieties, is a large-beaned Arabica coffee variety that offers a unique combination of sweetness, bright acidity, and complex flavor profiles, often found in specialty coffees from Central America.
Geisha or Gesha, an Arabica coffee variety originally from Ethiopia, has gained international acclaim for its exceptional cup quality, characterized by its floral aroma, bright acidity, and complex flavor profile, often featuring tea-like and fruity notes.
Terroir is the combination of environmental factors (climate, soil, altitude) in a region, influencing coffee beans’ flavor characteristics.
Coffee Brewing Methods:
Drip Coffee is a brewing method that uses gravity to pass hot water through the ground coffee and a paper or metal filter, resulting in a clean-tasting brew.
Pour-Over is a manual brewing method where hot water is poured evenly over coffee grounds in a filter, providing greater control over extraction and resulting in a balanced and flavorful cup.
French Press makes coffee by steeping coarsely ground coffee in hot water for several minutes before pressing a metal or mesh plunger to separate the grounds from the brewed coffee. This brewing method is known for its simplicity, full-bodied flavor, and rich, aromatic coffee.
Espresso is a brewing method that involves forcing hot water under high pressure through a tightly packed bed of finely ground coffee, resulting in a concentrated, full-bodied shot with a rich crema on top, often used as a base for various coffee beverages.
Chemex is a pour-over brewing method using a specific hourglass-shaped glass brewer and proprietary filters, producing a clean and bright cup of coffee.
Cold Brew is brewed by soaking coffee grounds in cold water for a long time. This creates a smooth and less acidic coffee that is best served cold.
V60 is a cone-shaped pour-over brewing device with spiral ribs inside, designed to facilitate even extraction and produce a clean, vibrant cup of coffee.
Cupping is a standardized process used by coffee professionals to evaluate and score different coffee beans’ flavor profiles.
Percolator is an old-school brewing method that involves continuously cycling boiling water through coffee grounds, typically using a stovetop or electric device, known for producing a strong, robust coffee.
Moka Pot is a type of coffee maker that is used on the stovetop to brew coffee. It uses steam to push hot water through coffee grounds, resulting in a concentrated coffee similar to espresso. This type of coffee is particularly popular in Italian households.
Turkish Coffee is a traditional brewing method that involves finely ground coffee beans mixed with water and sugar, heated in a special pot called a cezve or ibrik, producing a rich, thick, and aromatic coffee with fine grounds settling at the bottom of the cup.
Nespresso is a brand of single-serve coffee machines that use pre-packaged coffee capsules to produce espresso or espresso-based beverages, known for their convenience, consistency, and variety of flavors.
Keurig is a brand of single-serve coffee makers that utilize pre-packaged coffee pods called K-Cups to brew individual cups of coffee or other hot beverages, offering convenience and a wide range of options.
K-Cup is a type of single-use coffee pod designed for use in Keurig brewing systems, containing pre-ground coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, sealed in a small plastic cup with a built-in filter for easy brewing.
AeroPress is a simple device with a plunger that uses pressure to force hot water through coffee grounds, producing a concentrated coffee similar to espresso, known for its fast brewing time, portability, and versatility in adjusting brewing parameters.
Espresso is a concentrated coffee produced by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee under pressure, resulting in a rich and full-flavored shot.
Ristretto is a shorter, more concentrated espresso shot that extracts less water, highlighting the coffee’s intensity and sweetness.
Lungo is a longer, less concentrated espresso shot that extracts more water, creating a milder flavor with increased bitterness.
Doppio refers to a double shot of espresso, typically consisting of two ounces of liquid.
Crema is the golden layer of foam on top of an espresso shot, formed by the emulsion of coffee oils and gases.
Espresso-based Coffee Drinks:
Latte is made with steamed milk and a shot of espresso, resulting in a creamy and smooth beverage with a small layer of foam on top.
Cappuccino is an espresso-based drink composed of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam, offering a harmonious balance of flavors and textures.
Espresso Macchiato is an espresso shot topped with a small dollop of foam or a splash of steamed milk, accentuating the espresso’s natural flavors.
Mocha is a coffee drink that combines chocolate syrup, steamed milk, and foam for a sweet and indulgent treat.
Americano is brewed by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, resulting in a coffee beverage with a similar strength and flavor profile as drip coffee but with the distinct characteristics of espresso.
Espresso Machine Types
Single Boiler machines utilize one boiler for both brewing and steaming, requiring users to switch between functions.
Dual Boiler machines feature separate boilers for brewing and steaming, allowing simultaneous operation and improved temperature stability.
Heat Exchanger systems heat brewing water within a coiled pipe inside the steam boiler, maintaining a consistent temperature for espresso extraction. You can brew espresso and steam milk at the same time.
Semi-Automatic machines require manual coffee puck preparation and control of water flow during brewing but automate temperature and pressure regulation for consistent results.
Fully Automatic machines automate the water flow for espresso shots, stopping at a pre-set volume for precise and consistent extractions.
Super Automatic machines automate the entire brewing process, from grinding the beans to extracting the espresso, for a convenient and consistent experience.
Espresso Machine Components and Features
Grouphead is the part of the espresso machine where the portafilter attaches, and water is forced through the coffee grounds to create espresso.
Portafilter is the handle and basket assembly that holds the coffee grounds during espresso brewing.
Bottomless Portafilter doesn’t have a spout or bottom, allowing the barista to observe the flow of espresso during extraction and identify any inconsistencies.
Filter basket is a metal container inside the portafilter that holds the coffee grounds and allows water to flow through evenly.
Non-Pressurized Basket has evenly distributed holes that allow water to flow freely through the coffee puck, relying on the coffee grind size, distribution, and tamping to create the proper resistance for optimal extraction. It requires a higher level of skill and precision in grind size and tamping to achieve a well-balanced shot of espresso.
Pressurized Basket creates additional pressure during extraction, usually through a single, small hole or a built-in valve. It’s more forgiving of grind size and tamping inconsistencies, making them suitable for beginners or those using pre-ground coffee.
Steam Wand is a pipe on the espresso machine that uses steam pressure to froth and steam milk for espresso-based beverages.
Panarello Wand is a type of steam wand found on some espresso machines, designed to automatically aerate milk for frothing, making it easier for beginners to create milk-based espresso beverages. However, it’s difficult to create microfoam for latte art.
3-Way Solenoid Valve is a component that relieves pressure and excess water from the portafilter after brewing, allowing for a dry coffee puck and easier clean-up.
E61 Grouphead is popular and widely used in prosumer or commercial espresso machines, known for its temperature stability and reliability.
Rotary Pump used in many commercial espresso machines that provides consistent water pressure and is generally quieter than vibratory pumps.
Vibratory Pump is commonly found in home espresso machines that provides water pressure for brewing, but can be louder and less consistent than rotary pumps.
Backflushing is a cleaning process that involves running water and a cleaning solution through an espresso machine’s grouphead and portafilter to remove coffee oils and residues.
PID Controller is a digital temperature control system used in espresso machines to maintain precise water temperature for consistent brewing.
Pressure Profiling is a feature on some higher-end machine. It allows baristas to adjust the pressure during espresso extraction to manipulate the flow rate and extraction process, potentially enhancing flavor and mouthfeel characteristics.
Pre-Infusion involves applying low-pressure water to the coffee grounds before ramping up to full pressure, allowing the grounds to be evenly saturated and reduce the chance of channeling.
Temperature Surfing is a technique to manage the temperature of a semi-automatic espresso machine’s boiler for more consistent brewing results, especially for machines without PID temperature control.
Descaling is the process of removing mineral buildup from the internal components of an espresso machine, typically by using a specialized descaling solution.
Coffee Preparation Techniques:
Barista is a trained professional who specializes in making and serving coffee beverages, often showcasing skill and artistry. If you brew coffee at home, you are a home barista.
Tamping is the process of compressing coffee grounds into a dense, even puck in the portafilter, ensuring uniform extraction during espresso brewing.
Dial In involves adjusting grind size, dose, and other variables to achieve the desired flavor profile and extraction time for espresso.
Extraction is the process of dissolving coffee compounds in water, balancing flavors and strength during espresso brewing.
Channeling occurs when water finds an uneven path through the coffee puck during extraction, leading to uneven flavors and under-extraction.
Distribution is the process of evenly spreading coffee grounds in the portafilter before tamping, reducing channeling and promoting balanced extraction.
Over Extraction occurs when coffee grounds are exposed to hot water for too long or with too much pressure, resulting in the extraction of undesirable bitter compounds and an unbalanced, overly bitter taste.
Under Extraction is the result of insufficient contact between coffee grounds and hot water, leading to weak, sour, or watery flavors, lacking the desired complexity and richness.
Flow Rate is the speed at which water flows through coffee grounds during brewing, influencing the extraction and final taste of the coffee.
Bloom refers to the initial release of carbon dioxide and expansion of coffee grounds when hot water is first added, impacting extraction and flavor development.
Temperature Surfing is a technique to manage the temperature of a semi-automatic espresso machine’s boiler for more consistent brewing results, especially for machines without PID temperature control.
Coffee Grinder Related
Burr Grinder uses abrasive burrs to crush beans into uniform particles, offering precise control over grind size and consistency.
Blade Grinder is a type of coffee grinder that uses spinning blades to chop coffee beans into smaller particles, resulting in inconsistent grind size, typically not recommended for specialty coffee brewing.
Conical Burrs are cone-shaped grinding surfaces found in coffee grinders, known for their consistent grind size and lower heat generation, often preferred for manual brewing methods and espresso.
Flat Burrs consist of two flat, parallel grinding surfaces in coffee grinders, known for producing a very uniform grind size, often found in higher-end grinders and preferred by some for espresso and filter coffee.
SSP Burrs are high-quality, precision-engineered grinding burrs made by the South Korean company SSP, designed for improved sharpness, durability, and consistency in grind size, often found in premium coffee grinders.
Stepped Grinder is a type of coffee grinder that features pre-set grind size adjustments, allowing users to choose from a limited range of options, suitable for those who prefer simplicity and ease of use.
Stepless Grinder is a coffee grinder that offers infinite grind size adjustments, allowing users to fine-tune their grind size for optimal extraction, often preferred by coffee enthusiasts and professionals.
Fair Trade certification promotes equitable trading practices, ensuring fair prices for coffee farmers, safe working conditions, sustainable farming practices, and community development projects.
Organic certification indicates coffee grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, adhering to certifying organization standards, such as the USDA or EU.
Rainforest Alliance certification ensures coffee farms follow sustainable agricultural practices, protect ecosystems and wildlife habitats, and promote farm workers’ well-being and communities.
UTZ Certified is a coffee certification program promoting responsible and sustainable coffee production, focusing on good agricultural practices, efficient farm management, and improved working conditions for farmers.
Bird-Friendly certification by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center ensures coffee is shade-grown and meets criteria for preserving bird habitats and promoting biodiversity.
Direct Trade refers to coffee sourcing practices where roasters and importers develop direct relationships with coffee farmers, resulting in higher prices for farmers and increased transparency in the supply chain.
Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a membership-based organization setting standards for specialty coffee quality, providing education, and promoting research and innovation within the coffee industry.
Read more about coffee certifications.
Understanding the language of coffee can be a game-changer when it comes to exploring and appreciating the intricacies of this beloved beverage.
We hope this comprehensive glossary of coffee terms serves as a valuable resource for coffee enthusiasts and beginners.