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Coffee Terms Explained

Table of Contents

There are a lot of words to describe coffee, so lets take a look at a number of them and what they mean.

Coffee Terms A Through F


Capital letters such as AA are grade indicators that are generally used to describe the size of coffee beans.


Acidity is the tartness in a good cup of coffee.

Aged Coffee

This is coffee that has been stored longer than old crop coffee or mature coffee.


Affogato is an Italian drink containing a shot of espresso and a scoop of gelato.


This is the name of a full-bodied, robust coffee from Costa Rica.


Altura describes Mexican coffee grown at high altitudes.

American Roast

This is the medium brown roast preferred by most Americans.


This is a coffee drink that consists of a shot of espresso that has hot water added to it.


Ankola is another name for Arabica Coffee that comes from northern Sumatra.


Aquapulp is the name of the procedure for removing the pulp from coffee beans after they are picked by scrubbing them in machines.


This is one of the two predominant species of coffee. It is considered the better quality one and accounts for 60% of the coffee produced.


A balanced coffee is one that has no overwhelming aroma or taste, such as bitterness or sourness. Yet, it is still complex.


Bani is the market name of a low-acid coffee from the Dominican Republic.


This is the name of coffee from the southwest Dominican Republic.


A Barista is a professional coffee preparer.


The bean is the seed of the coffee cherry.


A bitter coffee tastes harsh rather than sweet. Dark roast coffee is more likely to taste bitter, but ultimately, bitterness is a matter of opinion.


The body describes the texture and feel of the coffee, such as heavy, syrupy, delicate, or others.


This is a variety of Arabica coffee that was first found on the island of Bourbon.

Bourbon Santos

Bourbon Santos Coffee is a high-quality Santos Coffee that comes from a Bourbon variety of Arabica. Although, Bourbon Santos is sometimes used to refer to any high-quality Santos Coffee.


This is the process of adding a small amount of water to coffee grounds and allowing them to sit briefly before brewing. This will cause the coffee to release carbon dioxide. Doing this is supposed to improve the flavor of the coffee.

Brewing Ratio

The brewing ratio is the ratio of coffee to water you use when brewing coffee.

Brewing Temperature

This is a very important part of the extraction phase as it affects the characteristics of the coffee. The best brewing temperature is thought to be between 92 degrees and 98 degrees Celsius.

Brewing Time

Brewing time is the time that the water is in contact with the ground coffee, which is when the coffee extraction is occurring.


This is the term for the acidic flavor often found in coffees from Central America or Ethiopia.


A briny or salty flavor in coffee is generally caused by exposing coffee to too much heat.


Caffeine is a natural alkaloid found in coffee. It adds a bit of a bitter taste to coffee and has a stimulating effect when drunk.


A cappuccino is a coffee drink made with espresso, hot milk, and froth.


This is an hour-glass-shaped coffee maker used to make pour-over style coffee. The filters used for this machine are 20-30% thicker and do an excellent job of filtering any bitterness out of the coffee.

Coffee Berry Borer

A Coffee Berry Borer is a beetle that infests coffee bean cherries and ruins them. This beetle is native to Africa but is now a problem for farmers in all coffee-producing countries.

Coffee Cherry

The coffee cherry is the fruit produced by the coffee plant, and the coffee bean is the seed.

Coffee Leaf Rust

This is a fungus that causes coffee plants to lose their leaves and be unable to produce fruits.

Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is made by using a cold brew coffee maker or by placing the coffee and water together in a container and letting it sit for about 12 hours. A 1:5 coffee to water ratio is used when making the coffee.

Cold Drip Coffee

Cold drip coffee is made by slowly dripping cold water onto coffee grounds. Then, the coffee will slowly drip into a container placed below the coffee grounds.


A Cortado is traditionally made as an espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk added to it. Although, there are many other ways to make a Cortado. The milk cuts the acidity of the espresso while keeping its flavor. This is where the drink gets its name as the word Cortado means to cut.


This is the foam on top of a cup of espresso. It is the result of carbon dioxide being forced out of the oils in the coffee beans.

Cup of Excellence

The Cup of Excellence (COE) is a prestigious coffee completion that chooses the best coffees from the major coffee-growing countries.


Cupping is the tasting method coffee professionals use to test coffee. The coffee used is the coarsest ground and is steeped in a shallow bowl of hot water. The professional tasters then smell and taste the coffee to determine its qualities.

Current Crop

The current crop of coffee is the one harvested in the current year. So, the term is used to emphasize freshness. Coffee must be from the current crop to receive the qualification of Specialty.


Dark roast coffee beans are roasted longer, which gives them their dark color. These beans also have a bitter taste.


Earthy coffees taste like soil or earth. This is a characteristic of Indonesian coffees, but other coffees can taste this way as well.


An exotic coffee is one that has an unusual aroma or flavor, such as coffee with floral undertones.


This is a very strong coffee beverage that originated in Italy. It has seven grams of ground coffee per 30 ml serving and a brewing time of 25 seconds.


Extraction uses nearly boiling water to draw the flavor from coffee grounds.

Fair Trade Coffee

This is coffee that farmers receive a fair price for. The prices are set by international agencies.

Filter Method

This method involves filtering water through ground coffee to brew the coffee. Drip coffee uses a filter method. In this case, a filter, generally made of paper, separates the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee.

Flat White

This is an espresso that has a large quantity of steamed milk.

French Press

This is a coffee brewing method in which the grounds are separated from the coffee by pushing them to the bottom of the pot with a plunger.

Full City Roast

Full city is a medium-dark roast. Coffee roasted this way has some oil on the surface and is less acidic than medium roast coffee. It can also enhance the natural flavors of the coffee.

Coffee Terms G Through J

Green Coffee

Green coffee is unroasted coffee.

Grind Size

Coffee beans need to be ground to extract the flavors and caffeine. The ground measure is different depending on the extraction method and the tools you use.


This is a harvesting method in which the coffee beans are picked by hand, which allows only mature coffee beans to be chosen. This ensures higher quality coffee beans.


Immersion is a brewing method in which the coffee grounds are immersed in water which is then allowed to extract the coffee’s flavor and aroma. The French Press is an immersion method, as is cold brewing.


A latte is an espresso drink made with around three times as much milk as espresso and topped with froth.

Latte Art

Latte Art produces art by decorating coffee with steamed milk. The art is decorative and has no effect on flavor.


A lungo is an espresso made using a longer extraction time. This espresso contains more water which produces a flavor that’s not as strong as a regular espresso.

Coffee Terms M Through P


This coffee drink is made with a strong coffee, although not as strong as espresso. Then, hot milk is added to the coffee. The name comes from an Italian word meaning spotted or stained.


This is a special lot of coffee that is typically of high quality and comes from a single farm.


This drink is made of espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate syrup. Some people put whipped cream on it.


The Moka is an Italian coffee maker first made in 1933. This coffee maker was invented by Alfonso Bialetti. It is still frequently found in Italian households.

Natural/Dry Processing

The natural or dry process dries the coffee cherries under the sun and then removes the pulp, and de hulls them. This produces a sweet coffee.

Nel Drip

This is a different form of drip coffee that uses flannel filters which are imported from Japan. The filters take special care as they need to be hand washed and chilled when they are not being used. The name of the coffee is short for flannel drip.

Coffee Terms P Through R


This is a thin skin that develops on the top of wet-processed coffee beans once the beans have been skinned, pulped, and dried.


This is the handle and filter basket of the espresso machine.

Pour Over Coffee

This is a type of drip coffee made by slowly and steadily pouring a thin stream of water over a filter cone with ground coffee in it. It takes three minutes to brew.


A puck is the disc of coffee left in the portafilter after making espresso. It gets its name due to looking like a hockey puck

Q Grading

This is a process in which coffee is graded by professionals to determine its market value and quality

This coffee is made by adding a shot of espresso to a cup of brewed coffee. It gets its name from overnight flights.


A Ristretto is an espresso made with less water and a finer grind of coffee, making it stronger. It is sometimes said to be pulled short because of the shorter extraction time used in making the drink. It is called a Ristretto because this word means restricted in Italian.


Roasting is the procedure in which the coffee beans are heated so as to extract the flavor of the beans. Roasting is necessary for getting the types of flavors people like in their coffee. It also gives coffee beans their brown color.

Roast Date

It is a good idea to look at the roast date to see how fresh the coffee is. The coffee typically stays fresh for around two or three months.

Roasting Degree

The roasting degree tells buyers the level of lightness or darkness of the coffee bean after it has been roasted.


This is the second most commonly cultivated coffee species. It produces a lower quality coffee than the more commonly cultivated Arabica Coffee.

Coffee Terms S Through Z

Seasonal Coffee

A seasonal coffee is produced in a small or medium production lot and is typically of higher quality. It is not available all year long.

Short Black

This is another name for an espresso. The name is popular in Oceania.

Single Origin

This is a coffee that comes from only one country, region, or plantation and is not a blend.

Specialty Coffee

Specialty is a grade in the grading system started by the Specialty Coffee Association. The beans are graded when they are green and must receive 80 or more of 100 points to receive a grade of specialty.

Strip Picking

This is a coffee harvesting method that involves stripping all the coffee cherries from a branch. It can be done by hand or machine and will harvest unripe and overly ripe cherries as well as ripe ones.


A tamper is a tool used to press coffee into the filter basket before brewing the coffee.

Tres Rios

This is a blend of Costa Rican coffee.


Trigonelline is a natural alkaloid in coffee that causes the diuretic effect of coffee.

Wet/washed Processing

This is a method of processing coffee that uses water in most of the steps. It is generally regarded as the best method to use for obtaining high-quality coffee beans.

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