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Glossary of Common Coffee Terms

Below is a glossary of coffee terms often used within the industry.  This page is a work in progress and terms will be added as new posts go live.

  • Aerate - Introducing air into the brew by swirling or changing containers (decanting)

  • Arabica - The species that makes up all specialty coffees, known for its complexity of flavors, acidity

  • Aroma - The smell of the coffee grounds when wet

  • Base - In terms of latte art this is pouring a certain amount of steamed milk below the surface of your espresso

  • Basket - A circular filter-like container where the espresso grounds are placed prior to extraction

  • Balance - A term used to describe how the flavors, acidity, and other notes in coffee become complimentary to eachother

  • Blend - A mix of coffees from two or more origins; e.g. Ethiopia and Guatemala

  • Blonding - As a shot of espresso is ran the color slowly changes from dark to light, this is known as blonding

  • Bloom - Adding a small amount of water to fresh grounds and allowing 30 seconds of degassing to enhance flavor

  • Brew Pressure - The pressure used to brew a shot of espresso (typically 9 bar)

  • Brew Ratio - The ratio of coffee to water; e.g. 18 grams of coffee brewed with 36 grams of water is a 1:2 ratio

  • Brightness - A term commonly used to describe the acidity of a coffee, more acidity = more brightness

  • Cappuccino - An espresso and milk based drink traditionally 5-6 ounces with additional milk foam

  • Channeling - A term describing how water finds cracks or imperfections in an espresso puck causing uneven extraction

  • Charged - A term to describe a pre-heated cup using hot water, steam, or radiant heat

  • Chemex - A type of glass container used for a brewing a pour over

  • Coarseness - The size of the coffee grounds (smaller is finer, larger is coarser)

  • Commodity Coffee - Below specialty grade, often used for instant, K Cups, and other forms of basic coffee

  • Contrast - In terms of latte art this describes the contrast between the dark crema and light milk, the more the better

  • Cortado - A 4 oz. espresso beverage that is half espresso and half steamed milk (known also as a Gibraltar).

  • Crema - Is the layer of lighter colored foam that sits on top of a properly produced shot of espresso

  • Demitasse - A small cup (traditionally 2-4 oz) intended specifically for espresso

  • Development Time - In roasting this refers to the time spent roasting after the 'First Crack'

  • Dial-In - The process in which espresso grinds, extraction time, and output are narrowed into the acceptable range

  • Distribute - The process of evenly laying the grounds in a portafilter basket or filter for proper extraction

  • Dual Boiler - Espresso machine type with two boilers, one for steam and one for hot water

  • Dripper - Describes the cone shaped filter holder for brewing pour over coffees; e.g. V60, Chemex, etc

  • Extraction - The process of pulling soluble flavors from coffee by water, time and temperature are factors as well

  • First Crack - The sound roasting coffee beans make when they hit an internal temperature that causes a chemical reaction

  • Flat White - An Australian version of a cappuccino using a Ristretto shot and steamed milk with less foam.

  • Flavor Notes - A term to describe flavors in a coffee; e.g. milk chocolate, blueberries, etc.

  • Flow - In terms of latte art it describes the speed at which the steamed milk is poured into the cup

  • Fragrance - The smell of coffee grounds when dry

  • Geisha - A varietal of coffee from the Gesha village in Ethiopia known for its clarity, sweetness, and aromatics

  • Grooming - After steaming milk you can swirl to maintain proper texture and tap out surface bubbles

  • Group Head - The point(s) where the portafilter is locked in and water is dispensed

  • Height - In terms of latte art it describes the distance from the surface in which you pour steamed milk into espresso

  • Honey Process - The coffee cherry is pulped leaving the bean covered in mucilage to air dry

  • Hopper - Glass or plastic bean holder placed atop a coffee grinder used to funnel into grinding chamber

  • Immersion - A brewing process in which the coffee grounds are fully submerged in water for a long period of time

  • Japanese Iced Coffee - Hot pour over brewed over ice

  • Latte Art - The process of pouring a design made of steamed milk onto the surface of an espresso beverage

  • Maillard Reaction - The chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that give browning food its distinct flavors

  • Mouthfeel - The way a product, either food or utensil, feels on or in your mouth

  • Natural Process - The coffee cherry is left intact, once it has dried fully its removed and the coffee bean remains

  • Origin - The country a coffee is from; e.g. Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, etc

  • Parts Per Million (PPM) - Concentration of a material in water; 1ppm = to 1mg of a substance in 1L of water

  • Past Crop - Refers to green (unroasted) coffee beans that are one year past its harvest date

  • Pitcher - Otherwise known as steam pitcher or milk pitcher, used primarily for milk steaming and pouring

  • Placement - In terms of latte art this describes where in the cup you pour your steamed milk

  • Pour Over - A brewing method typically done by hand pouring off boiling water into a bed of grounds

  • Portafilter - Comprised of a handle and a basket, this holds the espresso grounds and locks in to the espresso group

  • Profile - In terms of roasting this is the chart showing the temperature arcs, airflow, and other data of a specific roast

  • Pulling - The industry term for brewing a shot of espresso

  • Q Grader - A professional coffee taster certified by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI)

  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) - A water filtration process using a pressurized membrane array

  • Robusta - A larger, easier to cultivate species of coffee with more caffeine, but less flavor complexity and more bitterness

  • Ristretto - A short shot of espresso using the same amounts of grounds, a finer grind, and a lower brew ratio

  • Run-up - The term for the protruding portion of a steaming pitcher that leads to the spout

  • Sight Glass - A small window that shows the approximate fluid level

  • Single Origin - Coffee that comes solely from one region

  • Specialty Coffee - Coffees graded at 80+ points out of 100 by a Q Grader

  • Tare - Zeroing out the weight on a scale

  • Tamp(er) - The name of the tool, and the process of applying pressure to espresso grounds to compact them

  • Terroir - The characteristic taste and flavor imparted into the coffee by its environment in which its producded

  • Third Wave - Movement to produce coffee as a high quality beverage, and not a commodity

  • Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) - Salts, minerals, and other organic material dissolved into water

  • Varietal - A term to describe the the vast array of coffee plant subspecies; e.g. Arabica, Typica, Caturra and Catuai

  • Washed Out -  In terms of latte art this describes when steamed milk breaks the dark crema and sits on the surface

  • Washed Process - Freshly picked cherries are skinned, soaked to remove the pulp, and then dried

  • Whirlpool - When steaming milk using the correct angle, depth, and pressure it should spin a whirlpool

If you can't find a term let me know and I'll get it added ASAP.

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