From the outside looking in, the world of coffee can seem intimidating. There is so much coffee lingo to get to grips with; it can feel like learning a new language! To make life easier, we’ve put together an ultimate A to Z coffee guide. May you never be confused by coffee jargon again!
Acidity: The tartness, brightness, or liveliness perceived on the palate when drinking coffee. Along with body and aroma they make up the three essential components on which coffee is evaluated and categorized.
Aerospace: A manual coffee brewing device that uses air pressure to extract flavor from coffee grounds. It’s a popular method for making a smooth and rich cup of coffee.
Americano: A single shot of espresso topped up with hot water. Known in Italy as a Caffe Lungo.
Arabica: A species of coffee tree that accounts for 70% of the world’s coffee.
Aroma: The fragrance produced by freshly brewed coffee, one of the three essential components on which coffee is evaluated and categorized.
Balance: In coffee, it means that no one characteristic overwhelms the rest, but that there is complexity in the coffee.
Barista: Someone who works at a coffee shop or cafe preparing and serving coffee.
Bean: The seed of the coffee plant which, when dried and processed, becomes coffee. It is the pit inside the red fruit and is often referred to as a coffee cherry.
Blend: In coffee, a blend refers to a mixture of two or more different types of coffee beans that are combined to create a unique flavor profile.
Body: The term “body” refers to the texture and thickness of the coffee’s mouthful and is one of the three essential components on which coffee is evaluated and categorized. It describes the sensation of the coffee in your mouth from its weight and viscosity to its richness and smoothness.
Brew method: General term to describe all the different ways to make coffee. Popular brew methods include drip, cold brew, French press, espresso, and pour over.
Caffeine: Natural compound found in coffee that is a stimulant to your nervous system.
Cappuccino: A hot coffee beverage made with espresso and topped with frothed microfoam milk.
Chemex: A manual, pour-over-style coffee maker invented in 1942 by Peter Schlumbohm and inspired by the shape of an Erlenmeyer flask.
Cherry: The fruit that grows on coffee trees. It is a small, round, red or yellow fruit that contains the coffee bean. The cherry is typically harvested when it is ripe and processed to remove the bean for roasting and brewing.
Crema: The essence of espresso, it’s the thick, caramel colored foam that sits on top of a shot of espresso.
Cupping: Cupping is a process where professionals taste various coffee or roast profile and compare them
Dark roast: This roast level produces a dark brown appearance and sometimes oily residue on the beans. Dark roast flavors can be more muted than lighter roasts, extracting notes like caramel, chocolate, and nuts.
Decaffeinated coffee: Coffee with at least 97% of caffeine removed.
Drip coffee: A method of coffee brewing that involves pouring hot water over ground coffee beans that are placed in a filter. As the water passes through the coffee grounds, it extracts flavor and oils and drips into a container below. The method is one of the most popular and convenient ways to make coffee at home or in cafes.
Earthy: A coffee-tasting note that refers to deep, rich, and often dry flavors in a coffee.
Espresso: A coffee shot resulting from a brewing method in which hot water is forced under pressure through a compressed bed of finely ground coffee.
Extraction: The brewing process whereby flavor is drawn from the coffee grounds.
Fair trade coffee: 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.”
Filter: A paper or mesh cone cylinder that is used to separate the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee. It is placed in a coffee maker or dripper and allows the liquid to pass through while holding the grounds.
Flat white: A flat white is a coffee drink consisting of espresso and microfoam. It is similar to a latte, but is smaller and there is less microfoam, which gives it a higher ratio of coffee to milk. It is believed to have been created in Australia.
French press: An immersion-style coffee brewer typically made of glass which uses a mesh filter that is plunged down on the coffee when it’s done brewing.
Green coffee: Green coffee has been harvested and processed, but it has not been roasted.
Grind: The size of the ground coffee beans. The ideal grind will vary depending on the brewing method.
Grinder: A machine used to grind whole coffee beans into a coarse grind or fine powder. Typically grinders have a hopper, a burr or blade mechanism, and a container for the ground coffee.
Honey process: A term used in coffee to describe a processing method where the coffee beans are partially washed leaving some of the fruit and mucilage intact during the drying. This can result in a unique sweet flavor profile in the final brewed coffee production that involves removing the outer layer, known as the hull, from the coffee bean. This is done to reveal the inner layer of the bean which is then roasted and brewed to make coffee.
Instant coffee: Instant coffee is generally poor quality coffee in the form of granules or powder which has been freeze dried or spray dried. It often contains harmful chemicals, too.
Jamaica: Jamaica makes some excellent coffee, including the Jamaica Blue Mountain which is a highly sought after coffee found only in the Blue Mountain District of Jamaica.
Java: Coffee has many nicknames (cuppa, brew, cup of joe) but java is one of our favorites. The term has been around since 1787 and was originally used to refer to the coffee grown on the Indonesian island of Java.
K-cup: Name of the coffee pod used in Keurig single cup machines.
Kona coffee: From the Kona coast on the Island of Hawaii, this is a specific type of single-origin coffee.
Latte: A coffee-based drink made with espresso and steamed milk which is then topped with a layer of frothed milk.
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.
Light roast: A coffee roast level that is characterized by its light brown color and mild flavor, resulting in a less intensive taste which retains more of the coffee’s original flavors and acidity.
Macchiato: Another espresso-based drink that originated in Italy. Typically a macchiato has one or two shots of espresso and is then topped with a small amount of steamed milk and foam.
Medium roast: Another coffee roast level in which the beans have been roasted to a medium brown color. Medium roasts are the most common/popular type of roast in the United States.
Mico-lot: This is when a farmer grows a small amount of coffee. It is often experimental (the farmer might be trying a new processing method, for instance) and full of unique flavors.
Nitro coffee: Cold brew coffee injected with nitrogen capsules to produce a velvety, smooth brew similar in texture to a stout beer.
Organic coffee: Organic beans are grown without added pesticides, herbicides, or other similar chemicals.
Peaberry: These magic coffee beans are something of a rarity in the coffee world. Most coffee cherries contain two beans, but peaberries mutate in a rare, natural way which means that a single bean forms instead. This results in a smaller more rounded bean that is said to have a more concentrated flavor and aroma than regular coffee beans.
Pour over coffee: 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. This method produces a crisp cup of coffee.
Pull: A traditional term when espresso machines had levers. Pull is the force that pushes water through tightly compacted coffee to produce an espresso (“pulling a shot”).
Quakers: A common roast defect, quakers are unripened beans. Once roasted, quakers will be lighter in color than the rest of the batch. If they’re not removed, the taste in the cup will be dry, with papery and cereal notes.
Quality: A term used in defining the superiority of coffee.
Redeye: Sometimes referred to as a “shot in the dark,” a redeye is a type of coffee drink made by adding a shot of espresso to a cup of regular coffee.
Roast: The process of heating green coffee beans and transforming them into the brown beans used to make coffee. During the roasting process the beans undergo chemical changes that affect their flavor, aroma, and color. Roasts can change the beans anywhere from light to dark depending on roast times and temperatures.
Robusta: Robusta coffee grows at lower elevations than Arabic coffee, resulting in full-bodied and highly caffeinated coffee with a blunter taste. Robusta is often used for cheaper blends and is considered inferior to Arabic.
Single origin coffee: Single origin coffee is a type of coffee that is sourced from a single geographic region or farm rather than being a blend of beans from different locations.
Specialty coffee: Specialty coffee refers to high quality coffee beans that are grown in specific microclimates, carefully selected to highlight the unique flavor and characteristics. These beans are typically sourced from small-scale farmers and roasted by artisanal roasters.
Tamper: Small cylindrical device used to distribute and compress ground coffee into the filter basket for espresso brewing.
Terroir: Refers to a specific climate or growing region of coffee that cannot be reproduced anywhere else. For example Kona coffee is classified as terroir coffee.
Uganda: Ranked in the top 10 coffee producing countries worldwide. Uganda falls at number 8.
Varietals: There are two main species of coffee plant: Arabic and Robusta. Varietals are the sub-species belonging to each type. Factors like growing conditions, altitude, location, and weather all impact the flavor of the coffee and shape its varietal. Examples of common coffee varietals include Typeca, Bourbon, Heirloom, and Gesha.
Washed coffee: Also called wet processing, this is a method of preparing the coffee beans (removing the skin and pulp) while the coffee fruit is still wet. This is the process most of the world uses to produce coffee beans.
White coffee: Coffee that is roasted at a lower temperature and pulled from the roasting process just before the first crack of a bean. White coffee is even lighter than a light roast, but not green.
With legs: Refers to any coffee made to-go instead of in a cup to drink at a cafe.
Xpresso: A common (but incorrect) way to spell or pronounce espresso.
Yauco: Yauco is a town in Puerto Rico that is known as a hub in the Puerto Rican coffee industry. It is often called “Coffee Town.” Yauco coffee is a specialty origin coffee.
Yirgacheffe: This is a district in central southern Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe coffee is world-renowned and tends to be light or medium bodied with strong floral notes.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe coffee tends to be medium bodied with citrusy acidity. Typically wet processed, a good Zimbabwe coffee is well balanced and has a woody and sweet flavor.
ZZZZZ: Looking for a brew without the caffeine buzz? No problem. With our “Pretty Good For DECAF,” you can enjoy a delicious cup and still be snoozing by nine.
There are so many coffee words and ways you can learn about coffee. So if you are ever wondering what a coffee term means, start here with the Corner Perk Coffee Glossary from A-Z.