Coffee Dictionary


  • Abyssinia – Ethiopia was formerly known as Abyssinia, or this term may refer a coffee cultivar. Abyssinia is also a cultivar brought to Java in 1928 (not the original Typically brought from Yemen to Batavia, Java via India). Since then, they have been brought to Aceh as well. Another group of Ethiopian varieties found in Sumatra are called USDA, after an American project that brought them to Indonesia in the 1950s.
  • Acaia – Acaia is planted mainly in Brazil. The Acaiá genotype was derived by selection from progenies of the Mundo Novo germplasm, which arose from natural hybridization between Sumatra and Bourbon cultivars. (“Sumatra” is in the former ICO collections, but if it is a older Typica or a hybrid is unknown)
  • Aceh – Aceh District is north of North Sumatra and produces some very classic Sumatra coffees. The center of coffee in Aceh is Lake Tawar and Takengon, the city by the lake. It often looks like a mispelling of “Ache” but is pronounced “Ah-Chay”. Gayo is a name used in relation of Aceh since it is one of the main ethnic groups of the region.
  • Acerbic – Acerbic refers to an unpleasant sourness in the coffee. It can refer to problems with fermentation, the presence of defect “sours” in the green coffee. It can also be a brewing problem, or more specifically, the bitter sourness of coffee held too long at temperature.
  • Acetic Acid – Acetic acid can lead to vinegar-like flavors in over-mature coffees, or bitterness in high quantities. But in moderate amounts it adds a positive winey note to the cup. Acetic acid classifies as an organic acid, and is one that can be detected by smell.
  • Acids – Many acids contribute to coffee flavor; malic, citric, quinic, tartaric, phosphoric, etc. See ACIDITY or specific acids. While acids in coffee sounds like a bad term, and one that leads to stomach discomfort our sourness, this is not usually true. Drinking coffee with no food in the digestive system can lead to discomfort since coffees have enough oils to trigger digestive acids. Eat before or while taking morning coffee.
  • Acrid – A general negative flavor term, from defect bean, bad roast, or bad brewing: Unpleasantly sharp, astringent or bitter to the taste or smell.
  • Aeropress – The Aeropress looks like a giant syringe: coffee grounds are in the bottom, and when you depress the syringe it pushes water through the grounds and into a cup. Since the brew happens under pressure, some of the chemicals found in espresso (but not in brewed coffee) end up in the cup, resulting in a high-body cup reminiscent of an Americano.
    Aeropresses are extremely easy to clean, portable, and brew directly into a cup, making them a good choice for a brewer while traveling.
  • African Coffee – African coffee is known for its wild flavors, from bright Kenyas, to floral Ethiopia Yirgacheffees, to rustic, earthy Ethiopia Sidamos. While coffee is widely grown in sub Saharan Africa, specialty coffee African origins include are generally in eastern and southern Africa.
  • After-dinner Roast – An after-dinner roast, or after dinner roast, or after dinner blend, is intended to compliment after-dinner desserts. A typical after dinner coffee is dark roasted and has low acidity. Okay, this is a joke entry… but we saw it in a list of coffee flavor terms and had to add it. -Tom
  • Afternose – Commonly used in reference to wine, afternose compliments aftertaste, but refers to residual olfactory sensations after the coffee has left the palate.
  • Aftertaste – Aftertaste refers to lingering residual sensations in the mouth after coffee has swallowed. It might be distinguished from “finish” which is the final sensations of the coffee while it leaves the mouth. Also see Afternose.
  • Aged Coffee – There are different methods for aging coffee – either holding the beans in burlap and rotating the coffee frequently as is done in Sumatra, or monsooning, where the beans are held in a warehouse and exposed to the moist monsoon winds as is done in India. Coffee can be aged 2 to 3 years. Strictly speaking, aged coffee is defective coffee, but it is sought out as it can impart a specific pungency especially to espresso drinks. Aged coffee is not the same as old coffee, so it is not baggy or flat. From my own perspective, it seems that when coffee prices are high, producers hold less coffee for ageing. When prices are low, there is more aged coffee produced (intentionally or not). Aged coffee will have more body, very low acidity, and often very strong, wild flavors. It can be an acquired taste.
  • Agronomy – A branch of agriculture dealing with field-crop production, soil management and physiology, etc. Agronomy is an umbrella term dealing with all this and more.
  • Agtron – Agtron spectrophotometers are used in the coffee industry and also in other lab applications for color matching, color analysis, sorting, and other scientific measurements.
  • Aldehydes – Along with Ketones, Aldehydes are an important factor in coffee aromatics, partially formed in roasting by the interaction of fatty acids and oxygen. They are partially formed by the Strecker Degradation of amino acids in the coffee roast environment.
  • Alfred Peet – The founder of Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley California, Alfred was known for reintroducing a dark roast style to the West Coast. For some time, the logic of light roasting had to do with economics: the longer you roast the more weight you lose, hence the less product you have to sell by the Lb. His dark roast style was contrary to this, and Peets was known for buying higher quality coffee. He sold Peets in 1979 but continued to buy green coffee until 1983. He passed away in August 2007.
  • Alkaloid – A taste sensation characterized by a dryness and related bittering flavors, sometimes at the posterior of the tongue, usually sensed in the aftertaste. It is not always a wholly a bad thing, in moderate intensities
  • Altitude – The height above sea level that a coffee is grown. Coffee grown at higher altitude is often considered better, though this is far from a rule. Higher-grown coffee tend to mature more slowly and have a denser bean, which may result in a more even roast. Overall quality, especially acidity, increases with altitude. In South and Central America, coffees are graded and classified based on altitude.
  • Ambient Temperature – This term is used to describe the overall temperature in a given environment. It can potentially affect the way home roasters operate depending on how extreme the temperature is. A very cold ambient temperature will require the roaster to work harder to achieve proper roasting temperatures which may extend the amount of time necessary to reach desired roast levels. In some cases, roasters will not be able to operate in extremely cold environments.
  • Americano – A coffee beverage made by combining espresso with hot water. It is the closest thing to “American-style” brewed coffee that can be made with an espresso machine, hence the name. Because espresso has a different chemical makeup from brewed coffee, an Americano has quite a different flavor profile from a cup of brewed coffee.
  • Anise – Anise is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to the eastern Mediterranean region and southwest Asia known for its flavor that resembles liquorice, fennel, and tarragon. Anise seed is highly aromatic and has a flavor similar to fennel and licorice, used to flavor various foods and liquors
  • Arabica – Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the taxonomic species name of the genus responsible for around 75% of the world’s commercial coffee crop. Coffea Arabica is a woody perennial evergreen that belongs to the Rubiaceae family (same family as Gardenia). The other major commercial crop is Coffea Canephora, known as Robusta coffee. Arabica and Robusta differ in terms of genetics and taste. While Robusta coffee beans are more disease-resistant than the Arabica, they generally produce an inferior tasting beverage and has more caffeine. Coffea arabica is a tetraploid (44 chromosomes) and is self-pollinating, whereas Robusta is diploid with 22 chromosomes. There are 2 main botanical cultivars of Arabica: C. Arabica Var. Arabica (Typica) and C. Arabica Var. Bourbon. Arabica was used originally to indicate Arab origins because coffee was taken from Yemen to the Dutch colony Batavia on the island of Java (via India), although C. Arabica originates in the Western Ethiopian region of Kaffa. The taxonomy for Arabica coffee is:
    Kingdom Plantae – Plants
    Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Arabigo – Arabigo is a term seen in Latin America and refers to Typica cultivar
  • Arabusta – An interspecific hybrid of coffea arabica and coffea canephora (robusta). This has been used widely in Africa to create coffee plants that do well in lowland areas, especially West Africa. It is not known for cup quality.
  • Aroma – The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence its flavor profile and come from the perception of the gases released by brewed coffee. Aroma is greatest in the middle roasts and is quickly overtaken by carbony smells in darker roasts. Aroma is distinct from the dry fragrance of the coffee grounds; in general “fragrance” describes things we do not eat (like perfume) and “aroma” pertains to food and beverage we consume. In cupping, wet aroma refers to the smell of wet coffee grinds, after hot water is added. Aromatics as a term may encompass the entire aroma experience of a coffee. Aromatics are a huge part of flavor perception (remember the “hold your nose and eat an onion” experiment). Aromatics reach the olfactory bulb through the nose and “retro-nasally” through the opening in the back of our palate. While some taste is sapid, perceived through the tongue and palate via papillae, or taste buds, most of flavor quality is perceived through the olfactory bulb.
  • Arusha – The name of a cultivar from Tanzania, as well as a general trade name for Tanzania coffees from Mount Meru area. Arusha is also planted on estates in Papua New Guinea, as I found on my trips there.
  • Asalan – The term in Bahasa Indonesian for green coffee that is hulled, dried, and ready to sell to an exporter. Used in North Sumatra and the Aceh coffee regions. Easy to misread as Aslan, the friendly lion, just as Aceh is so easy to read as Ache.
  • Ashy – A quality in aroma or flavor similar to that of an ashtray, the odor of smokers’ fingers or the smell one gets when cleaning out a fireplace. In the most moderate amount, it may not ruin a cup, but is never used by Sweet Maria’s as a positive quality. Ashy flavors can hint at roasting defects, anything from smokey unclean air being recycled through a roasting drum (or a roaster that doesn’t vent, like a barbeque drum roaster set-up). Softer, lower-grown coffees will show ashy tastes before high-grown, dense coffees, given the same roast treatment
  • Astringent – Astringency is a harsh flavor sensation, acrid flavor, that provokes a strong reaction. It can have dryness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness as components. It is certainly the opposite of sweetness and cleanness in coffee, always a defect flavor.
  • Ateng – Ateng, with several sub types, is a common name for Catimor coffees widely planted in Sumatra and other Indonesia isles. One will hear of Ateng Jaluk. This cross between Arabica and Robusta has a reputation for poor flavor. However, there are numerous types of Catimor and in some conditions they can do well in the cup. Ateng name derives from the area Aceh Tenggah
  • Australia – Australian coffee bears resemblance in the cup to the soft, sweet “Island Coffee” flavor profile. Coffee cultivation began in Australia in 1880 and continued through 1926, but was found to be generally unprofitable, and the quality of the coffee to be poor. It was re-established in the early 1980’s in much the same areas as the original plantations on the Eastern coast in New South Wales up to Queensland.
    Coffee is now farmed from Nimbin and Lismore, in New South Wales, to Cape York in far north Queensland where the large Skybury plantation is located. Skybury and the other larger plantations, near Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands, are fully mechanized, but there are smaller farms where traditional hand cultivation is used.


  • Backflushing – Backflushing is a process done to espresso machines to clean them: a filter basket with no holes (a “blank” basket) is inserted into the portafilter so that when the machine is activated, pressurized water cannot escape and is instead forced back into the machine to “flush” it. Often, backflushing is done with some type of coffee cleaning detergent in the basket.
    A typical backflushing protocol is to put coffee cleaner in the blank basket and backflush 5 times, then rinse the cleaner out and backflush 5 times without no cleaner.
    Note that not all machines can be backflushed.
  • Baggy – Coffees that are held for too long run the risk of this taint. Essentially the coffee comes to absorb the flavors of whatever it is stored in – usually the burlap or jute bag. Many times a darker roast on these coffees will conceal this taint. Baggy flavors are the result of several factors: the fats in the coffee absorbing the smell of burlap, the loss in moisture content as the coffee ages, and other chemical changes. For some origins theses changes in flavor can emerge in 1 year, 9 months, even 6 months for some decafs
  • Baked – Baked flavor happens in under-roasted coffees haven’t developed their character, or coffees that simply sat in the roaster too long without enough heat. It can also happen to scorched coffees where the outside of the bean is browned and the inside is under-roasted. Flavors are typically astringent, grain-like, sour, and body is thin and possibly gritty.
  • Balance – Balance is both an obvious and slippery taste term. It implies a harmony and proportion of qualities, and perhaps a mild character since no one quality dominates. Balance can exist between aromatics, flavors, textural sensations, and aftertaste, or between competing flavors. Bittersweet is a term that implies a balance of 2 basic sapid flavors.
  • Bali – Coffee from the Indonesian island of Bali was formerly sold exclusively to the Japanese market. Perhaps it is the changing face of world economics that finds the first exports of Balinese coffee arriving under exclusive contract in the U.S.
    The coffees are sophisticated and well-prepared. They are washed (wet-processed) like neighboring coffees from Java, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. The cup has traces of the earthy Indonesian island character, but only in the background. It is a classic, clean cup with great body and mildness!
  • Basic Flavors – In the mouth sensations derived from the basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory (umami). These are the core sensations that can be experienced without the input of the olfactory, through the papilla located in taste buds on the tongue.
  • Batch – One of the most important variables in roasting coffee, the weight or volume of the coffee being put in to the roaster will dramatically effect the outcome of the roast. A good scale or the right scoop is a must when deciding what size batches to use as different coffees have varying densities and bean sizes. In using air roasters batches must be carefully measured by volume. In using drum roasters batches must be carefully weighed.
  • Batian– Named after the highest peak on Mt. Kenya, Batian is resistant to coffee berry disease and coffee leaf rust, the two common fungal diseases affecting coffee in Kenya and much of Africa. The parentage of Batian is predominantly arabica, and it is closer genetically to the well-regarded SL28 and SL34 varieties than Ruiru 11, the rust-resistant varietal introduced in 1985. Varieties used in the development of Batian include SL4, N39, N30, Hibrido de Timor, Rume Sudan, and K7. They were repeatedly backcrossed with SL28 and SL34. The Hibrido de Timor is the naturally-occurring hybrid of arabica and robusta, and is often used in disease-resistant breeding due to its robusta heritage.
  • Beneficio – In Latin American countries, a wet mill is called a Beneficio, where fresh coffee cherries are brought for pulping, fermentation, and drying. In Rwanda and some other African countries it is a “washing station”. In Kenya it is a “coffee factory”.
  • Bergamot – Bergamot orange is used to scent Earl Grey tea, in perfumery and confection baking. It is the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and has a pleasant fragrance. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. It is only grown commercially in Calabria Italy
  • Bergendal – Bergendal is found less and less frequently in Aceh, Sumatra. It is a low-producing plant of Typica origins. Much of the Typica was lost in the late 1880s, when Coffee Leaf Rust swept through Indonesia. However, both the Bergendal and Sidikalang varieties of Typica can still be found in More remote areas. It is possible the name derives from Berg und Tal, ” hill and valley.”
  • Bitter Sweetness is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter and Umami (savory flavors). While most would say bitterness is undesirable, coffee has essential bitterness to it. Most undesirable bitterness is formed by roasting defects (flash roasting, or slow baking of the coffee), too-light roast (astringent, trigonelline bitterness) or dark roasting (burned roast taste, no remaining sucrose). Another bitterness is experienced from the rancid oils and residues of dirty brewing equipment. There are many types of bitterness, hence not one avenue to tracking down its source. Bitterness as a positive quality is balanced with residual sweetness, and we use the term bittersweet or bittersweetness to describe this, as in darker chocolate flavors.
  • Bittersweet – Bittersweet is from the language of chocolate, and describes the co-presence of positive bittering compounds balanced by sweetness. It is directly related to caramelization, but has inputs from other roast reactions, as well as bittering flavors such as trigonelline. Bittersweet is usually a roast flavor term, but is always specific to the green coffee too (good bittersweetness would not develop at any roast level in a coffee without the native compounds to engender it). Usually, bittersweetness of a coffee develops as the roast gets darker and eventually overpowers other flavors. It dark roasts, acidity is reduced, while the caramely taste of sugars form the stimulating bittersweetness.
  • Black Bean – A coffee bean whose interior is totally back (endosperm), due to fungi, mold, yeast, pest. This happens with over-mature coffee cherry where the bean falls to the ground and is attacked by the Colletotrichum coffeeeanum fungus, or other aforementioned problem. Overfermentation of mature cherries can also result in back beans due to mold and yeast attack. Full black beans score 1 full defect point in coffee grading (the worst type of defect). Black beans will resist roasting and have a very harsh, acrid flavor
  • Blackberry – Blackberry is found as a fragrance, aroma or flavor in some coffees. I find that it is less obvious at very light roast levels, such as City roast, and is more pronounced at City+ to Full City. It might be found in a wide range of origins, from Rwanda and Kenya, to Guatemala and Colombia. Mora is the blackberry found in Latin America, and is a slightly different plant than what we call blackberry in North America.
  • Blade Grinder – The standard home coffee grinder, which works by way of a high-speed rotating blade. Blade grinders are inexpensive, but this comes at the expense of accuracy: grounds from a blade grinder are substantially less even than those from a burr grinder. Still, they are durable and when paired with the right brew method (especially those that use paper filters) they are quite acceptable. Don’t knock the blade mill! It keeps people grinding coffee fresh, right before brewing, which makes a huge difference in the coffee aromatics.
  • Blended Coffee – A blend is a mixture of coffees from multiple origins. Coffees are typically blended to produce a more balanced cup. Here at County Rd Coffee, almost all of the blends you’ll see are made with espresso in mind.
  • Blue Mountain Cultivar A C. Arabica Var. – Typical coffee that shares other features of Typica plants, but also shows some resistance to CBD: Coffee Berry Disease. It is said to be grown in Papua New Guinea but pure lots have not been found, and we buy a small lot of this cultivar from a plot in Kona, Hawaii each year.
  • Body – Associated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup, including all organic compounds that are extracted from brewing and end up in the cup. Body refers usually to thick or thin, heavy or light, full-bodied or watery. Mouthfeel is used to describe a much broader range of characteristics and textures.
  • Bold – Historically, Bold is a vague marketing term sometimes used to describe a darker roast. In our coffee reviews, use Bold as the highest level of intensity in our simple scale, and aggressive flavor profile. It does not mean a better cup than mild, delicate coffees.
  • Bolivia – There’s no better way to learn about a coffee-producing country than to go there! Bolivia has always been a coffee origin with great potential, the potential to have a unique Specialty coffee offering with unique cup character. Bolivia has all the ingredients to produce great coffee, especially in terms of altitude (plenty of that!) and seedstock: the plants are almost all traditional Typica varietal, with some Caturra. Much of the production is traditional Organic farming practice, with a lot of the co-ops certified Organic and some Fair Trade also. Germany and Holland have been buying these coffees heavily for years
  • Bottomless Portafilter – An espresso portafilter with the bottom machined off so the bottom of the filter basket is exposed. Bottomless portafilters allow you to view distribution problems and channeling: if the flow is uneven across the bottom of the filter basket, the distribution of grounds in the basket is uneven.
  • Bourbon – Bourbon, along with Typica, are main Coffea Arabica cultivars. Bourbon was developed by the French on the island of Bourbon, now Reunion, in the India Ocean near Africa. The seeds were sold to the French by the British East India Company from Aden, Yemen, and were planted in 1708. After generations, it began to express unique characteristics and became more robust. Bourbon has slightly higher yields and is more robust than Typica in general. It has a broader leaf and rounder cherry (and green bean) than Typica, a conical tree form, and erect branches. It has many local variants and sub-types, including Tekisic, Jackson, Arusha, and the Kenya SL types. In general, Bourbon can have excellent cup character. The cherry ripens quickly, but is at risk from wind and hard rain. It is susceptible to major coffee diseases. Bourbon grows best at altitudes between 1100 – 2000 MASL. Bourbon coffees should have green tips (new leaves) whereas Typicas should have bronze-to-copper tips.
  • Bourbon Mayaguez – A Bourbon cultivar variant from Rwanda and Burundi, from the early part of the 20th century. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it.
  • Brazil – Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, “they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”. It’s the largest producer of low grade arabica coffee, and a lot of Conilon robusta too. Brazil: there is some in almost every espresso you drink. In fact, some espresso is 90% Brazil. And there is Brazil in most canned coffee and big roasters’ blends.
    But things are changing in Brazil. There’s the big push on behalf of Brazilian coffee growing associations to re-create the image of Brazilian as exquisite and distinctive Specialty-level coffee. And some of it is true Specialty coffee, but the majority is still common, low-grade, low-grown arabica. There just isn’t the extreme distinction from cup to cup that distinguishes one regional coffee from another. Attention to good farming and processing techniques has helped, but the coffee is grown at lower altitudes than most Specialty coffee, in non-volcanic soils, in non-forested areas that are sometimes originally grassland (a reason why the “shade-grown issue” really doesn’t apply much to Brazil —the coffee farming areas had little shade to begin with.)
    Am I saying Brazilian coffee is bad –heck no! I love these high-quality Brazilian coffees, and you should try it as a Full City or even Vienna roast: its great! And nothing touches a really good Dry-processed or Pulped-Natural Brazil as a base in Espresso blends. They produce more crema and body, adding sweetness and providing a great backdrop for the feature coffees. Brazil can be nutty, sweet, low-acid, and develop exceptional bittersweet and chocolate roast tastes. The caveat is, Brazils are not dense coffee seeds: they are grown at lower altitudes than Central American coffees. Hence the very dark roasts of Brazils pick up ashy, bittering flavors. For espresso, you can roast Brazils lighter, separately, or keep the entire blend at a Vienna roast or lighter: Northern Italian Espresso re: Illy’s “Normale.” Note that there are 3 processes of processing Brazil coffees of interest to us; Natural Dry- Process, Pulped Natural, and Semi-Washed. They produce different types of cups. The Natural has great body, chocolate, possibly fruity notes … and it risks being earthier and more rustic in the cup. The Pulped Natural is when the coffee cherry skin is removed and the parchment, with a lot of the mucilage attached, is sun dried on patio or raised drying bed. This coffee cups like the fully Naturals but is a bit cleaner in the cup. The Semi-Washed uses a demucilage machine to remove the skin and some or all of the mucilage. So the Semi-Washed ranges in character from being identical to Pulped Natural to being similar to a Wet-processed coffee (clean cup, uniform, less body, less chocolate, a bit brighter). I like good Naturals- they have more intensity, produce more crema, but I have to cup them rigorously to watch for defective cup character. On the other end of things, really clean Semi-Washed, where a lot of the mucilage is removed, do not have Brazil character to me
  • Brazil Coffee Grades – Brazil has it’s own grading system for defects. There is a size and physical defect grade, as well as a flavor defect grade. The Brazil flavor grading rates coffee as Strictly Soft (the best), Soft, ‘Soft-ish’, Hard (+1, +2), Riado, Rioy, Rio Zona (the worst).
  • Break In coffee cupping, the “breaking of the crust” of floating grounds, part of aromatic evaluation. You add water to the coffee grounds, filling the cup, and wait 4 minutes. At this point there is still a crust of floating coffee grinds. You put your nose right above the cup and “break” this crust by stirring it with the spoon. The grinds sink, and the coffee can be tasted anywhere from 5-15 minutes after the break.
  • Brewed Coffee – Brewed Coffee refers to all coffee preparations produced by adding non-pressurized water to coffee grounds. Contrasted with espresso coffee, which is produced under pressure, brewed coffee is primarily an extraction, and contains a lower amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) and has thinner body.
  • Brightness – A euphemistic term to describe acidity in coffee. A bright coffee has more high, acidic notes. Not to be confused with the brighter roast flavors of light roast levels, such as City to City+ roasts. Read more about acidity to understand its use as a flavor term, not in reference to the quantity of acidity in coffee.
  • Brown Sugar – Brown sugar is a type of sweetness found in coffee …a sweetness characterized by a hint of molasses, yet quite refined as well. Since Brown sugar of the common type is highly refined (made by recombining molasses with refined white sugar) it makes sense that it’s qualities are only mildly rustic. One might distinguish between mild light brown sugar and dark brown types.
  • Burlap Bags – Burlap bags are the traditional container in which coffee is transmitted. Burlap is cheap, but long storage in burlap bags may result in a characteristic “baggy” defect taste.
  • Burnt – Burnt flavors in coffee are the result of over-roasting, fast roasting, or roasting in a high-heat environment. This often occurs when the initial roaster temperature when the green coffee is introduced is too high. Usually, scorching and tipping result in burnt flavors. Sometimes, smokey notes in a cup can be a result of native qualities to the coffee, and not necessarily a defect, or the result of an exotic process such as a Monsooned or Aged coffee.
  • Burr Grinder – A coffee grinder that grinds by passing a flow of beans between a pair of rotating metal discs. The distance between the discs is adjustable, and this adjustment allows one to accurately set the size of the grind.
    The larger the diameter of the burrs, the faster the grinder is able to grind. Burr grinders can be either “conical” or “flat” burred, each with their own advantages. Ironically, both the cheapest and the most expensive espresso grinders have conical burrs, while mid-range burr grinders and commercial bulk coffee grinders have flat burrs.
    Grinders can also be divided into “doser” and “doser-less” models: a doser is a mechanism for dosing ground coffee into a portafilter for espresso. Doser models may be more convenient for espresso, but are more difficult to use when grinding coffee into a container for brewed coffee.
  • Burundi – Burundi coffee bears striking resemblance to neighboring Rwanda, in both cup character, but also the culture surrounding coffee. Burundi is a small landlocked country at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, straddling the crest of Nile-Congo watershed. Sandwiched between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, Burundi has beautiful Lake Tanganyika for much of its western border. This is a country dominated by hills and mountains, with considerable altitude variation, from the lowest point at 772 meters (Lake Tanganyika)to the top of Mount Heha at 2670 MASL.
    The first arabica coffee tree in Burundi was introduced by the Belgians in the early 1930s and has been growing in the country ever since. Coffee cultivation is an entirely small holder based activity with over 800.000 families directly involved in coffee farming with a total acreage of 60.000 hectares in the whole country with about 25 millions of coffee tree.
  • Buttery – Buttery is primarily a mouthfeel description indicating thickness and creaminess.
    It indicates a high level of lipids (fats) in the coffee, often. Buttery can also be a flavor description, or a combination of both mouthfeel and flavor


  • Cafestol – Cafestol is a lipid found in the coffee bean and in brewed coffee. It is at higher levels in unfiltered coffee than in filtered, where it’s levels are very low. According to Wikipedia it it is a diterpene molecule present in coffee. A typical bean of Coffea arabica contains about 0.4-0.7% cafestol by weight.[1] Cafestol is present in highest quantity in unfiltered coffee drinks such as French press coffee or Turkish coffee/Greek coffee. In filtered coffee drinks such as drip brewed coffee, it is present in only negligible amounts. Studies have shown that regular consumption of boiled coffee increases serum cholesterol by 8% in men and 10% in women. For those drinking filter coffee, the effect was only significant for women
  • Caffeine – An alkaloidal compound that has a physiological effect on humans, and a slight bittering flavor. It is found throughout the coffee plant but is more concentrated in the seed / coffee bean. Arabica ranges from 1.0 to 1.6% caffeine, and Robusta (Coffea Canephora) from 1.6 to 2.2% caffeine. It is highly water soluble. The amount of caffeine in brewed coffee is directly proportional to how much ground coffee was used to make the cup.
  • Cajuela – A standard volume measurement for coffee cherry used in Costa Rica. A Cajuela is a standard box size, or can also be a basket. One Cajuela can result in about 1.5 kilos green coffee. A good picker can pick 15 cajuelas per day.
  • Cane Sugar – A lightly refined sugar, that has a slight rustic sweetness, but without molasses-like flavors of brown sugar or raw sugar. It refers to a sugar that has not fully refined, yet is bleached white. This is commonly found in sugar-producing countries. Sugar bleached white by this sulfitation process is called “mill white”, “plantation white”, and “crystal sugar”.
  • Cappuccino Cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage with steamed silky milk on top, averaging 150-190 ml.
  • Cappy – A defect term referring to oxidized, unpleasantly sharp cheese flavor, found in coffee that has not been stored correctly, or shipped with cheese.
  • Caracol – The Spanish-language term for Peaberry, Caracol, is the same for “snail”.
  • Caramel – Caramel is a desirable form of sweetness found in the flavor and aroma of coffee, and is an extension of roast taste. Extremely light or dark coffees will lose potential caramel sweetness. This is a broad term, and can find many forms since it relates to the degree of caramelization of sugars; light or dark caramel, butterscotch, cookie caramel, syrupy forms, caramel popcorn, various types of candy, caramel malt (beer brewing, many types).
  • Caramelization – Caramelization is slower than Maillard reactions, and requires higher temperatures. These reactions involve only sugars. They really begin up around 150C to 180C, with water being lost from the sugar molecule beginning the chain of events. In all cases the sugar is converted to a furfuryl. These are a type of furans that have a caramelly, slightly burnt and also slightly meaty notes. The same compound is produced via a different route in the Maillard reactions. However it is with prolonged high temperature that many other types of aromas are generated. Caramelization is more predictable than Maillard reaction due to less variation in the starting compounds. Without the Sulphur or nitrogen found in the amino acids caramelization is unable to produce flavors as meaty as Maillard reactions. It is interesting to note how the sugar solutions taste changes in caramelization. A sugar solution initially will be sweet with no aroma. Through caramelization it becomes both sour and a little bitter, as a rich aroma develops. Generally the longer sugar is caramelized the less sweet it tastes, so the key is to balance the benefits of uncaramelized sugar sweetness while avoiding light roast astringency and sourness.
  • Carbon Dioxide – Process A decaffeination method where beans are placed in a liquid bath of highly-pressurized CO2. As I understand it, supercritical CO2 acts as the solvent penetrating the coffee and extracting the caffeine, so when the coffee returns to normal temperature and pressure, there is no residue once the CO2 floats away. Some C02’s approach the chemical decafs in cup quality, others are nearer to SWP decafs. Here’s a longer and perhaps simpler explanation: Here is how it works: Coffee is mixed with water, and the beans expand in size, their pores get opened and the caffeine molecules become mobile. At this point carbon dioxide is added at 100 atmospheres pressure to the pure water. Basically the water and the carbon dioxide are mixed to create the sparkling water. The carbon dioxide acts like a magnet and attracts all the caffeine molecules that became movable. When the caffeine is captured by the carbon dioxide, this is removed. The carbon dioxide is very selective and it doesn’t touch the carbohydrates and proteins of the coffee beans, which would damage quality. When the carbon dioxide has finished removing the caffeine, the coffee seeds are dried naturally. Carbon dioxide is then recycled and caffeine is sold for other commercial uses.
  • Carbony – A roast-related flavor term, referring to burnt flavors from dark roast levels. For some this is a pleasant flavor if residual sweetness is present, but plain carbon flavor is usually not pleasant.
  • CATIE – CATIE graduate school and training program, research headquarters and an outreach center focused on coffee. CATIE, or Centro Agronomico Tropical de Invetigacion y Enseñanza (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), has dedicated itself to sustainable rural development and poverty reduction in tropical America. The center, located in Turrialba, Costa Rica. “CATIE has one of the largest collections of Arabica coffee germplasms in the world. That is to say a collection of plants that represent a large number of different varieties, but most importantly a large number of plants that came from collections made in Ethiopia; the CATIE collection has over 900 such landraces.”
  • Catimor – Catimor is a broad group of cultivars derived from HdT (Hibrido de Timor) and Caturra cross, highly productive, sometimes with inferior cup flavor. The main issue is the Robusta content in HdT, although this has given Catimor types some resistance to Coffee Berry Disease, and Rust (CLR), and in some cases to Nematodes. One issue is that Catimor is over-bearing, requires much fertilizer input, and might “wear itself out” in a short time span (5-10 years). The first research in this cross was at CIFC in Portugal in the late ’60s, tested in Angola and Brazil. It was introduced in the 1980s in multiple places, one of the first being the Variedad Colombia released in 1985. Based on Brazilian and Portuguese types, IHCAFE 90 and IHCAFE 95 (Costa Rica 95) were widely planted. Honduras has Lempira, El Salvador has Catisic, Nicaragua has Catrenic. Cauvery was developed in India from plant material direct from Portugal. Indonesia is widely planted in Catimor types, such as Ateng, the main benefit being this resistance to Coffee Leaf Rust.
  • Catuai – Catuai is a high-yield Arabica cultivar resulting from a cross of Mundo Novo and Caturra. The tree is short, with lateral branches forming close angles to the primary branches. It is robust and can tolerate areas with strong winds or rain. Catuai requires fertilization and care. It was developed by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil in the ’50s and ’60s, and is widely used in Brazil and Central America. There are yellow-fruited and red-fruited types, and many selections. In 2000, a new type called Ouro Verde was released with more vigor than Red Catuai.
  • Caturra – Caturra is an Arabica cultivar discovered as a natural mutant of Bourbon in Brazil in 1937. It has a good yield potential, but was not ideal for Brazil growing conditions (due to lack of hardness and too much fruit in 3-4 production cycles). However, it flourished in Colombia and Central America and had good cup characteristics, possibly displaying citrus qualities. At higher altitudes quality increases, but production decreases, and it sometimes requires extensive care and fertilization. It has a good cup quality, and perhaps shows a more citric acidity, and lighter body than Bourbon.
  • CBB – Coffee Berry Borer is a pest that burrows into the coffee seed, and a major problem in many coffee origins. In Latin America it is known as Broca.
  • Cellulose – Cellulose is the principle fiber of the cell wall of coffee. It is partially ordered (crystalline) and partially disordered (amorphous). The amorphous regions are highly accessible and react readily, but the crystalline regions with close packing and hydrogen bonding may be completely inaccessible. Native cellulose, or cellulose 1, is converted to polymorphs cellulose III and cellulose IV when exposed to heat. Coffee’s structure is a well developed matrix enhancing the mass uniformity and aiding in the even propagation of heat during roasting. Cellulose exists in coffee embedded in lignocellulose (an amorphous matrix of hemicellulose and lignin containing cellulose), making up the matrix cell walls. Hemicellusloses are polysaccharides of branched sugars and uronic acids. Lignin is of special note because it is a highly polymerized aromatic. Severe damage occurs to the cell walls of the matrix at distributed temperatures above 446 degrees F and bean surface temperatures over 536 degrees F The actual temperature values will change due to varying levels of other constituents. Second crack, associated with darker roasts, is the fracturing of this matrix, possibly associated with the volatilization of lignin and other aromatics. Under controlled roasting conditions, the bean environment temperature should never exceed 536 degrees F. A wider safety margin would be achieved by limiting the maximum environment temperature to 520 degrees F. These temperature limits minimize damage to the cell matrix and enhances cup complexity, roasting yield, and product shelf life.
  • Cenicafe – Cenicafe promotes research in coffee to aid Colombia coffee farmers, as part of the FNC.
  • Central American Coffee – Central American coffee is known for its “classic,” balanced profile. Centrals are primarily wet-processed since the climate is too humid for dry processing and hence cleaner and brighter than their dry-processed counterparts.
  • Chaff – Chaff is paper-like skin that comes off the coffee in the roasting process. Chaff from roasting is part of the innermost skin (the silverskin) of the coffee fruit that still cling to the beans after processing has been completed.
  • Channeling – Channeling refers to the formation of small water jets during espresso brewing due to poorly distributed grounds. When high-pressure water is forced toward the espresso puck, the water attempts to find the path of least resistance out, so if the coffee is not distributed evenly the water may form a small “channel” through the puck, rather than being forced through the coffee. This will result in a watery, under-extracted cup.
  • Charrieriana – This is a new caffeine-free coffee from Cameroon, the first record of a caffeine-free species from Central Africa. Cameroon is a center of diversity for the genus Coffea and such wild species are potentially important in breeding programs. In this case the new species could be used for breeding of naturally decaffeinated beans. Type Locality: Bakossi Forest Reserve, Tombel Division, Southwest Province, Cameroon. Etymology: “The name is in honour of a Professor A. Charrier, who managed coffee breeding research and collecting missions at IRD during the last 30 years of the 20th century.”
  • Cheesy – A coffee that has a kitchy quality, or literally cheese-like flavors in the cup. The second is actually a trade term, when their is a dairy-like sourness in the cup. We had this once in a Jamaica coffee. Also see Cappy
  • Chemical Process – A decaffeination method where beans are soaked in hot water, which is then treated with a chemical that bonds to caffeine (either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate).
  • Cherimoya – The fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a sherbet-like texture, which gives it its secondary name, custard apple. Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. It is native to the Andes
  • Cherry – Either a flavor in the coffee, or referring to the fruit of the coffee tree, which somewhat resembles a red cherry. Coffee cherry is also called “coffee berry” especially in older English literature.
  • Chicory – Chicory was a popular coffee substitute and economizer for 2 centuries, back when coffee was more prized, and pure coffee was a luxury. In that time, it became a matter of cultural preference to use chicory in coffee, in the United States it was synonymous with New Orleans coffee. The specific taste of famous New Orleans brands is due to the blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory. But when I worked in New Orleans I found how stale the coffee was, and what low quality chicory was being used. If you use high quality coffee, like our French Roast Blend that you roast yourself, and a true imported French Chicory, you will get optimal results with that typical New Orleans Cafe au Lait cup character. Chicory is in the plant family Compositae or Asteraceae, the sunflower family. Think Jerusalem artichoke. Radish is in the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family, the mustard family
  • Chirimoya – In coffee, a specific multi-faceted tropical fruit flavor found in Chirimoya (Cherimoya). Wikipedia: Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. When ripe, the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado.
  • Chlorogenic Acid – Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are important to coffee flavor, contributing to flavor when in the proper balance and level. They are a group of phenolic acids esterified to quinic acid, and account for up to 10% of the weight of green coffee. They are known to have antioxidant properties. Like all acids, its levels are reduced in roasting; darker roasts result in less acidity in the cup. Since it reduces to quinic acid in roasting, and quinic acid in high levels results in perceived bitterness and sourness, too much CGA is not desirable. Robusta coffees have roughly 25% more CGA than arabica!
  • Chocolate – Chocolate is a broad, general flavor or aroma term reminiscent of chocolate. But what type? There are so many forms of chocolate, either in its pure state, or as part of another confection. Chocolate flavors are often a “roast taste”, and are dependent on the degree of roast. Look for more specifics; bittersweet chocolate, bakers chocolate, toffee and chocolate, rustic chocolate, cocoa powder, Dutch cocoa, cocoa nibs, Pralines and chocolate, milk chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate, etc. etc.
  • Chop – Chop is an old term for the lot mark on a coffee bag, since the numbers are divided with forward slash marks. That is now correctly called the ICO number.
  • Citric Acid – Citric acid is, in moderate amounts, a component of good, bright coffees. It is a positive flavor acid in coffee that often leads to the perception of citrus fruits and adds high notes to the cup. Fine high-grown arabica coffees have more citric acid than robusta types. Citrus Qualities in coffee that are reminiscent of a citrus fruit; orange, lemon, grapefruit, kumquat, etc. Usually these terms imply a brightness in the coffee, a more acidic, wet-processed type of coffee.
  • City Roast – City roast is what we define as the earliest palatable stage that the roast process can be stopped and result in good quality coffee. City roast occurs roughly between 415 and 425 degrees Fahrenheit in many coffee roasters with a responsive bean probe where First Crack starts in the 395 to 405 degree range. The benefits of City roasts are that the origin flavor of the coffee is not eclipsed by the development of strong roast flavors, but the risk is that sourness, astringency, or under-developed sweetness makes the cup unpleasant. City roast generally has a light brown color with strong surface texture, even dark creases in the bean surface, and only moderate expansion of the bean size. This varies greatly in different coffees though. As a very general rule, to reach City roast the coffee is removed from heat at the last detectable sound of First Crack, or very soon after, with no further development toward 2nd crack.
  • City+ Roast – City+ roast is an ideal roast level that occurs roughly between 425 and 435 degrees Fahrenheit in many coffee roasters with a responsive bean probe where First Crack starts in the 395 to 405 degree range. Also called a medium roast. This range of roast temperatures is after City roast (hence the + !) and indicates that the coffee has been allowed to develop further, anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute or more depending on roast method, after the last “pop” of First Crack was heard. These times and heat ranges vary greatly depending on the roast machine and green coffee. The benefits of City+ roasts is the balance between moderate roast flavor and the origin flavor of the green bean; astringent, sour or “baked” light roast flavors are reduced, yet the flavors specific to a particular coffee lot are still expressed in the cup flavor. City+ has a brown color and may not yet have the smooth surface that comes as further browning and bean expansion occur as the coffee approaches 2nd crack. This is a term basically invented (well, designating a +), and while used in the trade a bit, it has it’s context in our communications to home roasters more than anything.
  • Classic – Classic is a term I use to describe coffees made in the tradition of a particular growing region, and specific to that area. It is a general characterization of a coffee, implying that it fits an ideal, predetermined taste profile for that particular origin. For wet-processed Central American coffees a balanced cup with clean flavors, light-to-medium body, and good acidity would be “classic” for that area. Traditional cultivars, Typica and Bourbon coffees, often recall classic flavor profiles, well-documented for a growing area.
  • Clean Cup – Clean cup refers to a coffee free of taints and defects. It does not imply sanitary cleanliness, or that coffees that are not clean (which are dirty) are unsanitary. It refers to the flavors, specifically the absence of hard notes, fruity-fermenty flavors, earthy flavors or other off notes.
  • Clear – Clarity refers to well-defined characteristics in the cup, aromas or flavors that come into sharp focus and are recognized easily and distinctly. It also implies clarity of the brew, perhaps lighter mouthfeel, and sharper (good acidic) qualities.
  • Coffee – Coffee is a flowering shrub that produces fruit. The seeds of the fruit are separated through various processing methods (wet or dry processing, or something in between) and dried to about 12% moisture for long term storage. The seeds are roasted and ground prior to being prepared as an infusion. The term “coffee” is applied to the plant, the seeds and the infusion alike.
  • Coffee Berry Disease – A fungal disease that results in cherry dying and dropping to the ground before it is ripe. It is a serious problem in Kenya, and most of East Africa, and can be transmitted by the coffee seed.
  • Coffee Brewing – The process of making an infusion of roasted, ground coffee beans. In the most basic sense, hot water is added to coffee ground to produce a drink. Some brewing methods (espresso, turkish coffee) produce a dense concentrate while other methods (filter drip, vacuum pot) produce a cleaner, more refined cup. Coffee brewing methods have changed much over time and are likely to continue to do so.
  • Coffee Cherry – we have come to call the whole fruit coffee cherry.
  • Coffee Crop Cycle – The Coffee Crop Cycle refers to the period of growth of the cherry to maturation and harvest. Coffee has one harvest period a year, although in some there is a second small harvest. From the flowering, to the fruit development and ripening, the coffee fruit is on the tree for a long period. The crop cycle differs for many origins.
  • Coffee Diseases – Coffea Arabica is susceptible to a host of diseases, such as Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), Coffee Berry Borer (CBB, also known as Broca), and Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR). There are many others, but these diseases do the most economic damage to the coffee crop worldwide.
  • Coffee Filter – A mechanism (usually paper or a metal or nylon mesh) for straining coffee ground from brewed coffee.
  • Coffee Grading – Coffee grading is the technical skill of evaluating and scoring of physical coffee defects in green coffee. The sample is 300 grams, and there is a particular point system to score the intensity of each defect, based on the full “black bean” which equals 1. Size is also rated in the unit of 1/64ths, so 17 screen means 17/64ths.
  • Coffee Grinder – A device for grinding coffee beans. Grinders can be broadly classified into blade grinders and burr grinders.
  • Coffee Growing Regions – Coffee is grown in a belt around the world – roughly from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, in 50 different countries. For specialty grade coffee, altitude ranges from 1800- 6000 feet. The optimum temperature is between 15-24ºC (59-75ºF) year round. Soils and rainfall vary widely from one origin to the next – or even within a large coffee producing country like Ethiopia.
  • Coffee Research – The study of the agronomy of coffee, its chemistry, or other improvements. There are coffee research organizations throughout the world. In Central America, there are CATIE, IHCAFE and PROCAFE. In Colombia, there is CENICAFE run as part of the FNC.
  • Coffee Roaster – A mechanism for roasting coffee. The basic requirements for a coffee roaster are a heating element that gets suitably hot and a mechanism for agitating the beans. Broadly there are two types of roasting (i.e. heat transfer), conduction and convection. A drum roaster will be mostly a conduction roast, but some convection as well. A hot air corn popper is a convection roast.
  • Colombia – As you know, Colombian coffee is highly marketed and widely available in the US. They have been largely successful at equating the name Colombian Coffee with “Good” Coffee. This is half-true. Colombian can be very balanced, with good body, brightness (acidity) and flavor. But much of it is a bit boring, and most of it that you find in Supermarket bins etc. is simply a decent clean cup with almost no aftertaste (if its fresh from the roaster, which is not likely). So, is there good Colombian coffee? Absolutely yes. It just takes work to find it. Good Colombian is rarely sold simply as Supremo or Excelso. Colombian that has more “cup character” is usually pooled from particular regions and will have the regional name identifying it. Sometimes a generic Colombian just happens to cup really nice, but that’s rare, and it requires cupping each lot to find the special one.
  • Color Sorting – Sorting coffee by removing beans that have a color that indicates a defect. Color coffee sorting is often done by an optical sorting machine, which has a high speed camera that watches a stream of beans and actuates a jet of air to remove off-colored beans. Most high quality coffee also involves hand color sorting, which is traditionally done by women sitting either at conveyor belts or at tables.
  • Complex – The co-presence of many aroma and flavor attributes, with multiple layers. A general impression of a coffee, similar to judgments such as “balanced” or “structured” .
  • Conduction – The transfer of heat between matter. In coffee, conduction heating is contrasted with convection heating, which occurs in a moving fluid.
  • Congo Kivu – is the general name for East Congo (Kinshasa), covering a very broad geographical area. It borders on Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Lake Tanganyika on the east. Kivu is divided into three provinces, Nord-Kivu (North Kivu), Sud-Kivu (South Kivu), and Maniema. Coffee, cotton, rice, and palm oil are produced, and tin and some gold are mined. The Ruwenzori mountains, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, and part of Maiko National Park are in the region
  • Conical Burr – Grinder coffee bean fall between the two burrs and are ground between them.
  • Convection – Transfer of heat through the bulk movement of a fluid. In the case of coffee roasting, we discuss convection in the context of heated air moving as a fluid through a roast chamber.
  • Conventional – Conventional means that a coffee is not organic certified, in the coffee trade.
  • Costa Rica – Can a coffee be too perfect, too balanced, so all you can say about it is ,” Hmm … it has coffee flavor”? That’s the criticism that used to be leveled at the coffees from Costa Rica – too balanced, too clean, too mild. We categorize this type of coffee as the “classic cup,” the traditional balanced coffee that has no defects or taints. Coffee cuppers call it “clean” and it’s not the same thing as “boring.” Yet many Costa Ricas from the large farms and mills are exactly that; middle-of-the-road arabicas. But there’s can be more to a Costa Rican coffee than neutrality. They are prized for their high notes: bright citrus or berry-like flavors in the acidity, with distinct nut-to-chocolate roasty flavors.
    Now, everything is changing in Costa Rica, and the orthodoxy, big farms and big powerful cooperative mills, have a reason to do a double-take. There is a new quality initiative coming from the Micro-Mills, tiny low-volume farm-specific coffee producers who now keep their lots separate, mill it themselves, gaining total control of the process, and tuning it to yield the best possible flavors (and the best price!) The revolution is possible due to new environmentally friendly small milling equipment, and the dissatisfaction of small producers who sell coffee at market prices, only to see it blended with average, carelessly harvested lots. With an independent Micro-Mill, a farmer can become a true “coffee craftsperson,” maximize the cup quality of their coffee, dividing lots by elevation or cultivar, and receiving the highest prices for their Micro-Lot coffees. In turn, we get unique and diverse Micro-Lots, and a transparent, long-term relationship with the small farmer.
  • Country Of Origin – Country of Origin is where the coffee is grown in general terms. Region is a more specific area within the country. Arabica coffee grows in only in particular environments with adequate rainfall, temperate climates, good soil (often volcanic), sufficient altitude, and roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  • Crack – An audible popping sound heard during roasting. In coffee, one refers to “first crack” and “second crack,” which come from two different classes of chemical reactions.
  • Creamy A mouthfeel description indicating thickness and soft, rounded texture. See also buttery.
  • Crema – Crema is a dense foam that floats on top of a shot of espresso. It ranges in color from blond to reddish-brown to black. Blond crema may be evidence of under-extraction or old coffee, while black crema is a sign of over-extraction or an overly hot boiler.
  • Creosol – A burnt flavor taste caused by phenolic compounds from dark roast levels.
  • Crisp – Crisp can have several meanings, since it modifies other flavor terms. Crisp acidity might mean bracing, fresh fruit acids. Crisp chocolate notes might refer to tangy bittersweetness. It involves something that occurs briefly, and that provokes reaction, normally positive.
  • Crop – This is the crop year the coffee was harvested and processed in, and provided that the coffee has been properly stored and is the MOST current available crop, shouldn’t be a primary consideration in buying a green coffee from us. It is sometimes expressed as a single year or a split year (’01/’02 for example). The industry standard is that the crop year as inked on the burlap bag means the year it was grown-picked-milled-shipped and then arrived at market. But this is a very long process which means that a very fresh green coffee selling in December of 2008 will be ’07/’08 since ’08/’09 crop would not arrive until March-April ’03. So the dates are a bit confusing but County Rd Coffee is really obsessed with green coffee freshness, and I think that many in the trade are not always paying attention to this issue. Crop is marked on all coffee bags, and is Cosecha in Spanish. Now that we use vacuum packing, we have extended the life of coffee and maximized it’s freshness.
  • Crust – In coffee cupping (tasting), you first judge the Dry Fragrance by smelling the ground coffee. Then you add hot water and judge the wet aroma. This is done in 2 steps: first by sniffing the crust of floating grounds that naturally caps the liquid mixture, then by “breaking” the crust with a cupping spoon.
  • Cultivar – The naming of a cultivar should conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (the ICNCP, commonly known as the Cultivated Plant Code). A cultivar is a particular variety of a plant species or hybrid that is being cultivated and/or is recognized as a cultivar under the ICNCP. The concept of cultivar is driven by pragmatism, and serves the practical needs of horticulture, agriculture, forestry, etc. The plant chosen as a cultivar may have been bred deliberately, selected from plants in cultivation. This is the term we prefer to Varietal in terms of coffee, since it implies the intentional cultivation for organoleptic and production results.
  • Cultivar – Flavor In-the-cup coffee flavors (and in extension aromatics) that result from the plant material used to produce the coffee. In general, the Coffea Arabica sub-species does not display strong flavor distinctions between cultivars as one might find with wine or other fruits. Any flavors from the cultivar are highly influenced by the growing environment and processing, but in some cases cultivars have distinct taste recognizable to most coffee drinkers, as with Pacamara or Gesha types. Robusta and Liberica have distinct flavors, but these are different sub-species: Coffea Canephora (robusta) and Coffea Liberica.
  • Cup Of Excellence – The Cup of Excellence (COE) is a competition held more-or-less yearly in many coffee producing countries. Until 2008, the COE was limited to Central and South America, but with the 2008 Rwanda Cup of Excellence the competition has expanded to Africa, as well. In the COE, coffees are rated by an international jury and then auctioned off. COE coffees regularly fetch many times normal market rates for coffee, with the top coffees ofter selling for more than $20/pound.
    The Cup of Excellence was founded in 1999 in Brazil and expanded to other countries in the coming years.
  • Cupper – A cupper is a person who performs the somewhat formal analysis of coffee quality, called cupping. See the definition of cupping for more information. It has nothing to do with ancient Chinese medicine!
  • Cuppers Correction – The cupper’s correction is a term we use to measure the “intangible” qualities of a cup: if, for instance, a coffee totals 88 points, but it is high quality enough that we feel it should be a 90, we add in a +2 cupper’s correction.
  • Cupping – Cupping is a method of tasting coffee by steeping grounds in separate cups for discrete amounts of ground coffee, to reveal good flavors and defects to their fullest. It has formal elements and methodology in order to treat all samples equally and empirically, without bias. In one long sentence … a discrete amount of ground coffee is dosed into multiple cups or bowls for each sample, dry fragrance in evaluated, hot water is added, wet aroma is evaluated, the floating crust of grounds are “broken” with a fancy “cupping spoon” and the aroma is again evaluated, the cupper waits for a cooler temperature and skims the lingering foam from the top, then, after cleaning a spoon in hot water, carefully removes coffee from the top of the cup without stirring, and sucks the liquid across the palate, atomizing it into the olfactory bulb as much as possible, judging flavor, acidity, aftertaste, mouthfeel, and any other number of quality categories. Whew!
  • Cupping Spoon – A cupping spoon is specifically designed for the tasting procedure of the same name, cupping. It is similar to some bouillon spoons or gumbo spoons, and features (usually) a round deep bowl and arched handle. They are highly fetishized objects by the coffee cupper, and some guard their favorite spoon jealously!
  • Current Crop – Refers to any coffee that has not been replaced by new crop shipments, even if it was shipped from origin many months before. See Past Crop and New Crop as well.


  • Decaffeinated Coffee – Coffee from which caffeine has been removed, either chemically or using water filtration. A variety of methods for decaffeination exist, but all operate on the same basic principle: coffee is soaked in a liquid (water or pressurized carbon dioxide) bath and the caffeine is extracted from the liquid. See SWP, CO2 process, Ethyl Acetate.
    Decaffeinated beans have a much darker appearance and give off little chaff when roasting. Decafs will roast differently than regular coffees because of their altered state; in most roasting methods, they will roast faster than regular beans.
  • Deep Roasted – Coffee that turns from green to brown under the watchful, loving supervision of a “roast master” is called “Deep Roasted Coffee”. Only a craftsperson with years of experience can truly “deep roast” a coffee.
  • Defect – In coffee, a defect refers to specific preparation problems with the green coffee, or a flavor problem found in the cupping process. Bad seeds in the green coffee sample are termed defects, and scored against the coffee to determine it’s grade. Also, defect flavors are those found in cupping the coffee, and described by a host of unfavorable terms, such as Skunky, Dirty, Cappy, Soapy, Animal-like, Sour, etc. Roast problems can produce defect flavors, as well as poor sorting or preparation of the coffee, mistakes in transportation and storage, problems at the wet mill, bad picking of the fruit or problems going back to the tree itself.
  • Degassing – Degassing, or resting refers to the step after home roasting a batch; coffee brewed immediately has so much C0-2 coming off it that it prevents good extraction or infusion of water. Time is often needed to allow the coffee to off-gas. Also, certain characteristics are not developed immediately after roasting, such as body. A rest of 12-24 hours is recommended, or up to 3-5 days for some espresso coffees.
  • Degree Of Roast – Degree of Roast simply means the roast level of a coffee, how dark it has been roasted. The longer a coffee is exposed to a constant heated environment, the darker it roasts. One part of roasting consistency is to match degree-of-roast from batch to batch, if that is desired. The second is to match the Roast Profile (AKA Roast Curve), the time-temperature relationship that was applied to the roast.
  • Demucilage – Mucilage is the fruity layer of the coffee cherry, between the outer skin and the parchment layer that surrounds the seed. In the traditional wet-process method, the mucilage is broken down by fermentation and then washed off. A forced demucilage machine does this with water and friction, such as a Penagos or Pinhalense Demucilager. The early machines were called “Aqua-pulpers” but they damaged the coffee, resulting in fruity or fermenty flavors.
  • Density – The density of a coffee bean is often taken as a sign of quality, as a more dense bean will roast more evenly. The higher a coffee is grown, the more dense it is likely to be. Coffee is sorted at origin by density, with the most dense beans graded as specialty coffee.
  • Density Sorting – Density sorting is a step at the dry mill where coffee is run across a density table. Tilted at an angle, the table vibrates and dense coffee beans travel to the TOP or the highest side of the table, whereas less dense seeds go to the LOWER angle of the table. Less dense seeds are either outright defects, or tend to have poor cup character because they are damaged, or under-developed. The density table is often called an Oliver table, and there are inferior air-based sorters as well.
  • Department – A Department is the term used in many Latin American countries for a State. For example, Huila Department is the state in the South of the country where much coffee is grown
  • Descaling – The process of removing harmful scale buildup from a boiler. Descaling is usually accomplished by adding a commercial descaling product or citric acid to water and running this solution through a machine. Espresso machines and brewers should be descaled regularly (with the frequency depending on the hardness of water used) to maintain optimal functionality.
  • Direct Trade – A term used by coffee sellers to indicate that the coffee was purchased through a direct relationship with the farmer. Unlike Fair Trade and Organic certifications, Direct Trade is not an official, third-party certification.
  • Dirty Cup – Dirty cup is a general term implying some form of taint, usually an earthy defect, but also a mixed defect of ferment, hardness, dirt, moldy flavors etc.
  • Dominican Republic – The Dominican has a tradition of coffee production that dates several centuries. In general Dominican coffees hold true to the soft, mild profile of Island coffees. The exports are dominated by one company, and while there have been pushes to improve quality, the potential of DR specialty coffee has not been realized. We cup it when available, and usually it grades in the commercial coffee range of 78 – 82 points.
  • Doser – A doser is a mechanism, usually attached to the front of a burr grinder, for putting coffee into an espresso portafilter basket. Ground coffee sits in the doser and is pushed out and into the portafilter by the pull of a lever. Dosers are designed to push out the same amount of coffee (typically 6-7 grams) every time the lever is pulled, but, in practice, this feature only works is the doser if full of grounds, which is unlikely to happen in the case of a home user.
  • Doserless A grinder that ejects its grounds directly through a chute, rather than into a doser.
  • Drum Roaster – A roaster with a rotating drum that provides agitation to the beans, while a heating element (typically either electric or gas) provides heat. The metal drum conducts heat to the beans, so drum roasters heat beans both by convection and conduction.
  • Dry Fragrance – In the cupping procedure for tasting and scoring coffee, this is the smell of the dry, ground coffee before hot water is added. The term fragrance is used since it is normally applied to things we smell but do not consume (perfume, for example), whereas aroma is usually applied to foods and beverages.
  • Dry Mill – A facility that accepts dried coffee cherry and mechanically separates the coffee bean from the dried fruit and parchment layer. The facility can be highly mechanized, as in Ethiopia, or very simple, as in Yemen. Images of both can be found in the following links ‘ Tom’s Coffee Travel’ trip reports, from from Ethiopia and Yemen.
  • Dry Process – Dry process is a method to transform coffee from the fruit of the coffee tree to the green coffee bean, ready for export. Dry processing is the original method, and the wet process was devised later (as well as the very recent pulp natural process). It is a simple method, using less machinery and more hand labor, and has been a tradition in some growing origins for centuries. It risks tainting the coffee with defect flavors due to poor handling, drying, or ineffective hand-sorting. In dry processing the fruit is picked from the tree and dried directly in the sun or on raised screens, without peeling the skin, or any water-based sorting or fermenting. The dried coffee turns to a hard, dark brown pod, and the green seed is torn out from the skin and parchment layers in one step, or pounded out by hand. Because there is no chance to skim off floating defects, or removed under-ripes as with the wet process, most defects must be removed visually, by hand. Dry process coffees generally have more body and lower acidity than their wet process counterparts, with more rustic flavors due to the long contact between the drying fruit and the seed. They also can have more defects, taints, and lack of uniformity both in the roast and in cupping. A dry process coffee is sometimes referred to as natural coffee, full natural, or traditional dry process, or abbreviated DP.
  • Drying Coffee – In both dry-process and wet-process (and the other hybrid processes like pulp natural and forced demucilage) the coffee must always be dried before processing. In dry process you simply pick the coffee cherry fruit from the tree and lay it out in the sun to dry. In wet process you pulp the seed out of the fruit skin, ferment it to break down the fruity mucilage, wash it, and then dry it. Drying on raised beds is usually preferable by buyers like us, rather than on the ground or in a drying machine (a Guardiola).


  • E61 – A classic espresso group-head design, originally invented by Faema and used on a variety of machines. The E61 is easily identified by its pre-infusion chamber located just behind the portafilter and by its small external lever used for activating the brew cycle.
  • Earthy – Sumatra coffees can have a positive earthy flavor, sometimes described as “wet earth” or “humus” or “forest” flavors. But Earthy is a flavor term with some ambivalence, used positively in some cases, negatively in others. Usually, if we use the term dirty, groundy or swampy, we are implying a negative earth flavor, but earthy itself in Indonesia coffees is a positive assertion. Earthy in a Central America wet-process coffee is NOT a positive term though, since it is out of character, and does not fit the flavor profile
  • Ecuador – Coffee has a long history in Ecuador: it was introduced in the early 19th century and became its main export in the early 20th century. But coffee from Ecuador has never been included in the list of Specialty Coffee origins, mostly because of poor harvesting and processing practices. As other Ecuadorian exports (banana, oil, shrimp) exceeded coffee in export importance, hope that the quality of the coffee would improved became less. They managed to continue to ship low grade arabica and robusta coffees, finding a market among the istitutional and commecial roasters of the U.S. and Europe who are more concerned with price than cup quality. But coffee employed about 15% of the rural population.
  • Effervescent – While coffee is not a carbonated beverage, at times a combination of factors (brightness/acidity with a light mouthfeel) can make the coffee dance on the palate. I use the term effervescent to describe this light and lively sensation.
  • El Salvador – El Salvador coffee had an undeservingly poor reputation for years, marred mostly by the inability to deliver coffee of high quality in an unstable political climate. Unfortunately, agriculture is the first to suffer in revolution, since it requires years to rebuild a farm if it is neglected. In El Salvador the coffee trade, like the government in general, was controlled by a ruling elite … a handful of wealthy families that operated many farms. El Salvador had tended towards the right politically, and the smaller coffee farmer and coffee workers fared poorly in this climate.
    Available are incredible small coffee farmer offerings. Colleagues have purchased the following and these are their findings ‘Salvadors –drop dead quality, great acidity, refinement and depth. Last year it was the incredible Organic Los Naranjos. Then we had the Santa Ritas and Salaverrias. Good stuff. Then the real bombshell coffee: the Cup of Excellence lot from the San Francisco farm. After that, our Organic Santa Adelaida lots, and our Pacamara Cup of Excellence coffees. This truly represents the pinnacle of high grown Salvadors’.
  • Emulsion – In coffee, “emulsion” typically refers to the suspension of coffee oils in water. While brewed coffee is primarily an extraction, espresso is both an extraction and an emulsion because it occurs under pressure.
  • Endothermic – A term applied to chemical reactions, referring to a reaction that absorbs heat. Most parts of the coffee roasting process are endothermic.
  • Environment Temperature – The temperature of the roasting environment determines the specific types of chemical reactions that occur. There is a window of temperatures that produce favorable reactions for the ideal cup characteristics. Temperature values outside of this window have a negative effect on quintessential cup quality. Even within the window values, different temperatures will change the character of the cup, giving the roaster the latitude to develop a personality or style desired, or to tame the rough signature of certain coffees while still optimizing relative quality. System Energy: At any given environment temperature, the amount of energy (BTU) and the roasting system’s transfer efficiency will determine the rate at which the specific chemistry will occur. Higher levels of both energy and transfer efficiency will cause the reactions to progress more quickly. There is a window of reaction rates that will optimize cup quality. This is called the Best Reaction Ratio
  • Erpsig – Erpsig is German for pea-like; cooked bean, pea, or lentil sensation. It is called Peasy, but related to earthy, mushroom, groundy defect flavors, not to leguminous flavors.
  • Espresso – In its most stripped-down, basic form, this is a working definition for espresso: A small coffee beverage, about 20 ml, prepared on an espresso machine where pressurized hot water extracted through compressed coffee. A smaller version where extraction is restricted is called a Ristretto
  • Espresso Standard Blends – When we maintain an Espresso Standard blend, like Espresso Monkey Blend, we have to find new lots to maintain the flavors of the blend as the coffee crops change. That can be a tough job, to optimize the blend and, at the same time, to maintain the “spirit of the blend” … its original intent. There will be shifts in the blend, inevitably.
  • Estate – A “coffee estate” is used to imply a farm that has it’s own processing facility, a wet-mill. In Spanish this is called an Hacienda. A Finca (farm) does not necessarily have a mill. (And Finca is not a coffee-specific term). In a strict sense an Estate would have both a wet mill and dry mill, meaning they prepare coffee from the tree all the way to ready-to-export green coffee in jute bags. Estate coffee is not necessarily better than any other type, except that they have the possibility of controlling quality all through the process.
  • Esters – An ester is an often fragrant organic or partially organic compound formed by the reaction between an acid (including amino acids) and an alcohol. They play a smaller role in coffee aromatics than Ketones and Aldehydes, but can be distinct fruit flavor contributors.
  • Ethiopia – Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee: it is in the forests of the Kaffa region that coffee arabica grew wild. Coffee is “Bun” or “Buna” in Ethiopia, so Coffee Bean is quite possibly a poor anglicized interpretation of “Kaffa Bun”. Coffea Arabica was also found in the Harar region quite early, either brought from the Kaffa forests or found closer by. It is entirely possible that slaves taken from the forests chewed coffee berry and spread it into the Harar region, through which the Muslim slave trade route passed.
    Ethiopian coffees are available from some regions as dry-processed, from some regions as washed, and from Sidamo as both! The difference between the cup profiles of the natural dry-processed vs. the washed is profound. Washed Sidamo, Yirgacheffee and Limmu have lighter body and less earthy / wild tastes in the cup as their dry-processed kinfolk.
  • Ethyl Acetate – A chemical decaffeination process, but one using a mild type with low toxicity. It sometimes imparts fruity flavors to the coffee. This is a “direct contact method” of decaffeination since the solvent chemical that washes out the caffeine comes into contact with the coffee. Since Ethyl Acetate can be naturally derived from fruits and vegetables, it is considered benign.
  • European Preparation – European Preparation indicates that additional hand sorting has been performed on the coffee at the mill after optical sorting. The terms is used in central and south America. I suppose it originated because certain European buyers required the extra sorting, and this then became a standard and a selling point. “Hmm, those Europeans know their coffee, I’ll get the preparation they like.” What is funny is that the absence of the term does not mean that hand sorting is lacking, since many many coffees have high levels of hand sorting but there is no indication of that in the name. European prep does not necessarily mean the cup is better or worse than a coffee without this term applied.
  • Excelsa – Coffea Excelsa is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea, and has Robusta-like form. It can be confused with Robusta and Liberica because of it’s form, and robusta-like cup. Not to be confused with the Colombian coffee grade Excelso, which is unrelated. The correct scientific name is Coffea Dewertii.
  • Excelso – A Colombian coffee grade referring to screen size of 15-16. In the traditional bulk Arabica business, Excelso is a step below the large bean Supremo grade, which indicates screen size 17-18.
  • Exothermic – A term applied to chemical reactions, referring to a reaction that releases energy. A classic example is burning. Most parts of the coffee roasting process are endothermic, but first crack is exothermic.
  • Extraction – Refers to the process of infusing coffee with hot water. Hot water releases or “extracts” the flavor from the roasted, ground coffee.


  • Facing – Facing refers to scorch marks found on the flat side or face of the coffee bean. Along with tipping, it is one of the telltale signs of scorching, a roast problem.
  • Factory – In Kenya, a “Factory” is actually a coffee mill, where the fresh cherry is brought for wet-processing. It is called a wet mill usually, and a beneficio in latin america. In Rwanda and some other African countries it is a “washing station”.
  • Faded – A general characterization that cup flavors are diminishing in quality due to age of the green coffee, and loss of organic compounds.
  • Fair Trade – Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. Products are certified as fair trade, under guide lines developed by FLO, and administered in the USA by Transfair. It’s benefit is that it is a global effort, coordinated by third-party certifiers. The problems are that it does not include the quality of the product, i.e. the taste of the coffee, as part of the certification. It applies only to products produced by co-operatives. It also DOES NOT MEAN that the cooperative member, the one who grew and picked your coffee, was paid according to any standard. It means the cooperative was paid a minimum price, and it is up to them to divide that among members fairly. In places I have been I have seen electricity brought in for coop members homes, schools built, clinics, etc. Great stuff! I have also seen extremely shabby conditions at FT coops, worse than private mills in the area. We support FT, while it is imperfect, and institute our own Direct Trade program in places we work with farmers, mills, and coops. In this case, we KNOW what the farm was paid at the gate, and we always pay higher that FT, often by 50%, 100%, or more.
  • Fanega – A fanega is a measure of coffee used in some Latin America countries. It is equal to 250 kilograms of coffee cherry. It is used to measure only whole coffee fruit.
  • Fazenda – Fazenda is the Portuguese word for farm, hence it is the term used in Brazil. Fazenda is not a coffee-specific term.
  • Ferment – Ferment is the sour off flavor, often vinegar-like, that results from several possible problems. It might be the result of seriously over-ripe coffee cherry. It can come from coffee cherry that was not pulped the same day it was picked, and/or was exposed to high heat between picking and processing. Often it comes from poor practices at the wet mill, when coffee is left too long in the fermentation tank, or old coffee that is over-fermented is mixed with new coffee.
  • Fermentation – A key part of the wet process of coffee fruit is overnight fermentation, to break down the fruit (mucilage) layer that tenaciously clings to the coffee seed, so it can be washed off. Fermentation must be done soon after picking the cherry from the tree, and lasts 12 – 24 hours depending on temperatures and other factors. When you feel the slimy coffee and the parchment layer feels rough like sandpaper, the coffee is ready to wash. Good fermentation and subsequent drying can lead to the cleanest coffee flavors in wet-process lots. Note that when I talk about fermentation, I don’t mean to imply that the coffee seed is subject to fermentation. That would create defective coffee. The fruit coating the outer parchment skin is broken down with the action of peptic enzymes in the coffee. Cacao is fermented, coffee is not.
  • Fermented – As a defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. Fermented flavor can be the result of poor wet-processing, over-ripe cherry, or some other contamination in the processing. As a processing step, all wet-process coffee is fermented to break down the mucilage. Coffee is fermented for 12-24 hours, sometimes longer, so the mucilage can be washed off the parchment layer.
  • Fermenty – A defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. This often takes the form of vinegar-like aroma and flavor. Fermenty or vinegar flavors can result from high levels of acetic acid, whereas moderate levels lead to positive winey flavors.
  • Filtercone – Filtercones, as the name implies, are simply cones that hold a coffee filter. The cone fits on to the top of a coffee cup, grounds and a filter are put in, water drips straight through into the cup. A filtercones must be used with either a paper filter or a permanent filter.
  • Filterscreen – This is the part of the French Press that actually filters the coffee as the plunger is being pushed downward. It is a circular mesh screen either made of nylon or stainless steel and threads onto the plunger shaft. The screen must be cleaned after use and replaced periodically.
  • Finca – Finca is the Spanish word for farm. Sometimes the term Hacienda is used to imply an Estate, which would mean the farm has it’s own wet-mill. A Finca does not necessarily have a mill. Finca is not a coffee-specific term.
  • Finish – Similar to aftertaste, but it refers to the impression as the coffee leaves the palate. Aftertaste is the sensations gathered after the coffee has left the mouth. We combine these to form the “final flavor impression” of the coffee
  • First Crack – First crack in one of two distinct heat-induced pyrolytic reactions in coffee. It is distinguished by a cracking or popping sound in the coffee, and occurs between 390 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit in most coffee roasters. It has a sound more similar to the popping of popcorn, whereas the Second Crack that occurs around 440 to 450 Fahrenheit has a more shallow, rapid sound, like the snapping of Rice Krispies cereal in milk! First crack involves a rapid expansion of the coffee seed, and marks the point where water and carbon dioxide fracture, leading to the liberation of moisture from the coffee in the form of steam. First crack opens the crease in the bean enough to release remaining silverskin, or chaff. First crack is a clue to the roaster-operator about the roast level, and it’s termination generally marks the first stage (City Roast) where coffee is acceptably dark enough to enjoy.
  • Flat Bean – The normal coffee fruit has 2 seeds inside, facing each other on their flat side. A percentage of each plant has peaberries, which are fruits where one of the ovules aborts and the remaining single seed grows to a rounded form; a “peaberry”. Usually it goes without saying that a coffee is a flat bean, but in some origins like Tanzania with high percentages of peaberry, the term is used.
  • Flat Burr Grinder – A grinder with two flat, parallel disc-shaped burrs. Produces the most even grind at all settings, fine, medium and coarse. Typically more expensive than other mills.
  • Flavor – This is the overall impression in the mouth, including the above ratings as well as tastes that come from the roast. There are 5 “Primary Tastes” groupings (Sour, Sweet ,Salty, Bitter, Savory (Umami) and many “Secondary Tastes,” as you can see on the Tasters Flavor Wheel. As the primary category in taste evaluation (what coffee would you want to drink that smelled good and tasted awful?) it is of great importance. But in a sense the flavor impression is divided between this score AND the Finish/ Aftertaste score.
  • Flavor Profile – Flavor Profile implies a graphical impression of a particular coffee, whether it be an artistic portrait or data graph of the perception of flavor compounds. In the case of our spider graph charts in each of our coffee reviews, this could be considered a flavor profile. It implies the inter-relationship of flavors.
  • Flavor Wheel – A term that probably refers to the SCAA Flavor Wheel, an analysis tool adapted from the wine industry. Half of it is dedicated to chiefly negative, defective flavors, while the other is mainly positive aspects. The hierarchy of flavor and aroma origins it connotes is highly questionable, but it remains a useful (if limited) tool for assigning language to sensory experience.
  • Floater – In the wet process, and sometimes in Pulp Natural or Forced Demucilage process, coffee cherries or parchment are floated in a tank of water. Good cherries or seeds are dense and sink. A coffee bean that did not mature inside the parchment layer will float in wet-processing.
  • Floaters – During the wet-process method, coffee cherry or the de-pulped (without skin) coffee seeds are floated in a water bath and/or transported down a channel in water. At this time, floating fruit can be skimmed off, whereas good fruit/seeds will sink. Coffee will float if the bean is hollow, undeveloped, under-developed, damaged by the coffee berry borer or other pest.
  • Floral – Primarily an aromatic quality, but also a flavor, reminiscent of flowers. If generally perfumey and flower-like, it might be described simply as floral, but usually a specific type is described; jasmine, rose-like, fruit blossoms (cherry, orange, peach, etc)
  • Flores – Flores is small by island standards, just about 360 kilometers end to end. It is in the Indonesian archipelago, between Sumbawa and Timor islands. The name is an abbreviation of Cabo da Flores which was used by Portuguese sailor in the 17th century to identify the cape on the eastern end of the islands because of its underwater gardens. Divided by mountain chains and volcanoes, the island populated by ethnic groups with their own traditions and languages. Predominantly Catholic, the have retained several aspects of the Portuguese culture such as the Easter parade held annually at Larantuka on the eastern part of the island and the Royal Regalia of the former King of Sikka. The coffee areas are higher altitude compared to other Indonesian origins, but the highest peak is just 1736 meters. The milling tradition is wet-process, so this coffee bears resemblance to the coffees of Timor-Leste, New Guinea and Java more than to the semi-washed coffees of Sumatra and Sulawesi. It is sweet, floral (appropriately since Flores means Flowers), with good syrupy body, and a clean cup overall. It has uses in espresso.
  • Fluid Bed Roaster – A fluid-bed roaster works by pushing hot air across coffee beans. The roast chamber is filled with heated air provided by a small fan and heating coil located beneath the chamber.
    In a fluid-bed roaster, the flow of air is both the heat source and the mechanism responsible for agitating the beans. Since air is the heat source, heating happens via convection, rather than via convection and conduction, as in a drum roaster. Fluid-bed roasters are generally less expensive than comparable drum roasters, and they produce a bright flavor profile. This type of roaster works well with small size batches (under half a pound).
  • Fly Crop – There are no flies in the “Fly Crop” but the term is intriguing, and it’s origin yet a mystery to me. Fly crop is the smaller harvest that occurs in Kenya, in cyclical opposition to the Main crop harvest of August to October. It yields smaller amounts of coffee, and some say the quality is lower. While I have cupped occasional good fly crop lots, I have to agree; they qualify more as Kenya blenders than the “Grand Cru” powerhouses of the peak Main Crop auctions
  • FNC – The FNC is the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, the coffee association of Colombia. They fund CENICAFE research institute, which has an extensive cultivar collection.
  • Foresty – A flavor found in rustic Indonesia coffees, wet-hulled types from Sulawesi and Sumatra in particular. It is sometimes called “Forest Floor” flavors and refers to a combined set of sensory experience, like a walk in the forest: earthy, humus, woodsy, mushroomy. reminiscent
  • French Mission Bourbon – French Missionaries brought the original coffee to East Africa, from Reunion island to Tanzania, then Kenya. There are still areas with original Bourbon rather than the SL varieties. This Bourbon appears to have Mokka inputs as well, since coffee was brought directly from Aden, Yemen to northern Tanzania (Tanganyika) by French fathers, and the two naturally mutated into what was called French Mission coffee.
  • French Press – A simple coffee brewer: grounds and hot water are added to a carafe, allowed to sit for several minutes, and then a filter is pushed down to hold the grounds at the bottom of the carafe.
    French presses have the advantage that they are very easy to control: dose/grind, water temperature, and extraction time are all manageable. Presses result in a high-body cup with more residual grounds that most brewing methods.
  • French Roast – Sugars are heavily caramelized (read as burned) and are degraded; the woody bean structure is carbonizing, the seed continues to expand and loose mass, the body of the resulting cup will be thinner/lighter as the aromatic compounds, oils, and soluble solids are being burned out of the coffee and rising up to fill your house with smoke. Second crack is well finished.
  • Fruited – In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don’t exactly see the difference in terms of these two words, but the question of fruit flavors emerging in a coffee context is critical. Is it a good quality? Is it fresh, aromatic, sweet fruit? Is it ripe, or is it over-ripe, fermenty, vinegary fruit? And there’s a side argument as well: did the fruit flavors come from well-prepared coffee, or did it emerge in a process where the coffee had too much contact with the mucilage of the coffee cherry. (This might happen in over-fermenting, in a hybrid process such as Indonesia wet-hulling, or in poorly executed dry-processing).
  • Fruity – In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don’t exactly see the difference in terms of these two words, but the question of fruit flavors emerging in a coffee context is critical. Is it a good quality? Is it fresh, aromatic, sweet fruit? Is it ripe, or is it over-ripe, fermenty, vinegary fruit? And there’s a side argument as well: did the fruit flavors come from well-prepared coffee, or did it emerge in a process where the coffee had too much contact with the mucilage of the coffee cherry. (This might happen in over-fermenting, in a hybrid process such as Indonesia wet-hulling, or in poorly executed dry-processing).
  • FTO – FTO is shorthand for a coffee that is certified as both Fair Trade and Organic.
  • Full City Roast – A coffee that has been roasted to the brink of second crack. The internal bean temperature that second crack normally occurs at is 446 degrees F. But in fact second crack is a little less predictable than first crack, in my experience. Why? It could be explained as this: first crack is the physical expansion of the coffee seed as water and carbon dioxide split and CO-2 outgassing occurs. Second Crack is the physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee. This matrix is wood, also called cellulose, and consists of organized cellulose that reacts readily to heat, and not-so-organized cellulose that does not. Since every coffee is physically different in size and density due to the cultivar, origin, altitude, etc. it might make sense that the particular cell matrix is different too, and not as universally consistent in reactiveness as H-2O and CO-2.
  • Full City+ Roast – A roast slightly darker than Full City. At Full City+, the roast is terminated after the first few snaps of second crack. The main cue that distinguishes the difference between the Full City (or FC) and Full City + is audible, not visual.
  • Furans – Furans are important contributors to coffee aroma, contributing to sweet, nutty, fruity or caramel-like smells. They are derived mainly from sucrose and Polysaccharides during roasting, a product of caramelization. It is estimated there are 126 possible furans found in coffee.


  • Gabah – In Sumatra, the term in Bahasa Indonesian for coffee that is barely dried after pulping and fermenting (or not), and ready to sell to a collector. This coffee is usually 40-50% moisture content.
  • Garungan – Garungan is a coffee variety I encountered in the Lintong area of Sumatra. It has the form of a Typica, but the new leaf is green, not bronze. It has upright branch structure like Bourbon, and long narrow leaves like Typica
  • George Howell – George Howell is a founder of the Cup of Excellence, devised the CoE cupping form, and is one who argues passionately for clean cup quality, free of flavors derived from processing. He currently owns Terroir coffee, and founded The Coffee Connection in the Boston area.
  • Gerstel-Twister – The Gerstel-Twister allows analysis of organic compounds from aqueous matrices by Stir Bar Sorptive Extraction (SBSE): Faster than with conventional techniques, omitting time-costly preparation steps and solvents and up to 1000´ more sensitive than SPME. The GERSTEL-Twister looks like a conventional magnetic stirring rod, and works the same – except for one small difference: While it is stirring, it adsorbs and concentrates the organic contents onto its coating of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS).
  • Gesha – Gesha (often wishfully misspelled as Geisha) is a long-bean Ethiopia cultivar selection with unique cup character. It is most famously grown on the Jaramillo plot at Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama by the Peterson family. It has now been broadly planted in other Central America countries and beyond to capitalize on the high price it has fetched. It was distributed from the garden at CATIE in Costa Rica, and displayed some rust-resistant properties. Gesha is a town in Western Ethiopia.
  • Gneiss – a geology term
  • Golden Beans – Golden beans are found in Yemen and Ethiopia dry-process coffees, and sometimes in other origins. They are pale yellow and slightly translucent. While not an outright defect, they are caused by iron deficiency in the plant, and/or high soil PH. They are sometimes separated and sold at a premium, with the false belief that they have better cup quality.
  • Grade – Nearly every county of origin has its own grading scale. It can be incredibly confusing. Sometimes the coffee earns a higher grade than it deserves, sometimes the grade is actually lowered to avoid tariffs! Central and South Americans tend to follow the SHB and SHG model (Strictly Hard Bean and Strictly High Grown indicates altitudes above 1000m). So hard beans grow at higher altitude and that’s good, right? Well, in Brazil’s grading, Strictly Soft is a top grade. Many countries use a simple numeric scale. But a Grade 4 Ethiopian is the top Dry-Processed grade you’ll see (Gr.2 in washed Ethiopians), and a Grade 1 Sumatra DP allows 8% defects (in fact Sumatra Grading is based on cup quality)! In essence, all should conform to the Green Coffee Classification System, but they don’t. Refer to the SCAA Green Coffee Classification Poster or the Green Coffee Association charts available on the internet.
  • Grady – Grady is a rarely-used defect coffee term for muddled, unclean coffee flavor..
  • GrainPro Super – Grain Bag A multi-layer plastic bag with a gas barrier enabling coffee”to build up a modified atmosphere, similar to the principle of the Cocoon” (quoted from the GrainPro literature). The bags can be used with any kind of commodity, and in tests using coffee, the bags have been shown to extend the flavor life of the coffee. We started using them extensively in 2008 to store delicate coffees and have found them to work very well. It means that we can buy more coffee at the peak of the season, when the best coffee is available, and then hold it in GrainPro for a few months with no flavor loss. In our coffee reviews, when we indicate GrainPro arrivals we are saying that, independent of the arrival month, the coffee is being stored to optimize freshness. For example, ordering a Costa Rica in December that arrived in jute bags in June formerly meant the coffee was on it’s last legs, and might be showing some age in the cup flavors. Last year, tapped GrainPro shipments that arrived in June the following February and they were spectacular, with no indication of age in the cup flavor!
    These bags are for resealable safe storage of dry commodities. The bags act as a gas and moisture-proof barrier which guards against the ingress of water vapor, while retaining low Oxygen and Carbon-Dioxide levels created by the respiration of the commodity. They are made of tough, multi-layer plastic with gas barrier between layers of PE 0.078mm thick material. They are sealed using tie-wraps and placed inside the large jute bags of coffee in our warehouse.
  • Grainy – A roast-related flavor, sometimes used negatively, but it can also be a positive flavor attribute. Usually grain flavors indicate a too-light roast, stopped before 1st crack concluded, like under-developed grain flavor. It can also result from baking the coffee, long roasts at low temperatures. Grain sweetness in some coffees is desirable, like malted barley, wheat, toast, brown bread, malt-o-meal, graham cracker, etc.
  • Grassy – Greenish flavor in the cup, usually indicating early crop, unrested coffee. This is a fresh cut grass flavor, chlorophyll-like, not a dried grass or hay flavor that would indicate old, past crop coffee.
  • Green Coffee – Green coffee is a dense, raw green-to-yellow colored seed. In it’s essence, coffee is the dried seed from the fruit of a flowering tree – each fruit having 2 seeds facing each other (the flat side of the coffee “bean”) or in the case of the peaberry, a single rounded seed. Coffee is imported from coffee-producing origins in this form, then either roasted at home in small machines, on the stove or a host of other methods … or roasted at a small, local shop in a batch roaster ranging from 5 kilos to 50 kilos … or roasted at a large commercial roaster, either batch or continuous. Green coffee can be stored for months, up to a year or more in vacuum packs, with little to no flavor loss (whereas roasted coffee starts to stale within 10 days from roasting. Coffee is not really a bean, it is the seed from the fruit of a flowering tropical shrub.
  • Green Coffee Appearance – Appearance: This is an informal scoring of the Number of Defects per 300 gram sample (2d/300g = 2 defects) and is scored by the Specialty Coffee Association of Americas Green Coffee Classification System in most cases. It should communicate the quality of the preparation and sorting of the coffee, but doesn’t directly indicate the “cup quality,” which is the most important rating of coffee. A zero defect score doesn’t mean that your 5 lbs. will have no defective beans either! The second number is Screen Size, expressed as 14/16 scr, or 18 scr. Once again, bigger isn’t better, and small beans of varied screen size can make for a great cup too (i.e.: Yemeni coffee).
  • Green Coffee Storage – Green coffee in general can be stored up to one year from the date of processing with no noticeable changes in flavor. Bright, delicate coffees can fade faster; earthy coffees can last a bit longer. Very often the type and quality of the processing methods used on the coffee will determine how long a coffee will hold up. For example, “Miel” or pulped natural processing very often shortens the storage life of a coffee – you will see changes in flavor sooner and in a more pronounced way than with other processing methods. Green, unroasted coffee ought to be stored in a cool dry place, ideally in a breathable container like burlap, or cotton. Coffee that is stored too long can absorb the flavor of whatever it is stored in, and so is called “baggy”. This means you have an exceptional coffee ruined by storing it for too long. The refrigerator is too humid, and the freezer too dry for green coffee storage.
    For a hundred years or more coffee has been transported the same way, in large burlap or jute bags. More recently, producers have experimented with vacuum packaging and storage in special multi-layer poly bags to extend the life of the coffee.
  • Greenish – A smell or flavor of fresh-cut green plants, vegetable leaves or grass, usually indicating fresh new-crop coffees that have not fully rested in parchment. Part of the expertise of cupping lots at origin before export is to see the potential cup quality despite the greenish flavors of young, unrested coffee.
  • Guanabana – A tropical fruit with distinct sweet flavor of strawberry-pineapple as well as a tart citrus accent, found in some coffees (Colombia Huila and Cauca comes to mind)
  • Guardiola – Guardiola is a term for a drum type coffee dryer, that brings down the moisture level over a period of 3 days or so. It is used as an alternative to patio drying in the sun for wet-process coffees still in parchment. It is considered better than the vertical dryers. Input heat temperature should be around 50 centigrade.
  • Guatemala – Guatemalan coffee is revered as one of the most flavorful and nuanced cups in the world. Due to our proximity to Guatemala, some of the finest coffees from this origin come to the United States. Guatemalan growing regions vary in their potential cup quality: many have sufficient altitude, soil and climate conditions. Antiguas are well-known and highly rated. Huehuetenango from the north highland can be exceptional and have distinct fruit flavors. Coban, Fraijanes and Quiche can be nice, but they need to be cupped carefully: they can have a nice cup but sometimes less complexity and depth. Atitlan has produced some very fine coffees in the past few years. But remember, you can’t count on any origin to necessarily produce a great coffee: the quality cup is still hard to find among even the most celebrated and recognized regions …in this case Antigua.
  • Guava – In coffee, the very aromatic tropical fruit note of Guava. (Guayaba in Spanish)
  • Guayaba – The Spanish term for Guava, a tropical fruit flavor found in some coffees, fruited Colombia types for example. Goiabada is the sweet Guava candy paste, and this is found in some Cauca coffees as well as other origins.


  • Hacienda – Sometimes the term Hacienda is used to imply an Estate, which would mean the farm has it’s own wet-mill. A Finca (farm) does not necessarily have a mill. Finca is not a coffee-specific term.
  • Hand Sorting – Practiced around the world, with both wet processed and dry processed coffees, hand sorting is generally the final step in the preparation of specialty coffees. Whether on conveyor belts or tables, the work of hand sorting is usually done by women at the mill just before coffee is bagged and labeled for export. Hand sorting removes any defective (small, broken, or discolored) that were not caught by the optical color sorter (if it was used). In the most sophisticated and the most basic coffee processing alike, hand sorting is crucial for controlling the quality of the cup.
  • Hard – Brazilian coffee grading has a different logic than much grading in the rest of the coffee world. Terms like “hard” and “soft” describe the flavor, not the bean itself. So “hard” refers to a harsh, astringent mouth feel, “soft” is mild and fine. Note that hard in terms of bean density signifies quality and has nothing to do with hard flavors in the cup, such as SHB grade coffee – Strictly Hard Bean – from Central America.
  • Hawaii – Ah, Hawaii… what a nice place. They grow nuts, fruit, and coffee. The coffee is expensive. It is mild (sometimes too mild) or it can be wonderful! It can be terrible and flat. The best coffees cost a lot …the worst cost way too much. So the goal with Hawaiians is to quit thinking that all Hawaiian coffee is good, and to realize that only a handful of coffees deserve the high price in terms of cup quality (you can easily argue that all deserve a high price in terms of the care and labor expended in producing them). And frankly, you must pay quite a bit for the truly great small-farm Kona. Ka’u coffee – Ka’u is the district of the big island of Hawaii just south of Kona. It does not have the clarity and sweetness of Kona – but it is an interesting cup.
  • Hectares – We use this metric term often to discuss the size of coffee farms. The hectare is a unit of area, defined as being 10000 square metres, is primarily used in the measurement of land. 1 Hectare = 10000 Square Meters = 2.471 acres
  • Herbal – A flavor descriptor in coffee reminiscent of herbs, usually meaning aromatic, savory, leafy dried herbs. Usually, more specific descriptions are given, whether is is a floral herb, or sage-like, etc. In reality, there are very different herbal notes, from grassy types, to dried vegetal, to floral, to green. It could hint at rustic qualities, it could indicate an unclean cup flavor, or it could also be a clean and refined cup quality. So it is important to look at the context the term is used within.
  • Hibrido – Hibrido means “Hybrid” in latin languages, and in Central America is used to mean Bourbon cultivar.
  • Hibrido De Timor – Hibrido de Timor is a cross between Robusta and Timor Arabica, abbreviated HdT. It was a source plant for Catimor cultivar, and has excellent resistance to the widespread fungal problem, Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR). In Indonesia it is sometimes called TimTim. It was first collected in East Timor in 1978 planted in Aceh in 1979, and in Flores 1980 where the variety is called Churia.
  • Hidey – This descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the smell of animal hides, similar to leathery. It is not necessarily considered as a negative attribute but is generally used to describe strong notes. Hidey flavors can be found in Yemeni coffees as part of their rustic qualities, but in a clean coffee such as a Ethiopia wet-process, hidey would certainly be a defect flavor.
  • High Grow – High Grown, or HG, is the highest quality Mexican coffee designation but in Nicaragua it means 2nd quality.
  • Honduras – Honduran coffee has been absent from the top ranks of the Specialty market, but that is all changing. It has all the environmental factors on its side: soil, altitude, climate. All it’s neighbors have sophisticated coffee production: Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. But what is lacking is infrastructure, good coffee processing and transporting, capital and a distinct “name” in the consumer market. This means that even a good quality Honduran does not fetch a good price (and in fact many from Copan and Santa Barbara districts are smuggled into Guatemala and sold as such). Without a premium price for quality, the incentive for the farmer, the mill and the exporter have no incentive to incur the added expense that would realize the coffee’s potential. So Honduran coffee ends up as a good mild blender, and not as a single-origin or farm-specific coffee.
  • Honey – In coffee, honey-like sweetness is often found, but we use terms such as refined honey (highly filtered and processed) as opposed to raw honey rustic honey sweetness. This form of sweetness is largely a dynamic of roast levels and roast profiles as well.
    Honey (or its French translation “Miel”) can also refer to a pulp natural coffee.
  • Hulling – Hulling is the step at the dry mill where the green coffee bean is removed from the parchment shell. (See Wet Hulled for the Indonesia method).


  • IAPAR – Iapar stands for the Agricultural Institute of Paraná in Brazil, and they have developed some cultivars, such as Iapar 59.
  • Ibrik – A pot for making turkish coffee with wide bottom, narrow neck, and long handle.”Ibrik” is the Turkish word for this coffee pot. It is usually made out of copper or brass and lined with tin. The word ibrik is likely derived from the Greek mpriki or biriki.
  • Icatu – Icatu is a cultivar that was developed in Brazil, has high production and good disease resistance. It has robusta inputs, and has been back-crossed with arabica cultivars to improve cup quality. It has 30-50% more cherry than Mundo Novo, a tall tree form, and red- and yellow- fruited progenies. It was released in 1993 by the IAC in Campinas Brazil. “The variety Icatu was obtained after artificial crossing between C. canephora var robusta (4x) and C. arabica var Bourbon Vermelho. The F1 was crossed with Mundo Novo and selected for precocity giving rise to Icatu precoce IAC 3282. The predominance of genes from Bourbon Vermelho in both, Caturra Vermelho IAC 477 and Icatu Precoce IAC 3282 gave support to the high genetic similarities observed.”
  • ICO – The ICO, International Coffee Organization, is the governing body for the world coffee trade. The ICO was responsible for the quota system that limited exports from each country, and helped maintain stable prices in the NYBOT (New York “C”) coffee market, until it was dissolved in 1989.
  • IHCAFE – IHCAFE is the Instituto Hondureño del Café, with research facilites and cultivar gardens. They released the Catimor cultivars IHCAFE 90 and IHCAFE 95 (Costa Rica 95).
  • India – Indian coffees are under-represented in the coffee market: they are good balanced, mild coffees. You will find the pronounced body, low acidity and subtle spicy notes pleasing, and the Mysore coffees work well under a wide range of roasts. Sometimes you find hints of earthiness, similar to Indonesian origins like Sulawesi and Sumatra. They are also nice in espresso. India produces wet-processed and dry-processed coffees: dry-processed coffees are called “Cherry” and wet-processed arabica is called “Plantation Arabica” whereas wet-processed robusta is called “Parchment Robusta.”
    The Monsooned coffee is a different story altogether! Potent, pungent and wild, these are great for those who like strong, deep musty flavors.
  • Indonesian Coffee – Indonesian coffee is known for its unique earthy, potent flavors. Some like it, some hate it, but it’s certainly distinctive. Much of the coffee in Indonesia is processed using the unique method called “Giling Basah,” or “wet-hulling.” Flavor of the coffee can vary widely too, from the more earthy Sumatras to the cleaner Java or Timor coffees. See each individual coffee origin for more specifics.
  • Intensity – We have a simple scale to rate intensity, from Mild to Bold. Low intensity does not mean low quality! Delicate, mild coffees can be top notch, whereas some may not like the aggressive, over-the-top character of coffees we rate as Bold.
  • Island Coffee – Island Coffee is our term for coffees from various islands (Hawaii, Jamaica, Australia, etc.). Island coffees typically have a mild profile. They are typically wet-processed and grown at a lower altitude that most other specialty coffee. See the specific origin for more information.


  • Jackson – A Bourbon cultivar variant from Rwanda and Burundi. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it.
  • Jacu – Bird indigenous to Brazil. On some Specialty Coffee farms, the cherries/coffee seeds digested by the Jacu are collected for a special “Jacu”-grade Specialty Coffee preparation. It is believed that the Jacu only feast on a certain ripeness of coffee cherry, thus the demand for and separation of these coffee beans for export.
  • Jamaica – What about that incredibly expensive coffee? The world’s best? The world’s most overrated? Well, I can say for sure that it is not the world’s best coffee. It is an excellent mild, lush coffee… sometimes. But it is can also be downright bad. In these cases, it’s nothing short of a crime to pay those prices for coffee. On top of that, a lot of coffee sold as Jamaican is not true Jamacia Blue Mountain, or is blended. If you pay $20 per lb for Jamaican coffee, it cannot be true Blue Mtn. but either the lower grown Jamaica High Mountain, or most likely a blend that contains a small percentage of JBM.
    The history of coffee in Jamaica is epic …In 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, the then Governor of Jamaica, imported coffee into Jamaica from Martinique. The country was ideal for this cultivation and nine years after its introduction 83,000 lbs. of coffee was exported. Between 1728 and 1768, the coffee industry developed largely in the foothills of St. Andrew, but gradually the cultivation extended into the Blue Mountains. Since then, the industry has experienced many rises and falls, some farmers abandoning coffee for livestock and other crops. In order to save the industry, in 1891 legislation was passed “to provide instructions in the art of cultivation and curing coffee by sending to certain districts, competent instructors.” Efforts were made to increase the production of coffee and to establish a Central Coffee Work for processing and grading. This effort to improve quality, however, was not very successful: until 1943 it was unacceptable to the Canadian market, which at the time was the largest buyer of Jamaican coffee. In 1944 the Government established a Central Coffee Clearing House where all coffee for export had to be delivered to the Clearing House where it was cleaned and graded. Improvement in the quality of Jamaica’s coffee export was underway. In June 1950 the Coffee Industry Board was established to officially raise and maintain the quality of coffee exported
  • Jasmine – A very positive floral quality in coffee, usually with a strong aromatic component, reminiscent of jasmine flower or tea. There are many forms of jasmine; the common flowering vines, teas, potpourri, etc.
  • Java – Java is a clean cup for an Indonesian, a fully wet-processed coffee that has the Indonesian body and thickness in the cup without earthy or dirty flavors. Our experience is that early lots of Timor and Java can be the finest while in Central Americans you usually need to hold out for the mid-crop to late-crop samples. But there are always exceptions…
    In the case of Sumatra and Sulawesi, it seems that the second to third wave of arrivals can be the best. Of course, these truisms are made to be broken… that’s why samples and cupping are always the key. In the past we liked the Kayumas best since it exemplifies both the thick oily body of a Java with some other nice flavors —sometimes Java is pure body and nothing else which makes it very unbalanced as a straight roast, while still an effective blender.
  • Java Cultivar – Java Cultivar is planted widely in Cameroon, related to Abyssinia found in East Java. It is distinct from Java Typica types, such as Bergendal, Pasumah or BLP, and from Jamaique Typica in Cameroon as well. It has resistance to CBD and due to it’s vigor can recover from CLR. The fruit and seed are elongated and the tips are bronze-colored.
  • JBM – JBM is short for Jamaica Blue Mountain, which is both a trade name for certain Jamaica coffee, and a Typica cultivar. As a cultivar, it is one of the older New World Typica types since the Typica was circulated around the Carribean isles long before it was planted in the mainland of Central America. Not all Jamaica-grown coffee is necessarily JBM cultivar. As a trade name, it supposedly signifies the higher grown coffee from Jamaica, as opposed to Jamaica High Mountain, which is lower grown (!). There is no blue shade to the coffee or the mountain, or a specific geographical designation it indicates.
  • Jember – Jember is a cultivar in Indonesia. Also a town in East Java, home of the main coffee and cocoa research institute, ICCRI. Jember is also called S-795 and originates in India.


  • Kahweol – Kahweol is a lipid found in the coffee bean and in brewed coffee. It is at higher levels in unfiltered coffee than in filtered, where it’s levels are very low. According to Wikipedia it is a diterpene molecule found in the beans of Coffea arabica. It is structurally related to cafestol. Recent research suggests that kahweol may have beneficial effects on bone by inhibiting osteoclast differentiation.[1] Another recent study confirmed that kahweol has anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects, offering a possible mechanism for the association found in epidemiological studies between consumption of unfiltered coffee and decreased risk of cancer..
  • Kent – Kent was the first useful CLR resistant cultivar; it was developed on the Kent estate in Mysore, India. Kent was widely planted but eventually was destroyed by a new wave of CLR; Coffee Leaf Rust fungus
  • Kenya – Kenya is the East African powerhouse of the coffee world. Both in the cup, and the way they run their trade, everything is topnotch. The best Kenya coffees are not sold simply as generic AA or AB. They are specific auction lots sold to the highest bidder, and heated competition drives the prices up. Their research and development is unparalleled. Their quality control is meticulous, and many thousands of small farmers are highly educated in their agricultural practice –and rewarded — for top level coffee.
    In general, this is a bright coffee that lights up the palate from front to back. It is not for people who do not like acidity in coffee (acidity being the prized bright notes in the cup due to an interrelated set of chlorogenic acids). A great Kenya is complex, and has interesting fruit (berry, citrus) flavors, sometimes alternating with spice. Some are clean and bright, others have cherished winey flavors.
  • Ketones – Along with Aldehydes, Ketones are important carbonyl compound that contribute over 20% to coffee aromatics. Formed from carbohydrates in the roast process, they result in aroma and flavor ranging from floral, herbaceous, buttery, caramel, vanilla, milky, saffron, beef, etc.
  • Kona – Kona coffee comes from farms along the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. Coffee is grown at elevations relatively low compared to other coffee-growing origins; 800 to 1500 FEET above sea level, whereas coffee in Guatemala comes from 800 to 2000 METERS. The nicer coffees come from small family farms above the old road (Mauka coffees) and are grown from Kona Typica type seeds. Note that “Cona” is the brand of vacuum coffee brewer.
  • Kona Typica– Kona is a special cultivar, Kona Typica, a traditional varietal that cannot be grown at low elevations.
  • Kopi Labu – Pumpkin coffee. The term for the soft swollen coffee bean after it is wet-hulled out of parchment in Sumatra. The softness is like pumpkin meat.
  • KVW – A decaf plant in Germany specializing in the methylene chloride solvent method. KVW stands for Kaffee Veredelungs Werk. Solvent based methods have been shown to leave insignificant traces of chemicals that are fully dispatched by roasting the coffee.


  • Lasuna – Lasuna is a coffee variety I have encountered in Sumatra, which appears to have Typica aspects in the plant form and it’s bronze colored new leaf. It is not a pure Typica
  • Latte – An espresso-based beverage with steamed silky milk on top, averaging 190-220 ml with 20 ml espresso, served in a ceramic cup or bowl.
  • Laurina – Laurina or “Bourbon Pointu” is a cultivar with low caffeine content, at .6% compared to 1-1.2% for many Arabica types, and 2.2% for some Robusta types. It is a dwarf form from Reunion island, and is highly susceptible to CLR disease.
  • Leathery – This descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the leather, and is sometimes distinguished as “fresh leather”. It is not necessarily a defect, but does describe a quality that is intense and rustic. Yemeni coffees can have leathery character as a positive attribute, but a wet-process Panama, for example, should not be leathery!
  • Liberica – Coffea Liberica is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea originating in Liberia, West Africa. It is a tree-like form, with mild cup that is more similar to Robusta in terms of the plant and the cup quality, than to Arabica. The branches and leaves have an inclined attitude in relation to the trunk, the seeds are large and skin tough. It is found in Indonesia and other parts of Asia. A varietal of Liberica, known as Baraco, is a major crop in the Philippines.
  • Liveliness – Another euphemistic term to describe acidity in coffee. A lively coffee has more high, acidic notes. Not to be confused with the brighter roast flavors of light roast levels, such as City ot City+ roasts. Read more about acidity to understand it’s use as a flavor term, not in reference to the quantity of acidity in coffee.
  • Lot – Coffee can be separated by lot in any number of ways usually by the processor to distinguish one area of the farm, a particular altitude, particular trees, a particular day’s pickings, a particular processing method, etc. For our purposes, the greater the delineation between coffees, the better; it allows us to taste new and different things in coffees that we thought we knew. Differentiating between coffees is the opposite of the commodity approach to coffee, where coffee is treated as corn or soybeans or steel, with batches being interchangeable.


  • Macchiato – A simple espresso drink: a shot of espresso with a small dollop of foamed milk on top.
  • Maillard Reaction – The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, induced by heat in the coffee roasting process. It results in the browning color of coffee (from melanoidins, which are key to espresso crema too), as well as many volatile aromatics and flavors. It is not unique to coffee, and is at work in a variety of food conversion or cooking operations: toasted bread, malted barley, roasted or seared meat, dried or condensed milk.
  • Malic Acid – malic acid often adds apple-like flavors
  • Mandheling – A trade name used for wet-hulled Sumatra coffees. It is an area and a culture group as well (spelled Mandailing often) but there is little coffee production in this area anymore. Mandheling coffees might have originated from anywhere in North Sumatra or Aceh provinces. They are graded on flavor defects in a very loose way, so a “Grade One” Mandheling might, in fact, have many physical defects.
  • Manual Grinder – A burr grinder powered by hand-turning a crank. Manual grinders can be cheaper than their electric counterparts, and they produce comparable quality grinds, but since they require a fair amount of effort to operate, they are not for everyone. Finer grinds will require more revolutions of the crank, and so take more time and effort.
  • Maracatu – As the name indicates cross between large-bean Maragogype and Catuai cultivars. It has a larger than average bean and interesting cup flavors, similar to Pacamara.
  • Maracaturra – As the name indicates cross between large-bean Maragogype and Caturra cultivars. It seems to be found most in Nicaragua, although I am not sure exactly why. It can be grown elsewhere, certainly. It has a larger than average bean and interesting cup flavors, similar to Pacamara.
  • Maragogype – Maragogype is a mutation of Typica coffee and was discovered in Brazil. The Maragogype is a large plant with big leaves, low production and very large fruits (and seeds / green beans). It has been called the “Elephant Bean coffee.” Maragogype adapts best between 2,000-2,500 feet. The mild cup characteristics and bean size were historically sought-after in Europe. Roasting can be difficult (not to mention feeding it into grinder burrs!), but sometimes Maragos can be fantastic. It benefits from gentle warm-up in the roaster, and long, gentle roast times temperature profiles.
  • Mark – Mark: We use this term to include any other significant proper name that tells of the coffee’s origin. This might be an Estate name, but it can also be an Exporter, a Beneficio (mill), or other recognized Trade name, as long as it actually signifies the quality of the coffee …and doesn’t just make it sound fancier than it is.
  • MASL – Meters Above Sea Level, altitude that is…
  • Mbuni – Also spelled M’buni or Buni, this is a Swahili term that refers to dry-process coffee. In Kenya, M’buni coffees are harvested at the end of the season and sell for much less than red rip cherry from the middle of the season, which are wet-processed.
  • Mechanical Dryer – Mechanical dryers are used as an alternative to sun-drying coffee on a patio, either due to poor weather, or when the patio does not have enough capacity. It is not considered as good as sun-drying coffee. The drum type dryer, called a Guardiola, is considered better than the vertical dryers.
  • Medicinal – A defective flavor characterized by a penetrating medicine-like, alcohol or chemical type taint flavor. This type of defect usually comes from poor processing or storage, but could indicate that the coffee has absorbed the smell of some industrial material: tainted jute bags, stored it plastic at high temperatures, etc.
  • Melange – A blend containing a coffee that has been roasted to a different levels (or steps) – light to dark.
  • Mellow – Coffee that has been hanging out in the warehouse, but not really helping out with the work, just relaxing over in the corner, can be described as “mellow coffee”. If the coffee gets up and stretches its legs every so often, it is still mellow. But if it starts to complain about being bored, it is no longer mellow.
  • Methylene Chloride Decaf – The Methylene Chloride decaf method is a solvent-based process for washing the caffeine out of coffee. Called MC decaf for short. MC decafs have been shown to leave insignificant trace amounts of solvent that are fully dispatched in the roast process.
  • Mexico – Mexican coffee originates from South-central to Southern regions of the country. For that reason, coffees from Coatepec and Veracruz are much different from Oaxacan Plumas, which are in turn much different from the Southernmost region of Chiapas. The later is a growing region bordering the Guatemalan growing area of Huehuetenango, and you will find similarities between those coffees. In general you can expect a light-bodied coffee, mild but with delicate flavors …But there are exceptions of course. Mexican is one of the largest producers of certified organic coffees, and because of the US close proximity, we receive the bulk of fine Mexican coffees in this market. Mexican coffees are worth exploring for the variety of cup characteristics they present, and their great price!
    Mexicans are moderately priced, lighter bodied, and wide-ranging in their cup character. For this reason, you need to explore coffee selections from each of the regions to get a good sense of the possibilities of Mexican coffee. Most of the impressive coffees are from Oaxaca and Chiapas.
  • Mibirizi – A Bourbon cultivar variant from Rwanda and Burundi. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it.
  • Micro-Lot – Micro-Lot is a term ripe and ready to be abused. It already is. It’s a term that designates not only a small volume of coffee, but a lot produced separately, discretely picked or processed to have special character. In other words, a Micro-lot should have been harvested from a particular cultivar, from a particular plot of land, from a particular band of altitude, processed in a separate way …or a comination of these things. Ultimately, it is the result of some concerted effort to separate and carefully prepare a lot of coffee that will have special characteristics. If a large lot of, say 250 bags, is divided up into 25 bags lots and sold to small/medium roasters, that is NOT a Micro-Lot. It also implies some experimental or investigative input on behalf of the grower, the buyer or both working in relation with each other. Further, it implies cupping of lots and making qualitative selection, in an active relationship between farmer and buyer. Many lots sold in the trade as “Micro-lot” do not meet these standards, so it becomes a marketing word, as “natural” was in the ’70s and ’80s, used to imply a vaue to a product that it does not truly possess!
  • Micro-Mill – A Micro-Mill is a tiny low-volume, farm-specific coffee producer who their lots separate, mill it themselves, gaining total control of the process, and tuning it to yield the best possible flavors (and the best price!) In Costa Rica, farmers usually belonged to large cooperative mills, or simply harvested cherry and sold it to a big mill. Large estates might have complete processing facilities. Now farmers of modest size can craft small micro-lots with complete control on scaled-down equipment from Penagos or Pinhalense.
  • Micro-Region – Micro-Region is more specific coffee-producing zone. For example, if the Country for a specific lot is Nicaragua, the region might be Nueva Segovia (a state as well), the Micro-Region might be Dipilto, and then perhaps a nearby city name would locate the coffee even further.
  • Mildewy – Off aroma and flavor that reminds one of a dank, moldy closet. This flavor can hint at a dangerous coffee mold and should not be consumed. Most common in Sumatra coffees that ship with a high moisture content, and industrial grade robusta coffees.
  • Mill – A coffee mill might mean a coffee grinder, but we usually use the term to refer to a coffee processing facility, either a Wet-Mill or a Dry Mill. A wet mill will be part of the wet-process, where coffee is pulped (peeled), fermented in concrete tanks, and then washed and dried. Then it is ready for the dry mill, which may or may not be at the same location. At the dry mill it is hulled out of the parchment skin that surrounds the green bean, classified by density and size, sometimes by color too, and bagged for export. A wet mill can be called a Washing Station or a Factory (Kenya) or a Beneficio Humido (as opposed to a Benificio Seco for a Dry Mill).
  • Minerally – A flavor or aroma reminiscent of minerals, which can be a positive characteristic if it is a secondary flavor sensation. Salty coffees can be similar to minerally coffees. This is sometimes found in softer Brazils, but we have found it in high grown lots from Guatemala, Panama and other areas, when the coffee has good quality but is not sweet. There might be a relation between old coffee trees and this flavor as well.
  • Mint – A flavor hint of mint found in coffee, which could indicate a clean and brisk mint hint, or a more rustic dried mint. It might even suggest a medicinal mint note, but this would be clear from the context it is used within. Most often we would use it to indicate a mouth-refreshing, clean, positive quality.
  • Moka Pot – Moka Pot stovetop brewers produce a dense concentrated cup that’s something between espresso and Turkish coffee. Coffee is placed into a filter between the lower chamber (that you fill with water) and the upper chamber that will contain the finished beverage after brewing. Since the water is forced through the cake of coffee by pressure, the process bears more resemblance to espresso extraction that infusion (gravity-based) brewing.
  • Mokha – Mokha Yemeni type of coffee, both in terms of the family of cultivars planted there, and the general trade name.
    The alternate spellings are Mocca, Moka, Mocha. The name refers to the former coffee port on the Red Sea called Al Mahka, and all the spellings are derived from a phonetic interpretation of the Arabic pronunciation for this town. It is no longer a coffee port, and most Yemeni coffee ships from Hodeidah, also on the Red Sea. In terms of cultivar, all types of Mokha coffee are proved to come from Harar, Ethiopia or other areas on the Eastern side of the Rift Valley. Yemeni Mokha coffee is the first commercially planted “farms” (the coffee is grown on stone walled terraces) and the source for what would become Typica and Bourbon cultivars. So all coffee comes from West Ethiopia and the Boma plateau of Sudan, then to Eastern Ethiopia and Harar via the slave trade route, then to Yemen, then to the rest of the world. Moka is an established cultivar as well, found in many ICO coffee research gardens and grown in some locales (such as Maui, Hawaii).
  • Monsooned Coffee – Monsooned coffees are stored in special warehouses until the Monsoon season comes around. The sides of the structure are opened and moist monsoon winds circulate around the coffee making it swell in size and take on a mellowed but aggressive, musty flavor. Monsooned Malabar is the Coehlo’s Gold brand from the Silver Cloud Estate. In their monsooning process, arabica coffee is spread on the floor of the special monsooning warehouse in Mangalore, raked and turned around by hand to enable them to soak in moisture of the humid winds. The monsooning process takes around 12 to 16 months of duration, where in the beans swell to twice their original size and turn into pale golden colour. Then there are additional hand-sortings to remove any coffee that did not expand properly, and the coffee is prepared for export. This is an extremely earthy, musty, pungent cup with a unique combination of caramelly finish and potent flavors. It is not for those who like a “clean” cup, or sweet coffees! By all standard definitions, this is a defective set of cup flavors. But Monsooned Malabar get’s a free pass by the coffee censors because of cultural tradition, history, and the fact that (while it doesn’t conform to the traditional ideas of good coffee) it is in it’s own right a unique coffee flavor. It has some use in espresso blending with a preparation of longer drum roasting and resting (after roasting) of 3+ days. There are Italian espresso roasting companies that use this coffee in their “exotic” blend offering, along with 2-3 other non-monsooned arabicas to even out the cup and provide aroma and some sweetness. Even as a drip/infusion brew, the coffee mellows after 2 days and the cup is more balanced so resting is key to best cup results.
  • Mouthfeel – A major component in the flavor profile of a coffee, it is a tactile sensation in the mouth used in cupping. quite literally can refer to how a coffee feels in the mouth or its apparent texture. In cupping mouthfeel is scored at light City roast level but mouthfeel can be directly affected in other ways by roast level as well, brew strength, and proper resting of the coffee after roasting. That is, Espresso and Dark Roast coffees have noticeably different mouthfeel than the same coffees at lighter levels. Body is synonymous with mouthfeel, but the latter implies a wider range of possible qualities, whereas body traditionally implies viscosity only. Mouthfeel is perceived by the trigemenal receptors, nerve fibers that surround taste buds.
  • Mucilage – Indicating the fruity layer of the coffee cherry, between the outer skin and the parchment layer that surrounds the seed.
  • Mulling Spice – A spice mix for adding flavor and aroma to a warm beverage, apple cider or wine. This mix might include all or an assortment of the following; allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and various dried fruit peels. Also see warming spices
  • Mundo Novo – Mundo Novo is a commercial coffee cultivar; a natural hybrid between “Sumatra” and Bourbon, originally grown in Brazil. In my experience, when some farmers and brokers refer to “Brazilian Bourbon coffees”, they might mean Mundo Novo. It has a rounded seed form. The plant is strong and resistant to disease. Mundo Novo has a high production, but matures slightly later than other kinds of coffee. It does well between 1000-1200 MASL, which suits Brazil coffee altitudes, with an annual rainfall of 1,200-1,800 mm.
  • Muscovado – Also known as “Barbados sugar” or “moist sugar,” it is very dark brown and slightly coarser and stickier than most brown sugars. Unlike most other brown sugars, which are made by adding molasses to refined white sugar, muscovado takes its flavor and color from its source, sugarcane juice. This is a flavor that can be found in the sweetness of dry-processed or pulp natural coffees, mostly.
  • Musty – Musty refers to an aroma and/or flavor that ranges from slight intensity to mildewy defect flavor. Unlike Mildew taint, musty can have a slight (VERY slight) positive connotation when it is extremely mild, and linked to foresty flavors in Indonesia coffees. It can also relate to the hidey, leathery flavors of dry-process Yemeni coffees. In any greater intensity, or in a coffee profile that should be clean, musty is NOT a positive quality.


  • Nematodes – Nematodes are a diverse phylum, but in terms of coffee agriculture, there are both beneficial and negative-acting nematodes. Depending on the species, a nematode may be beneficial or detrimental to plant health.
    From an agricultural perspective, there are two categories of nematode: predatory ones, which will kill garden pests like cutworms, and pest nematodes, like the root-knot nematode, which attack plants.
    Predatory nematodes can be bred by soaking a specific recipe of leaves and other detritus in water, in a dark, cool place, and can even be purchased as an organic form of pest control. Rotations of plants with nematode resistant species or varieties is one means of managing parasitic nematode infestations. For example, marigolds, grown over one or more seasons (the effective is cumulative), can be used to control nematodes.[11] Another is treatment with natural antagonists such as the fungus gliocladium roseum.
  • New Crop – Refers to fresh shipments of green coffee within the first month or two of the earliest arrivals … not quite the same as Current Crop.
  • New York “C” – The New York “C” market is the NYBOT (New York Board of Trade) trading platform for arabica coffees that determine base contract pricing. Prices on coffee futures are fixed against the C market.
  • Nicaragua – Nicaraguan coffees from the Segovia, Jinotega and Matagalpa regions are underrated. They often possess interesting cup character along with body and balance, outperforming many other balanced Central American and South American high-grown coffees in the cup. Nicaragua coffees have a wide range of flavor attributes: Some cup like Mexican coffees from Oaxaca, others like Guatemala. Some are citrusy and bright, such as the coffees of Dipilto in Nueva Segovia department. For me, Jinotega and Matagalpa coffees can demonstrate their remarkable versatility in a wide range of roasts, from light City roast through Full City and into the Vienna range. The botanical cultivars utilized are traditional: Typica, some Bourbon and Maragogype dominate, along with Caturra and Paca. There is some of the dreaded Catimor varietal, but many farms have removed it after the “catimor craze” 10-20 years ago.
    Good Nicaraguan coffees are considered a “classic” cup: great body, clean flavor, and balance. They are unique among Centrals in the fact that the highest grown (SHG grade: Strictly High Grown) do not develop the pronounced and sharp acidity of other Centrals. In season, we offer some new “exotic” cultivar coffees too, a Pacamara Peaberry , a longberry “Java” cultivar, and the large bean Maragogype. Pulp Natural process is also a variation that gives the cup great body and a slightly rustic fruited layer.
  • Nitrogen Flushing – Pushing nitrogen, an unreactive gas, into a bag of coffee to force out oxygen, which is more reactive. Nitrogen flushing is often done as part of vacuum packaging, since vacuuming out oxygen is not sufficient to remove all oxygen in a bag.
  • Nutty – Nutty is a broad flavor term, reminiscent of nuts. It is tied intrinsically to roast taste and the degree of roast, since a coffee that cups nutty at City+ will not be so at FC+. Nutty is usually a positive term but varies greatly as there are so many forms: hazelnut, walnuts, peanut, cashew, almond, etc. Occasionally, nutty can be a negative taste term, especially if it is out of character for a coffee. Some lower grown coffees can have less favorable nut flavors that imply a softness in bean density, and lack of quality. Nut skins is also a flavor tied to a drying, slightly astringent mouthfeel.


  • Onan Ganjang – Onan Ganjang is a locality in North Sumatra within the greater “Lintong” or Tapanuli growing area. It is also used as the name of a local cultivar from the area Onan Ganjang. The coffee has unique characteristics but the original heredity of the plant is not known. It is a pure arabica (not Catimor or Hibrido de Timor/Robusta in origin) and has some Bourbon and Typica-like features.
  • Orange Bourbon – A variation of Bourbon that ripens to an orange color. While the cup quality is excellent, the added challenge to harvest ripe cherries is daunting. (With red bourbon, determining ripe color is easier for the pickers). Found mainly in El Salvador. See Bourbon for the full definition.
  • Organic – Organic coffee has been grown according to organic farming techniques, typically without the use of artificial fertilizers. Some farms have more local Organic Certification than the more well-known USDA Organic branding. In the US, when the “organic” label is used, it means (or it should mean) that the coffee is certified organic. There are plenty of areas where farmers are too poor to afford pesticides and so use other non-chemical methods to manage production and pests, but alas, they are also too poor to afford organic certification. In areas where coffee is handled many times between the farmer and the mill, and hence the exact location of its production is not known, organic certification is unavailable.
  • Organoleptic – Organoleptic refers to any sensory properties of, in this case, the coffee beverage. It involves flavor, color, odor and mouthfeel. Organoleptic testing involves inspection through visual examination, smelling and tasting. In coffee we call this form of sensory analysis “Cupping”.
  • Origin – In coffee talk, it refers to a coffee-producing region or country; such as, “I was just at origin.”
  • Origin Flavor – Origin Flavor is a term we started to use in distinction to “Roast Taste”. Origin flavors (from specific fruit, berry, floral, herbal, confectionary, food-like, etc.) are broader in scope that roast-derived notes. Roast flavors are often described as sweet to bittersweet, caramel to chocolate to burnt, and might be found across coffee growing regions. These are conceptually useful, but we acknowledge they are flawed distinctions since the compounds that form “roast taste” flavors are inextricably linked to the compounds that result in the “origin” flavors. But to describe the way that dark roast tastes eclipse origin distinctness of coffee, it is useful. The term “Origin Distinctness” is a related concept, as well as Cultivar Flavor.
  • Outturn – An outturn is a term used in East Africa to describe a dry mill “batch” from a particular estate or coop. Each Outturn will be separated into AA, AB, Peaberry and other lower grades.


  • Pacamara – As the name implies, Pacamara is a large bean cultivar, a cross between Pacas and Maragogype with unique flavor properties. This variant originated in El Salvador in 1958, and has spread to nearby Central American countries, but is still chiefly grown in El Salvador. It has unique flavors that range from chocolate and fruit, to herbal or, in the worse coffees, vegetal (green onion specifically).
  • Pacas – Pacas is a natural mutation of Bourbon cultivar that appeared in El Savador in 1949. It has good cup character, and is an input into Pacamara cultivar as well. Caturra and Villa Sarchi are also natural dwarf Bourbon mutations. In the cup, I find it similar to Bourbon in many ways, and the shrub is more wind-resistant than Bourbon.
  • Pache – Pache is a dwarf mutation of Typica coffee first observed at Finca El Brito, Guatemala. It is also called Pache Comun. A varitety called Pache Colis is a cross of Caturra and Pache Comun, and is extremely short in form.
  • Panama – Panama coffee was historically under-rated and overlooked. That perception has been corrected in recent years with the outstanding Best of Panama competition held each year, attracting global competition for the best lots, and spectacular prices. The Gesha cultivar produced in some of the small coffee estates has also garnered heaps of attention for it’s unique floral cup character.
    Panama coffees are brightly toned with vivid floral aromatics and clean fruited notes. They outcup many higher priced coffees and the cup character is obvious, quality is consistent. Cheaper Panamas sold as BEP are a staple of higher-end commercial roasters and lower-end specialty roasters. There are many lower-grown Panamas that are ubiquitous in the U.S. market and of little interest to us here. It’s just the Boquete coffees from the Chirqui district, ones from small family-owned farms that produce the truly distinct, unique coffees. They employ N’gbe Indians for the picking season, who will come to the coffee farms to work under some of the best wage standards and work laws in Central America.
  • Panela – Found in Colombia (and noted to be best in Pitalito and Pedregal), Panela is tan-colored cakes of sugar that are not fully refined. They can range from caramel-vanilla flavors to floral. From Wikipedia: The sugarcane plant is processed in a large press, to obtain the juice, which is cooked at very high temperatures. The panela can be manufactured in disc-shaped pieces or in cubic pieces of cake form and is usually gold or brown in color. Besides sugar, panela also contains large amounts of proteins, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid. In other countries I have heard it called Panocha and Chancaca. It is sometimes called Piloncillo in Mexico.
  • Papilla – Papilla (or Papillae in plural) mushroom-like projections on the tongue that contain taste buds. These perceive basic flavors and textures, whereas much of what is sensed as flavor is informed by the aromatics perceived by the olfactory.
    There are 4 types of papilla on the palate:
    • Circumvallate papillae (contains taste buds)
    • Fungiform papilla (contains taste buds)
    • Filiform papilla (does not contain taste buds)
    • Foliate papillae (contains taste buds)
  • Papua New Guinea – Papua New Guinea is a distinct coffee among the Indonesians, even though it doesn’t even have an entire island to call it’s own. Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island it shares with the Indonesian provice of Irian Jaya (no organized coffee production originates from Irian Jaya). The small-farm “Coffee Gardens” have a unique wild note in the cup but are in no way as earthy as other Indonesian coffees such as Sumatra and Sulawesi. These small farms are often organized into coops that share wet-milling facilities and are Organic certified,
    The Plantation coffees are the larger farms and have the cleaner, more delicate and sophisticated cup character. While a lighter body than Javas, good PNG has the delicate notes, complexity, and sometimes the acidity or brightness of the best Central Americans.
  • Parchment – Green coffee still in it’s outer shell, before dry-milling, is called Parchment coffee (pergamino). In the wet process, coffee is peeled, fermented, washed and then ready for drying on the patio, bed, or a mechanical dryer. It is called parchment coffee because it is protected by an outer shell, which will be removed as the first step of dry milling, when the coffee is ready to export. While in parchment, it is critical that parchment coffee is rested for between 30-60 days. In Spanish, parchment coffee is called pergamino.
  • Passionfruit – It is native to South America and widely grown in India, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, California, southern Florida, Hawaii, Australia, East Africa, Israel and South Africa. The passion fruit is round to oval, yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit can be grown to eat or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma. It is known as Maracuya, or Maracuja in Latin America
  • Past Crop – Refers to an older coffee not from the “New Crop” or the “Current Crop”. Cuppers will even use it as a general term for baggy, old hay or straw flavors; faded sensations of what it might have been when the green coffee was fresh; Past-Cropish
  • Patio-Drying – Patio-drying is a term to indicate that a coffee was dried in the sun after processing, on a paved or brick patio. Drying in the sun is the traditional method and is slower and more gentle than mechanical drying techniques. Coffee is raked on the patio to ensure even drying from top to bottom. Even better is screen-drying on raised “beds” which allows for air movement through the coffee.
  • Peaberry Coffee – is the dried seed from the fruit of a flowering tree – each fruit having 2 seeds facing each other (the flat side of the coffee “bean”) or in the case of the peaberry, a single rounded seed. On the coffee tree, there is usually a percentage of fruit that has one seed within, ie a peaberry, and many more that are “flat beans” with the usual 2 seeds per fruit.
  • Peak Of Harvest – In some coffee-producing origins, there is a period of time in the middle of the crop where the higher altitudes mature, and where each tree has the highest percentage of mature cherry. Under the best conditions, this is a time when the cup is possibly better, because the pickers bring in fewer under-ripe green cherries, and because the most dense, slow-to-mature cherries are including in their pickings. Of course, other problems can emerge (too much coffee cherry, the mill can’t keep up, ripe cherry sits) that actually work against this heavy load; it would be lazy to say “mid-harvest” coffee is better. But it is rarely true that the very first pickings, nor the last where the trees are being “cleaned” of cherry yield good results.
  • Penagos – Peñagos is a Colombian company that produces demucilage coffee processors. This is a forced demucilage machine that uses little water, and removes the coffee fruit layer from the parchment seed using friction and a small amount of water. It is key to the newer Micro-Mill facilities. With this machine, you can adjust the water pressure level, and control exactly how much mucilage to leave on the seed; you can produce a fully-washed style coffee, or a pulp-natural style coffee.
  • Percolator – A type of coffee brewer where water is “percolated” through a mass of ground coffee to extract the flavor. Was much in use in mid-19th century US. Often associated with bad coffee, percolators can actually produce a good flavored brew when using good coffee and the equipment is kept clean. Still the best way to produce a large quantity of coffee at once, hence their use (usually as large urns) in hotels and catering.
  • Peru – Organic Peru … you can get it anywhere now. It is usually the cheapest certified Organic coffee on the market, it’s the “blender” coffee of Organics. And it is threatening to lower prices for organic coffee farmers globally. The Peruvian coffee industry took note of the premium prices paid for Organic coffee, and realized they could produce Organic for less cost, focusing on quantity, not quality. They wanted to be to Organic coffee what Vietnam is to robusta. There are stories of forest being clear-cut for organic farm (it takes 3 years for an existing farm to become certified organic… not so with a “new” farm. I doubt the image of cutting forest to grow organic product is an image consumers have in mind … then again, it’s Organic and it’s cheapest per lb. roasted. Well, you get what you pay for. The problem is, the Peruvian organic coffee glut forces quality-oriented farmers within Peru and everywhere else too to accept lower prices for their crop in order to compete. And a farm that is trying to produce a truly excellent coffee in a conscientious way cannot compete with a larger quantity-oriented farm, whether its a co-op or not. Cup a cheap organic Peru versus a high quality Organic Peru and the differences are profound: not only do the cheap ones have little to no positive qualities, they also have defective taints in the cup, grassy, fermenty notes in particular.
    Okay, I am a little cynical about Peruvian coffee. It’s not because there aren’t good lots though. They do exist and it takes some detective work to find them. After all, Peru is a hugely varied land and they produce a lot of different coffees. It’s the land of the Incas and by most measures a latecomer in the modern world coffee trade. Peruvian offerings are hardly mentioned in William Ukers 1936 edition of All About Coffee and have not been well thought of due to an indelicate, blunted acidity that doesn’t have the refinement of the Centrals. I think a lot of this is historical bias because Peru can produce some very fine coffees. In general, these coffees have Central American brightness but in a South American coffee flavor package overall. The good organic lots do have more of a “rustic” coffee character. As long as it is kept in check and does not dominate the cup, this can add interest to the flavor rather than detract. The cup has it all, body, brightness and good depth in the flavors. While there are still mediocre arrivals, it doesn’t take much cupping to find a really good one. The Chanchamayo is usually (but not necessarily) the top region, but good Norte and Cuzco from the south are out there. Buy the first Peru you are offered and you are bound for cup troubles. Poorly processed coffee, coffee with defects, might fool the cupper at first, but 2 months down the line the coffee fades, the acidity fails, baggy flavors emerge, and you know you made a bad decision. It’s a lot of work to find a good lot among the abundance offered by brokers and other channels, and it takes slogging through a lot of samples to find them though.
  • Phenols – Phenols are a set of organic compounds, relatively stable, that contribute to coffee aroma and flavor. They can have negative characteristics: tarry, smokey, medicinal, woody, leathery. But, especially at lower levels, can be spicy, vanilla, clove, anise, even floral in nature. Phenols are mainly derived from Chlorogenic acids.
  • Phosphoric Acid – more phosphoric acid might lead to the sense of higher acidity overall.
  • Piney – A slightly resinous pine sap flavor, unusual but attractive in some cases.
  • Pinhalense – A Brazilian coffee equipment manufacturer, that produces a wide range of equipment for wet-mills and dry-mills, coffee hullers, density sorters, graders, screening machines, roasters, dryers etc. They make a forced demucilage machine to compete with the Penagos from Colombia.
  • Pink Bourbon – A rare variation of Bourbon that ripens to a pink color. It is called Bourbon Roseado in some latin countries. The cup is purported to be fantastic, but finding stable plants that will consistently produce the pink fruit is difficult. The added challenge to harvest ripe cherries is daunting. (With red bourbon, determining ripe color is easier for the pickers). See Bourbon for the full definition.
  • Piquant – Meaning pleasantly pungent or zesty in taste, spicy, provocative, sapid.
  • Pomelo – Ancestral grapefruit from Southeast Asia – it has mild grapefruit flavor but low bitterness. In a coffee description , this mean a mild and not-so-aggressive citrus flavor, or citric acidity.
  • Portafilter – The part of an espresso machine which holds the filter basket, into which coffee grounds are placed.
  • Potato Defect – Research conducted by CIRAD and OCIBU over a six year period in Burundi has shown this off-flavor to be caused by a yet unidentified bacterial agent that enters the cherry skin and produces a pyrazine chemical toxin that binds to the forming green beans. They first thought it was caused by a bacterial transmission via an insect vector, the Antestia bug that pierces the coffee cherry wall and sucks sugars; but later they concluded that anything that pierces the cherry wall can allow the bacteria to enter and eventually release the the nasty pyrazine-based toxin. Because you can’t detect it until you roast it, this defect is a real bummer for roasting companies and a real challenge for research. – Culled from Tim Schilling’s blog post on the topic, since it is the best description of the defect that is out there…
  • Pour-Over Drip – New attention is being given to pour-over drip brewing, but the terminology is definitely not set yet. Pour-over drip brewing is simple and can yield great results based on technique. The older methods are Chemex and Melitta type filter cones. These use paper filters, usually. Newer types are the Hario V60, a modified ceramic come with a large orifice like the Chemex, and the Clever Coffee Dripper.
  • Pre-infusion – An espresso machine is said to use pre-infusion if it applies a moderate amount of pressure to the coffee before applying full brew pressure. Pre-infusion is often said to improve extraction by causing the coffee to swell, filling fissures in the puck that might otherwise cause channeling.
  • Preparation – Preparation refers to the dry-milling steps of preparing coffee for export: hulling, grading, classifying, sorting. Sorting means using density sorters (like the Oliver table), optical color sorting, and hand sorting. Then the coffee is bagged and ready to load in the shipping container. EP is a standard called Euro Prep.


  • Qishr – Qishr is an infused tea beverage that you make using the dried coffee husks of the coffee fruit, a by-product of of the natural dry-process method. How to brew it? The husks themselves do not need to be ground – you can brew it as it comes to you from us. Use the same proportions as coffee brewing, one SCAA coffee scoop of Qishr to 5 oz very hot water. I make it just as you “cup” coffee, put one scoop in a cup, pour over with water just off a boil. It benefits greatly from stirring during infusion. Steep 4-6+ minutes. The husks will (mostly) sink, and you can simply drink right from the cup. It actually improves as it steeps longer. Of course you can use tea-brewing devices, but a tea ball won’t be large enough, generally. You can use a woven tea basket. But, you can make Qishr best in a French Press if you are preparing more than one cup. To make the flavored Yemen Ginger Tea with Qishr you boil it with the hot water and other additives. In Ethiopia, I am told they roast the Qishr first, but I am not familiar with this technique
  • Quakers – A quaker is an industry term to describe under-ripe, undeveloped coffee seeds that fail to roast properly. These are most often the result of unripe, green coffee cherry making it into the final product. Normally, these are skimmed off as floaters (in the wet-process) or visually removed in the dry-process method. They are removed on the density table (Oliver table) as well. They occur much more often in dry-process coffees due to the lack of water flotation of the fruit, and the difficult task of removing them visually. Even the best coffees might have occasional quakers, and they can be removed post-roast when they are easy to see. Under-developed coffees do not have the compounds to have a proper browning reaction in the roaster (Maillard Reaction, caramelization), so they remain pale in color.
  • Quinic Acid – Qunic acid is another double-edged proposition in coffee. In moderate amounts it adds a slight astringency, positive in brighter coffees such as Kenyas or high-grown Centrals. Because of how it reacts with salivary glands, this can lead to heightened senses of body. But too much leads to sour, unfavorable astringency. Chlorogenic acids are largely transformed to quinic acids in the roast process. Quinic Acid melts in pure crystalline form at 325 degrees E, well below the temperatures associated with the roasting environment. Quinic Acid is water soluble and imparts a slightly sour (not unfavorably as in fermented beans) and sharp quality, which adds to the character and complexity of the cup. Surprisingly, it adds cleanness to the finish of the cup as well. it is a stable compound at roasting temperatures.


  • Rainforest Alliance – Rainforest Alliance certification is a broad certification guaranteeing that an agricultural product has met certain economic, ecological, and social standards.
  • Raised Beds – Raised beds, also refered to as “african-style beds” are elevated beds used for drying coffee when dry-processing. Coffee can either be dried on raised beds or patio-dried (dried on the ground). Raised beds promote airflow, and thus they may promote even and rapid drying.
  • Rambung – An Ethiopia cultivar brought to Java in 1928, along with a type called Abyssinia
  • Refined Sugar – Refined sugar refers to common white sugar. In coffee tasting, it refers to a clear, clean sweetness, with an absence of other characteristics, as might be found in Muscavado, Turbinado or Brown sugars.
  • Region – Region is a more specific area within the country. Arabica coffee grows roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Country of Origin is where the coffee is grown in general terms. Micro-Region is more specific. For example of a Country for a specific lot is Nicaragua, the region might be Nueva Segovia ( a state as well, the Micro-Region might be Dipilto, and then perhaps a nearby city name would locate the coffee even further.
  • Resting – Resting might refer to “reposo”, the time after drying the parchment coffee, when it is held for 30-60 days to stabilize. In Brazil, the reposo time is longer. This step is critical for longevity of the coffee and occurs before processing/removal of the parchment. Coffee that is not rested in this way will fade quickly, becoming baggy.
    Resting might also refer to the step after home roasting a batch; coffee brewed immediately has so much C0-2 coming off it that it prevents good extraction or infusion of water. Also, certain characteristics are not developed immediately after roasting, such as body. A rest of 12-24 hours is recommended, or up to 3-5 days for some espresso coffees.
  • Restrained – A descriptive term I use to communicate a well-structured, classic, clean flavor profile from a wet-processed coffee. This would be in opposition to coffees with exotic character, flamboyant and “loud”, a fruity dry process coffee, a gesha coffee, etc. But restrained coffees are great “daily drinkers”, and more approachable as well.
  • RFA – Rain Forest Alliance designation for coffee grown under sustainable conditions working towards organic farming when possible. RFA certification is applied in a sensible way, working with farmers to employ best practices for water and soil management. It is considered at easier certification to receive than a USDA compatible Organic certificate, as the use of nitrogen fertilizers and moderate use of pesticide is allowed.
  • Rich – Rich almost never refers to coffee, but instead to the coffee buyer who can afford over-priced Jamaica Blue Mountain and such.
  • Rio Zona – The lowest grade in the Brazil scoring system
  • Rioy – Result of continued enzyme activity when coffee beans remain in the fruit and the fruit dries on the shrub. Usually associated with natural processed coffees grown in Brazil. The Brazil grading rates coffee as Strictly Soft (the best), Soft, ‘Soft-ish’, Hard (+1, +2), Riado, Rioy, Rio Zona (the worst).
  • Ristretto – A smaller version of espresso where extraction is restricted is called a Ristretto. While espresso averages 20 ml, a ristretto is 15 ml.
  • Roast Defect – Roast defects indicate a problem with the roasting machine or process, resulting in off flavors in the cup. These are distinct from flavor defects that are a result of green coffee processing, or other factors from the plant itself. While roasting cannot make bad coffee good, it can easily make good coffee bad! Roast defects are sometimes characterized by a lack of sweetness, whether that be caramel, sugar, chocolate, syrup, etc.
  • Roast Profile – Roast Profile refers to the relationship between time and temperature in coffee roasting, with the endpoint being the “degree of roast”. Roast profiling is the active manipulation of the “roast curve” or graphed plot of bean temperature during the roast, to optimize the results in terms of flavor. Two batches might be roasted to the exact same degree of roast, temperature endpoint or time, and have very different cup results due to different roast profiles. It’s not just important how dark a coffee is roasted, it is equally important how it got there, and that is expressed in the roast profile.
  • Roast Taste – Roast Taste is a term we started to distinguish it from “Origin Flavor”. We use the “roast taste” term define the set of flavors that result from the degree-of-roast, how light or dark a coffee is roasted. These are flavors related to caramelization, the browning of sugars, or other roast reactions. The wide range of flavors from sweet to bittersweet, from caramel to chocolate to carbony burnt tones, are the ones most often assigned to the set of “roast tastes”. These are conceptually useful, but flawed distinctions since the compounds that form “roast taste” flavors are inextricably linked to the compounds that result in the “origin” flavors. But to describe the way that dark roast tastes eclipse origin distinctness of coffee, it is useful.
  • Roasted Coffee Storage – As coffee rests after roasting, it releases CO2. This process is called “out gassing”. This generally prevents staling, or oxidation, for the first few days of a roast. Dark roasts will out gas longer than medium or light roasts, and hence they can benefit from a longer resting period. Generally coffee is best rested for 24 hours before brewing. Once cool, roasted coffee is best stored in an air tight container or container with a one-way valve designed to release CO2. Roasted coffee can be double wrapped and placed in a freezer and left there to prolong its freshness. Once you are using the coffee, it is best to leave it out at room temperature and not store it in the freezer as the temperature changes are not good for the coffee.
  • Roasting – Coffee roasting is a chemical process induced by heat, by which aromatics, acids, and other flavor components are either created, balanced, or altered in a way that should augment the flavor, acidity, aftertaste and body of the coffee as desired by the roaster. Pyrolysis, Caramelization and the Maillard Reaction are several thermal events that are important to the conversion of the many complex raw materials in the green coffee seed to positive flavor attributes in the roasted coffee bean.
  • Robusta – Robusta usually refers to Coffea Robusta, responsible for roughly 25% of the world’s commercial coffee. Taxonomy of Robusta is debated: some sources use “Robusta” to refer to any variety of Coffea Canephora, and some use “Robusta” as a species name. Caffeine content of Robusta beans is about twice that of Arabica.
    Robusta can be used in espresso blending to increase body and crema content.
  • Round – Usually referring to mouthfeel, a sense of completeness and fullness
  • Rubbery – A taste fault giving the coffee beans a highly pronounced burnt-rubber character. Result of continued enzyme activity in the coffee bean when it remains in the fruit and the fruit is allowed to dry on the shrub. Usually associated with natural processed robusta coffees grown in Africa.
  • Ruiru 11 – Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the ’70s and released in 1986. The initial test were with Hibrido de Timor (a cross between Arabica and Robusta, resistant to Coffee Leaf Rust) and Rume Sudan, an original coffee strain resistant to CBD, Coffee Berry Disease. Later they added SL-28 and SL-34 and K-7 inputs due to poor cup character of the early tests. The Robusta content of Ruiru 11 is still an issue, and the cup does not match the quality of the SL types.
  • Rust Fungus – Rust Fungus is a big problem in Colombia, but is found in many coffee producing countries. Known as La Roya in the Americas, this disease diminishes fruit production and ultimately kills the plant. Combating the disease with selectively-applied fungicides, especially in seasons with heavy rains, is key to saving the coffee plants.
  • Rustic – What is Rustic? This is a general term we came up with: A general characterization of pleasanty “natural” flavors, less spohisticated and less refined, but appealing. Dried Apricots from Sunmaid at the supermarket, vs. unsulphered dried apricots from the bin at the Health Food Coop. White sugar vs. Muscovado natural dry brown sugar. Buckwheat pancakes vs Bisquick. Bacon from the supermarket vs bacon from the farm. None of those are what I am talking about with the Robusta, but rustic is a lower process level in general, and might involve more earthy, woody, foresty, mushroom, mossy hints like a Sumatra, or might be more fruity, pulpy, winey, ripe fruit, light ferment, balsamic vinegar etc etc in a fruited natural coffee. Sometimes I refer to lemonade from a mix and homemade honey lemonade, hand-pulped, etc. So it’s a very general and broad comparison. It could be made along many flavor lines, such as fruity, or sweet, or herbal (which tends to be weighted toward rustic), or even floral. Very clean coffees, traditional wet process types, would rarely have rustic flavors. Natural dry-process coffees would almost always have rustic flavors. Hybrid processes such as pulp natural (miel or honey coffees) range between wet- and dry-process. Mechanical demucilage coffees can be very clean, very rustic, or anything inbetween depending on process conditions.
  • Rwanda – Rwandan coffee was, at one time, rarely seen inNorth America as either a Specialty grade or low-end commercial coffee. There simply was not that much coffee produced in Rwanda that went anywhere besides one particular importer in Belgium, the former colonizer of the country. It is believed that coffee was introduced in Rwanda in 1904 by German missionaries. Around 1930, a considerable interest in coffee developed as it was the sole revenues generating commodity for rural families. The government encouraged (actually, they mandated) low quality, high-volume production. Even with this low grade coffee production, coffee played a considerable role in the economic development of the country because it was one of the few cash crops.


  • S-Line – S-line coffees include the heavily planted S795 and the earlier S288, which have good rust (CLR) fungus resistance. In Indonesia they are planted widely as well, and called Linie S, found in Lintong, Aceh, Flores, Sulawesi, Papua, Bali and Java.
  • S.288 – Selection 288, a coffee leaf rust (CLR) resistant strain of arabica released by the Coffee Board of India in 1937
  • S795 – S795 is a hardy variety developed in India, and stands for Selection 795, a cross of S288 and the older Kent variety. It has strong CLR Rust fungus resistance, and is widely planted in India. S-line coffees are also in Indonesia.
  • Sage – A flavor hint of sage found in coffee, either leafy sage, dried sage, or sage flower. This could indicate a more rustic cup quality, or even defect flavor in dried sage, or a very clean floral aspect.
  • Sailor – As the name intimates, these berries float. They are white or nearly white, not having the waxiness of normal coffee, appearing as though deficient in fat. Goes well with Quakers.
  • Salty – Salty is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, saltiness is not usually a positive quality, but more moderate amounts related to minerally flavors can be positive. We have found some Brazil coffees to have salty and mineral-like character.
  • Sapid Flavors – Pleasant tastes, referring to “in the mouth” sensations derived from the basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory (umami). In a broader sense, sapid means “pleasing to the mind”, referring to the intersection between pleasant sensory input and mental enjoyment.
  • Sarchimor – Sarchimor is a disease-resitant Catimor-relative, crossed between Villa Sarchi and Hibrido de Timor
  • SCAA – The SCAA stands for Specialty Coffee Association of America, and is a trade group. The SCAA was formed by a group of roasters and importers who felt they did not have a trade association that represented their interests. The main commercial coffee group is the the NCA (National Coffee Association), which tends to cater to larger roasters, although that has changed over time. The annual SCAA trade show in one of the major gatherings for coffee people from all parts of the business, and all over the world. There is also the SCAE for Europe and SCAJ for Japan, who also have smaller trade shows each year.
  • Scale – Mineral buildup formed over time as hard water is heated in a boiler. Excess scale causes brew problems and eventually shortens the life of a machine, so espresso machines and brewers should be regularly descaled.
  • Scorching – Scorching refers to a roast error that can be discerned by inspecting the roasted coffee, where darker burn marks appear in patches, especially on the flat surfaces. These can be seen as the coffee reaches 1st crack, but can sometimes be hidden by roast color at darker roast levels. But the flavor defect that results will remain. It can easily be tasted in the cup; burnt or smoke flavors, or a lack of sweetness. It is usually the result of an over-heated roast environment (initial drum temperature too high), or over-charged roast drum (too much coffee in the drum, or possibly not enough air movement. Natural coffees from lower-grown sites can be more susceptible to tipping and scorching. Scorching is also called Facing.
  • Scott Laboratories – The Kenya research organization that was contracted with cultivar development from 1934-1963. Scott Labs was responsible for the development of the SL varieties, based on the Mokka and Bourbon types brought by the Scottish Mission and French Mission to Kenya from Yemen and Bourbon island.
  • Scottish Mission – The Scottish Mission introduced Mokka coffee from Yemen to their site in Kibwezi Kenya in 1893, and later at Kikuyu. These were called the St. Austin and St. Augustine types in Yemen, but morphed into something new in Kenya. The French Mission coffee introduced from Tanzania to Kenya a few years later (1897) was more popular and had better characteristics.
  • Screen-drying – Screen-drying is also called Raised Bed or Africa Bed drying because of it’s original use in Ethiopia. It is a method of drying coffee in the sun, laying it on elevated screens or mats to allow air movement through the coffee. It is now used in many countries because it allows for even drying with both sun and convective air movements through the elevated coffee beds. It is considered better than Patio-drying by many.
  • Screening – Running coffee through a screen with holes of a fixed size to sort beans for size.
  • Second Crack – Second Crack is the second audible clue the roaster-operator receives about the degree-of-roast, following First Crack. Whereas First Crack sounds a bit like popcorn popping, Second Crack has a faster, shallower patter, much like Rice Krispies in milk, electrical sparking, a snapping sound. Second crack is a further stage of the pyrolytic conversion of compounds in coffee and occurs around 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The 2nd crack is a physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee, and results in an eventual migration of oils to the outside of the bean, as they are freed from their chambers within the coffee. When second crack is volatile, it can blow small discs off the coffee bean.
  • Semi-Washed – Semi-washed has been used, most commonly in Brazil, to describe a hybrid coffee process. But it is uncertain if the term always indicates the same method. Semi-washed coffees are also very common in Sumatra, where they are called Giling Basah. Semi-washed coffees are best described as “wet-hulled”, and will have more body and often more of the “character” that makes Indonesians so appealing and slightly funky. In this process, the parchment coffee (the green seed with the parchment shell still attached) is very marginally dried, then stripped of the outer layer, revealing a white-colored, swollen green bean. Then the drying is completed on the patio (or in some cases, on the dirt), and the seed quickly turns to a dark green color.
  • Semperflorens – Semperflorens is a mutant cultivar with Bourbon genetic background, named for the fact it flowers year round (is resistant to photoperiodism). It was found in Brazil in 1934.
  • Sensory Analysis – Sensory Analysis is a broader term for all qualitative evaluation of food and beverage. In coffee, it is a better term for what we call “cupping”
  • Shade Grown – An ambiguous term used to describe coffee grown under shade. Shade grown coffee is said to better preserve animal habitats and avoid mono-culture on farms, but the truth of this may depend on the growing region. If a farm exists on the top of an arid plateau, for instance, it might be above the tree-line and, hence, naturally exposed to the sun. “Shade Grown” is also not an official certification (e.g. “Organic,” “Fair Trade”), so no official standards for determining “shade grown” status exist.
  • Sidikalang – Sidikalang is found less and less frequently in Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia. Much of the Typica was lost in the late 1880s, when Coffee Leaf Rust swept through Indonesia. However, both the Bergendal and Sidikalang varieties of Typica can still be found in Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Flores, especially at higher altitudes and in remote areas.
  • Silky – A mouthfeel description indicating a delicate, light, elegant softness and smoothness. Usually refers to a lighter body than terms such as velvety, or creamy.
  • Silverskin – On dried green bean coffee, the thin inner-parchment layer that clings to the bean and lines the crease on the flat side. Silverskin becomes chaff and falls off the bean during roasting. It is a fine inner layer coating the seed, between the thicker parchment and the bean. Formerly, dry mills would polish coffee to remove the silverskin, since the coffee looked better to the buyer. But this generates heat that damages cup quality, so the polishing step is discouraged.
  • Single Origin – Single Origin refers to coffee from one location, in contrast to blended coffee. This term is particularly useful in discussing espresso, since most commercial espressos are made from blends. This is what the term “SO Espresso” means.
  • Skunky – tipping or scorching of coffee.
  • SL-28 – Scot Labs selection 28 Kenya cultivar, a preferred type with Bourbon and Mokka heritage. It supposedly is selected from Tanganyika DR cultivar, found by A.D. Trench on a trip through Tanzania, and has similar drought resistant properties. DR is of French Mission Bourbon origin. Many prefer SL-28 to the other successful, sidely used cultivar, SL-34.
  • SL-34 – Scott Labs selection 34 Kenya cultivar, a preferred type with French Mission Bourbon heritage. It supposedly is selected from French Mission Bourbon trees at Loresho Estate in Kabete Kenya. SL types are responsible for 90% of Kenya coffees. SL_34 has better yields than SL-28, and is grown at lower altitudes than SL-28
  • Smokey – This smell and flavor is similar to fireplace effluence, campfire, or burnt food. Dark-roasted or oven-roasted coffees can have smokey flavors, or roasters where the air is recycled in the roast drum (or does not vent at all). Sometimes green coffee can have a smokey hint, and this might be found in the roasted coffee too, suggesting bad mechanical drying at the coffee mill. Smokey hints might be a positive quality in certain exotic coffees (Monsooned India, Aged Java and Aged Sumatra come to mind) or in rustic Yemeni coffees.
  • SO Espresso – Short for Single Origin espresso, meaning using one origin specific coffee to make espresso, as opposed to using a blended coffee.
  • Soft– Brazil has it’s own grading system for coffee, and Soft is the grade just under Strictly Soft, meant to describe clean, mild cup flavors, and as opposed to “Hard” the grade below it.
  • Sorting – Sorting refers to several steps performed in the preparation of coffee for export. Coffee is sorted by size on a grader or screener (and peaberry is sometimes removed as well). It is sorted by density on a density table (Oliver table, or rarely an air density sorter). It is sorted by color with a high tech optical color sorter, and/or by hand, visually.
  • Sour – Sour is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sourness in moderate amounts os favorable, although the term has negative connotations. Sourness can result from too-light roasts, which have a corresponding bitterness. It can also be the result of acidity, which is usually a favorable characteristic.
  • Sour Bean – A “sour” is a physical coffee bean defect due to excess fermentation where bacteria or xerophilic mold attack the seed. They range from yellow to brown in color, and can occur from several conditions: over-fermentation, falling to the ground, excessive time between harvest from the tree and processing. The favor from sours is (no surprise) sour, fermented, acetic, fruity, sulfurous, vinegary.
  • South American Coffee – South American coffee varies widely from country to country, from chocolaty semi-washed Brazils to lighter Colombias, Organic Peru coffees to high grown Bolivia. No specific flavor can be attributed to South American coffees.
  • Sparkles – Sparkles is a key coffee quality term, and refers to brightness in the cup. Bright things often shine, both visually and in a gustatory sense, and that is expressed among tradespeople as sparkley, sparkles, or “this coffee is well-sparkled.” It is not related to crystals, as in the proprietary “flavor crystals”.
  • Specialty Coffee – Specialty coffee was a term devised to mean higher levels of green coffee quality than average “industrial coffee” or “commercial coffee”. At this point, the term is of limited use, since every multi-national coffee broker opened a “specialty division” and because, under the same term, coffees of highly varying quality, high to low, are imported. Some say Erna Knutsen, the San Francisco coffee broker, coined this term. Some say it was Rod Lazar’s grandfather, Frenchie Lazar. At the time the SCAA was formed, it certainly meant something more than now. And some called this “Gourmet Coffee” which means ?@$# ???
  • Spongy – A reference to the mouthfeel of a coffee when it leaves a tactile impression of sponges. This is often found in Liberica coffees, and can be unpleasant if excessive.
  • Stenophylla Coffea – Stenophylla is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea originating in West Africa, endemic to foothill elevations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, and taken into Ghana and Nigeria. It is slow to mature and has mild to poor cup character. It has unique purple fruit when ripe.
  • Storage – Green coffee in general can be stored up to one year from the date of processing with no noticeable changes in flavor. Bright, delicate coffees can fade faster; earthy coffees can last a bit longer. Very often the type and quality of the processing methods used on the coffee will determine how long a coffee will hold up. For example, “Miel” or pulped natural processing very often shortens the storage life of a coffee – you will see changes in flavor sooner and in a more pronounced way than with other processing methods. Coffee ought to be stored in a cool dry place, ideally in a breathable container like burlap, or cotton. For a hundred years or more coffee has been transported the same way, in large burlap or jute bags. More recently, producers have experimented with vacuum packaging and storage in special multi-layer poly bags to extend the life of the coffee. It has been more recently that Storage has become a greater factor in the processing chain of coffee.
  • Straw – A dried hay-like character due to age of the green coffee and the corresponding loss of organic material storage.
  • Strecker Degradation – The Strecker Degradation is an interaction of amino acids (AKA proteins) with a carbonyl compound in an environment with water, resulting in the creation of CO2 and an Aldehyde or Ketone. The later two components are important for volatile aromatics and flavors, and the Strecker Degradation contributes to browning. It involves compounds formed in the Maillard reaction and is therefore necessarily linked to it in coffee roasting.
  • Strictly Hard Bean – In Costa Rica, a classification/grading for specialty coffee. indicates the coffees was grown at an altitude above 1200 meters/4000 feet. Beans grown at a higher altitude, have a greater density, and thus a better specialty cup.
  • Strictly High – Grown a general Specialty Coffee classification/grading. It indicates the coffees was grown at an altitude above 1200 meters/4000 feet. Beans grown at a higher altitude, have a greater density, and thus a better specialty cup. It is pretty much synonymous with SHB, Strictly Hard Bean, the classification used in Costa Rica for the same grade of coffee.
  • Strictly Soft – Brazil has it’s own grading system for defects in the cup – Strictly Soft is the highest grade in the schema. Hard is considered a middle grade defective/commercial level coffee, so the term soft expresses clean, mild flavors
  • Strong – Many people say that they like “strong coffee” but this term needs to be pulled apart a bit to have any meaning. Some origins can be more pungent or intense than others, usually due to the processing methods or the preparation. Dry-processed coffees will in general have more earthy and potentially wild flavors. Aged coffees definitely have strong flavors – pleasant to some, not so much to others. We refer to this as “Bold” in our reviews – a vague term, but opposed to mild. Strong is in opposition to “weak” and can only mean brew strength, the intensity of the brewed coffee, if it is brewed in a more concentrated way, with too much ground coffee in respect to the amount of water used. Espresso is obviously one of the strongest coffee drinks since by definition it is a coffee extract, i.e. very little water in proportion to a large dose of coffee. Strong might also be interchangeable with “Bold”, another vague descriptor and both of these could also refer to a dark roast level.
  • Structured – Like Balance, structure is an esoteric term. After all, you can’t taste a “structure” nor can you taste a “balance.” They come from a sense of all the sensory components of a coffee, characterizing the relation between flavors, acids, mouthfeel and aftertaste as well-defined and comprehensive. Well-structured coffee has an architectural feel, as something that is “built”, well-founded, solid, with flavors and sapid experiences that relate well to each other. Usually it refers directly to the acidity, or perhaps we might say the acidity is a core component of structure, since a coffee with weak acidity tastes limp and flat.
  • Sucrose – Sucrose is largely destroyed by the roasting process through various reactions and thermal caramelization. It is destroyed at this rate: 2.9% remains in a light roast; 0.9% in a medium roast, 0% in a dark roast. Sucrose is sweeter before caramelization, but perhaps more aromatic after caramelization. Still, if there is no sweet taste, the perception of caramelized sucrose will not be sweet. “Sucrose is the principle sugar in coffee. The melting point of pure crystalline sucrose is in the 320-392 degrees F with 370 degrees F most commonly accepted. Degradation of dry sucrose can occur as low as 194 degrees F. and begins with the cleavage of the glycosidic bond followed by condensation and the formation of water. Between 338 and 392 degrees F, caramelization begins. It is at this point that water and carbon dioxide fracture and out-gassing begins causing the first mechanical crack. These are the chemical reactions, occurring at approximately 356 degrees F, that are exothermic. Once carmelization begins, it is very important that the coffee mass does not exotherm (lose heat) or the coffee will taste “baked” in the cup. A possible explanation is that exothermy of the charge mass interrupts long chain polymerization and allows cross linking to other constituents. Both the actual melting point of sucrose and the subsequent transformation, or caramelization, reaction are effected by the presence of water, ammonia, and proteinatious substances. Dark roasts represent a higher degree of sugar caramelization than light roasts. The degree of caramelization is an excellent and high resolution method for classifying roasts.”
  • Sulawesi – Sulawesi coffees are low-acid with great body and that deep, brooding cup profile akin to Sumatra. The coffee is sometimes known as Celebes, which was the Dutch colonial name for the island. Indonesians are available as semi-washed (or wet-hulled) coffees and less frequently as washed coffees. While a fully washed coffee may appear to have less defects, it may not satisfy the expected flavor profile of this coffee origin. People look to Sulawesi and Sumatra for heavy body, low acidity, intense foresty or earthy flavors, chocolate roast notes. Those flavors are largely the result of how the coffee is processed after the coffee cherry is harvested, and more specifically, these types of flavors come from the wet-hull method, called Giling Basah in Indonesia. There are risks with this type of process. The green coffee is dried further on the patio or (in the worst cases) on the dirt! And if a suddent rain comes along and the coffee is not quickly gathered, it can develop musty off notes. Even without added moisture, the fruity mucilage layer can ferment into a very undesirable off cup flavor. Giling Basah method requires as much care as any other type of processing to achieve the best results, and a rigorous cupping regimen can distinguish between positive fruited or earth notes, and rank dirty or fermented defects.
  • Sumatra – Arabica coffee production in Sumatra began in the 18th century under Dutch colonial domination, introduced first to the northern region of Aceh around Lake Tawar. Coffee is still widely produced in these northern regions of Aceh (Takengon, Bener Mariah) as well as in the Lake Toba region (Lintong Nihuta, Dairi-Sidikalang, Siborongborong, Dolok Sanggul, and Seribu Dolok) to the southwest of Medan. In the past, Sumatra coffees have not been sold by region, because presumably the regional differences are not that distinct. Rather, the quality of the picking, preparation and processing of the coffee determines much of the cup character in this coffee. In fact, Sumatras are sold as Mandheling (Mandailing) which is simply the Indonesian ethnic group that was once involved in coffee production (see note on origin page). The coffee is scored by defects in the cup, not physical defects of the green coffee. So a fairly ugly-looking green coffee can technically be called Grade 1 Mandheling.
    Indonesians are available as a unique semi-washed process and (rarely) fully-washed coffees. Semi-washed coffees are best described as “wet-hulled”, localy called Giling Basah, and will have more body and often more of the “character” that makes Indonesians so appealing and slightly funky. In this process, the parchment coffee (the green seed with the parchment shell still attached) is very marginally dried, then stripped of the outer layer, revealing a white-colored, swollen green bean. Then the drying is completed on the patio (or in some cases, on the dirt), and the seed quickly turns to a dark green color.
  • Supremo – A Colombian coffee grade referring to screen size of 17-18 screen. In the traditional bulk Arabica business, Supremo was the top grade Colombia, with Excelso one step below at 15-16 screen. Neither of these refer to cup quality, only bean size.
  • Sweaty – Usually a taste defect, reminiscent of the smell of flavor of sweat, sometimes considered mildly positive. It can be the result of bad storage conditions for green coffee, but we have also experienced it from roast profiles where the seed is over roasted on the interior due to too much conduction in the thermal transfer. It is an unsweet taste. Some Kenyas can be mildly sweaty, i.e. akin to minerally, not with a stench of foul sweat. It can be found in Yemeni coffees as well, along with leather and hide notes, and has some relation to musty flavors in Indonesia coffees.
  • Sweet – Sweetness is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sweetness is a highly desirable quality, and the green bean has many sugars and polysaccharides. However, the main sugar, sucrose, is largely destroyed by roasting, with only 2.9% remaining at a light roast, and 0% at a darker roast. When caramelized sugars have aromatic sweetness, but not sapid sweetness on the palate. Hence, over-roasting is to be avoided to preserve some sweetness.
  • SwissGold Filter – A brand of reusable metal filter for drip coffee brewing. Swissgolds are alternatives to paper coffee filters. They have the advantage that they do not impact a taste to the cup (paper filters can give a paper-y taste), and they are reusable. Swissgolds have larger pores than paper filters, which means larger particles make their way into the cup.
  • SWP – a water filtration decaf method.


  • Tamper – A handheld instrument for compacting (“tamping”) ground coffee for espresso into a portafilter basket. Tampers should match the size of a machine’s basket, with common sizes including 53mm and 58mm.
  • Tamping – Compacting coffee grounds for espresso into a portafilter basket, usually by means of a tamper. Proper tamping technique is critical to proper espresso extraction: a tamp should be level, properly seal the grounds against the sides of the basket, and fill any fissures in the espresso “puck.” It is generally recommended that 30 pounds of tamping force be applied, though it is more important that the tamp be consistent between shots than that it be exactly 30 pounds.
  • Tangy – An adjective modifying a flavor descriptor, decribing a sharp effect; tangy citrus, tangy bittersweet flavor, tangy green apple.
  • Tannic – The term Tannins refers to the use of wood tannins from oak in tanning animal hides into leather. Having the bitterness or astringency of Tannins. Tannins are plant polyphenols found across the flora kingdom.
  • Tanzania – In terms of the Tanzania coffee character, it belongs to the Central/East African family of washed (wet-processed) coffees, bright (acidy), and mostly aggressively flavorful of which Kenya is certainly the dominant coffee. Peaberries are often sorted out and sold at high premiums, but the cup is sometimes tainted and not worth the price. It has become a novelty coffee, and sells well in the US, so many roasters capitulate. Yes, it is a coffee with great potential but shipments arriving in the US do not always express that truly excellent Tanzanian cup.
  • Tarry – A dark roast-related flavor of pungent, intense bittering roast flavor, reminicent of the smell of tar.
  • Tasse – The German word for cup.
  • Tea-like – A term used to describe coffees with light, astringent body and potent aromatics. A flavor associate with Indian Specialty coffee more than not as well as some Rwandan flavor profiles.
  • Tekisic – Tekisic is a Bourbon cultivar variant still grown in El Salvador. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it.
  • Tenadam – The name in Amharic for Rue, used as an herbal additive to coffee. You can find the flavor of tenadam in some Ethiopia coffees (without actually adding it to the cup!) Rue is Ruta chalepensis and has properties as a medicinal herb as well, for common cold, stomach ache, diarrhea, and influenza. In Oromo it is called Talatam
  • Timor – Timor-Leste (East Timor) is a tiny island between Australia and Sulawesi, annexed by Indonesia and liberated in a referendum several years ago. Small scale coffee farming was jump-started before the independence by cooperative farming associations with funding by USAID grants to revitalize the rural economy and give small farmers a cash crop. The independence of the coops and the presence of NGO groups in the country emboldened the spirit of the Timorese toward independence. The majority of the coffee is from East Timor and directly benefits the organic farmer’s cooperatives, rather than being directed to the pockets of exporters and middlemen.
    Timor has 2 major regions producing coffee: Maubesse is higher-altitude terrain than Aifu region. Maubesse is a little brighter so most brokers / cuppers prefer it over the Aifu, but if you selectively buy from the best lots the Aifu can be every bit as good. Early in the crop cycle the Aifu cups best, and later on the Maubesse is a little better.
    Interestingly, Timor coffee is also cultivated from its own distinct Timor varietal, which was crossed with Caturra to create the dreaded Catimor. While both Caturra and Timor are respected old-school varietals, Catimor is appreciated by farmers for its rapid growth and production of coffee cherry, but does not cup well next to either of its parent varietals. Coffee was planted in Timor and East Timor by colonial powers and by the mid-nineteenth century it was a major export crop of the island. East Timors coffee producers are more gatherers than growers – as they do not intensively farm the coffee. This may be a reflection of the animistic beliefs of the Timorese; while the majority of the population is now Roman Catholic (which came to the island with colonial powers), animistic practices remain. Producers gather coffee from trees on their own land as well as trees on from formerly managed estates.
  • Tipping – Tipping refers to a roast error that can be discerned by inspecting the roasted coffee, where the ends of the elongated bean appear burnt. It can easily be tasted in the cup too; burnt or smoke flavors, or a lack of sweetness. It is usually the result of an over-heated roast environment (initial drum temperature too high), an over-charged roast drum (too much coffee in the drum), or possibly not enough air movement. Natural coffees from lower-grown sites can be more susceptible to tipping and scorching.
  • Transparency – Transparency is a flavor characterization synonymous with clarity, or a business ethics term, implying that as much information as possible about a coffee is made available to the consumer.
  • Tree-dry Natural – This name designates a particular type of dry process coffee where the fruit dries partially or entirely while still on the tree branch. It is possible only in some areas (parts of Brazil, as well as some areas of India, sometimes in parts of Central America and East Africa), where there are dramatic dry seasons.
  • Trigonelline – Trigonelline is a bittering compound that is reduced as the roast gets progressively darker. Trigonelline is 100% soluble in water and therefore will end up in the cup. Trigonelline is probably the most significant constituent contributing to excessive bitterness.
  • Turbinado – Turbinado sugar, also known as turbinated sugar, is made from sugar cane extract. It is produced by crushing freshly cut sugar cane; the juice obtained is evaporated by heat, then crystallized. The crystals are spun in a centrifuge, or turbine (thus the name), to remove excess moisture, resulting in the characteristic large, light brown crystals. It is a mildly rustic sweetness, as found in coffee, but not quite as much so as Muscovado sugar
  • Turkish Coffee – A strong preparation of coffee, finely ground, and often prepared in an Ibrik over a heat source like a gas stove. Traditionally it was placed in hot sands and the vessel itself would hold 1 or 2 servings. This is still the case today when prepared on a stove. One traditional recipe calls for a blend and to roast one third light, one third medium and one third dark, grind finely as is typical.
  • Typica – Typica is one of the main cultivars of Coffea Arabica, and one from which many other commercial types have been derived. It has a longer seed form than the other main cultivar, Bourbon. Typica coffee plants are tall and have a conical shape with branches that grow at a slight slant. It has a rangey, open form. The lateral branches form 50-70° angles with the vertical stem. It has fairly low production and good cup quality. C. Arabica Var. Typica is sometimes expressed as C. Arabica Var. Arabica as a group that contains Typica … confusing. The issue is that “Typica Arabica” indicates the common form, as well as the original form, so when the Scottish Mission brought arabica from Yemen direct to Kikuyu Kenya from Yemen, that was Typica (with dark bronze tips – new leaf) and when Kona Hawaii was replanted that was Typica from Guatemala, with bronze tips, but over so much time and geography, these two Typicas would hardly be the same. Typica has a host of sub-types, from Blue Mountain to Bergendal, Java Typica to Guatemala Typica. All should have dark tips. Typica was the first coffee in the New World; Java-grown plants were a gift from the Dutch to Louis XIV, were cultivated in Parisian gardens, then thousands of seedlings were sent to the French colony in Martinique in 1720.


  • Uganda – While Arabica was introduced at the beginning of the 1900’s, Robusta coffee is indigenous to the country, and has been a part of Ugandan life for centuries. The variety of Wild Robusta Coffee still growing today in Uganda’s rain forests are thought to be some of the rarest examples of naturally occurring coffee trees anywhere in the world. The coffee trees are intercropped with traditional food crops and grown in the shade of banana trees and other shade trees. In these self-sustaining conditions, coffee is left to grow naturally, flowering on average twice a year. Uganda has the unfortunate circumstance of being landlocked, and needing good relations with its neighbors to move its coffee crop to a port city. Transportation bottlenecks can result in containers of full of steaming coffee beans stuck on the back of a truck or a dock somewhere …not good for quality!
  • Umami – Umami is a Japanese word meaning savory, a “deliciousness” factor deriving specifically from detection of the natural amino acid, glutamic acid, or glutamates common in meats, cheese, broth, stock, and other protein-heavy foods. The action of umami receptors explains why foods treated with monosodium glutamate (MSG) often taste “heartier”. In coffee, savory relates to specific brothy, food-like character and can conflict with other basic flavors such as sweet, but is not undesirable. It can be found in Indonesia coffees, but has appeared favorably in Colombias we have stocked as well.
  • Unclean – A general negative description of dirty or hard flavors in a coffee that should have none. These are flavors without positive qualities, that distract from the cup. Also simply called “off”
  • Under-developed – Under-developed refers to roast problems, usually too-light roasts. If a coffee is not roasted until the reactions responsible for the audible First Crack are completed, there will be astringent and un-sweet flavors (high trigonelline levels) and a grainy roast taste.
  • USDA – USDA is an Indonesian cultivar of Ethiopian heritage that was part of varietal tests in the 1950’s.


  • Vacuum Brewer – A vacuum brewer works by heating water, pushing it into a chamber with coffee grounds, and then sucking the water back. Vacuum brewers produce a clean, aromatic cup.
  • Vacuum Packaging – Sealing coffee in an air-tight container, with the air removed via vacuum. Green coffee and roasted coffee can both be vacuum packed to extend shelf life.
  • Varietal – Varietal is commonly used in wine to indicate Variety of a particular plant material, a type that results in specific flavors. Variety is a low-level taxonomic distinction under Species and Sub Species, and signifies members of different populations can interbreed easily, but not usually such that all traits (appearance attributes) will run true, and in fact usually will blend. In coffee, we prefer to use Cultivar to Varietal or Variety, since it implies the intentional cultivation for organoleptic and production results. The plant chosen as a cultivar may have been bred deliberately, selected from plants in cultivation. On our coffee reviews, we use Varietal category header. Varietal does NOT refer to region …its about the botanical variety (or cultivar) of the coffee tree. It’s not easy information to gather, and has some bearing on the cup but not a lot. Ideally, coffee is grown using old arabica varietals such as Bourbon and Typica, or Kent in India. Controversial varietals such as Ruiri 11 in Kenya and other high-yield, disease resistant hybrids can produce a diminished cup, but growing conditions and processing play a much greater role than the varietal.
  • Velvety – A mouthfeel description indicating elegant softness, refined smoothness. See Silky as well.
  • Vienna Roast – Vienna roast occurs at the beginning of second crack. The Vienna stage (also called Continental) to Light French stage is where you begin to find origin character eclipsed by roast character. If you buy coffee for its distinct origin qualities, it makes sense that heavy roasting is at odds with revealing the full effect of the differences we can sense in coffee due to distinct origins. Nonetheless, some coffees are excellent at this stage. Vienna is a common roast level for espresso.
    By the way; Espresso is not a roast. But Northern Italian style espresso is usually roasted to 440 – 446 internal bean temperature. Southern Italian (Scura) is generally a Light French Roast or a tad darker.
  • Villa Sarchi – An arabica cultivar that is a natural dwarf mutation of Bourbon, and in that way is similar to Caturra (as well as Pacas.
  • Villalobos – A natural dwarf mutation of Typica, found mostly in Costa Rica.
  • Vinegar – Vinegar-like qualities are a defective flavor taint in coffee, resulting perhaps from poor processing, fermentation, sanitation. Usually, this comes from high levels of acetic acid, and come with a sour edge. Lower levels can lead to positive winey notes. Over-ripe coffee cherries, or delays in getting picked cherry to the mill can be the cause as well.


  • Warming Spice – A term indicating a spice blend with ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, anise pepper. While it is not exactly the same thing, warming spice blends are often similar to mulling spice mixes used for hot apple ciders and such. Indian foods are also big on warming qualities of spice blends…
    This is basically a similar set used to spice hot beverages, referred to as mulling spices.
  • Washing Station – In Rwanda and some other East African countries, a wet mill is called a Washing Station. In Latin American countries, a wet mill is called a Beneficio, where fresh coffee cherries are brought for pulping, fermentation, and drying.
  • Water Process – A non-chemical decaffeination method. .
    This is an “indirect” decaffeination method. Beans are soaked in near boiling water, extracting the flavor oils and caffeine from the coffee. The water is separated into a tank where it is forced through charcoal filters and generally stirred around in hot water to remove the caffeine. The beans are then reintroduced to the swill, absorbing their flavor. Since no chemicals are used, there’s nothing to worry about but higher prices and duller coffee. We have had trouble in the past with the cup quality of SWP coffees; bright, lively coffees especially can end up cupping quite flat.
  • Well-knit – Well-knit is yet another esoteric term, being something that you cannot directly smell or taste. It describes the good inter-relation of independent sensory characteristics, distinct yet welded together in a positive way. It is also referred to as “tightly knit” to mean closely-paired flavors.
  • Wet Aroma – In cupping, wet aroma refers to the smell of wet coffee grinds, after hot water is added. The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence it’s flavor profile, and comes from the perception of the gases released by brewed coffee. Aroma is greatest in the middle roasts and is quickly overtaken by carbony smells in darker roasts. Aroma is distinct from the dry fragrance from the coffee grounds; in general fragrance describes things we do not eat (like perfume) and aroma pertains to food and beverage we consume. Aromatics as a term may encompass the entire aroma experience of a coffee. Aromatics are a huge part of flavor perception (remember the ‘hold your nose and eat an onion experiment). Aromatics reach the olfactory bulb through the nose and “retro-nasaly” through the opening in the back of our palate. While some taste is sapid, perceived through the tongue and palate via papillae, or taste buds, most of flavor quality is perceived through the olfactory bulb.
  • Wet Hulled Process Wet-hulled process is a hybrid coffee method used in parts of Indonesia, especially Sumatra. It results in a dark, opal-green coffee with little silverskin clinging to it, and a particular low-acid, earthy, heavy body flavor profile. In this method, the farmer picks ripe coffee cherry, pulps off the skin and either dries it immediately for one day, or lets it sit overnight in a bucket (with our without water), then washes it the next day and dries it. In either case, the coffee is partially dried with some or all of the mucilage clinging to the parchment-covered seed. It is then sold at a local market to a coffee processor. They receive coffee at 40-50% mositure content, then dry it to 25-35%, and run it though the wet-hull machine. Friction strips off the parchment, and the bean emerges swollen and whitish-green. Then it is dried on the patio down to 11-14% moisture, ready for sorting, grading, bagging and export. In Bahasa, the method is called Giling Basah. See the related terms for the coffee stages: asalan, labu, gabah.
  • Wet Mill – The wet mill goes by many names (Beneficio, Factory, Washing Station, Receiving Station) and can serve several different functions. Wet mill, as the name implies, involves water to process and transport coffee, but new ecological wet mills might use very little. But in nearly all cases, it is the place where whole coffee cherry fruit is brought for the first stages of it’s transformation to dried green, exportable coffee. In traditional wet-processing, the wet mill is where the coffee is pulped (the outer fruit skin removed), floated in water (to remove defective beans), fermented (to break down the fruit mucilage layer), washed (to remove the fruit) and dried on a patio, a screen (raised bed), or a mechanical dryer. At this point green coffee seed is inside an outer parchment shell.
  • Wet Process – Wet-process coffee (or washed coffee) is a method to transform the fruit from the tree into a green coffee bean for roasting. This process uses water at the wet mill to transport the seed through the process, allowing for the removal of defects that float to the surface. In traditional wet-processing, the wet mill is where the coffee is pulped (the outer fruit skin removed), floated in water (to remove defective beans), fermented (to break down the fruit mucilage layer), washed (to remove the fruit) and dried on a patio, a screen (raised bed), or a mechanical dryer. At this point green coffee seed is inside an outer parchment shell, rested for a period of time (reposo) then milled at the dry mill into the green bean. Wet processing often produces a brighter, cleaner flavor profile, with lighter body than dry process coffees or the hybrid pulp natural process. Wet process coffees are referred to also as washed coffees, or fully washed. Note that the coffee seed is not fermented in this process, just the other fruit layer between the skin and the parchment shell. This is a natural action of peptic enzymes in the coffee. In different countries they might use a submerged wet fermentation, or a water-less dry fermentation, which is a faster method.
  • Wild – Wild flavors in coffee is a general characterization that connotes something foreign or exotic in a flavor profile, usually somewhat unclean. This can be found in some East African coffees, although it is usually the result of poor processing or handling. For example Yemeni coffees have wild notes of hide, leather, earth, and such. To some these are defect flavors.
  • Winey – Describes a wine-like flavor with a similar perceived acidity and fruit. Found most commonly in East African specialty coffees as well as in some centrals like Costa Rica. I will use it to describe ripe fruit notes, pleasantly so, but not pushed to the point of vinegar sourness (which would be over-ripe, fermenty flavor… not good).
  • Woody – Generally a taste defect from age; old green coffee, perhaps yellowing in color. This is due to the drying out of the coffee over time, and as the moisture leaves the seed it takes organic compounds with it. Also, when coffee rehydrates itself, it brings in foreign odors, baggy and dirty tastes and smells. Aged coffees can have a positive hickory-like taste and aroma. This entry does not address positive wood qualities like cedar, and such. Also not to be confused with foresty or woodsy character in Indonesia coffees.


  • Yeasty – A defect term referring to “honey” flavor but a bad rustic, yeast-like flavor. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum away from pure honey-like tastes
  • Yellow Bourbon – Yellow Bourbon is a sub-type that has fruit which ripens to a yellow color, found mainly in Brazil where it was first grown. Bourbon coffees are named for the island in the India Ocean where French colonists grew it. It is possible that Yellow Bourbon is a natural mutation of a cross between Bourbon and a yellow-fruited Typica called “Amarelo de Botocatu”.
  • Yemen – Technically, Yemen is on the Asian continent (on the Arabian Peninsula) although it is really just a stone’s throw from Africa, across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. For coffee reasons, and since there is no other “Arabian” coffee, we put it in the family of tastes that are North African.
    You’ll notice that the Yemen’s we sell all have “Mokha in their names.” Now, what is Mokha? Al Mokha (Al-Mahka) is the port city that Yemeni coffee ships from! It has nothing to do with chocolate. Why is the coffee called Mokha? Because in the coffee trade it was too complicated to name all the little sub-regions where the coffee is actually grown, even though they do produce notably different coffees in terms of the cup. Many of the dry-process Ethiopian coffees will also call themselves Moka: Moka Harar etc. …I believe to associate themselves with the taste profile they share with Yemens. How the heck do you spell Mokha? Well, it is spelled usually Mocca or Mocha or Moka …but in fact the most correct spelling is the one you will never see: Al-Mahka, which is the truest to the Arabic spelling. Lastly, let me say that Yemeni are one of the most distinct and prized coffees in the world, but this is what we call a “wild” or natural cup …Earthy, complex, pungent —to some it may be strange and bitter. Either way, do yourself a favor and try it sometime.
    Yemen has a coffee culture like no other place, and perhaps some of what we enjoy in this cup is due to their old style of trade. Exporters do not buy from farms, but through an extensive network of middlemen. Local buyers receive coffee in the pod, the entire dried cherry, and that is stored, usually in underground caverns! The coffee actually exported is usually the oldest of their stocks, not new crop coffee! But this is the way it has been, and is one reason that new Yemen arrivals often have moisture content readings in the 10.5% range.. Yemeni growers are not hurt by this system with so many middlemen, largely because the coffee land under cultivation is limited, production is fairly low due to high altitude and limited inputs, and the crop is in such high demand. Competition from the Saudis also keeps Yemeni coffee prices very high.


  • Zacapa – Zacapa is the famous sweet and spicey rum of Guatemala. Sometimes this vanilla-laced rum note appears in coffee flavors.
  • Zambia – From the country formerly known as upper Rhodesia in a country now named for the Zambezi River, Zambian coffees range from Kenya-like brightness to subtle, balanced coffee with complexity, body and nuanced flavors… Zambia has variable quality: it has the potential to be outstanding (which is why we offer particular lots when we find an excellent coffee), and it can be very off-tasting and defective (which is why sometimes we are out of stock on Zambian coffee for long stretches). Coffee is grown in the Northern district of the Muchinga Mountains (regions of Nakonde, Kasama and Isoka) and in the vicinity of the capital city of Lusaka. Coffee was introduced in the 1950’s with cultivar seedstock from Tanzania and Kenya.
  • Zesty – A flavor or mouthfeel characteristic, hinting at a tingly, prickly, lively or piquant aspect. Peppers, spice or citrus can all be zesty.
  • Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe, formerly known as lower Rhodesia until independence in 1980, has produced great coffee since production was introduced in the 1960s. Like Zambian coffees, these coffees are often overshadowed by the great East African coffee: Kenya. But they can have great balance, complexity, body and finesse. (But note that not all do! It sometimes takes some rigorous cupping to find truly great estate Zimbabwe as there is an abundance of lesser non-estate in US warehouses…) Coffee production is chiefly from the Manicaland and Mashonaland provinces along the border of Mozambique. Coffee production towns are Chipinge (also spelled Chapina) and Mutare. Top AA quality coffee is often marked “Code 53” on the bags, an enigmatic and perhaps arbitrary internal designation for best quality. Lately, the power-grabbing by Mugabe and supression of democratic media in Zimbabwe is very troubling. While land reform doesnt affect the coffee areas, and perhaps has its merits, the way it was done was regrettable. Zimbabwe’s future does not look as bright as it did 10 years ago, when it was a model of progress in East Africa.