- 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.
- 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.