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Coffee Glossary - common terminology

Acidity

The fresh, tart or sour flavours found in brewed coffee. Desirable when the acidity does not overwhelm the balance of the coffees.

Aeropress

A new filter coffee brew method from the USA gaining popularity in the coffee industry. Relies on pressure created by a plunger to filter brewed coffee through a paper filter.

After taste

The lingering flavours and sensations of a brewed coffee after swallowing. Can be positive or negative and is one of the many ways quality is evaluated.

Americano

Coffee beverage consisting of espresso and hot water, invented in Italy during the war to placate American soldier's desire for filter coffee.

Arabica

One of the two main coffee species; Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora (often called robusta). Widely recognised as the finer of the two.

Aroma

The fragrance that comes from freshly brewed coffee. One of the key elements in determining the quality of a coffee.

Balance

A term indicating whether a brewed coffee's different elements such as sweetness and acidity are not overwhelming each other. The sign of a great coffee.

Barista

Italian for 'Bar man', a barista is an individual who turns roasted coffee into the final product, a delicious cup of coffee. The final link in the production chain.

Bitterness

One of the five different taste elements alongside sourness, sweetness, saltiness and umami. Unpleasant if over-present in a coffee, but necessary in a good quality balanced cup.

Blend

A mixture of two or more types of coffee beans. Most often used for espresso as it can improve consistency and result in a more balanced coffee which can be easier to work with.

Bloom Freshly roasted beans create a froth as CO2 and oils release when brewed or extracted. In the coffee trade, this particular froth is called "bloom."

Blossom

The seasonal flowering of the coffee plant, necessary for pollination of the plant, resulting in the new growth of coffee cherries

Body

The sensation of size or thickness of brewed coffee in the mouth. Used alongside flavour, acidity and aroma in evaluating a coffee.

Bourbon Arabica

One of the more traditional varieties of coffee bean. Not as popular as some modern varieties due to lower yields. With care, results in a fantastic cup of coffee.

Brewed Coffee

A cup of coffee that has been brewed using one of the many filter methods available.

Cafetiere

A traditional Italian method of brewing filter coffee. Slightly out of trend in the coffee market currently, but still used by many due to it's simplicity and honest cup of coffee.

Caffeine

The odourless but bitter chemical found in coffee. Responsible for the stimulating effects of coffee and harmless in small quantities.

Cappuccino

A traditional Italian morning coffee more recently adopted by the World Barista Championships. A single shot of espresso topped up with 150ml of steamed milk.

Caramelization

The browning of sugar through heat, more specifically the sucrose found in coffee beans, giving coffee it's ubiquitous brown colour.

Caturra Arabica

A mutation of Bourbon Arabica. Used widely for it's disease resistance, higher yield and quick maturing; and of course for it's great taste.

Cherry

The fruit of the coffee tree that houses the beans. Sometimes found in a dried form as Cascara which can be used to make a delicious fruity infusion.

Cooperative

A way for farmers to pool their resources and coffee to allow easier access to the market amongst other benefits.

Crema

The layer of caramel coloured foam on top of a well made espresso. A combination of emulsified coffee oils and carbon dioxide, and great for keeping the delicious espresso aromas from escaping.

Cupping

The process in which coffee grounds and hot water are combined to make a basic brewed coffee. Used widely to evaluate coffees for quality control and purchasing.

Decaffeinated Coffee

The process in which more than 97% of the caffeine is removed by various means. Can be done in various ways, with Swiss Water recognise as the cleanest and least damaging to the quality.

Double Shot

A double shot of espresso. Using no less than 14g of espresso (though we recommend at least 16g) and result in between 20g and 40g of espresso

Espresso

The brewing process which involves passing hot water at high pressure through a compressed bed of coffee. The resulting coffee is known for it's thick mouthfeel, intense flavour and high caffeine content.

Estate Coffee

A term used to indicate the single farm or plantation provenance of a coffee usually indicating a higher quality of coffee than one with little provenance.

Extraction

The process of passing hot water through a bed of finally ground coffee to make espresso.

Fermentation

One of the ways that the mucilage can be removed from the green coffee bean prior to drying. Naturally present bacteria and microbes break down the sugars and alcohols that comprises the mucilage in large tanks.

Filter Coffee

A classic method of brewing coffee where the coffee grinds are left to brew in hot water before being filtered. Methods include; Aeropress, French Press, V60, bulk brew and many more.

Finish

The sensory experience of a brewed coffee as it is swallowed, used to evaluate the quality of a coffee amongst other qualities.

Flat White

An espresso beverage of antipodean invention. A double shot of espresso topped up with at most 150ml of steamed milk. A great alternative to the milky British latte.

Flavour

A vague term used to describe the taste of a brewed coffee. Usually a combination of the aroma and taste of the coffee.

Fragrance

The smell of a freshly ground coffee before it is brewed. Another way to evaluate the quality and freshness of a coffee. Fragrance is often absent or unpleasant with a stale coffee.

French Roast

A dark roast of coffee that is falling out of fashion in the UK and america due to it's increased bitterness and loss of aroma.

Fully Washed

The process whereby all of the pulp and mucilage is removed from the green coffee beans before drying. Often results in cleaner, bright and fruitier coffees.

Geisha Arabica

A rare variety of Arabica, first introduced to central America for Ethiopia in the 1950s. Whilst low yielding, susceptible to pests and strong winds, this variety can create some of the worlds finest coffees.

Grade

A metric used to classify an unroasted green coffee for export use. Can include criteria such as altitude, preparation, bean size, defects and others.

Green Coffee

An unroasted coffee bean, light green in colour and extremely dense. Becoming more popular due to it's apparent high concentration of anti-oxidants.

Grinding

The method in which whole coffee beans are broken down to facilitate the brewing of coffee. Can be ground to different coarseness levels depending on brew method.

Grounds

The result of grinding coffee. When mixed with hot water in one of the multitude of brew methods, grinds will yield a cup of brewed coffee.

Hand Picked

The process whereby the coffee cherries are picked from the plants by hand, either with selective picking or strip picking.

Hario V60

A japanese created improvement of the standard filter cone brew method. Known for it's clean and crisp cups of coffee and elegant design.

Honey Processed Coffee

Another name for the semi-washed processing method

Latte

A milk espresso based drink. Usually a single or double shot of espresso topped with at least 180ml of steamed milk.

Latte Art

The patterns that you may see on top of espresso-based milk drinks. Not necessarily representative of quality, but due to the practice and time required to perfect, often indicates a well trained barista.

Liberica

A coffee variety commonly found in Indonesia and Asia after a large Coffee Rust plague wiped out many of the Arabica plants in the region.

Lot

Coffee produced from specific areas within a specific farm or plantation. Normally broken down by quality, the highest level of provenance available.

Machiatto

An espresso with a splash of steamed milk foam to take the edge off. A traditional italian coffee.

Machine Picked

The process whereby the coffee cherries are harvested by machine. Due to it's lack of selection, this normally results in a lower quality coffee.

Mechanical Mucillage Removal

The process of removing the mucilage from the green coffee bean by mechanical means rather than fermentation. The advantage of this method being the control the farmer has to control the level of removal.

Mechanically Dried Coffee

The process of drying green coffee beans to around twelve percent moisture levels using machines rather than on a patio or by other methods. Whilst sun dried coffee is often seen as higher quality, the mechanical method allows farmers more control over the drying process.

Milling

The process of removing the dry coffee hush or parchment skin from the processed coffee bean.

Mocha

A variety of Coffee Arabica that originated in Yemen. Very small in appearance with an irregular shape.

Moka Pot

A traditional Italian method of brewing a cross between espresso and filter coffee. Also called a stove-top coffee maker.

Mucilage

A thin layer of gooey fruit that surround the bean outside the parchment. Must be removed before the coffee bean is ready to be exported and roasted.

Natural Process

The processing method in which the green coffee bean is left with the fully coffee cherry surrounding it during the drying period. Normally characterized by lower acidty but fruity and funky flavour profiles.

New Crop

Coffee which is exported soon after harvesting and processing to be roasted. Normally found to be brighter and more acidic than older coffee.

Organic Coffee

Coffee which has been certified by an outside agency as fitting their criteria for being grown and processed without the use of chemicals.

Over-Extracted

A coffee which has been brewed in such a way that certain solubles are found in the brewed coffee at higher than desired concentrations. Recognised by it's bitter or acrid taste.

Parchment

The papery skin that surround an unroasted coffee bean within the cherry. Must be removed before roasting through milling and in some cases, polishing.

Patio

A large concrete or clay area upon which the green coffee beans are dried for export and roasting. The advantage of patio drying are it's ability to regulate the temperature of the beans, disadvantages include the potential of too high a heat and a lack of airflow at the bottom of the beans.

Peaberry

A small round coffee bean that occurs when only one coffee bean, rather than the regular two, is found within a coffee cherry. Can produce a brighter, more acidic coffee than a regular bean and is often more expensive due to rarity.

Phenolic

A defect found within beans that results in a 'chlorine' taste to the bean. Whilst its cause has not been fully agreed on, a few theories exist to why this occurs. It most commonly occurs in Colombian beans and results in automatic disqualification in many coffee competitions.

Polishing

A process in which the beans are polished with friction to improve the appearance of green beans. It is discouraged by the speciality coffee industry due to the chance of it decreasing coffee quality with little to no benefit.

Pulp

The fruit that surround the coffee bean once the outer skin has been removed. Removed before drying in Washed Process coffee or left on during drying in most Natural Processed coffees.

Pulped Natural

The process in which the skin of the coffee cherry is removed before the remaining pulp, parchment and bean are left to dry. Results in a lower acidity coffee than a washed process, but cleaner than a natural processed coffee.

Pulped Natural

Another name for the semi-washed processing method

Quakers

Beans which remain more lightly coloured than other beans during the roasting process, normally due to a defect within the pale bean.

Raised Beds

Waist high beds normally constructed of wood and mesh to dry beans on before export and roasting. They are advantageous over patios due to an increased airflow around the beans, the ease of construction and the increased ability to hand sort and turn the beans.

Ristretto

A 'restricted' espresso made by pouring an espresso with a usual amount of grinds, but with less water. Results in a thick, syrupy, intense coffee but with a slightly lower caffeine content.

Roasting

The process of applying a large amount of heat to green coffee beans, encourage various chemical reactions to prepare the coffee for brewing. It also increase the volatile aroma compounds within the coffee, increasing fragrance but resulting in a product which goes stale much quicker.

Robusta

One of the two main coffee species, Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora (often called Robusta). Recognised as the lower quality of the two and often used in instant coffee and poor quality coffee blends.

Sack

The carrier that green bean has been traditionally transported in, varying in weight from 60kg to 70kg depending on the region. Traditionally made of Jute or Burlap. More recently, better materials are being used by some producers to help prevent defects or quality loss within the coffee

Screen Drying

The process of drying green beans on raised beds. Often seen as advantageous over patio drying due to an increase in airflow resulting in more even drying.

Screen Size

One of the grading systems used to classify the beans by quality. Various mesh screens are used to divide the coffee into uniform sizes. This also aids in creating an even roast of coffee.

Selectively Picked

One of the methods with which the coffee cherries are removed from plant. The cherries are selectively hand picked at their peak ripeness. This method requires more manpower, time and skill than strip picking but can yield a more high quality coffee.

Semi-Washed Coffee

The processing method in which the coffee bean is left with the parchment, mucilage and varying amounts of pulp surrounding the green bean during the drying process. Also known as Honey Process or Pulped Natural Process, it is characterized as being particularly sweet with a balanced acidity.

Shade Grown Coffee

Coffee from where the plants are grown under a canopy created by assorted shade trees. This type of coffee is often organic and incorporates many of the principles of natural ecology. It is often higher quality than sun grown coffee.

Single Origin Coffee

Coffee where the provenance is known to at least the country of origin though it is commonly labelled to the farm or estate on which the coffee is grown.

Single Shot

A single shot of espresso. Using no less than 7g of espresso (though we recommend at least 8g) and result in between 10g and 20g of espresso.

Sourness

An sharp or overly acidic flavour within brewed coffee. It is normally associated with under-extracted brewed coffee, over-fermented coffee beans or coffee beans which are too lightly roasted for the brew method.

Steaming Milk

The process of heating milk with steam to use in an espresso based drink. During the heating, air is carefully incorporated into the milk to create a micro-foam resulting in a smooth textured milk without visible bubbles.

Strictly Hard Bean

A phrase used interchangeably with 'strictly high grown' beans due to their slow maturing at higher altitudes, resulting in a denser or harder bean. More desirable than lower altitude grown coffee.

Strictly High Grown

A phrase used interchangeably with 'strictly hard bean' beans due to their slow maturing at higher altitudes, resulting in a denser or harder bean. More desirable than lower altitude grown coffee.

Strip Picked

One of the methods with which the coffee cherries are removed from plant. The entire crop is picked at the same time either by hand or machine. This method requires less labour, but due to different ripeness levels, it results in a lower quality coffee than selective picking.

Sun Dried Coffee

The process of drying green coffee beans either on patios or in raise beds. The goal is to reduce moisture content to about twelve percent and takes around three weeks

Sun Grown Coffee

Coffee that is grown in direct sunlight with no shade. Often results in lower quality coffee than shade grown coffee but can produce higher yields from the same area of land.

Sparkling Water Process

The process of decaffeinating green coffee beans without using solvents. It involves soaking the beans in a caffeine free green bean extract to encourage caffeine to leave the beans before they are re-dried. It is often seen as one of the best methods of decaffeinating coffee due to it's lack of chemicals and minimal damage to the quality.

Tamper

The piece of equipment that a barista uses to compress espresso coffee grinds within the portafilter before extracting a shot of espresso. This process is necessary for the even extraction of the coffee.

Terroir

The very specific area where the coffee plants grow, similar to the words use in wine. Aspects of the Terroir include shade, soil, moisture, altitude and much more. 

Under-extracted

A coffee which has been brewed in such a way that not all the solubles have had a chance to extract into the cup. It can be recognised by it's sour and watery flavour.

Vacuum Pot

A coffee brew method also known as a Siphon which relies on vapor pressure and vacuum effect to brew a clean cup of filter coffee. More of a show piece than an everyday practicality.

Washed Process

The process in which the coffee cherry and mucilage are removed from the green coffee bean before drying. Washed coffees are characterized and being clean and bright.

Wholebean Coffee

Coffee which has been roasted and bagged in bean form rather than being ground first. This is the best way to buy roasted coffee due to it having more resistance to flavour and aroma loss.

 

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