Coffee Glossary

Browse our coffee glossary for all things coffee, then shop our selection of brands like Starbucks, Caribou coffee and Peet’s coffee.
Acidity: When used as a coffee term it is describing the bright, tangy, fruity, or even wine-like characteristics. This is found in a lot of high grown Arabica coffee (high altitude grown coffee). The dark the roast is the less acidity. Important to remember that when it comes to acidity it just referring to the brightness or liveliness of a coffee.
Altura: Used to describe high grown/mountain grown coffee. In Spanish it means height.
American Roast: Coffee that is roasted to a medium brown. It is the traditional roast for America
Arabica: The earliest cultivated species of coffee tree and produces nearly all of the world's specialty coffee. Widely grown it makes up 70% of the world's coffee.  Some state that Arabica is far superior than Robusta.
Aroma: The fragrance produced by freshly brewed coffee. It is one of the main categories coffee tasters use to evaluate the coffee. Whenever you enjoy the smell of your coffee, you are enjoying its aroma.
Affogato: A decadent dessert that requires you to "drown" your vanilla ice cream in espresso
Americano: Aka as "Cafe Americano" It is when you use a shot or two of espresso and mix it with hot water to make a full sized drink.
Balance: A term that is applied to coffee when no single characteristic is more prominent than others. Doesn't mean that the coffee is boring, it can still have complex features to it.
Barista: A person whose job is to create and serve different types of coffee. Essentially the bartender of coffee shops. 
Bitter: This is usually a description of some dark roasts. When bitter is not intentionally it is the cause of over-extraction or defective coffee.
Blend: A mixture of two or more single-origin coffee
Body: a component of brewed coffee that is used to describe the thickness or richness. Body also refers to the feel and texture of coffee in your mouth.  A body can be full or even light.
Bright: when a coffee is being described as bright it usually means it has a tangy acidity or even wine-like flavor.
 
Cafe au Lait: is similar to a latte but is made with French Press coffee (strong/bold coffee) instead of espresso. Drink is made with equal parts coffee and steamed milk. Popular in Europe and is a French coffee drink.
Cafe Americano: see Americano
Cafe Latte: A serving of espresso with the rest of the cup being topped off with steamed milk and froth.
Caffeine: is what gives us that extra jolt in the morning after a cup of coffee. Caffeine is a chemical found in coffee that creates at stimulating effect on our brain and nervous system.
Cappuccino: is a coffee drink that is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and froth.
Certified coffee: this means that many aspects of sustainability were taken into account.  This could mean that coffee was grown in a healthy environment, economically viable for farmers, promotes fairness among framers and workers, or all three. Certified coffee also means that it meets guidelines set by coffee growers and is verified by a certification organization. To see all the different certificates click here.
Cherry: the fruit of the coffee tree.
Chocolaty: coffee with deep, creamy undertones.
Cinnamon Roast: is a very light roast of coffee. The way the beans crack during the roasting process results in a coffee that is dry and light brown in color. A roast of this kind usually does have a sour taste.
City Roast: this roast falls right in between a light and medium. It is a light brown color that results in a coffee that full of flavor with bright, acidic notes. A city roast accounts for the majority of coffee that is consumed in the United States.
Clean: is used to describe coffee that is flavorful with no defects hinted at.
Colombian Coffee: is coffee that is wet-processed and produced, collected, milled and exported by the Colombian Coffee Federation. Colombia is currently the #3 top exporter of coffee in the world. Colombian coffee beans are usually mild and well-balanced. Colombia has the perfect geography for growing coffee. Only grows Arabica beans.
Commercial Coffee: is coffee that is already pre-ground, in some cases pre-brewed, all under brand names.
Complexity: a term used to describe all the taste sensations in when you try coffee.  If a coffee has complexity it means all the flavors leave an impression of depth and layer pleasurably.
Continental Roast: a dark roast that has acidic tones, some sweetness and a noticeable body. Other names for this roast are Full City, Viennese, Light French or even Light Espresso.
Creamy: This is one of the characteristics of coffees when it is usually pressure brewed. Ex is the cream that appears on top of the surface.
Crema: the true sign that you have received/made a good espresso.  It is a caramel colored foam on top of a correctly brewed espresso.
Cup of Excellence: an annual prestigious competition to see who will be awarded for the highest quality in coffee.
Cupping: is the procedure professional tasters use to perform all full sensory evaluation on coffee beans. Coffee grounds are placed into a cup, while water is poured over it and the liquid is tasted. What professionals are evaluating is aroma, acidity, body, and flavor.
Dark Roast: coffee beans that are roasted to a dark brown/black color. They usually have less acidity than medium or light roast. Depending on what type of dark roast you have a lot of aroma and flavor or a burnt flavor.
Decaf: caffeine is removed from the coffee beans. Any coffee that has at least 97% of its original caffeine content removed is classified as decaf. Unroasted coffee beans are placed in a solvent to remove the caffeine.
Deep: used to describe a flavorful coffee with a rich aftertaste.
Direct Trade: a form of sourcing coffee that roasters use when they buy straight from the growers. This eliminates middleman buyers/sellers and organizations that control certifications. It is up to the roaster to determine the quality of the bean.
Dry Method Coffee: is a method of processing coffee.  Coffee is processed by removing the fruit after the coffee fruit has been dried. The dry method produces coffee that has less acidity and more body. Popular coffees of this method are Yemen coffees and traditional Brazilian coffees.
Drip Coffee: the standard way to brew coffee in most business and restaurants. This method allows heated water drip through ground coffee in a filter.
Earthiness: a characteristic that is usually found in coffees that have been wet processed because the coffee has made literally contact with the earth. Can be seen has an exotic characteristic of coffee. Usually this is found in coffees from Sumatra and Indonesia. 
Espresso: is used to define a roast and a brewing method. To make an espresso hot water is forced under pressure through a compressed bed of finely ground coffee. Takes less than a minute to brew and the maximum it produces is 2 ounces of coffee.
Extraction: when you use hot water to draw flavor from coffee grounds. To get the proper brew you need the exact amount of coffee grounds that coincides with the correct time and temperature.
Exotic: Unique aroma. Ex. berry or floral.
Fair Trade: Fair Trade makes sure that farmers are guaranteed a minimum price, and even links farmers directly with importers. This allows farmers to create long:term sustainability benefiting everyone involved. Farmers, through Fair Trade, earn better incomes which allows them to hold on to their land and invest in the quality of the coffee you drink. To earn a certificate of Fair-trade coffee you must follow the criteria set by the Fair Trade association. 
Filter Coffee: A brew method in  which water filters through ground coffee. See Drip Method.
Finish: a term that is used to describe the experience after you have swallowed your first sip of coffee.
Flavia:  is a single serve hot beverage system created by Mars Drinks. It has a wide selection of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate drinks.
Flavored Coffee: this happens when coffees in their whole bean roasted form have been mixed with flavoring agents. You can also get flavored coffee by just putting any type of syrup in your brewed cup.
Flavor: after all of the characteristics like acidity, body and aroma have been defined, flavor is the next to be distinguished. It adds to the overall experience of coffee and flavor doesn't need to be the sugary kind of flavor either.
Flat White: an espresso beverage that is topped with flat, steamed milk. This makes for a velvety finish. 
Fragrance: a term to describe the scent of coffee after it has been ground but before it is brewed.
French Press: this method of brewing was invented in France in the mid 1800's. It requires you to steep coffee grounds in water for a few minutes. A you finish steep the coffee the plunger/filter is pressed down to separate the grinds. Click here to find out more about this brewing method on our Coffee 101 page.
French Roast: a roast that takes beans almost to the point of burning. This creates a roast that has a thin body, rich flavor, smoky tones,  and a low acidity. 
Frothed Milk: Milk that is heated and frothed with a steam wand of an espresso machine. Creates a velvety foam.
Fruity: are aromas that are reminiscent of citrus fruits or berries.
Full: describes a coffee that a an almost heavy body. These coffees are not overwhelming and are satisfying.
Heavy: describes a coffee that is dense in the mouth.
Green Coffee: unroasted coffee beans.
Ground Coffee: what happens when you grind roasted beans.
Italian Roast: an extreme dark roast. It is characterized by its rich and bittersweet flavor. Dark brown in color and an oily surface
Keurig: the original single-serve brewer an coffee pod manufacturing company. Widely popular and found all over. Their brewing systems are for both home and office use.
K:Cup Pod: these pods only work for a Keurig machine. They contain coffee grounds, tea leaves, cocoa powder, fruit powder, etc in them that are in a single-serve container. The Pod consists of a plastic cup, aluminum lid, and filter, finally it is sealed for freshness.
Kona: this single-origin coffee, has gained popularity over the last couple of years. It comes from the Kona coast of Hawaii. Kona's usually have a rich, complex aroma and flavor. Good acidity with a medium body.             
Latte: A widely popular coffee beverage. Can be served hot or iced.  It consists of 1:2 shots of espresso. It is then combined with about three times as much hot milk, topped off with froth. If it is an iced latte no froth.
Light roast: is light brown in color and the surface of the bean has a lack of oil. Compared to other roasts, it has the highest acidity and more caffeine.  
Macchiato: a serving of espresso that is topped off with a small quantity of hot, frothed milk.
Medium roast: is medium brown in color and has a non-oily surface. They are stronger in flavor and is the most well-balanced out of the three roasts. It is common to find that a lot of medium roasts have acidity and body.
Mild: strength of coffee that is determined by how long the coffee beans are roasted for. In this case, the beans are only roasted for a several minutes. Not a lot of strong flavors.
Milling:it is part of the harvest of the coffee fruit.  If the coffee is being wet-processed, the dry parchment skin is mechanical removed. If it is dry-processed, the entire dried fruit covering is removed. Both are milling.
Mocha Java: traditionally speaking this is the world's oldest coffee blend. Mocha and Java coffees creates an excellent balanced cup. It is mistakenly always thought to have to do with chocolate flavoring but there is no chocolate at all in this blend.
New England Roast: a light roast that has a sharp sometimes sour acidity. It is also grainlike in taste.
New Orleans Coffee: a dark roast blend that would traditionally contain a ground chicory root. You can be sure to enjoy a cup of these coffee with some delicious beignets.
Organic Coffee: coffee that is certified organic by the USDA. This means that coffee was grown without any pesticides, herbicides, or other similar chemicals.
Pod: is a single serving of coffee packed in its own filter.
Pull: a term that applies to espresso shots. It is called a pull because of the force of the water flowing through the compacted ground coffee.
Redeye: brewed coffee with a shot of an espresso.
Richness: a coffee that has a full body and deep flavors.
Roast: when the coffee green beans are heated to create a variety of complex flavors that are extracted through different brewing methods.
Robusta: These beans have twice as much caffeine as Arabica and make up 30% of the world's coffee. This coffee is characterized by its strong taste. To find out more about Robusta beans click here.
Seasonal Coffee: this is when coffee beans ripen at certain times of the year in different regions. They are only available for limited times. Seasonal coffee also happens with brand names and chains that offer flavored coffee with the season.
Single Origin: coffee is unblended and comes for a single country, region, and crop.
Specialty Coffee: coffees that are grown in special and ideal climates, and are distinctive because of their full cup taste. Characterized by unique and special flavors. You sell coffee and not focus on the brand or trademark. To be considered specialty coffee you have to meet certain criteria set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.  
Sumatra: single-origin coffee from the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. This coffee has deep flavor with a full body. It also has a vibrant acidity and some earthy tones.
Sweet: describes coffee that is smooth and palatable. No harsh flavors.
Wet-Method Coffee: a preparation method of coffee that removes the skin and pulp from the bean while the coffee is still fresh and moist. Most of the world's coffee is processed this way. 
Whole Bean Coffee: Roasted coffee beans before they are ground.