a complete guide to coffee terms and their meanings

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95+ pages of everything you wanted to know about coffee. A comprehensive guide for baristas or anyone involved in the speciality coffee bean or coffee making trade. The glossary contains over 1,000 terms covering the history, cupping, drinks, processing, botany, roasting, branding, estates, marketing, export trade, coffee making equipment, farming, grading and chemistry of coffee.


  • A Complete Glossary of Coffee Terms

    By Peter Baskerville

    August 2009

    Peter Baskerville 2009 Page 1 of 89

    Front Cover - A ninth century book boarder from Tymms, W. R.: The Art of Illuminating As Practised in Europe from the Earliest Times (1860) Public Domain

  • Coffee - This invigorating drink which drives sad care from the heart

    A A: (Grading) Capitalized letters that are used in coffee descriptors are grade indicators. They are usually given to identify the size of the Arabica variety of coffee bean because there is a general market belief that there is a correlation between been size and flavour. (A is the grade used in India to identify its largest sized bean. Other grading includes B & C. AA: This is the largest size grade used for coffees from Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Papua New Guinea. AA+: The + indicates that the coffee bean has been grown on an estate. This indicator is often used in Kenyas coffee grades. AAA: This is the largest size grade of coffee beans given to coffee exported from Peru.)

    Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri: (History - Writer) A Muslim writer who compiled a work entitled `Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa in 1587 which traced the history and the legal controversies surrounding the coffee drink. The Arabic word qahwa, said to mean both "coffee" and "wine", is the root of our word "coffee," through the Turkish word kahve, as referenced in this bilingual website. The standard story of coffee is that it originated in Ethiopia, was traded across the Red Sea to Yemen through the port of al-Mukha (Mocha, get it?), whence it made its way up the shipping routes to Mecca and Medina, and from there to Cairo, Constantinople, Vienna, Paris, Italian towns, and London. Since this all happened during the period just prior to release of Abd al-Qazir Al-Jaziri's book, one would like to read it, or at least a translation.

    Abyssinia: (History - Names) The name of an early coffee growing country now known as Ethiopia.

    Acerbic: (Cupping) The description of a taste fault in the coffee beverage that creates a sour sensation on the tongue often due to excessive heat during the holding process after brewing.

    Achilles, Gaggia: (History - Inventor) He is credited with perfecting the espresso coffee machine in 1947. He introduced a piston lever to the espresso machine that created a high-pressure extraction from the ground coffee that was placed in a single group. The machine was called the Crema Caffe.

    Acidity: (Cupping) This is one of the principal categories judged by professional tasters in the evaluation of the coffee bean. The other categories are flavor, aroma and body. Acidity is a positive highly desirable quality that refers to the pleasant high notes sharpness, brightness, snap, life and vibrancy contained of the coffee beverage. It is best described as the sensation of dryness on the back of the palate and under the edges of the tongue much like the desired sharpness of a dry white wine. Acidity is said to increases the overall experience of the coffee cup because without sufficient acidity, the coffee beverage would tend to be flat and dull. It is usually assessed and categorized as lively, moderate, flat or dull. This description is not to be confused with corrosive, bitter/sour as it is compared to a sweet, heavy, mellow flavour. Neither does it refer to the coffee beverages pH level. Coffee actually has a relatively neutral pH of between 5 and 6. Aging the green coffee bean and/or a darker roast will tend to reduce the acidity so old crop will have little acidity.

    Acrid: (Cupping) A harsh sour secondary taste further described as tart, sharp, or acerbic noticed on the posterior sides of the tongue. Typified by an unwashed Rio coffee from Brazil.

    Aden: (Region) See - Al Mukha or Mocca

    Peter Baskerville 2009 Page 2 of 89

    Affogato: (Drink) This is a term that literally means 'drowned'. It is the description of a shot of separately served espresso that is later poured over a the top of a scoop of

  • vanilla ice cream or gelato. This beverage is usually served in a short drink glass and is a Italian desert favourite. Popular Affogatos include Vanilla Affogato, Mocha Affogato, and Peppermint Affogato.

    African Wild Coffee: (Botany) This is the common name of Coffea racemosa Lour which is a coffee species native to Ethiopia.

    Aftertaste: (Cupping) This is the ultimate judge on the quality of the coffee beverage. It is the aromatic impression that the coffee vapors leave in the mouth after swallowing and is sometimes called finish. The flavors released from the residue liquid remaining in the throat after swallowing can range in description from caramely, chocolatey, spicy to turpeny.

    Aged/Vintage Coffee: (Green Bean Processing) Traditionally this is a term used in the trade to identify green beans that have been held in warehouses for several years before being roasted a common practice in Indonesian coffees. Usually, these green beans are aged by design but sometimes it is done so inadvertently. When held by design, the object is to promote enzyme activity that will reduce the acidity yet at the same time increase the body and mellowness of the coffee cup. Some say the taste generated is almost sweet whilst others say it is of a poor quality with an overriding taste of cork. Aged/vintage coffees are held longer in storage than those referred to as old crop or past crop.

    Agha, Suleiman: (History - Drink) He was the ambassador to Paris of the Sultan - Muhammad the Fourth. This ambassador is said to have introduced coffee drinking to Louis 14th the King of France in 1669.

    Agtron: (Roasting) A specially modified spectrophotometer that analyses the degree of the coffee bean roast. Using a Near-Infrared energy band it measures the amount of ray absorbed by the sugar molecules in the roasted bean. This gives a reading which determines its position on the "chemistry index" i.e. the degree to which it is cooked. Agtron readings range from #95 (lightest roast) through #10 (darkest common roast).

    Air Roaster: (Roasting) See - Fluid Bed Roaster Air Sorting: (Green Bean Processing) In order to raise the quality of only size-graded coffees, various schemes are used to separate out the other imperfections. Some of these imperfections, including shells, "quakers" (immature beans), stones, etc., have different specific gravitys (heaviness) than do the sound coffee beans, hence they can be separated mechanically. Various types of machines are used to separate out the light and heavier beans. Air separators are most commonly used. Other imperfections cannot be separated out by the specific gravity differences (i.e. sour black beans) and need to be sorted by other methods.

    Al Mukha or Mocca: (Region) The original coffee that was exported from the Arabian Peninsula received its name from this port city located on the northern side of the Red Sea. However, since the opening of the Suez Canal exporters have by-passed Mocca in favor of Aden, which is located at the tip of the peninsula. Coffee has not been shipped from Mochas silted up port for over 100 years.

    Alajuela: (Brand) This is the market name for one of the better shade grown, organic-certified, SHB (Strictly Hard Bean) coffees coming from the Alajuela province located in the North Central Valley of Costa Rica.

    Peter Baskerville 2009 Page 3 of 89

    Aldehydes: (Chemistry) These are the most delicate and volatile aroma compounds found in roasted coffee. The best Arabica coffees typically have a higher concentration of these aldehydes. These compounds give coffee its sweet, fruit/floral-like aromas. They are easily oxidized (changed into acid and water) or dissipated (air), especially

  • when subject to increased temperatures, grinding and/or wet conditions. Some aldehydes were found to decrease by as much as 50% within fifteen minutes of grinding and being exposure to the open ambient air.

    Al-Jaziri: (History Writing) See - Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri Alkaline: (Cupping) Coffee beans exhibiting this characteristic tend to have a tallowy and leather-like odor creating a dry taste sensation mostly at the back of the tongue. This is generally caused by the coffee fats breaking down due to an excessive amount of heat being applied during the drying process particularly with the mechanical coffee bean dryer. It is not necessarily a disagreeable taste and is a characteristic of many dark roasts and some Indonesian coffees

    All About Coffee: (Research) This book is thought to be the single richest written source on the cultural and commercial history of coffee. Written by William H. Ukers of The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Company in New York, the original edition was published in 1922 followed by a second edition in 1935. He classified his worinto 6 books. It was later reprinted in 1976 by the Gale Research Company of Detroit, Michigan.


    Allogamous: (Botany) The botanical description of a plant requiring other partners in order to fertilize. i.e. Coffea Canephora (Robusta)

    Alpino, Paduan Prospero: (History - Writing) A famous Italian botanist and doctor who described the coffee plant in his book "De Planctis Aegyptii et de Medicina Aegiptiorum". Printed in 1591, he is credited with the coffee drinks introduction to Italy after he brought some bags back with him from the east - probably Egypt.

    Alpinus, Prosper: (History - Writing) Credited with publishing two works on the coffee plant and beverage; (1) De Medicina Aegyptorum Libri quatuor in 1591 and (2) De Plantis Aegypti Liber in 1592. These works included notes about coffee discovered during his voyage to Egypt in 1580 and include the first published illustration of the coffee plant.

    Al-Razi: (History Writing) See Bunchum Altura Coatepec: (Brand) Is a marke


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