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Coffee Glossary

Coffee Glossary

 A B  C  D  E  F  G  H  K  L  M  O  P  R  S  T  V  W

A

AA.  Capitalized letters are grade indicators usually describing the size of the bean

Acidity, Acidy, Acid.  Usually, the pleasant tartness of a fine coffee. Acidity, along with flavor, aroma, and body, is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters in cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee. When not used to describe cup characteristics, the term acidity may refer to pH, or literal acidity, or to certain constituents present in coffee that ostensibly produce indigestion or nervousness in some individuals.

American Roast.  Coffee roasted to traditional American taste: medium brown.

Americano, Cafè Americano.  An espresso lengthened with hot water.

Arabica, Coffea Arabica.  The earliest cultivated species of coffee tree and still the most widely grown. It produces approximately 70% of the world's coffee, and is dramatically superior in cup quality to the other principal commercial coffee species, Coffea canephora or Robusta . All fine, specialty, and fancy coffees come from Coffea arabica trees.

Aroma.  The fragrance produced by hot, freshly brewed coffee. Aroma, along with flavor, acidity, and body, is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters in cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee.

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B

Barista.  Italian term for skillful and experienced espresso bar operator.

Blend.  A mixture of two or more single-origin coffees.

Body.  The sensation of heaviness, richness, or thickness and associated texture when one tastes coffee. Body, along with flavor, acidity, and aroma, is one of the principal categories used by professional tasters cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee.

Brazil.  One of the world's most complicated coffee origins. Most Brazil coffee is carelessly picked and primitively processed, and is not a factor in the specialty trade. The best (usually dry-processed Bourbon Santos) can be a wonderfully deep, complex, sweet coffee particularly appropriate for espresso. Almost all Brazil coffee is relatively low-grown, but the variety of processing methods (wet method, dry method, and semi-dry or pulped natural method) makes Brazil a fascinating origin.

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C

Cafè Americano.  An espresso lengthened with hot water.

Cafe au Lait. A Coffee drink combining one-third drip coffee with two-thirds hot frothed milk.

Cafe Breva. A Cafe Breva is essentially a cappuccino made with half & half instead of whole milk. This should have a very rich creamy flavor.

Cafè Latte.  A serving of espresso combined with about three times as much hot milk topped with froth.

Cappuccino.  An espresso drink comprised of one serving of espresso topped with hot milk and froth.

Chaff.  Flakes of the innermost skin of the coffee fruit (the silverskin) that remain clinging to the green bean after processing and float free during roasting.

Cherry.  Common term for the fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry contains two regular coffee beans, or one peaberry.

Chicory.  The root of the endive, roasted and ground, it is blended with coffee in New Orleans style coffee.

Cinnamon Roast.  Also known as Light Roast and New England Roast. Coffee brought to a degree of roast of coffee lighter than the traditional American norm, and grainlike in taste, with a sharp, almost sour acidity. This roast style is not a factor in specialty coffee.

City Roast.  Also Light French Roast, Viennese Roast, Light Espresso Roast, High Roast, and Full-City Roast. Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast somewhat darker than the traditional American norm, but lighter than the classic dark roast variously called espresso, French, or Italian. In the cup, full-city and associated roast styles are less acidy and smoother than the traditional American "medium" roast, but may display fewer of the distinctive taste characteristics of the original coffee. Among many newer American specialty roasters, roast styles once called full-city, Viennese, etc. may constitute the typical, "regular" roast of coffee.

Cold-Brew Method.  Brewing method in which ground coffee is soaked in a proportionally small amount of cold water for 10 to 20 hours. The grounds are strained out and the resulting concentrated coffee is stored and mixed with hot water as needed. The cold water method produces a low-acid, light-bodied cup that some find pleasingly delicate, and others find bland.

Continental Roast.  Also known as Espresso Roast, After-Dinner Roast, and European Roast. Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast ranging from somewhat darker than the traditional American norm to dark brown. Acidity diminishes and a rich bittersweetness emerges. Among many newer American specialty roasters, roast styles once called by these names may in fact constitute the typical, "regular" roast of coffee.

Costa Rica.  The best Costa Rica coffees (San Marcos de Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredi, Alajuela) display a full-body and clean, robust acidity that make them among the most admired of Central American coffees.

Crema.  The pale brown foam covering the surface of a well-brewed tazzina of espresso.

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D

Dark Roast.  Vague term; may describe any roast of coffee darker than the traditional American norm.

Demitasse.  "Half cup" in French; a half-size or three-ounce cup used primarily for espresso coffee.

Drip Method.  Brewing method that allows hot water to settle through a bed of ground coffee.

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E

Espresso.  Used to describe both a roast of coffee (see Espresso Roast) and a method of brewing in which hot water is forced under pressure through a compressed bed of finely ground coffee. In the largest sense, an entire approach to coffee cuisine, involving a traditional menu of drinks, many combining brewed espresso coffee with steam-heated, steam-frothed milk.

Espresso Con Panna. This is a shot of espresso topped with whipped cream  

Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is a very complex coffee origin. The best Ethiopia dry-processed coffee (Harrar or Harar) tends to be medium-bodied and brilliantly acidy with rough, fruity or winy tones. The best washed Ethiopian coffee (Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, some Limu, and some washed Djimah) is light-bodied but explosive with complex floral and citrus notes.

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F

French Press, Plunger Pot.  Brewing method that separates spent grounds from brewed coffee by pressing them to the bottom of the brewing receptacle with a mesh plunger.

French Roast, Heavy Roast, Spanish Roast.  Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast considerably darker than the American norm; may range in color from dark brown (see Espresso Roast) to nearly black (see Dark French Roast) and in flavor from rich and bittersweet to thin-bodied and burned.

Frothed Milk.  Milk that is heated and frothed with a steam wand as an element in the espresso cuisine.

Full-City Roast, Light French Roast, Viennese Roast, Light Espresso Roast, City Roast, High Roast.  Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast somewhat darker than the traditional American norm, but lighter than the classic dark roast variously called espresso, French, or Italian. In the cup, full-city and associated roast styles are less acidy and smoother than the traditional American "medium" roast, but may display fewer of the distinctive taste characteristics of the original coffee. Among many newer American specialty roasters, roast styles once called full-city, Viennese, etc. may constitute the typical, "regular" roast of coffee.

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G

Guatamala.  Guatemala is a complex coffee origin. Strictly Hard Bean grade coffees from the central highlands (Antigua, Atitlan) tend to exhibit a rich, spicy or floral acidity and excellent body. Coffees from mountainous areas exposed to either Pacific (San Marcos) or Caribbean (Cobán, Huehuetenango) weather tend to display a bit less acidity and more fruit..

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H

Hawaii.  The traditional and classic coffee of Hawaii is Kona, grown on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. On the other Hawaiian islands, however, sugar-cane and pineapple plantations have been converted to premium coffee farms. Kauai (Kauai Coffee), Molokai (Malulani Estate) and Oahu all now produce interesting and improving coffees.

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K

Kenya.  Kenya coffees are celebrated for their deep, winy acidity, resonant cup presence, and complex fruit and berry tones. Of the world's great coffees, Kenyan probably is the most consistent in quality and most widely available.

Kona, Hawaii Kona.  Single-origin coffee from the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii. The best Kona coffee displays classic balance, with medium body, good acidity, and rich, complex aroma and flavor.

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L

Latte.  Means 'milk' in Italian. So if you were to go to Italy and order a Latte you would be given a cup of milk. See Cafe Late for the associated espresso-based drink

Lungo.  This is an extra long pull allowing approximately twice as much water through the same amount of coffee as normally used for a single shot. This will be somewhat over-extracted. It's about a 2-3 ounce shot.

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M

Macchiato.  Either a serving of espresso "stained" or marked with a small quantity of hot frothed milk (espresso macchiato), or a moderately tall (about eight ounces) glass of hot frothed milk "stained" with espresso (latte macchiato). In North America, the term macchiato is more likely to describe the former (espresso stained with milk) than the latter (milk stained with espresso).

Mexico.  The best Mexico coffees (Oaxaca Pluma, Coatepec, Chiapas) are distinguished by a light body and a delicate, pleasant acidity. Highland Chiapas coffees can be bigger and more richly acidy.

Mocha, Moka, Mocca, Moca.  Single-origin coffee from Yemen; also a drink combining chocolate and (usually espresso) coffee. The coffee, also called Arabian Mocha, Yemen, or Yemen Mocha, takes its name from the ancient port of Mocha. It is the world's oldest cultivated coffee, distinguished by its distinctively rich, winy acidity and intriguing nuance. Coffee from the Harrar region of Ethiopia, which resembles Yemen coffee in cup-character, is also sometimes called Mocha.

Mocha-Java, Moka-Java, Mocca-Java.  Traditionally, a blend of Yemen Mocha and Java Arabica coffees, usually one part Yemen Mocha and two parts Java Arabica. All commercial Mocha-Java blends and many specialty versions no longer follow this recipe. Commercial blends may combine any of a variety of round, full coffees in place of the Java, and any of a variety of bright, acidy coffees in place of the Mocha, while changing proportions to maintain a uniform taste. Versions offered by specialty roasters may blend a true Java with a true Yemen Mocha, or may substitute another (often better) Indonesia coffee for the Java, or an Ethiopia Harrar for the Yemen. Most specialty coffee variations probably do represent the classic blend accurately. In its traditional form, Mocha-Java is the world's oldest coffee blend.

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O

Open-Pot Method.  Brewing method in which the ground coffee is steeped (not boiled) in an open pot, and separated from the brewed coffee by settling or straining.

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P

Portafilter, Filter Holder.  In espresso brewing , a metal object with plastic handle that holds the coffee filter, and clamps onto the group.

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R

Ristretto.  This is a restricted shot. Less water is allowed to come through the coffee grounds but the shot should take the same amount of time as a normal pull. This is approximately a .75 ounce pull.

Robusta, Coffea Canephora.  Currently the only significant competitor among cultivated coffee species to Coffea Arabica. Robusta produces about 30% of the world's coffee. It is a lower-growing, higher-bearing tree that produces full-bodied but bland coffee of inferior cup quality and higher caffeine content than Coffea Arabica. It is used as a basis for blends of instant coffee, and for less expensive blends of pre-ground commercial coffee. It is not a factor in the specialty coffee trade except as a body-enhancing component in some Italian-style espresso blends. See also Coffea Arabica.

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S

Single-Origin Coffee, Straight Cofee.  Unblended coffee from a single country, region, and crop.

Steam Wand, Nozzle, Pipe, Stylus.  The small protruding pipe on most espresso machines that provides live steam for the milk-frothing operation..

Sumatra.  Single-origin coffee from the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Most high-quality Sumatra coffee is grown either near Lake Toba (Mandheling, Lintong) or in Aceh Province, near Lake Biwa (Aceh, Gayo Mountain). At best, distinguished by full body, deep, expansive flavor, and a low-toned, vibrant acidity. At worst, many display unpleasant hard or musty defects. Some display an earthiness which many coffee lovers enjoy and others avoid.

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T

Tamper.  In espresso brewing, the small, pestle-like device with a round, flat end used to distribute and compress the ground coffee inside the filter basket.

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V

Viennese Coffee.  Ambiguous term. Describes coffee brewed by the drip or filter method from a blend of coffee brought to a degree or darkness of roast called Viennese Roast; also refers to brewed coffee of any roast or origin topped with whipped cream.

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W

Whole-Bean Coffee.  Coffee that has been roasted but not yet ground.

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