Below is collection (in no particular order) of coffee terms you may come across, we are upating this all the time and will eventually alphabetise it too !
AA is a coffee grading term that refers to a specific, larger than normal, bean size. Kenya AA coffee beans, for example, pass through Grade 18 (18/64" diameter) sieve perforations, but are too large to pass through Grade 16 (16/64" diameter) sieve perforations. AA+ refers to coffee beans AA or larger. The term AA is used as a coffee quality "grade" due to the general correlation (with many exceptions) between coffee bean size and coffee flavor.
Altura means height in Spanish and is used to describe high grown, or mountain grown, coffee.
Excelso is used mostly as a coffee grading term, especially in Colombia. Excelso coffee beans are large, but slightly smaller than Supremo coffee beans. Excelso coffee beans pass through Grade 16 (16/64" diameter) sieve perforations, but are too large to pass through Grade 14 (14/64" diameter) sieve perforations. The term "Excelso" is used as a coffee quality "grade" due to the general correlation (with many exceptions) between coffee bean size and coffee flavor. Colombia Supremo coffee beans are slightly larger than excelso beans and will pass through Grade 18 (18/64" diameter) sieve perforations, but are too large to pass through Grade 16 perforations. Supremo and Excelso coffee beans may come from the same tree, but are sorted by size.
Grade is generally used to indicate coffee bean size, which is associated with coffee quality. While there are many exceptions, coffee beans grown at higher elevations tend to be denser, larger, and have better flavor. The process of determining coffee bean size, or grading, is done by passing unroasted beans through perforated containers, or sieves. For example, Grade 18 beans, also called AA, will pass through a sieve with 18/64" diameter holes, but are retained by the next smaller sieve with 16/64" diameter holes. Traditionally, even grades were used for Arabicas (20, 18, 16, etc), and odd numbers were used for Robustas (17, 15, 13, etc). The method of grading coffee (classifying coffee quality) varies by country, and may include bean size, bean density, number of defects, growing altitude, taste, etc.
Synonymous with "high grown (HG)", "hard bean (HB)" refers to coffee grown at altitudes about 4,000 - 4,500 feet above sea level. Beans grown at high altitudes mature more slowly and grow to be harder and denser than beans grown at lower elevations. The inherent consistency and taste attributes of high grown beans makes them more desirable, and generally more expensive, than coffees grown at lower elevations.
Strictly Hard Bean
Synonymous with "strictly high grown (SHG)", "strictly hard bean (SHB)" usually refers to coffee grown at altitudes higher than about 4,500 feet above sea level. Beans grown at high altitudes mature more slowly and grow to be harder and denser than beans grown at lower elevations. The inherent consistency and taste attributes of high grown beans makes them more desirable, and generally more expensive, than coffees grown at lower elevations.
Strictly Soft Bean
Strictly Soft (SS) beans are grown at relatively low altitudes (under 4,000 feet). Beans grown at lower altitudes mature quickly and produce a lighter, less dense bean. Strictly Soft Arabica beans have a more rounded flavor compared to the generally more flavorful and dense Arabica beans grown at higher elevations.
Used mostly as a coffee grading term in Colombia. Supremo coffee beans are slightly larger than Excelso beans and will pass through Grade 18 (18/64" diameter) sieve perforations, but are too large to pass through Grade 16 perforations. Supremo and Excelso coffee beans may come from the same tree, but are sorted by size. Excelso coffee beans are also large, but slightly smaller than Supremo coffee beans. Excelso coffee beans will pass through Grade 16 (16/64" diameter) sieve perforations, but are too large to pass through Grade 14 (14/64" diameter) sieve perforations. The term "Supremo" is used as a coffee quality "grade" due to the general correlation (with many exceptions) between coffee bean size and coffee flavor.
Coffea Arabica trees produce nearly all of the worlds specialty coffee. The vast majority of coffee is Robusta or Arabica. Most consider the flavor of Arabica coffee far superior to Robusta. Robusta trees, however, are more "robust" and are less susceptible to insect infestation and disease. Arabica trees are typically grown at high elevations where insects and disease are less prevalent. Because of the inherently steep terrain at high elevations where Arabica is generally grown, mechanical harvesting is impractical, so Arabica coffee is nearly always picked by hand. Hand picking of Arabica results in less under-ripe and over-ripe beans compared to the commonly machine harvested Robusta. If left alone, Arabica trees will grow to 40 feet high, but in most plantations the trees are pruned to less than 8 feet high for better yield and easier harvest. There are at least a dozen variations, or cultivars, of the Coffea Arabica tree. These include: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Pache Comum, Pache, Catimor, Kent, Mundo Novo, Maragogype, Amarello, and Blue Mountain. Typica is the oldest known Arabica cultivar and is the base from which others developed.
Coffee produced from the Bourbon cultivar of the Coffea Arabica tree, was named after Bourbon Island where it was first cultivated. Bourbon Island was later renamed Reunion and is located east of Madagascar in the Indian ocean. France introduced the Bourbon cultivar to Africa and Latin America. Bourbon became the second most commercialized Arabica variety after Typica. Both the Typica and Bourbon varieties of Arabica are produced in large quantities throughout the world, but are slowly being replaced by more productive and disease resistant varieties such as Caturra. The Bourbon variety is bright yellow when ripe.
Bourbon Santos is a single origin coffee named after Santos, the port in Brazil where the coffee is shipped. Bourbon is the variety of coffee tree used to make Bourbon Santos.
Caturra is a modern hybrid of Coffea Arabica and is becoming increasingly popular with farmers. Caturra has a greater crop yield and is less susceptible to disease than classic Arabicas (Typica and Bourbon).
Botanical name for the Robusta coffee tree. Coffea Canephora and Coffea Arabica are practically the only coffee species used to make coffee. Robusta coffee trees, like Arabica, can grow about 40 feet high, but Robusta beans tend to be smaller and more bitter. Robusta trees are "robust", meaning they are less susceptible to pests and disease and yield more coffee crop. Because of its ability to resist pests and disease, Coffea Canephora is the dominant coffee species grown at low elevations.
A cultivar is a variation of cultivated plant. Cultivars have a name given in accordance with the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). Typica and Bourbon are cultivars of the Arabica tree.
Common name for Coffea Canephora plant. Coffea Canephora and Coffea Arabica are practically the only coffee species used to make coffee. Robusta coffee trees, like Arabica trees, can both grow to about 40 feet high, but Robusta beans tend to be smaller and more bitter. Robusta trees are "robust", meaning they are less susceptible to pests and disease and yield more coffee crop. Coffea Canephora is the dominant coffee species grown at low elevations due to its ability to resist pests and disease.
Coffee stored in a warehouse for up to several years to reduce acidity and increase body. When stored properly, aged coffees have an unusual and almost musty, but pleasant, taste.
A coffee mill where harvested cherries are processed and sorted before final bagging for export. Beneficio means benefit, or profit, in Spanish. Traditionally, a Beneficio was the local mill where farmers brought ripe cherries for processing. Increasingly, farmers are installing their own mills, or Beneficios.
Coffee Berry Borer
The Coffee Berry Borer (CBB), or Hypthenemus Hampei, is one of the most significant pest problems for coffee farmers. An adult CBB is a black, two millimeter long, beetle that bores holes through the seeds coffee cherries. "Broca" is the widely used Spanish term for the coffee berry borer. Video
Coffee beans start out as ripe coffee cherries which are harvested and processed various ways to remove the skin, pulp, and parchment. The dried parchment of coffee cherry seeds are removed to expose the two (sometimes one) "coffee beans". If properly stored, unroasted coffee beans can stay alive for months, and may even germinate into new Coffee plants if planted and watered.
Coffee Leaf Rust
Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) became a problem for coffee farmers in Sri Lanka in the 1860s. CLR has since spread to every coffee growing region of the world, and it destroyed Brazil's crop in 1970 as it did previously on the Islands of Java and Sri Lanka nearly a century before. Many affected plantations replaced their Arabica trees with more disease resistant Robusta. Some affected coffee producing countries have since began replacing the now less desirable Robusta trees with newer Arabica cultivars that are more disease resistant compared to the "heirloom" classics Typica and Bourbon. CLR is often prevented by the use of copper-based fungicides.
In the dry process, ripe cherries are first dried in the sun, after which the dried skin, pulp, and parchment are removed from the bean (seed). The process takes about two weeks and the cherries must be raked while drying to avoid mildew. Dry processing produces coffees with less acidity and more body compared to the wet process. Dry processing is only done in growing regions with a naturally hot and dry climate. Brazil, Ethiopia, and Yemen produce most of the worlds dry processed coffees. Dry processed coffee is also called "unwashed", or "natural".
A coffee estate is a coffee plantation. Estate coffees typically sell at a premium due to better consistency and higher quality control compared to coffees collected from many small farms.
Portuguese for "farm". Coffee plantations in Brazil, for example, are called Fazendas.
Coffee cherries that float in water and are 'floated-off' during wet-processing. Overripe, dried, damaged, or deformed coffee cherries tend to float and are discarded at the beginning of wet processing. Also called "lights".
Coffee harvest machines are used mostly on flat plantations at lower elevations. Robusta is harvested mostly by machine, while Arabica, which is normally grown at higher elevations, is typically picked by hand. Video
Coffee harvesting is done mostly by hand at higher elevations, and by machine if possible at lower elevations. For better taste results, only ripe cherries are harvested. Harvesting by machine is difficult on steep terrain, so mountain grown coffees are almost always harvested by hand.
Removing the parchment, or hull, that surrounds the coffee beans in a coffee cherry.
A solvent commonly used to decaffeinate coffee. To make decaffeinated coffee, unroasted beans may be heated with steam and exposed to Methylene Chloride. The resulting Methylene Chloride and Caffeine mixture is completely removed from the coffee. Since Methylene Chloride boils at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, any traces of solvent left in the beans would be boiled away during roasting, as the beans reach temperatures above 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coffee deliberately exposed to moisture-laden monsoon winds in an open warehouse for about one year. Monsooning is done to recreate the flavor of coffees once transferred by slow sailing wooden ships from India to Europe around the Cape of Good Hope.
The thick outermost membrane of the coffee cherry (fruit), similar to the skin of a grape. In the wet, and semi-dry processes, the skin of ripe coffee cherries is removed before drying the coffee beans. In the dry process, the skin is left in place while the whole ripe coffee cherries are dried to allow easier separation of the skin, pulp and hull from the coffee beans.
Parchment Skin is the hull of a coffee cherry seed that surrounds the "coffee bean". The parchment skin is removed from the coffee bean during processing. The silver skin usually remains until it floats away, burns away, or is otherwise separated as "chaff" during the roasting process.
Coffee beans with the skin and pulp removed, but with the parchment (hull) still attached. Dried parchments are transferred to hulling facilities where the hulls are removed and the beans are packaged in large burlap bags ready for export.
Unroasted coffee beans that have been sorted, pulped, dried, and separated from the hull.
The mucilage between the coffee cherry skin and the pit (coffee beans). Coffee cherry pulp has a texture similar to a grapes and is normally dried or fermented to allow easier separation from the coffee beans.
Removing the pulp as part of the wet process. After picking coffee cherries, the first step of processing, using the wet method, is to remove the skin and pulp. Conventional pulping machines have a rotating cylinder that collects harvested cherries immersed in water and presses them against perforations just large enough for the beans to pass. The beans of soft cherries are pushed through the perforations and collected separately while the harder green cherries along with the skin and much of the pulp from the ripe cherries are passed through the machine.
Only ripe coffee cherries should be harvested for processing. Ripe cherries are plump and depending on variety have a red or yellow color. Under-ripe cherries are hard and green. Over-ripe cherries have a dark and shriveled appearance. Ripe cherries are separated from under-ripe and over-ripe cherries by hand picking and by machine during processing.
Semi Dry Process
In the semi dry process, coffee beans are pulped as in the wet process. The coffee beans with parchment and some mucilage still attached are then dried instead of the usual fermentation done in the wet process. After drying, the coffee beans are dehulled (separated from the parchment), sorted, and placed in burlap sacks for export. The semi-dry process is common in the islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi, and is sometimes used in Brazil.
The thin membrane, similar to rice paper, that adheres to coffee beans after removing the husk (hull). Processing may "polish" the unroasted coffee beans removing much of the silver skin. Any remaining silver skin is removed during the roasting process.
Processed coffees are sometimes hand sorted to remove defects or to separate by grade.
Swiss Water Process
The SWISS WATERŪ Process is a 100% chemical free coffee decaffeination process. Most decaffeination processes use chemical solvents, such as methylene chloride (MC). The SWISS WATERŪ Process uses only water to remove caffeine, producing a water processed decaf coffee.
Equipment for processing harvested coffee cherries by the wet method.
In the wet process, ripe cherries are first immersed in water where any floating cherries are removed as defective. The remaining cherries are then pressed by machine against a perforated surface, allowing only the seed, and some attached pulp, to pass through the holes. The remaining pulp is then removed by placing the beans into a fermentation tank to loosen the pulp before washing the pulp away with water. After the pulp is removed, the coffee beans are then dried to about ten to twelve percent moisture content, usually by a combination of sun drying and machine drying. Machine drying is common practice, especially in damp climates, to prevent mildew. Wet processed coffee is sometimes called washed coffee, in reference to the washing done to separate the pulp from the beans. Also called the wet method
(EP) Better preparation for origin export to France Spain & Italy where sellers traditionally received higher prices than from US roasters, and where buyers are more particular as to the grades and finish they will accept in arriving lots.
Trademark of TransFair USA, licensor of the Fair Trade mark for agricultural products in the United States.
Coffee of above average specialty quality. In Hawaii, USA Fancy Grade Kona is Type I Beans (flat bean) - Size 18 or Type II Beans (peaberry) - Size 12 with 16 or less imperfections per sample.
The trademark imprint, often appearing on the original burlap sacks, of a cooperative, exporter, or importer indicating to the buyer coffee of extraordinary value.
Dark roasted. Oil on the bean surface. Dark brown color.
The general designation for the top grade of Indonesia Arabica production. Indonesia: 11 defects per 300 gram sample. There are no bean size-specifications for Indonesian coffee produce.
(Japanese Preparation) Best preparation for Indonesian origin export to Japan where buyers are most particular as to the grade and finish they will accept in arriving lots. Better finishing than European preparation.
(Indon. "Djawa") Indonesian Island SE of Sumatra, and S of Borneo, between the Java Sea and The Indian Ocean. Approximately 661 miles long by 124 miles wide at its widest point. Also coffee of Java origin, introduced in the mid 17th Century by the Dutch. Chronologically, Java is the second great coffee of commerce after Yemen Arabian Mocha. The name "Java" is synonymous for coffee throughout the world.
The "Gran Cru" coffee district of the United States. Also, the largest Island of the Hawaiian Island group that is the State of Hawaii, USA. The Name of coffee grown only in a designated area on the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii. Origin and grade is certified by Hawaii State Department of Agriculture. Roast coffee may be certified by the Kona Coffee Council. www.kona-coffee-council.com
The "Gran Cru" coffee district of Indonesia (Sumatra). A mountainous region (Lintongnihuta) forming a crescent south of Lake Toba in Northwest Sumatra within the larger well respected Mandheling region.
(Coffea arabica L. var. maragogipe) a variety of Arabica coffee originally discovered in Brazil and noted in 1884 as found growing near the town of Maragogipe, Bahia. Over the next 40-years cultivated in other origins including India, Ceylon, Java, and Australia and throughout the Americas including Jamaica. It takes the taste characteristics of the other coffees cultivated in the host country. It is recognized by its very large bean (long with a narrow waist). Once a favorite of Royalty, it was said to be favored by the German Kaiser among others.
The "Gran Cru" coffee of Yemen; the world's oldest cultivated coffee. Also, the Red Sea port of Al-Mukha, the original 17th Century point of origin for coffee of commerce. The trade moved to Aden, at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. While bearing the name of the old port, the coffee itself comes from small farms producing exquisite tasting beans on the fertile spring fed terraces dug into mountainsides in the interior. Yemen Mocha is, by its nature, organically cultivated. It does not have official stature as "Organic". The name "Mocha" is synonymous for coffee throughout the world.
Peaberry (Sp. Caracolillo, Caracoli, Caracol)
Mutant bean often found in fruit at the tips of young branches. A single "pea" shaped bean forms in the fruit rather than the usual two "flat" beans nestling face-to-face. Found in all coffee it is sometimes separated and sold as a distinct grade.
Indonesian Island in Maylay Archepeligo E. of Borneo, and about 375 miles NE of Java across the Java Sea. "Celebes" is the island's old Dutch colonial name. Also the name of coffee from Sulawesi Island.
The "Gran Cru" coffee district of South Costa Rica's Pacific watershed. Coffee cultivated at 1,200-1,700 meters above sea level. www.scacr.com
Triple Picked. Sorted three times to remove undeveloped, off-color, damaged or broken beans. A designation above and beyond the official classification scale for Indonesia-Sumatra coffee preparation.
And then how it all tastes/smells...
Interestingly these terms are used and abused and warped and twisted and changed and well, coffee like anything you taste
is going to be different to different palates, use as you see fit, it's all about what you can taste.
Acidity, used as a coffee term, refers to bright, tangy, fruity, or wine-like flavor characteristics found in many high grown Arabica coffees. Coffee with high acidity is described as acidy, which has nothing to do with amount of acid, or pH. Coffee actually has a relatively neutral pH of between 5 and 6. When green coffee is stored for more than a year it will have a perceptible loss of flavor and acidity. Also, acidity is reduced as coffee is roasted darker.
A harsh sour taste. An acrid coffee can be described as tart, sharp, or acerbic.
The taste of brewed coffee vapors released after swallowing. Also called "finish", aftertastes can be chocolatey, burnt, spicy, tobaccoy, tangy, etc.
The taste term "alkaline" describes a dry taste sensation mostly at the back of the tongue. While somewhat bitter, an alkaline taste is not necessarily disagreeable and is characteristic of many dark roasts and some Indonesian coffees.
Coffee aroma is the fragrance of brewed coffee and is closely related to coffee flavor. Without our sense of smell, flavor would be limited to the tongue senses of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Many nuances of a coffee are reflected in the smell, or "the nose". Subtle floral notes, for example, are experienced most clearly in the aroma, particularly at the moment when the crust is broken during the traditional cupping process. Typical coffee aromas include floral, winey, chocolatey, spicy, tobaccoy, earthy, and fruity. Coffee aroma is also experienced after drinking the coffee when vapors drift upward into the nasal passage. This "retro nasal" aroma is responsible for much of a coffees aftertaste. A coffee's aroma is highest shortly after roasting and then declines rapidly. Coffee freshness, including aroma, can be maintained for months if placed in proper storage immediately after roasting.
Coffee odor similar to that of an ashtray or fireplace. An "Ashy" aroma indicates a dark roast, and is not necessarily a negative attribute. Ashy coffees generally have a carbony flavor.
Drawing coffee brew into the mouth by vigorous suction to spray it evenly across the tongue releasing vapors. Aspiration helps cuppers attain a better sensory evaluation of a coffees nuances.
A dry, sour, salty, and generally disagreeable sensation detected mostly at the sides of the tongue.
A taste characteristic of coffee stored too long in burlap (jute) bags, causing the coffee beans to acquire a straw-like coffee bag flavor. Also used to describe light roasted coffee with mildewy qualities.
Flat, dull, and uninteresting coffee. A baked flavor may be caused by roasting too slowly. Coffee roasted in a drum roaster for much more than about 17 minutes will likely be burnt or have a baked flavor.
A balanced coffee may be complex, but does not have any overwhelming flavor or aroma characteristics. For example, Yemen Mocha is typically bold and flavorful, but is also well balanced. In contrast, Kenya AA, generally has a dominating wine-like fruity flavor. A well balanced coffee has flavors that can be sensed evenly across the tongue. Blending several different coffees together, if done correctly, can create a flavorful and balanced coffee. Balance, however, is not necessarily a positive taste attribute, since some people prefer coffees with particularly strong flavor distinctions.
A harsh, generally unpleasant taste detected mostly in the back of the tongue. Bitterness is characteristic of over-extracted, defective, or extra dark roasted coffees.
The physical mouth feel and texture of a coffee. Full bodied coffees have a strong, creamy, and pleasant, mouth feel. A coffees body (light, medium, or full) is its thickness due to the amount of dissolved and suspended solids and oils extracted from the coffee grounds, and may range from thin and watery to thick and creamy.
The aroma of freshly ground coffee.
A bread-like, or grain-like, aroma. Insufficiently roasted, sour tasting, coffee will often have a bready aroma. Bready coffees may also be described as "green" or "beany".
Coffees with a pleasant, almost tangy, flavor. Bright coffees may also be described as having a wine like acidity.
A salty taste often caused by continuously heating coffee after brewing is complete. Brewed coffee that sits on a burner overnight is likely to taste briny.
A flavor and aroma characteristic of candy or syrup in which sugars have oxidized and become caramelized. Coffee beans contain sugars which caramelize during roasting and, if not burned, may be detected as caramelly notes in the cup.
The flavor and aroma characteristic of burnt food, or burnt wood. Carbony flavors and aromas are often used as an indication of roast degree when cupping darker roasted coffees. Also called "burnt" or "smoky".
An herb used as a coffee substitute and to flavor coffee. Chicory, or Cichorium Intybus, has been used as a coffee additive for centuries, both to enhance flavor of coffee and to stretch coffee supplies. In New Orleans, Louisiana, many have developed a preference for chicory coffee.
The taste or aroma of chocolate. Coffees rarely have a very strong chocolatey flavor or aroma, but some Central American and Yemeni coffees have a distinct chocolatey aroma and a slightly bitter-sweet chocolatey taste.
The aroma and taste of ripe citrus fruit. Citrus notes are often found in coffee, which is not surprising considering the fact that coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherries. Coffees with flavor characteristics of unripe citrus are described as "sour".
Flavorful, but without any pungent or unusual flavors.
The array of flavors and flavor shifts experienced when smelling and tasting a coffee. While not necessarily a positive attribute, complexity can sometimes be gained by blending one coffee with another or by blending a dark roast with a light roast. Some excellent single origin coffees are by themselves both complex and balanced, but agreeable complex flavors are most often achieved by blending two or more complimentary single origin coffees.
The layer of saturated coffee grounds that floats to the surface when cupping (tasting) coffee. As part of the traditional coffee cupping method, called "breaking the crust", the grounds are agitated to release trapped vapors allowing the cupper note the coffees unique characteristics. The crust is then scooped out with a spoon before tasting the brewed coffee.
The aroma characteristic of fresh earth, wet soil, or raw potatoes. While not necessarily negative characteristic, earthiness may be caused by molds during the processing of harvested coffee cherries. Earthy notes, for example, are commonly found in semi-dry processed coffees from Indonesia.
A sour and oniony taste characteristic of over-fermented coffee. After de-pulping coffee cherries, which removes the skin and some attached mucilage (pulp), the separated beans will still have a significant amount of pulp attached. The remaining pulp is often loosened by fermentation, allowing it to be washed away prior to drying. If fermentation is not stopped as soon as the remaining parchment (husk) is no longer slimy, and has a rough texture, the coffee may acquire a ferment flavor.
Lacking flavor and aroma.
The scent of flowers including honeysuckle, jasmine, dandelion and nettles. Mildly floral aromas are found in some coffees and are generally perceived along with fruity or herbal notes.
The aroma and taste of fruit. Many coffees have fruity notes, which is not surprising considering that coffee beans are seeds of a fruit (coffee cherries). A coffees acidity, or wine-like brightness, is often related to fruit, or citrus. Professional cuppers are careful to not use the term "fruity" when describing the aroma of unripe, or over-ripe, fruit.
Aroma associated with freshly mowed green grass, herbs, green foliage, green beans, and unripe fruit. A grassy aroma, also called green, herby, or herbal, is characteristic of sour tasting under-roasted coffee beans and under-dried or water damaged coffee beans.
Pungent and disagreeable, such as a low quality bitter Robusta.
An aroma associated with freshly mowed lawn, green grass, herbs, green foliage, green beans, and unripe fruit. Herbal characteristics are typical of coffees not fully dried to the usual 10% to 12% moisture content during processing. An herbal aroma is also called green, grassy, or herby.
The smell or taste of hide (leather). Hidey notes, for example, may be found in some east African coffees.
A taste characteristic of freeze dried instant coffee. Many find the taste of instant coffee objectionable. Ironically, instant coffee is commonly served in Colombia and Brazil, both large volume coffee exporters.
The aroma of malt. Often used together with Cereal and Toast-like to include the aroma of cereal, malt, and toast. "Cereal", "Malty", and "Toast-like" describe grain-like aromas and flavors of roasted grain (including roasted corn, barley, or wheat), malt extract, freshly baked bread, or toast.
The smell of medicine, or iodine. A medicinal flavor with notes of iodine which can result from cherries drying while still on the coffee plant. Medicinal flavors cannot be hidden well by blending.
Balanced and mild, without strong tastes or aftertaste. Medium roasted, low grown (less than 4000 feet) Arabicas, for example, generally have a mellow flavor.
Neutral coffees do not have a predominant taste sensation, but may still have a pungency felt by the tongue and are often used in blending. Coffees from Brazil and Colombia, for example, commonly have a neutral flavor.
The aroma and taste characteristic of a coffee sensed by the nose, especially when exhaling coffee vapors after swallowing.
The aroma and flavor characteristic of fresh nuts. Coffee cuppers are careful to avoid using the term "nutty" when describing coffee with taste or aroma characteristics of rancid nuts or bitter almonds. Coffees from South America commonly have a nutty flavor.
Flavor characteristic of onions, and often associated with the use stagnant water when processing coffee by the wet method. Oniony characteristics are often avoided by recycling the pulping water during processing.
A taste characteristic of coffee stored in paper bags or prepared using low quality filter paper.
Coffee from a previous years harvest. Past crop, old crop, old, or oldish are also used as a taste terms to describe coffees stored for more than a year. Past crop coffees tend to have a woody, strawy, or hay-like flavor and less acidity.
An unpleasant bitter taste similar to fresh green peas.
Professional coffee cuppers may describe flavors detected by the tongue (primary tastes), and flavors detected through the nose (secondary tastes). Primary tastes are salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Taste buds are located on our tongues, and while many subtle tastes can be recognized, there are only four distinct tastes (salty, sweet, sour, and bitter). Each taste bud contains between 50 and 100 taste cells, and each taste cell has receptors. While receptors are capable of recognizing all tastes, some tend to recognize sour foods and are usually located around the sides of the tongue. Sweet and salty foods are usually tasted best near the end of the tongue. Bitter foods are usually tasted at the back of the tongue. The middle of the tongue usually has no taste buds.
A peanut-like flavor that results from processing unripe or underdeveloped coffee beans.
The terms "rancid" and "rotten" are used to describe characteristics of decomposing coffee. Professional coffee cuppers are careful to not describe a strong and unpleasant aroma as "rancid", if there are no other signs of deterioration.
The aroma and flavor characteristic of hot tires or rubber bands. A rubbery characteristic, while not always negative, is highly recognizable in some coffees, especially fresh Robustas.
Roasted coffee with burn marks caused by inadequate tumbling or by roasting too hot. Also called "tipped" or "charred". Scorched beans may look completely roasted, but are likely to have soury and bready flavors.
A taste characteristic of balanced coffee without any pronounced tastes or aftertastes. Also called round, rounded or soft.
An excessively sharp, biting and unpleasant flavor (such as vinegar or acetic acid). Sour or soury flavors are sometimes associated with the aroma of fermented coffee. A sour taste can be caused by overripe or already fermenting cherries, or by improper fermentation where yeasts and alcohol form vinegar-like acids To avoid this defect, coffee still in its parchment (husk) is washed immediately after fermentation when the parchment coffee is no longer slimy and has a rough texture. Soury flavors are often confused with acidity, which is the slightly tangy sensation associated with bright coffee flavors.
The aroma of sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. The term "spicy" when describing coffee does not include the aroma of savory spices such as pepper, oregano, and curry.
An unexpected off-flavor not clearly defined by usual taste categories. Too much pulp in fermenting parchment, for example, will produce tainted coffee.
The aroma and flavor of fresh tobacco in brewed coffee. A tobacco-like taste is not necessarily disagreeable and is found in various specialty coffees throughout the world. A tobaccoy taste or aroma should not be confused with characteristics of burnt tobacco (ash).
The combined sensation of smell, taste ,and mouth feel experienced when drinking wine. A winey taste is generally perceived along with acidy and fruity notes. Often used incorrectly to describe a soury or over-fermented flavor.
A taste characteristic of old coffee. Woody coffee has a smell of dry wood, an oak barrel, dead wood, or cardboard. This defect results when beans are improperly stored for an extended period of time. Coffees stored at low altitudes in high temperatures and humidity (as in many ports of shipment) tend to deteriorate quickly and become woody. All coffees can become woody if stored long enough.