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Acetic Acid-One of the many organic acids present in coffee that can create positive fruit notes or can lead to bitter, vinegar-like flavors in excessive concentrations.
Acidity-In layman’s terms, acidity is the brightness or flatness of a coffee. Favorable acidity in coffee is a good thing (without it a coffee is dull or flat). Favorable acidity in coffee is lively, bright, sweet-tart. Unfavorable acidity in coffee is sour, sharp, acetic.
Aeropress– A portable coffee brewer where water and grounds are mixed together in a syringe-like vessel. Air pressure pushes the mix through a micro-filter to create a unique brew.
Aftertaste-Residual sensations that linger after a coffee/espresso is tasted/swallowed. A positive aftertaste is sweet, lingering etc. A negative aftertaste is bitter, astringent, dirty etc.
Agtron– A tool used to analyze the color of whole bean and ground coffee that translates to a roast level for the coffee. The higher the number, the lighter the roast.
Aldehydes-A key organic compound in coffee aromatics.
Americano-An espresso beverage made by combining espresso and hot water.
Arabica-Referring to the species Coffea Arabica, one of the two viable commercial coffee crops representing nearly 75 percent of the world’s commercial coffee.
Aroma-Sensations detected by the olfactory system. In cupping, the term used when evaluating wetted coffee.
Backflushing-A process used to clean an espresso machine by forcing water back into the machine to clear out coffee residue.
Balance(d)-A term used to describe how the qualities in a coffee work together. A balanced coffee is harmonic with no one attribute (such as acidity or body) over-powering the other.
Bloom-A term often used in brewing to describe the puffing up of coffee during the pre-infusion of coffee grounds. As the hot water hits ground coffee, the coffee’s rate of degassing increases and the coffee visibly puffs up.
Body-A coffee or espresso’s weight or fullness as perceived in the mouth. (Go ahead; rub the roof of your mouth with your tongue.) Favorable body is creamy, thick, round, velvety. Unfavorable body is thin, gritty, and rough.
Bottomless portafilter-A portafilter with its undercarriage removed to allow viewing of the bottom of the basket during espresso extraction.
Break-A term used in coffee cupping, the break is a very important step in evaluating the aroma of any given coffee. Take your spoon and break the crust of your (wetted) coffee and stir three times while sniffing.
Brew Colloids-Miniscule materials (made up of oils and cell wall fragments) that are dispersed in coffee.
Brew Strength-Concentration of dissolved solids (solubles) in an espresso or brewed coffee.
Brew ratio-Ratio of dry grounds to water used to make coffee.
Café Au Lait– Cafe drink composed of one-half drip coffee with one-half hot frothed milk.
Cappuccino– A coffee drink comprised of espresso and extra-frothed steamed milk (a traditional cappuccino is frothier than its latte counterpart. See the flat white definition for the newer wave in cappuccino creation.)
Channeling-An area of high-velocity flow through a coffee bed resulting from poorly distributed grounds. Channeling is evident by a stream of discolored (often blonde) espresso flowing through an espresso shot.
Chemex-A manual coffee brewer with a glass flask and cone or square filters. Invented in 1941, it is still used today as a successful manual brew option.
Chlorogenic acids-Acids present in coffee that can enhance (when in balance) or decrease (when over-concentrated) a coffees positive flavor attributes. The concentration of the various chlorogenic acids in coffee varies, depending on the type of coffee beans (Robusta coffees have a higher concentration of chlorogenic acids), roasting and preparation.
Citric Acid-One of the many organic compounds present in coffee that contribute to the perception of citrus fruit flavor notes in coffee.
Coffee Cherry-The fruit that grows on a coffee tree in which the coffee seed/bean is encased.
Coffee Grading-The evaluation of defects in green coffee beans to determine grade (specialty, non-specialty).
Coffee Growing Regions-Coffee is typically grown in mountainous regions between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn from 1000 to 3000 meters above sea level.
Crema-The dense foam at the top of an espresso shot that can be a tool to determine (by sight) if espresso was properly extracted. The cream (crema) should be rich and unbroken and its color should be reddish brown with dark brown flecks. A bad looking shot almost never tastes good.
Cultivar– A term often used interchangeably with varietal to indicate a subspecies of coffee. More specifically, a subspecies which has been culitvated from cuttings not seeds.
Cupping-A standardized procedure for evaluating coffee. Standard cuppings involve grading the coffee on aroma (dry and wet), acidity, body, aftertaste, balance, sweetness, and overall score. Cupper is the term used to describe the person evaluating coffee in a cupping session.
Defect-Refers to an imperfection in green coffee (primary defects are a full black, full sour, etc. and secondary defects include insect damage, partial black, etc.) or a taint in the cup.
Degassing-The release of gases by roasted coffee beans in the first 0-2 days after roasting which can negatively affect taste and aroma. Ideally, coffee should rest for one to two days after roasting before use.
Demucilage– The process of removing the fruit of the coffee cherry from the coffee seed/bean.
Density-Often the density of a coffee bean is indicative of quality. A smaller, denser bean lends itself to a higher quality cup (most of the time).
Direct Trade-the term in the coffee industry used to describe a coffee purchase made directly with the farmer.
Dose-The quantity (grams) of espresso grounds used to pull a shot of espresso.
Doser/Doserless-Refers to an espresso grinder. A doser is used for distributing espresso into a portafilter. A doserless grinder directly distributes the espresso grounds into a portafilter.
Effervescent-A favorable term used to describe a lively, dynamic coffee. More specifically effervescent/effervescence refers to the effect of phospheric acid as it rests on the tongue creating a pleasant mouth watering sensation.
Extraction– Also known as solubles yield, extraction is what percentage (by weight) of the grounds are dissolved in water.
Espresso brewing ratio-Ratio of the mass of a dry dose of espresso grounds to the mass of the shot produced.
Fermentation-A term used to describe a key step in coffee processing. In wet processed coffees, the coffees are placed in a fermentation tank to allow the fruit of the coffee cherry to break down before washing it off. In natural processed coffees, fermentation takes place as the coffee dries (in the fruit) on beds or on the patio.
Ferment(ed)-A term used in coffee evaluation to describe an unfavorable fruit quality in the aroma/flavor notes that demonstrates an overly ripe (rotten) quality.
Fines-Tiny coffee bean cell wall fragments produced by grinding.
Flat White– A coffee drink prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles and a glossy consistency) over espresso. It is somewhat similar to the cappuccino (though smaller in volume) with milk that is more velvety in consistency.
Flavor-The combined sensation of a substance’s taste and aroma.
Floater(s)– A defect referring to a coffee bean that did not mature inside the cherry and will float (due to low density) during wet processing.
Fly crop-Refers to a secondary, smaller harvest of a coffee crop.
Fragrance-In cupping, the term used in evaluating the scent of dry coffee (immediately after grinding)
French Press (Plunger Pot)-A manual brew method that involves adding hot water to coffee grounds in a carafe, allowing the coffee to steep, and then plunging a filter to the bottom to produce a thick-bodied brew.
FTO-Shorthand for a Fair Trade Organic certified coffee.
Grinder(s)-A burr grinder grinds by passing beans between a pair of rotating metal discs. A conical burr grinder grinds by passing beans between two cone-shaped burrs. A flat burr grinder grinds coffee with two flat, parallel disc-shaped burrs. A manual burr grinder is powered by a hand-turning crank. A blade grinder grinds by way of a high-speed rotating blade.
Grooming-The leveling and refining of a dose of espresso grounds in the portafilter prior to tamping.
Hulling-A step in coffee processing where the green coffee bean is removed from the parchment.
Infuse-The process of adding hot water to coffee grounds.
Ketones-A carbonyl compound in coffee that contributes to coffee aromatics.
Kopi Luwak-Don’t do it.
Latte– A coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. The texture of latte milk should resemble wet paint.
Lungo-This is an outdated term (but one that baristas still may encounter occasionally) referring to a “long” shot of espresso (a shot weighing approximately three times the mass of the dose of dry grounds used to produce it.)
Macchiato-A shot of espresso with a small dollop of foamed milk on top. Italian for “marked with milk.”
Malic Acid-One of the many organic compounds in coffee that produces what is often described as a green apple flavor.
Maillard Reaction-Named after french scientist Luis Camille Maillard, the term refers to a very specific and complex set of browning reactions that occur between amino acids and reducing sugars. The Maillard reaction is important in baking, frying, and, of course, coffee roasting. During the reaction, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created and these, in turn, break down to create even more flavor compounds.
MASL-Meters Above Sea Level (an acronym sometimes used to describe the elevation/altitude at which coffee is grown)
Micro-Lot-Refers to an area of a coffee farm that is strategically isolated out to produce small (and hopefully) high quality lots of coffee.
Moka Pot-A stovetop brewer that produces a brew closer to an espresso.
Mouthfeel-The in-mouth tactile sensations produced by a beverage.
Mucilage-The fruit (or meat, if you will) of a coffee cherry between the skin and the parchment that surrounds the seed.
Natural Process-Refers to a coffee processing technique where the coffee is laid out to dry with the coffee cherry intact (rather than removing the cherry skin and mucilage as in a washed/wet processed coffee). This creates a natural fermentation environment for the coffee and can produce high-end fruit notes or, conversely, notes of ferment in coffee.
Organic-Coffee grown without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides etc.
Origin-Refers to the coffee producing country or region
Overextraction-The removal of more than the desired amount of dissolved solids from the grounds when making coffee or espresso.
pH-Measure of how acidic or alkaline a solution is.
Parchment– A thin skin covering the coffee bean visible after the coffee cherries have been skinned, the pulp removed, and the beans dried.
Patio Drying– A drying technique in coffee processing where coffee is dried (and raked) on open patios in thin layers after picking (in natural processing) or after fruit removal (in wet processing).
Peaberry– The term to describe the coffee seed/bean when only one small round bean forms in the coffee cherry, rather than the usual two. Peaberries are often separated out from regular beans to sell as a distinct grade of coffee.
Percolation (Percolator)- A method of coffee brewing in which hot water percolates, or filters down through, a bed of ground coffee.
Phosphoric Acid-One of the many organic compounds in coffee, this acid creates the mouth-watering sensation refered to by cuppers as juicy, refreshing or effervescent.
Portafilter-The removable “arm” of an espresso machine which holds the filter basket and where the coffee grounds are placed.
Pour-over-The term used to describe various manual brew methods utilizing a filter and involving pouring hot water over a bed of coffee grounds.
Preinfuse (Preinfusion)-Process of wetting (briefly) espresso grounds or coffee (also called prewetting for coffee) before full-pressure infusion begins.
Pressurestat-A component of an espresso machine that mechanically regulates boiler pressure, via pressure or lack thereof within the boiler of an espresso machine, within a predetermined range by activating or deactivating the heating element.
Puck-A densely packed solid mass that forms in the portafilter after pulling an espresso shot.
Pulping (also called de-pulping)- Process of removing the outermost skin of the coffee cherry or fruit.
Quakers– Unripe coffee beans that fail to darken when roasted due to lack of sugar content. Considered a coffee defect.
Quinic Acid-Another one of the many acids in coffee that can lead to sourness and astringency if over-powering in the cup.
Raised Drying Beds-A technique of drying (opposed to patio drying) during coffee processing where the coffee is dried on raised beds.
Ristretto-A short shot of espresso.
Robusta– Currently, the only relevant commercial competitor among coffee species to Coffea Arabica. Robusta is a lower-growing, higher-bearing coffee tree often used in instant coffee and less expensive blends that is not (or very rarely) used in the specialty coffee industry as it proves inferior in quality.
Semi-washed (also called pulped natural or honeyed coffee)-Is a coffee processing technique where the skin of the coffee cherry is removed and the coffee is dried in the sticky mucilage of the coffee cherry.
Single Origin-Refers to a single coffee from one location vs. a blend composed of coffees from various countries or regions.
SOE-JBC’s shorthand for a Single Origin Espresso.
Specialty Coffee– The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) defines specialty coffee as one “that is free of primary defects, has no quakers, is properly sized and dried, presents in the cup free of faults and taints and has distinctive attributes.”
SCAA-The Specialty Coffee Association of America is an influential association of specialty coffee roasters, wholesalers, retailers, importers and growers.
Tamping-The process of compacting (pressing down with a total weight of 30-40 lbs) espresso in the portafilter basket by using a tamper (a pestle-like device that fits directly onto the top of the portafilter basket).
Taste-The components of flavor perceived by the tongue.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)-The combined content of all substances smaller than 2 microns in any dimension dispersed in a volume of water; measured in mg/L or parts per million (ppm.)
Underextraction-The removal of less than the desired amount of dissolved particles from the grounds when making espresso or coffee.
USBC-Stands for the United States Barista Championship
Varietal-The term used to described the particular subspecies of a coffee.
Wet Hulled-A unique coffee processing technique used in parts of Indonesia (namely Sumatra) where coffee begins to go through a traditional wet processing but is not allowed to fully dry. The parchment layer is removed from the coffee at a higher moisture content than wet-processing. The unprotected bean is then laid on the patio dry. This processing technique often creates process-imparted flavors described as earth or tobacco.
Wet Processing (Washed Coffee)– The most common technique for processing coffee where the skin and pulp is removed (pulping), the coffee then sits in fermentation tanks where enzymes break down the mucilage of the coffee cherry (fermentation), after which the remaining mucilage is washed off (washing), and the coffee is then dried (on patios, on raised beds, or mechanically).
WBC-World Barista Championship