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Understanding The Terms

Specialty Coffee Terms

Specialty coffee can be a great experience in trying new things and understanding your taste profile. When it comes to specialty coffee, understanding coffee terminology, roasting and brewing styles, and quality measurements can be tricky if you are not educated in the terms. We are here to help guide you in what you need to know when it comes to specialty coffee or craft coffee roasters. Here are many terms that are used in the coffee world.


ARABICA COFFEE:  Known as Arabica coffee, accounts for 80 percent of the world’s production.

AMERICANO: A shot of espresso diluted with hot water.

BARISTA The person who prepares coffee at a coffee bar.

CAPPUCCINO: An espresso shot combined with foamed steamed milk. Normally 6 oz.

CHEMEX: The classic hourglass-shaped filter coffee brewer. Chemex filters are denser than other paper filters, and many believe that this creates a sweeter, well-balanced cup of coffee.

CLEVER COFFEE DRIPPER: A filter cone with a stopper that lets coffee steep before dripping, extracting more flavor.

COLDBREW COFFEE: Coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for about 12-14 hours, then strained to make a concentrate that’s used for iced coffee and cut with milk or water. It’s associated originally with New Orleans. Toddy has a system that perfects the process.

CORTADO: Espresso topped with flat steamed milk, 4 ounces.

CREMA: Thick, caramel-colored emulsified oils that sit on top of an espresso.

CUP OF EXCELLENCE: A competition to determine the best coffee bean grown in a particular nation. The top Cup of Excellence (C.O.E.) lots fetch significantly higher prices at auction.

CUPPING: Tasting method used by coffee professionals. Coarsely ground coffee is steeped with hot water in shallow bowls, then slurped from flat spoons.

DARK ROAST: Coffee beans roasted until they exude oils. The style has fallen out of favor among many artisanal roasters who think it overwhelms certain flavors.

DIRECT TRADE: When coffee roasters buy directly from farms rather than from brokers. Proponents say it increases coffee quality and gives farmers more power.

DRIP COFFEE: Coffee made with a filter, a press pot, a percolator or a countertop coffee maker. Flavor is extracted by contact with water not under pressure.

ESPRESSO: Concentrated coffee made when hot water is forced at pressure (normally 140 psi) through fine coffee grounds. Usually slightly less than 2 ounces total. Baristas prefer 140 psi pressure and 15 to 25 grams of coffee.

EXTRACTION: Drawing flavor from coffee grounds. Coffee can be underextracted and taste sour or overextracted and taste bitter.

FAIR TRADE: A private program that certifies that farmers or coffee growers are paid a minimum price for coffee.

FILTER COFFEE (Pour Over): Drip coffee made with a ceramic, glass or plastic cone lined with a paper filter. Favored by professionals because it gives them control over water temperature — ideally 200 +/- 5 degrees. This coffee is sediment free.

FLAT WHITE: Espresso with flat, steamed milk, about 6 ounces.

FRENCH PRESS: Coffee made by steeping coarse grounds with 200 degree water in a vessel with a plunger and metal filter that pushes the grounds to the bottom. Often used in coffee bars for limited-edition coffees. Also called a press pot.

GREEN BEANS: Unroasted coffee beans.

KEURIG: Green Mountian created single cup brewer. Known for quickness, not quality.

LATTE: Espresso with steamed milk, 8 ounces or more total.

LATTE ART: The pattern formed by rhythmically pouring steamed milk into an espresso drink. Decorative and demonstrative; only properly steamed milk will hold a form.

MACCHIATO: Espresso topped with a dab of foamed steamed milk, about 2 to 3 ounces total.

MICRO-LOT: Coffee from a single farm, or a specific part of that farm.

MOCHA: Espresso mixed with chocolate syrup and steamed milk.

NEL DRIP: Short for “flannel drip,” it’s a form of drip coffee that uses flannel filters imported from Japan. The filters are temperamental, and must be washed by hand and kept chilled when not in use.

PORTAFILTER: The filter basket and handle on an espresso machine.

POUR-OVER COFFEE: A method of drip coffee developed in Japan in which the water is poured in a thin, steady, slow stream over a filter cone. One cup of coffee takes as long as three minutes to brew. Some coffee bars have pour-over setups with several cones and distinctive swan-neck kettles from Japan.

PUCK: Spent coffee from a portafilter, semi-automatic espresso machine or Clover.

PULL: Espresso shots are “pulled.” The term is a holdover from when machines were lever operated.

REDEYE: A cup of brewed coffee with espresso.

RISTRETTO: Espresso pulled short — with less water — for a smaller, more concentrated drink.

ROBUSTA: Coffee Canephora, known as Robusta coffee, accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s coffee. While Robusta coffee beans are more robust than the Arabica plants, they produce an inferior-tasting beverage with a higher caffeine content. They are mostly used for espresso.

ROAST: Green beans are heated to create complex flavors that are extracted during brewing.

ROAST DATE: Most small-batch roasters print the roast date on bags of coffee. The rule of thumb is that coffee should be used within one month with proper packaging.

SEASONAL COFFEE: Coffee beans ripen at different times of the year in different regions, and can appear in markets and coffee bars for limited times.

SINGLE ORIGIN: Coffee from a particular region, farm or area within a farm.

SIPHON: A coffee making device using vacuum pressure and a series of vessels, which originated in the 19th century. It recently gained popularity in Japan and is being used more in the United States. Despite its complications, it is known for producing fruity, bright coffee.

SLOW DRIPPER: Unusual devices imported from Japan with a glass sphere and a series of tubes and valves that make coffee with cold water in about 12 hours.

TRIFECTA: A single-cup coffee brewer.

Varieties/Varietals of Arabica Coffee Plants

Arusha: Mount Meru in Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea either a Typica variety or a French Mission.

Bergendal, Sidikalang: Indonesia Both are Typica varieties.

Blue Mountain: Mountains region of Jamaica. Also grown in Kenya, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and Cameroon. A unique derivative of Typica.

Bourbon: Réunion, Rwanda, Latin America. Around 1708 the French planted coffee on the island of Bourbon (now called Réunion) in the middle of the Indian Ocean settled by the Dutch. It has since been planted in Brazil and Latin America because it produces 20–30% more fruit than Typica varieties. El Salvador is known as the Bourbon Country.

Catuai: Latin America. This is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Caturra.

Caturra: Latin and Central America. A derivative of Bourbon variety, found near the town of Caturra, Brazil in the 1930s. It produces a higher yield than Bourbon and generally lower cupping scores. It led to the formation of the Pacas variety in El Salvador (from Bourbon) and the Villa Sarchi in Costa Rica (from Bourbon).

Charrieriana: Cameroon. This is a newly found variety from Cameroon. It has gained some press recently due to its caffeine-free nature. Not yet grown commercially, but it probably will be.

Colombian: Colombia. Maragogype, Caturra, Typica and Bourbon cultivars are grown. When Colombian coffee is freshly roasted it has a bright acidity, is heavy in body and is intensely aromatic.

Ethiopian Harar: Ethiopia. From the region of Harar, Ethiopia. Known for its complex, fruity flavor that resembles a dry red wine. (

Ethiopian Sidamo: Ethiopia From the Sidamo (now Oromia) region of Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe: Ethiopia From the Yirgachefe district in the Gedeo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region of Ethiopia. French Mission: Africa French Mission is actually Bourbon.

Gesha / Geisha T.2722: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru Gesha or Geisha variety, grown in the highlands of Boquete in Chiriquí Province, Panama. Originally from the village of Gesha, Ethiopia.

Guadeloupe Bonifieur: Guadeloupe

Hawaiian Kona: Hawaii Grown on the slopes of Hualalai in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Java: Arabica, Robusta and interspecific hybrids Indonesia From the island of Java, in Indonesia. Java is a regional style, not a cultivar of coffee.

K7: Africa. A Kenyan selection of French Mission Bourbon selected at Legelet Estate in Muhoroni, Kenya.

Maragogype: Latin America Maragogype is considered to be a natural evolution from Typica. Well known for producing big beans.

Mayagüez: Africa. A Bourbon cultivar grown in Rwanda.

Mocha: Yemen. Yemeni coffee traded through the once major port of Mocha. Not to be confused with the preparation style (coffee with cocoa).

Mundo Novo: Latin America. Mundo Novo is a hybrid between Bourbon and Typica.

Orange, Yellow Bourbon: Latin America Red Bourbon and Orange Bourbon are types of Bourbon that have been selected from natural evolution.

Pacamara: Latin America. Pacamara is a hybrid between the Bourbon Pacas and Maragogype.

Pacas: Latin America. A natural evolution of Bourbon variety found in El Salvador.

Pache Colis: Latin America. Hybrid between Pache Comum and Caturra. This variety produces distinctly larger fruit and roughly textured foliage.

Pache Comum: Latin America. Type of Typica first found in Santa Rosa, Guatemala.

Ruiri 11: Kenya. Ruiru 11 was released in 1985 by the Kenyan Coffee Research Station.

S795: India, Indonesia. Common arabica in India and Southeast Asia. It is a cross between the Kents and S.288 varieties.

Santos: Brazil. Brazil Santos is usually used as a grading term for Brazilian coffee rather than a variety of Arabica. Usually of the Bourbon variety.

Sarchimor Interspecific Hybrid: Costa Rica. India A hybrid between the Costa Rican Villa Sarchi and the Timor variety

SL28: Kenya. A Tanganyika Drought Resistant variety from northern Tanzania in 1931.

SL34: Kenya. A French Mission bourbon variety.

Sulawesi Toraja Kalossi: Indonesia. S795 varietal, grown at high altitudes on the island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes), Indonesia. Toraja is the mountainous area in which the coffee is grown.

Sumatra Mandheling and Sumatra Lintong: Indonesia. Mandailing is located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Lintong district, also located in North Sumatra. This is not a specific cultivar, but rather a region with a specific processing style.

Timor Arabusta Interspecific Hybrid: Indonesia Timor is not actually a variety of coffea arabica, but a hybrid of two species of coffee; coffea arabica and coffea canephora (also called Robusta).

Typica: Worldwide. A Yemeni stock, taken first to Malabar, India, and later to Indonesia by the Dutch. Typica has genetically evolved to produce new characteristics, often considered new

Varietals: Criollo (South America), Arabigo (Americas), Kona (Hawaii), Pluma Hidalgo (Mexico), Garundang (Sumatra), Jamaica Blue Mountain (Jamaica), San Bernado & San Ramon (Brazil), Kents & Chickumalgu (India)


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