There are so many special terms and definitions when it comes to coffee. We know it can sometimes be confusing, so that’s where we come in! We’ve created this coffee glossary that will explain all of the terms that every aspiring home barista should know.
Acidity – Acidity is a chemical compound that affects the flavour of coffee, often adding a fruitiness to the cup. It can also affect the mouthfeel, as it adds a ‘sharpness’ to a coffee. It is one of the more complex aspects of coffee, as too much acidity will cause your coffee to taste sour, but too little will make the coffee taste flat. If you want to learn more about why some coffees are more acidic than others, we’d recommend reading about it on Perfect Daily Grind.
Aeropress – The Aeropress is a coffee brewing method. You fit circular shaped filter papers into the base of the unit, coffee and water is added, then pressure is applied to the top of plastic tube as you squeeze the coffee into your favourite mug. To learn more about the Aeropress and other brewing methods, we’ve got a blog post all about them!
Affogato – This is an Italian dessert that combines vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso. You can find our recipe for affogato here.
Americano – A hot coffee drink made of a shot of espresso diluted with hot water. Tip: always add the hot water to the cup first, then add the espresso on top.
Arabica – Arabica coffee is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated. It is more acidic, less bitter and has less caffeine than the other main species of coffee (see more about Robusta). Arabica makes up 60% of the global production of coffee.
Barista – A barista is a person that specialises in making and serving a variety of speciality coffee or espresso-based beverages.
Blend – A coffee blend is a coffee that is made up of beans originating from more than one place. These beans can be from different countries, different regions of a country, or even different parts of one coffee farm. Coffee roasters use different beans to create blends that work for a wide range of coffee drinks as well as highlighting particular flavours profiles.
Bloom – The bloom is what is referred to the first part of the coffee brewing process. When the hot water connects with the freshly roasted coffee grounds, carbon dioxide is released causing a reaction and bubbling effect. Giving your coffee thirty seconds to bloom, depending on how recently it was roasted, will enhance the taste.
Body – Body is a measure of the coffee’s heaviness or mouthfeel which contributes to the coffee’s richness. A coffee’s body is in part created by the coffee beans’ oils and organic acids which are extracted during the brewing process.
Bright – A bright coffee has more high, acidic notes. Bright flavours are affected by the origin of the beans, and how the beans were processed and roasted.
Burr Grinder – Burr grinders are great coffee grinders. Two burr pieces funnel the beans, a few at a time, through the grinding area where the beans are ground to a fairly uniform size. These uniformly sized grounds extract at the same rate and produce a balanced brew.
Cappuccino – A drink made of an espresso shot combined with foamed steamed milk.
Chemex – The Chemex is a manual pour-over style glass coffeemaker, that is an hourglass-shaped glass flask with a funnel-like neck and filters that are thicker than standard paper filters. The thicker paper of the Chemex filters removes most of the coffee oils and makes coffee that is much “cleaner” than coffee brewed in other coffee-making devices.
Cold brew – Cold-brew coffee is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in room-temperature water for six to twelve hours. This creates a concentrated coffee that is drunk as is or mixed with milk.
Cortado – A cortado is a beverage made of an espresso shot that is mixed with a small amount of milk to soften the taste and reduce the balance the coffee. The milk in a cortado is steamed, but not frothy and texturised as in many coffee drinks. It has more milk than a macchiato and has more of a coffee punch than a flat white due to the ratio of coffee to milk.
Crema – This is a flavourful froth that sits on top of a shot of espresso. It is formed when air bubbles combine with a coffee’s soluble oils. The strong presence of crema in an espresso shot indicates a coffee is fresh which or heavy in oils depending on the coffee used. Crema helps give espresso a fuller flavour and longer aftertaste than drip coffee.
Cupping – This is a tasting method used by coffee professionals. Coarsely ground coffee is steeped with hot water in shallow bowls, then slurped from flat spoons to assess the quality and flavour notes of individual coffees. It’s the benchmark for tasting new coffees at Balance Coffee because there are fewer variables involved so we’re able to taste the coffee in a standardised way.
Dalgona coffee – This drink is inspired by South Korean dalgona candy, a toffee sponge that resembles the creamy dollop that tops the ice coffee. Popularised on TikTok, this is a type of cold coffee that is known for its distinctive frothy texture and intense flavour. You can find our recipe for Dalgona coffee here.
Decaffeinated – Decaf coffee is coffee that usually has at least 97% of its caffeine removed depending on the process that is used. There are a variety of ways to decaffeinate coffee, which you can read about here.
Direct trade – Direct trade is a form of sourcing practiced by coffee roasters who build direct relationships with the farmers and processors who sell their products. This implies that the farmer will get a higher price for their coffee. For more info on direct trade, head to our post about ethical coffee.
Drip method – This is a method of coffee brewing where hot water is poured over ground coffee. It allows gravity to draw the water through the coffee and filter into a vessel. This is also known as the pour-over method and the filter method. Examples of the drip method include the Chemex and Hario V60.
Espresso – An espresso is a coffee-making method that originated from Italy in which a small amount of nearly boiling water is forced under pressure through finely-ground coffee beans.
Extraction – Extraction is a process that occurs when you brew ground coffee in hot water. This is when flavour compounds including fats, acids, and sugars are drawn out from the coffee. Under-extracted coffees taste sour or sharp, and over-extracted coffees taste bitter and thin, almost hollow. Here’s a great post about extraction and under-extraction that we’d recommend reading!
Fairtrade – Fairtrade is a certification that was set up to ensure coffee farmers receive a fair and stable price for their coffee that covers average costs of sustainable production. You can also buy Fairtrade chocolate, sugar, clothing, and more. For a full discussion of Fairtrade, and whether it actually helps coffee farmers, you can read our post about ethical coffee.
Flat white – A flat white is a coffee drink consisting of espresso and microfoam. It is similar to a latte, but it is smaller (usually served in a 5.5-6oz cup) and there is less microfoam, which gives it a higher ratio of coffee to milk. It is believed to have been created in Australia.
French Press – A French Press, also known as a cafetière, press pot, coffee press, or coffee plunger, is a coffee brewing device. It uses a plunger and built-in filter screen to make coffee using the immersion brewing technique. To learn whether a French Press is the right brewing method for you, head here!
Green coffee beans – These are the raw coffee beans that haven’t been through the roasting process. Before roasting, the pulp and outer layers of the cherry are removed from the raw beans and they are then put out to dry. This is what gives the beans their pale green colour.
Hard bean/high grown – These are interchangeable terms used to describe coffee beans grown between around 4,000ft and 4,500ft above sea level. Coffee grown at this altitude develops more slowly than at lower altitudes and as a result the beans tend to be harder and denser. These characteristics tend to improve the taste and consistency of the bean and are therefore used to indicate a higher quality coffee.
Immersion method – Immersion is another method of brewing coffee. Ground coffee is immersed in water and then left to brew until it is extracted and ready to drink. This less fiddly method tends to make a bolder coffee. The French Press is an example of an immersion brewing method.
Java – A nickname for coffee. It is believed to originate from an Indonesian island called Java, which exported coffee around the world in the early 17th century. Although it’s not known how the word was used originally, java was presumably the term selected to specify coffee that originated from the island.
Kalita – This is a Japanese company that creates coffee equipment, such as coffee drippers and decanters. They are most well-known for the Kalita Wave series, which is a pour-over coffee brewing device comparable to the Hario V60.
Latte – A latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. The word comes from the Italian caffè e latte, caffelatte or caffellatte, which means “coffee & milk”. It is milkier than a cappuccino
Latte art – Baristas can skillfully create patterns or pictures by pouring steamed milk on to the surface of a latte or similar coffee drink.
Long black – Another Australian invention, a long black is similar to an Americano, but with a stronger aroma and taste. It is made by pouring a double-shot of espresso over hot water.
Macchiato – The machiato, sometimes called espresso macchiato, is an espresso coffee drink topped with a small amount of foamed milk. In Italian, macchiato means “stained” or “spotted” so the literal translation of caffè macchiato is “stained” or “marked coffee.”
Mocha – A mocha is an espresso mixed with chocolate syrup/powder and steamed milk.
Moka Pot – A moka pot is another method of brewing coffee. Otherwise known as a Stovetop, when the pot is placed on a stove, the water heats up and generates steam. This increases the pressure in the bottom chamber and pushes the water up through the coffee granules and into the top chamber where it is ready to be poured.
Natural processing – Natural processing (also known as dry processing) is a method of processing that involves drying coffee cherries. Once dried, they are sent to mills to separate the seeds from the rest of the dried fruit, otherwise known as being “hulled.”This process, which can take 3-6 weeks, is a traditional method of processing coffee. It is believed that natural processing allows the nutrients and sugars from the coffee fruit go into the seed, which improves flavour. For other ways to process coffee, see wet/washed processing.
Nicaragua – A coffee growing country with a medium to smooth body and a distinct but mild acidity. Nicaraguan coffees often have rich yet subtle flavours, balanced sweetness, with notes of chocolate, citrus and florals.
Organic – This is a trickier definition, as there isn’t a single, international set of standards for organic coffee. Generally speaking, organic coffee is produced without the use of artificial chemical substances, such as certain additives or some pesticides and herbicides. This traditional method of farming has many environmental benefits, such as reducing the amount of herbicides, pesticides and fertiliser entering the ground, maintaining partial forest canopy, and reducing soil erosion.
You can read more about organic coffee, and the potential problems it causes coffee farmers, here.
Portafilter – A portafilter attaches to the grouphead of semi-automatic and piston-driven espresso machines, and carries a tamped puck of coffee grounds within its basket. It is usually made of brass for better heat retention, and is attached by a plastic or wooden handle. We sell portafilters – you can find them here!
Puck – A puck is the disc of coffee that is left after your espresso has been pulled.
Pull – Espresso shots are “pulled.” The term is a holdover from when machines were lever operated.
Quakers – A common roast defect, quakers are unripened beans. Once roasted, quakers will be lighter in colour than the rest of the batch. If they’re not removed, the taste in the cup will be dry, with papery and cereal notes.
Robusta – Robusta coffee is the second most common species of coffee. It makes up around 30-40% of the world’s total production. It is typically known for a strong, harsh, deep flavour and high caffeine content, and is commonly used in instant coffee.
Seasonal coffee – Coffee beans ripen at different times of the year in different regions. When they appear in coffee shops and roasters for a limited amount of time, they are called seasonal coffees. Check out our seasonal coffees.
Shot – A shot is a small, concentrated espresso. A barista will commonly use between 17-22 grams of extremely fine grounds of coffee to make a 30-40ml espresso shot.
Single estate – Coffee from one particular farm or area within a farm.
Single origin – Coffee from a particular region, farm or area within a farm. All single estate coffees are also single origin.
Speciality coffee – Speciality coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available. On the 100 point Coffee Review Scale, speciality coffee will score 80 and above. Only 3% of coffee worldwide is graded this highly, and we’re proud to say that all of our coffees are speciality grade.
Tamper – Tampers are tools used to pack (or “tamp”) espresso grounds into the basket of a portafilter. The purpose of a tamper is to pack the grounds evenly for a quality shot. We sell beautiful Pesado tampers here!
Uganda – The finest Ugandan Arabica demonstrates the winy acidity and other flavour characteristics of the best East African coffees. They often have fruity and citrus notes, as well as flavours reminiscent of pekoe tea. However, most Ugandan coffee is the Robusta species.
V60 – The Hario V60 is another great coffee brewing method. It involves pouring hot water through coffee in a paper filter, which drips into the glass server through a large hole. You can also brew straight into your cup if you prefer less washing up. It’s our founder James’ favourite way to make coffee! For more information about the V60 and how to use it, head here.
Valve bag – When you buy speciality-grade coffee, it will often arrive in a bag that has a valve. This one-way valve is incredibly important, as it allows carbon dioxide to escape from inside the bag without allowing oxygen to enter the sealed bag. This keeps your coffee as fresh as possible.
Wet/washed processing – This is another way to process coffee, or in other words, to remove the outer layers of skin/pulp from the coffee bean. A washed coffee is a coffee that has had various fruit layers removed by washing it in water before it is dried. In contrast to natural and honey processed coffees, this reveals the full intrinsic flavour of the coffee.
Wholebean – Buying your coffee beans wholebean before grinding fresh before brewing is the best way for you to retain the amazing flavours within each unique coffee you make.
Xpresso – A common (but incorrect!) way to spell or pronounce ‘espresso’.
Yirgacheffe – This is a district in central southern Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe coffee tends to be light or medium-bodied and with strong floral notes.
Zambia – Zambia produces coffees that are softer and have less acidity than the typical African coffee. Because of their light acidity and flavours, it is a favourite for blending with other coffees.
Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe coffee tends to be medium-bodied with citrusy acidity. Typically wet processed, a good Zimbabwe coffee is well-balanced and has a woody and sweet flavour.
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