Basic Coffee Terms Everyone Should Know

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The world of coffee consumption can get a bit confusing if you are not familiar with the common jargon associated with this wonderful brew. Here’s your chance to brush up on your coffee knowledge and get familiar with some basic coffee terms so you can speak confidently using the latest coffee lingo.

Basic Coffee Terms


Acidity refers to an element of coffee flavor that typically registers as liveliness on the tip of your tongue. For example, coffee with low or no acidity tastes dull, like flat soda, while high acidity coffees have a sharp, effervescent quality that enhances their flavor.

Aroma is the distinctive pleasant fragrance of freshly brewed coffee. Aroma influences subtle aspects of the coffee’s taste. Some descriptions of aroma include nutty, smoky, grassy, complex, or earthy. The aroma is most noticeable and complex soon after brewing when the essential oils in the coffee have just been released.

A Barista is someone who is professionally trained in preparing coffee drinks, particularly, espresso, espresso shots and espresso-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.

Bitter coffee has a sharp or harsh flavor that is generally considered to be unpleasant.

Bland coffee has very little flavor that can be described as “pale”. Under-extraction can cause coffee to be bland when there is too little coffee used to make the brew, or the grounds were too course for the flavor and aroma to be properly extracted.

Blend Coffee are beans that originated from different areas or farms to create a distinct flavor profile.

Blooming is a process of degassing (carbon dioxide in particular) coffee grounds before actual brewing. Freshly roasted coffee beans have more carbon dioxide as compared to old kept grounds. After blooming, the flavors of your coffee cup are enhanced.

Body refers to the physical texture of coffee, and describes the heaviness or thickness discerned by the taster. Body is described using terms such as thin, medium, full or syrupy.

Briny is the salty sensation left in your mouth after drinking over-roasted or over-brewed coffee. This usually happens when you  are trying a new roaster in your area or have just started roasting at home.

Chemex is an hour-glass coffee brewer that brews a balanced cup of coffee. The filters used here are mostly dense that results in a a little sweeter cup of coffee.

Clever Dripper points to a cone shaped brewer that has a stopper in between allowing to steep the coffee grounds before dripping.

Cold Drip A type of brewing which was first originated in New Orleans. The grounds here are steeped in cold water for 12 hours or even more and than they are strained. The resulting concentrate is than used for iced coffee and few other drinks too.

Complexity describes the multiple characteristics that harmonize to deliver a multi-faceted coffee flavor. Acidity, body, earthiness, sweetness, etc., combine to make the complexity of a coffee.

Crema is the reddish-brown froth usually resting at the top of your espresso. It is made when air bubbles combine with the soluble oils released from finely ground coffee.

Cupping is the formal term for coffee tasting. It is the professional practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee carried out by professionals called Master Tasters.

Direct Trade It’s when the coffee roasters buy directly from farmers giving them a genuine price for their product. This generally results in a better coffee products and farmers get their worth.

Drip Coffee is a brewing method that is made by immersing the coffee grounds in hot or cold water without pressure. Common types are auto drip, chemex, filter, cold drip and press pot.

Earthiness, like the name suggests, describes an aroma of fresh earth in brewed coffee.

Espresso is a concentrated drink made by forcing pressurized hot water into fine coffee grounds. A 2 Oz drink is generally referred to as one shot of espresso and is a base for many other specialty drinks like latte, cappuccino and many more.

Fair Trade A term used by coffee traders that certifies them that they are providing the farmers a minimum wage that is feasible and fair for coffee growers.

French Press is a coffee brewer that let’s steep coffee for a while in a cylinder shaped vessel. After a certain time, the grounds are then pushed down via plunger.

A Grassy aroma or flavor has a green or herby characteristic in brewed coffee. Coffee beans that are not properly roasted give a grassy aroma.

Green Coffee Beans are the unroasted coffee beans that are roasted at desired level and should be consumed within a week are 2 for maximum flavor.

Keurig, is a brand popular for pod coffee makers. It’s a leading brand that is popular almost all over the world for fast and easy coffee brewing.

Mild describes a gourmet coffee with medium body and balanced sweetness and acidity.

Nutty refers to the aroma or flavor of fresh nuts in brewed coffee.

Pods  are small plastic or aluminum containers that carry predetermined quantity of coffee and are used in single serve coffee machines. These also come in reusable forms allowing us to use our own fresh blend of coffee. Many brands offer their own line like pods by Nespresso are most popular.

A portafilter is filter basket used in an espresso machine.

Pour Over Coffee is a drip method of coffee extraction where coffee grounds are placed in a filter and hot water is poured over them, slowly. The coffee then drips down in about 3-4 minutes into the cup.

Puck of coffee are the used coffee grounds in an espresso machine.

A Regular coffee is brewed by passing hot water over coffee grounds. Whereas an Espresso is forcing pressurized hot water through a tight puck of coffee grounds resulting in a little thick output with crema on top. To know a little more, read our article about Coffee Vs Espresso depicting more things about the same.

Single Cup or a Single-serve brewers are machines that allow just making one cup of coffee at time.

Single Origin coffee is a coffee that is not a blend of various beans but rather from a particular region or farmer.

Tone is the color and general appearance of properly brewed coffee.

And there you have it – the ABC’s of coffee! Now you know all the basic terms being regularly used in referring to coffee. Share this list with all your coffee-loving friends so you can talk coffee together.

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