Coffee Terminology Cheat Sheet

Oct 21, 2011|

Acidity, bright, clean, body, single origin, cherry, blend what do all these words have in common?  COFFEE!  Numerous terms are used to describe coffee and we realize that with all the different terms out there it can be a little confusing! That is why we created this little coffee term cheat sheet.   Learn some coffee lingo and impress your family and friends with your knowledge!


Tasting Terms

  • Acidity:  The bright or tangy flavor characteristic of some coffees. 
  • Aftertaste:  The taste of coffee released after swallowing, also refereed to as the finish. 
  • Aroma: The soluble volatile materials (gases) that evaporate, creating the coffees fragrance.  Many coffee nuances are reflected in the smell.  
  • Baked:  Flat or uninteresting flavor that may be caused by roasting coffee too slowly. 
  • Bitter:  The harsh, unpleasant taste caused by over-extracting coffee.
  • Body:  The non-soluble, non-volatile materials (solids) that determine the way coffee feels in your mouth.
  • Bright:  Coffee with a pleasant, almost tangy flavor that may be described as having a wine like acidity.
  • Briny:  The salty taste caused by heating coffee for an extended time after brewing is complete.
  • Caramelly:  Characteristics of candy or syrup that can be experienced in flavor and aroma when the sugar in coffee beans caramelize during roasting.
  • Chocolately:  The distinct or slightly bitter-sweet taste or aroma of chocolate present in some coffees.
  • Clean:  Pleasant flavor without unusual flavors.
  • Complexity:  The variety of flavors and flavor shifts experienced with some coffees. 
  • Flat:  Little flavor or aroma.
  • Harsh:  The disagreeable or pungent taste associated with some low quality coffees.
  • Mellow:  The balanced and mild taste of many medium roasted coffees.
  • Taste: The soluble, non-volatile materials (liquids) that are responsible for flavor.
  • Smooth:  Balanced coffee without tastes or aftertastes.
  • Spicey:  Sweet spices such as clover, cinnamon, and allspice that may be experienced via aroma.
  • Woody:  The negative taste of old coffee that may smell of dry wood, oak barrel or cardboard.  This taste may result when beans are improperly stored for an extended period of time. 


Coffee Lingo

  • Blend:  A mix of beans from two or more different places.
  • Cherry:  The ripe fruit of a coffee tree that turns a dark red when ready for harvesting.
  • Direct Trade:  Coffee that is purchased directly by roasters from growers.  Roasters may travel to the coffees country of origin and personally evaluate the beans for quality and taste.
  • Fair Trade:   Used to indicate that farmers have received a fair price for their coffee crop.  TransFair USA ( offers a certification program
  • Green Beans: Coffee seeds that are free from all coverings and ready to be roasted.
  • Organic:  Coffee that is raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.  To be labeled organic in the United States, coffee must be produced in accordance with U.S. Department of Agriculture ( standards and certified by an accredited agency.
  • Pulping:  Removing by machinery the outer skin of coffee cherries.  The machines rub away the pulp by friction without crushing the beans.
  • Roast:  Before coffee is ready to be ground and brew, heat is applied to green coffee beans to develop desired flavor characteristics.
  • Single Origin:  Coffee that is grown within one region.  Coffees from multiple farms in one region may be combined to create one coffee.  Certain regions are known to produce distinct flavor profiles.
  • Shade Grown:  Coffee that is grown under a canopy of trees.  The trees provide habitats for wildlife, control erosion, and help maintain soil quality.  Organizations such as the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center ( and the Rainforest Alliance ( have developed certification programs that include shade grown requirements.

Learn More about Coffee:


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