Coffee Vocabulary


  • Acidity. A word used to describe a coffee characteristic. The pleasant tartness of a fine cup of coffee, usually sensed on the sides of the tongue. One of the tasting categories used by coffee tasters to evaluate a coffee.

  • Arabica, or Coffea Arabica. The most widely grown species of the coffee plant. Dramatically superior in quality to the other major coffee species, Coffea canephora, or Robusta. All specialty or gourmet coffees come from the Arabica trees.

  • Aroma. The fragrance resulting from brewing coffee. One of the tasting categories used by coffee tasters to evaluate a coffee.

  • Balance. A term used to describe the taste of a coffee where no single characteristic overwhelms the others.

  • Blade Grinder. A small kitchen appliance with a blender-type blade used to grind coffee. Results in uneven coffee particles, but is usually inexpensive.

  • Blend. A mixture of two or more single origin coffees.
Body. The sensation of texture or thickness in coffee. One of the tasting categories used by coffee tasters to evaluate a coffee.

  • Bourbon. A botanical variety of Coffea Arabica. Var. Bourbon first appeared on the island of Bourbon, now Réunion. Many Latin-American coffees are from this variety.

  • Caffeine. A stimulant occurring naturally in coffee and tea.

  • Caturra. A botanical variety of the coffea arabica species developed relatively recently because of its faster rate of growth and resistance to disease.

  • Cherry. The fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry contains two coffee seeds, or beans.

  • Complexity. A coffee tasting term used to describe a coffee with very distinct and identifiable variations in the overall flavor.

  • Crema: The thick, creamy, caramel colored foam that forms on top of a shot of espresso as it is brewed. Crema dissipates as a shot of espresso sits. Absence of crema on a shot indicates either a poorly made shot or a lack of freshness, both of which will negatively impact the flavor.

  • Cupping. The procedure used by professional coffee tasters to evaluate and grade coffees. It is a highly defined process of roasting, grinding, and brewing the coffee where the tasters, or cuppers, evaluate coffees based on acidity, body, aroma, and flavor.

  • Drip Brewing. A coffee brewing process where water is “dripped” over a basket with ground coffee.

  • Espresso Blend. A blend of single-origin coffees blended to produce an espresso drink that has certain flavor qualities as well as a large amount of crema.

  • Filter Basket. The component of a coffee brewer that holds the filter and ground coffee.

  • Flavor. The combination of acidity, body, and aroma in coffee.

  • Fragrance. The scent of dry coffee immediately after being ground, and before it is brewed.

  • Green Coffee. Unroasted coffee.

  • Specialty Coffee. The practice of identifying and selling coffee by country of origin, roast, or blend, rather than by brand or trademark. Also refers to the culture of treating these coffees as “gourmet” coffees.

  • Turkish Coffee, Middle Eastern Coffee. Coffee made with very finely ground coffee, brought to a boil, in some cases three times, and served with the grounds.

  • Whole Bean Coffee: Coffee that has not been ground.

  • Cappuccino: Equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. This drink contains less milk and is more concentrated than a café latte.

  • Espresso: A very strong, concentrated coffee made with a dark roasted bean that has been brewed using pressurized steam. One regular shot of espresso is roughly one ounce.

  • Double espresso: Two shots of espresso or a drink made with two shots of espresso.

  • Long (lungo) Shot: A shot of espresso allowed to brew longer and with more water. A long shot is usually between 2-3 ounces in volume. During the longer extraction, more flavor compounds are extracted from the grounds giving it a slightly different flavor from a regular shot.

  • Short (ristretto) Shot: A shot of espresso allowed to brew for a shorter amount of time, yielding about 3/4 ounce of liquid. The shorter brew time restricts the compounds that are extracted from the grounds giving it a slightly different flavor from a regular shot.

  • Espresso Con Panna: A shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.

  • Café Latte: One part espresso, two parts steamed milk. May or may not be served with milk foam.

  • Café Mocha: Steamed milk, espresso, and chocolate. Can be described as a café latte with chocolate or a hot cocoa with espresso. This drink is often served topped with whipped cream.

  • Macchiato: A shot of espresso with a doll up of milk foam. Macchiato means “mark” as in the espresso is marked with a dab of milk foam.