If you’re interested in getting into the world of coffee and mastering techniques of brewing better coffee at home, all the terminology and jargon involved can be daunting.
To help you along, we’ve compiled a comprehensive A-Z list of coffee terms that will assist all aspiring home baristas in navigating the world of coffee. We’ve also linked relevant resources that will help give you a better understanding of a particular coffee term and topic.
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A-Z List Of Coffee Terms
Arabica — Refers to Arabica coffee beans from the Coffea arabica plant, which originated in Ethiopia. Arabica is the most popular type of coffee in the world. It is most commonly compared with Robusta coffee. Arabica is usually smoother, with a sweeter taste.
Americano — Also known as Caffè Americano, this is a coffee drink made by adding water with Espresso. Its strength will depend on the number of Espresso shots, and the amount of hot water added.
Aroma — The coffee aroma is created by flavourful compounds released by coffee into the air. There are many different types of coffee aroma, such as nutty, smoky, herby, fruity, and flowery.
Acidity — A major coffee characteristic alongside aroma, flavour, and body, used to describe a coffee’s taste. Acidity is when the coffee leaves a crispness on your tongue, similar to how it’s like when you drink dry wine.
Affogato — An Italian coffee-based dessert comprising a scoop of vanilla ice cream drowned with Espresso.
American Roast — Refers to the extent that the coffee beans have been roasted. See Light Roast, Medium Roast, Dark Roast. American Roast is where the coffee beans have been roasted to a rich, medium brown colour. It is also the traditional roasting style of coffee in the US.
Balance — A term used to describe how coffee is not overwhelmingly acidic, sweet, rich, or any particular taste characteristic.
Burr Grinder — A type of coffee bean grinder that has two revolving abrasive burr plates, or “burrs”, that grind your beans to a uniform size. For coffee aficionados, it is preferred over blade grinders which tend to produce coffee grounds of different shapes and sizes.
Blend — Often refers to “Coffee Blend”, which is coffee made with beans from more than one place of origin. They usually taste less overpowering as compared to single-origin coffees.
Body — Used to describe the weight and sensation when drinking a cup of coffee. Origins of a coffee, brewing method, and roast level affects a coffee’s body. Full-bodied coffee is strong and feels thick, round and creamy in the mouth.
Café Au Lait — French for “coffee with milk”. It is made with equal parts of steamed milk and strong hot coffee. Unlike a Latte, it doesn’t have any milk foam.
Caffeine — A natural stimulant found in caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and cacao plants. Helps to improve mental alertness.
Cappuccino — A type of coffee made with Espresso and milk. There is an even ratio of Espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.
Cold Brew — A type of coffee that is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee in room temperature water for six to 24 hours, creating a coffee concentrate that can be mixed with cold water or milk. It is less acidic than hot brewed coffee and iced coffee.
Cold Drip Coffee — Usually compared to Cold Brew, but is made slightly differently. Cold Drip Coffee is made using a cold drip apparatus that drips iced water over freshly ground coffee. The ground coffee absorbs the water, then drips the coffee into another vessel at the bottom to form Cold Drip Coffee.
Crema — The layer of creamy froth that forms on the top of a freshly-brewed Espresso. Crema is formed during coffee extraction when pressurised hot water hits the coffee grounds, releasing carbon dioxide and emulsifying the oils from the coffee beans to create lots of tiny bubbles.
Dark Roast — Refers to the roast levels of coffee beans. See Light Roast, Medium Roast, American Roast. As Dark Roasted Coffee beans have been roasted for a longer period of time, the beans tend to have an oilier surface. The coffee made from them is also less acidic and has a heavier body and deeper, darker flavours.
Decaffeinated — Also known as Decaf. Refers to coffee made with coffee beans that have about 97% of their caffeine removed before roasting and grinding. Taste-wise, Decaf tends to be milder with a mellower taste and fragrance.
Degassing — The process of releasing the gases from freshly roasted coffee beans. When coffee beans are freshly roasted, gases such as carbon dioxide form inside the beans. These gases are released in the first few days after roasting and can negatively affect coffee extraction and the flavour of your coffee. Therefore, brewers and roasters usually let freshly roasted beans sit for a few days to degas before using them.
Drip Method — One popular method of brewing coffee. Hot water is poured evenly over ground coffee in a paper filter. The brewed coffee then drips slowly into a cup or pot. It is typically made using a coffee maker. Similar concept to Pour Over Coffee but is less manual.
Direct Trade — A form of sourcing practised by some coffee roasters, where they purchase coffees directly from the coffee farmers themselves rather than through importers.
Demitasse — A small cup used to serve Espresso. Usually holds about 60 to 90ml of liquid.
Doppio — A double shot of Espresso, which is about 60ml of coffee.
Espresso — A strong, bold shot of coffee made by shooting hot, pressurised water through finely-ground coffee beans packed into cakes. Differs from regular coffee in the way it’s made and its flavour.
Filtered Coffee — Instead of water being pushed through the coffee grounds with pressure like Espresso, water is poured into coffee grounds. It runs through the grounds using gravity, forming coffee at the bottom. Also known as Pour Over Coffee or Drip Coffee.
French Press — A tool that brews coffee using a metal filter and a plunger. By pushing the plunger downwards, the metal filter that’s connected to it pushes the coffee grounds to the base of the French Press, giving you coffee that can be poured into your mug.
Frothing — Refers to Milk Frothing in the context of coffee. Frothing milk involves aerating milk which forms froth or foam. This creates a creamy, airy mouthfeel to your coffee.
Flat White — A type of Espresso-based coffee. Commonly compared but cannot be confused with Latte. It generally consists of half the amount of milk as a Latte, making the Espresso flavour more pronounced. Flat Whites also have less microfoam and are mainly made with steamed milk.
Grinder — Refers to Coffee Grinder. A tool or machine used to grind coffee beans. Two main types of grinders include Blade Grinder and Burr Grinder. See Burr Grinder above.
Latte — A type of Espresso-based coffee. Commonly compared but cannot be confused with Flat White. Also known as Café Latte, it is made with 1-2 shots of Espresso and steamed milk in a 1:2 ratio, then finished with a layer of frothed milk.
Latte Art — Made by pouring hot, steamed milk into a cup of Espresso skillfully to create designs on the top of the Latte with milk foam.
Light Roast — Refers to the extent that the coffee beans have been roasted. See American Roast, Medium Roast, and Dark Roast. Light Roast is where the coffee beans have been roasted light brown, with no oil on the beans. Light Roast coffees generally retain more of the coffee bean flavours, resulting in more complex flavours.
Lungo — Also means “long” in Italian, Lungo refers to a different way to pull an Espresso shot. It takes longer and results in a larger volume of coffee that has more water and tastes less intense than a standard Espresso shot.
Macchiato — Can be referred to as a Latte Macchiato or an Espresso Macchiato. Macchiato roughly translates to “stained”. An Espresso Macchiato is an Espresso stained with a touch of milk, while a Latte Macchiato is frothed milk stained with a touch of Espresso.
Medium Roast — Refers to the extent that the coffee beans have been roasted. See American Roast, Light Roast, and Dark Roast. Medium Roast is where the coffee beans have been roasted light brown, with no oil on the beans. Light Roast coffees generally retain more of the coffee bean flavours, resulting in more complex flavours.
Mocha — Also known as Caffé Mocha, it is an Espresso-based beverage made by adding chocolate to a Latte. The chocolate component can be added as syrup, cocoa powder, or molten chocolate.
Microfoam — The layer of steamed milk foam used to top a cup of Cappuccino or Latte, or other Espresso-based beverages. It is typically made with a Steam Wand, which aerates and steams milk, creating milk foam that can make Latte Art.
Pump Machine — A type of Espresso machine. Pump-driven Espresso machines can be categorised into Semi-Automatic, Automatic, and Super-Automatic machines. The machines’ pump mechanism helps generate high and consistent pressure levels that force the water through the coffee. They produce better and more consistent coffee as compared to steam-driven coffee machines.
Portafilter — All Espresso machines have this tool that helps you to brew Espresso successfully. It holds the ground coffee, allowing hot water to pass through the grounds during extraction and through a hole at the bottom into your cup. It has a handle for you to hold on to while using it.
Pour Over Coffee — Made by pouring hot water over coffee grounds through a coffee filter. It is a manual process compared to Drip Coffee, and coffee lovers like to use a Chemex and Gooseneck kettle to make this type of coffee.
Robusta — Commonly used to refer to Robusta coffee, the second most popular coffee in the world. It is often used in instant coffee and Espresso blends. It is most commonly compared with Arabica coffee and is less refined than Arabica.
Ristretto — A “short shot”, which makes it a concentrated form of Espresso as it’s made with the same amount of coffee grounds but with half as much water.
Roasting — Coffee beans are initially green but are roasted to different shades of brown before being ground and turned into coffee. Roasting helps to unlock the aromas and flavours of the beans.
Single-Origin Coffee — Commonly referred to describe coffee beans coming from one place (producer/crop/region in one country) instead of coffee bean blends. It is usually of a higher quality and tends to be pricier.
Specialty Coffee — Also known as “Speciality Coffee”, this term refers to coffee that is graded and ranks between 80-100 points on a scale given by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). A certified Q grader has to do this grading process, also known as “cupping”.
Steam wand — A metal pipe/attachment commonly found on Espresso machines used to steam and froth milk in a milk frothing jug.
Shot — Typically used to refer to a “shot of Espresso”, a single serving of Espresso that is about 30ml.
Tamper — A tool that is used to compress ground coffee beans into a portafilter before coffee extraction.
Whole Bean Coffee — Refers to full coffee beans that haven’t been ground. If you purchase whole bean coffee, you will need to grind them first before brewing a cup of coffee. It can be contrasted with pre-ground coffee.
Basic Coffee Terms To Know
We hope this comprehensive list helps you navigate your journey as you explore the fascinating world of coffee. To learn more, don’t forget to check out other informative articles here!
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