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There are a lot of terms out there about coffee. If you need a handy guide to help you talk the talk and walk the walk, this coffee slang list will help you understand the conversation and know exactly what you’re talking about. More importantly, you’ll be able to order just what you’re looking for!
While often seen as a bad thing for those with sensitive stomachs, acidity in coffee is what helps deliver the higher parts of a coffee’s flavor. You’ll also hear this referred to as “brightness,” “liveliness,” or “tartness.”
This is a small and manually operated coffee maker. Coffee grounds are steeped in water for 10-60 seconds, depending on your preferences, and then the plunger is pushed down to force the steeped water through the filter at the bottom of the tube. It works similarly to a french press.
Originally from Italy, this dessert contains an espresso shot and ice cream (normally vanilla, but you can do any flavor you want). To make it, you scoop ice cream into a small bowl and then “drown” it with espresso.
This is an up-and-coming trend where green coffee beans are carefully aged in controlled settings (typically warehouses and sometimes in barrels) over a period of months or years. Aging coffee helps draw out more flavor and reduce acidity. It is similar to the finesse of aging wine!
As the name suggests, this is a popular kind of bean roast in the U.S. It’s considered a medium roast, and it has a full flavor and full acidity. The actual character or flavor profile will differ from brand to brand. This is also known as a “city roast”.
This is a popular drink combining a single shot of espresso with 12 oz (354 ml) of hot water. It’s a “diluted” version of a classic Italian drink and got its name from American soldiers who found classic Italian coffee too strong.
This is the most popular kind of coffee tree species (Coffea arabica) and was the first type to be discovered. It is responsible for creating over 70% of the world’s coffee in the modern day, even though other coffee trees are grown and cultivated. This popularity is because its bean quality is very superior compared to other trees.
This term is used to describe the smell that is released from freshly-ground coffee. It can be used to describe the dry grounds before brewing or the smell of the fresh cup of coffee itself post-brewing.
This term refers to a coffee of coffee that has a complex taste, yet there isn’t one single aspect about its flavor or taste that draws the taster’s attention enough to note it. It is a positive term.
Originally from Italy, this gender-neutral term is now a formal title for workers in coffee shops. This person is experienced at making espressos and other coffee-containing drinks, including personalized orders.
This type of rooster can hold a “batch” of coffee to roast all at once. The actual batch size will differ depending on its size.
A word used to describe the harsh lack of sweetness in a coffee. Many medium or dark roast coffees are characterized as bitter, where light roasts are sweeter.
This is a type of coffee grinder that uses a blade to do the grinding. It’s powered by a propeller-like blade and is typically electric, but can be manual, too.
This is a term used to describe the taste of a weak-flavored coffee. The weakness can be caused by under-extraction of the coffee, or it is coffee sourced from low-grown robusta coffee trees. It is a negative term in most cases.
Used commercially, this is the word used to explain that two single-origin coffees are combined together in one batch of coffee that is sold in stores or coffee shops.
This is the priming process of extracting the flavor from coffee grounds. This is done by pouring a small amount of water into the coffee grounds before the extraction process is started.
This tasting term refers to the thickness (viscosity) or richness of the brewed coffee. A coffee that has a full body is one that has that richness and thickness. It has what’s referred to as a “heavy mouthfeel”. This is a formal term for coffee tasting but can appear on many commercial packaging, too.
The name of a particularly high-quality type of Coffea arabica that was originally discovered on what was then named the island of Bourbon (now known as Réunion). This coffee is made in very small batches, but it is recognized as an heirloom variety because of its very high quality.
This is the ratio of coffee to water that is used for flavor extraction. Certain drinks use different extractions. A ristretto uses a different ratio than a classic single shot espresso, for example.
Not all coffee makers or processes use the same temperature for brewing coffee. Most use a temperature between 197-208 degrees F (92-98 degrees C). The lower end draws out the acidity and fruity flavors. The higher ends focus on the chocolatey notes.
This is over-warmed coffee that creates a salty sensation to its flavor. This is typically a negative term that is often given to low-quality, overheated coffee popular in crowded places such as truck stops, diners, and hospitals.
This is a type of coffee grinder that uses shredding discs (called burrs) to grind coffee beans. The adjustable discs and gentler technique of grinding coffee make it the superior grinder type for precise coffee grinding!
CAFÉ AU LAIT
A milky coffee drink that originated in France. It is a combination of ⅓ drip-brewed coffee with ⅔ milk. When made authentically, that milk is hot and frothed for a rich texture.
The active compound in coffee that causes the stimulating and energizing effect people often associate with coffee. It is odorless but bitter. It leads many to assume that bitter coffee has a higher caffeine level.
A rich drink that combines a single shot of espresso with 5 oz (146 ml) of steamed milk. Milk froth is often added on top. Many modern-day cappuccinos are served with a dusting of cinnamon or chocolate on top and even feature art drawn in the milk foam.
The term is used to describe the skin of the coffee fruit that adheres to green coffee after it begins the stripping and separating during the processing of coffee. It will loosen and drop off as the coffee is roasted.
The most classic type of filter for brewing coffee. The filters are described as denser and stiffer than other paper filters. Coffee experts believe this filter provides a sweet, balanced cup of coffee.
The term that’s used to describe the fruit from the coffee tree. There are two coffee beans (also known as a peaberry) in each cherry. Cherries are red when they are harvested.
This doesn’t refer to the actual cleanliness of the coffee beans! This is a tasting term that you can use with coffee that tastes as it should. There are no defects in its flavor. Clean coffee would have no hard notes, fruit, or earthy flavors noticeable.
CLEVER COFFEE DRIPPER
This type of coffee dripper creates a well-extracted cup of coffee. This is done by installing a stopper in the filter cone. The coffee is delayed and extracts its flavor more completely as it brews.
This single-serve coffee machine is popular with those who enjoy using technology to create a good cup of coffee. It’s amongst the most high-tech and high-end coffee machines out there.
This is a method used to create coffee concentrate specifically for iced coffee. Coffee grounds are soaked in cold water for 10-20 hours at a time, depending on the strength of the concentrate you are making.
This tasting term describes a cup of coffee with multiple layers of flavor. The layers blend well and offer up depth and resonance to the coffee. This is a positive term.
Originally from Spain, this is a Spanish term/word meaning “to cut”. It is the name given to a drink blending a single or double shot of espresso with steamed milk and blended together.
This is the formal name for the foam that covers a freshly-extracted espresso. It is often thick and colored like caramel.
Similar to wine tasting, this process involves putting ground coffee into various cups, and water is poured over them. Coffee professionals taste each cup to understand how different they are from each other.
This is a type of roast where coffee beans are deliberately roasted to a dark color and even beyond. The coffee beans often appear to have oil on their surface when they reach this stage. Dark roast coffee tastes stronger than light roast or medium roast coffee.
This is a type of coffee that has had its natural caffeine mechanically removed. Also known as “decaf,” this coffee can still contain up to 3% caffeine, but it is still considered decaffeinated and sold as such.
This is part of the processing of coffee. Freshly-roasted coffee releases carbon dioxide naturally to protect it from oxygen and its staling impacts. Degassing can release up to 3x its volume in gas! The process takes several days and is essential for locking in freshness.
This is an Italian term used to describe a double shot of espresso. The more commonplace term is “double shot”. It’s extracted with two nozzles simultaneously.
This is a chamber that is on some special espresso grinders. It collects and then releases carefully measured doses of ground coffee. It is used to get the measurement of coffee just right for the perfect extraction.
This is a very popular kind of coffee brewing that involves dripping hot water over fresh coffee grounds. The water drips through the coffee, through the filter, and into the carafe below. This is the most common type of household coffee maker.
This is a type of processing of the coffee bean. The husk or fruit is removed after the bean’s been dried. This processing creates a fruity and complex bean that is very popular amongst coffee lovers.
This is a tasting term that describes coffee that has come into contact with earth/soil of some kind during its drying process while being harvested and processed. It’s most common with Sumatra or Sulawesi-originated coffee.
This is a type of coffee that is medium or dark-roasted. In this kind of coffee, bittersweet flavors are at the forefront, and acidity is reduced. This is also called a “full-city roast” or a Viennese roast.
This is a type of coffee brewing that originated in Italy It involves pushing hot water under pressure through a very compressed container of ground coffee. In most cases, less than 2 oz (59 ml) of coffee results from this brewing process.
This is the process of pulling out the coffee’s flavor from the grounds using hot water between 195-205 degrees F (90-96 degrees C). Under-extracted coffee typically tastes weak, whereas over-extracted coffee can taste bitter. Extraction is a very precise process!
This is the market term used to describe when coffee is purchased at a “fair” price compared to a low-priced purchase where farmers and their work are undervalued and under-appreciated.
This is a general term used to describe when water filters through coffee. It’s most commonly used in drip brewers, where there is a paper filter separating the grounds from the actual brewed coffee.
This is a tasting term used to describe the overall experience and effect of a sip of coffee that was swallowed. It describes the actual swallowing flavor.
This is a coffee drink originally from New Zealand or Australia. It is made with a single shot of espresso that is topped with steamed milk.
This is a tasting term to describe the taste of coffee. This term is used after the acidity, the body, and the aroma of the coffee have already been described!
Similar to Aeropress, this is a type of coffee maker popular around the world. To use it, coffee grounds are steeped in water. Then a plunger is pushed down to separate the grounds from the water. It is also known as a “press pot” or a “plunger pot.”
This is a very strong roast of coffee. The beans are very dark brown and very oily on their surface. Acidity is low, and the bittersweet flavor tends to take over this particular kind of roast as the main feature.
This is a medium-dark roast coffee that has some oily finish on the bean after roasting. It tastes mellow, and there is a designated sweetness and body to the coffee flavor. Acidity is low with this roast type.
This is the market term that is used to describe unroasted coffee beans. All coffee beans are green before roasting, regardless of type.
A term to describe a fixture on an espresso machine. The portafilter and filter both must clamp onto this important fixture.
This is a type of coffee that is grown between 4 000-5 000 feet. This higher elevation has lower temperatures, and it creates a slow-maturing coffee tree. The bean is harder, giving it its name.
This is a type of coffee that is specifically from the Arabica coffee tree. It’s used to describe a growing elevation of 3 000 feet or above. The taste and quality are superior to coffee grown at lower elevations.
Part of the processing of coffee that happens before the sorting process. It describes the removal of the skin from the coffee bean. The skin is called “parchment”.
A term for the extraction process where the coffee grounds are immersed in water, and the water pulls the flavor and aroma forward. The Frenc press and cold brew are both examples of immersion-based coffee makers.
This is a dark roast coffee that is considered very rich and bittersweet. There is a lot of variety in this roast. The flavor can be rich to burnt, and the bean can be dark brown to black!
This is a popular drink where a single shot of espresso is topped with steamed milk. The espresso-to-milk ratio is typically 1:3. Milk froth is typically added to its top, and latte art is then added for aesthetics.
This is an Italian term that is used to describe espressos that are pulled with a longer extraction time and more water than usual. It is weaker than a classic espresso. This is the opposite of a ristretto.
This is a type of coffee drink, coming from the Italian word “marked,” that has a single shot of espresso topped with a small amount of frothed milk (1:2 for the ratio).
This is a processing term that is used to describe when machines are used to dry defruited coffee beans. This can refer to either rotating drum machines or slide machines.
This term is used to describe a small batch of coffee that comes from a single farm or from a specific part of a larger coffee farm.
This is a type of coffee drink that blends together a single shot of espresso with steamed milk (using a 1:3 ratio) and, often, some chocolate syrup.
This is a specific kind of coffee maker that is native to Italy. It is small yet produces a strong cup of coffee. This is still a common coffee maker in many homes in Italy.
This is a specific kind of coffee from India. This single-origin coffee is deliberately exposed to winds from the monsoon season to increase the body of the coffee bean as it dries. It also helps reduce coffee’s acidity.
This is a type of coffee bean that is roasted very soon after the harvest. It is fresh and bright coffee compared to other more common types.
This type of coffee requires certification from a specific agency after being grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. This is different from fair trade coffee.
This is the skin covering processed coffee beans after the fruit has been skinned and the pulp has been removed. The beans are dried before the parchment appears.
This is the classic way of drying coffee beans. Drying beans on the patio after they are depulped. The heat of the sun dries them as they are spread out and raked throughout the day.
This is a formal term for the small bean that is created when only one-half of the coffee seed develops within the fruit.
This is a type of espresso machine that is powered by a piston. It controls the lever to push the water through the ground coffee at high pressure.
This is part of the espresso machine. It is a small metal piece with a plastic handle that keeps the coffee filter in place. It clamps onto the group of equipment and is a crucial part of the machine.
This type of coffee brewing involves pouring hot water steadily and slowly over a filter cone containing the coffee. This is a slow brewing process, well-loved for its rich brew.
This is the term used to describe the used coffee that comes out of the portafilter or from the Clover brewer, depending on what machine you have.
This is the term to describe when espresso is “pulled” from the machine. This is a historical term from when old-fashioned espresso machines were operated by a lever. The pull would draw out/extract a single or a double espresso.
In coffee bean harvesting and processing, this is the process of removing the outer skin of the coffee cherry/fruit.
This is an espresso machine that relies on a pump to force the hot water through the ground coffee at high pressure.
The grade that will determine how to market and sell the coffee based on its quality.
This is the term given to coffee beans that don’t roast properly. They are light in color and are not included in the final beans that are sold.
Refers to a cup of coffee that is then topped with an espresso shot for extra flavor and caffeine. Many redeyes are made with a double shot of espresso!
This is a type of coffee that comes from the Italian word for “restricted”. It is an espresso shot that is extracted with half the normal water. It creates a stronger drink, both flavor-wise, and caffeine-wise.
The term describing how raw, fresh coffee beans are heated and “cooked” to bring out complex flavors. The beans are then brewed to extract the flavor.
This refers to a type of low-elevation and high-yield coffee beans from the tree with the same name. The coffee from this tree is full-bodied, but it is bland and often as seen as inferior. It has a higher caffeine count to Arabica, but it is used exclusively in cheap blends of coffee and instant coffee.
There are various ripening seasons in coffee harvesting. Certain specialty coffee roasters harvest specific seasons of coffee beans and sell them at a higher price. They are available only for a limited time.
A kind of coffee tree that is grown under a natural canopy of native trees in the area. It has lower use of pesticides because birds, seeking shade, eat the insects and other pests that make treatment so common.
The term for a single portion of espresso. It is typically 1 oz (29 ml). At the most, it’s 2 oz (59 ml).
There is a skin on the inside of the coffee fruit that holds onto the coffee beans. It must be polished or float-free on its own during roasting. This transforms into chaff.
This is pure, unblended coffee that comes from a single crip in a single region in a specific country.
This is a less common kind of coffee maker. The brewer steeps coffee grounds in an upper globe. Then the brewed coffee is drawn into a lower globe through a partial vacuum effect. This is also known as a vacuum pot for this reason.
The process where coffee beans are hulled and sorted. They are separated out by size and roasting strength. The density is also considered, and defects are removed. This is an integral process in making sure sold coffee is all uniform!
SPECIALTY COFFEE ASSOC. OF AMERICA (SCAA)
This is a worldwide association that is recognized as a high-end collection of coffee growers, roosters, wholesalers, retailers, and importers. The coffee in this association is all considered specialty.
The term given to coffee that is considered superior. The quality of the raw coffee has 1-2% of it being considered high-end of specialty. Of the coffee grown worldwide, approximately 10% of it is considered specialty coffee.
STRICTLY HARD BEAN
Coffee beans that come from Central American countries with a particularly high elevation. Beans with this name are the highest grade, both in elevation and quality.
This is the term used to describe the pestle device that is used to compact the ground coffee into the filter basket of an espresso machine. It is round, flat, and relatively small so that the barista can really compact efficiently. There is a science to tamping coffee just right for an espresso.
TERROIR (tare – wahr)
This is a term used to describe how geography, geology, and climate can have an impact on coffee and its taste throughout growth cycles. This is a French word (pronounced “terre-wahr”) that comes from “terre”, meaning land or earth. It’s an advanced coffee term!
The name for a single-cup coffee brewer that is high-tech and very precise or specific. It is new to the market and recommended for the barista environment where professionals can use it properly.
A type of coffee that comes from Latin America, much like a lot of the coffee in today’s marketplace. This is a type of arabica coffee, but it is considered to be superior to those that aren’t typica-stock. It is very clean, sweet, and overall thought to have a great quality for the flavor an enjoyment.
A term used by coffee professionals when describing the type (read: variety) of coffee that is used. There are many types of coffee varietals, including typica and bourbon. This is commonly misused as a way to describe where the coffee comes from rather than what type it is. In writing, the varietal is noted using “var.” in front of the coffee type. Ex: “var. Bourbon”.
Another professional coffee term this is used to describe the main characteristics of a specific cupping of coffee compared to the others. The varietal character should distinguish it from every other cupping/serving. This is also known as the “taste of the place,” though this is more of a casual term.
This is a strong and bittersweet kind of coffee, also known as a “full-city roast” or an espresso roast. The acidity is moderate compared to other types of similar roasts.
WET-PROCESSED/ WASHED COFFEE
A part of processing where the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry are removed while it is still fresh. It’s the most common way to process coffee in the modern day.
This process removes the skin and pulp from the bean while the coffee fruit is still fresh. Most of the world’s coffees are processed in this manner.
This coffee slang list will be updated regularly, so keep checking back for new terms and definitions! Meanwhile, take a look at our coffee guides for more information about brewing techniques and coffee-making equipment. Happy caffeinating! ☕️