Coffee Glossary of Terms & Definitions

Acidity: Gives coffee a tart flavor. Generally speaking, the more acidic a cup of coffee is, the higher its quality and demand. Acidity is sometimes called "liveliness."

Balance: Coffee with good balance means that there isn't one flavor that overrides another. Experts say that balanced coffee is complex because it has many flavors of equal strength.

Blend: The mixing of two (and sometimes three or more) single-origin coffee beans.

Body: How thick and creamy coffee feels on the tongue. Full-bodied coffee feels like it has a heavier and richer texture.

Briny: Gives coffee a salty taste, which is a negative characteristic. Overheating coffee beans or grinds is the most common cause of brininess, which typically happens when someone leaves coffee in hot conditions, such as on a tractor-trailer.

Cupping: A technique that professional coffee drinkers use when testing coffee samples. It involves pouring water over ground coffee and tasting the liquid on the spot.

Degassing: After roasting, coffee automatically releases carbon dioxide, which is a process called degassing. It's a critical step since it protects the coffee beans from oxygen for a few days.

Finish: The feeling in the mouth and throat after you've just swallowed a sip of coffee. It’s a word commonly used by expert coffee tasters.

Hard Bean: Coffee plants that grow at or above 4,000 feet. Rough growing conditions mean that these coffee plants produce a firmer berry.

New Crop: Coffee that undergoes roasting shortly after being harvest. That means that the coffee berries are fresh and keeping their brightest color.

Organic Coffee: Coffee plants that never touched any pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals during any stage of the coffee bean's growth.

Patio Drying: A traditional process of drying freshly picked coffee berries. Once farmers remove the pulp from coffee, they place the coffee beans out in the sun on open patios, often spreading them around with a rake.

Shade Grown: An environmentally friendly way of growing coffee since they don't have to cut down any or many trees in the process. It's also a natural form of pesticide since birds living in the trees help minimize insect attacks on the coffee plants.

Single Origin Coffee: Coffee beans that come from a single place and the same crop. During the packaging process, people don’t mix the coffee beans with any other types of coffee.

Sorting: The process of selecting coffee beans at a mill once they're dry. Sorting involves putting coffee beans together according to size, density, and defects.

USDA: Stands for the United States Department of Agriculture. Coffee with a USDA label meets certified organic standards.