When I first started working in the specialty coffee industry in 2011, I was unaware of the best resources to help me fulfill my eager desire to learn. I didn't know of any reputable books, and the internet provided very contrasting ideas and definitions. I was fortunate enough to have resourceful friends and co-workers in the specialty coffee industry who helped me to establish a foundation of coffee knowledge. Fast forward ten years, many coffee books, blogs, and Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) classes later, I have gathered reputable information to share with other curious coffee individuals such as yourself. So whether you already work in the coffee industry or are simply curious to learn more about specialty coffee, here is a glossary of terms to help you think and talk like a barista.
GROWING AND PROCESSING
Arabica: There are two main branches of the coffee tree: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Cenephora - commonly referred to as Robusta. Specialty coffee shops such as Temple only serve Coffea Arabica. It is grown in distinct microclimates near the equator with defined dry and wet seasons at altitudes above 2,000 feet.
Bourbon: Pronounced Ber-BONE. One of the most genetically important Arabica varieties. Originally from the island of Bourbon (now Reunion) in the Indian Ocean near Africa, this variety has now been planted in various countries around the world. It is a tall variety characterized by relatively low production, susceptibility to major diseases, and great cup quality.
Cultivar: a result of deliberate cross-breeding of coffee varieties to enhance flavor and/or become more disease-resistant.
Defect: Refers to a problem encountered in the growing or processing of the coffee bean. Most often defects are found when tasting a lot during a cupping and will always decrease the overall score and quality of the lot. Although most can be visibly identified, other defects, such as the Potato Taste Defect, can only be identified when tasted. Examples of defects include: black, sour, fungus, damaged (i.e. broken or chipped beans), immature, shell, floater, insect, or quaker.
Direct Trade: A type of purchasing coffee where roasters form direct relationships with the farmers or producers they buy coffee from. Temple uses Direct Trade to create a sustainable and transparent coffee purchasing system where our green coffee buyer travels directly to origin to meet the farmers and taste the coffee together. Through our Direct Trade model, we pay producers well above C-market and Fair-Trade Prices for their coffee.
Estate: a coffee farm that typically has its own processing mill.
Gesha (aka Geisha): A coffee variety originating from Gesha – a town in western Ethiopia – is now grown in many Central and South American countries. Known for its extremely high cup quality (regularly scoring 90+ points), it has set records for the most expensive coffees ever purchased (an Ethiopia Elida Geisha sold for $803 a pound- roughly $75 per 8oz cup- in 2018 by Klatch Coffee). They are expensive because they only grow in specific micro-climates and take 6-8 years to bear fruit, compared to 3-4 years for other coffee varieties. Considered the “Champaign of coffee”.
Honey Process (aka Pulped Natural): A processing method that requires de-pulping the coffee seeds using very little water, stripping the skin, and most, if not all, of the flesh away from the bean. The beans are then laid out to dry carefully on patios with some or all of the mucilage stuck to the parchment. They are generally sweet with a rich, creamy body. This term was coined in Costa Rica and is respectively the same process as pulped natural accounting for local traditions.
Natural Process (aka Dry Process): The oldest method for processing coffee. The coffee beans are laid out to dry on patios or raised beds in the sun with the fruit left on the seed for up to 4 weeks or until they reach the desired moisture content (10-12%). Once dried, the outer husk is removed mechanically and the beans are stored until shipment. Natural processed coffees can have wonderful fruity notes and a full body.
Peaberry: Typically, each coffee cherry will grow two seeds that develop facing each other creating the iconic shape of one round side and one flat side. Occasionally, only a single seed develops in the cherry which is known as a Peaberry. They are smaller in size and round in shape.
Robusta aka Coffea Canephora: Grows at low altitudes and is disease-resistant, making it cheap and easy to grow. It is what you find in pre-ground, instant coffees. Although it makes up about 40% of the world’s coffee production, it rarely produces a decent cup.
Semi-washed Process (aka Wet Hulled): Involves depulping the cherries and then drying them partially, the beans are then hulled to remove the parchment layers, only to be dried again until ready to be stored. These coffees are generally earthy, spicy tones with a heavy body and low acidity. Commonly found in the Indo-Pacific where the humidity makes it difficult for the green coffee beans to be dried to the proper moisture content with the parchment layer intact.
Swiss Water Decaffeination Process: Temple Coffee uses the Swiss Water Decaffeination Process to remove 99.9% of the caffeine naturally found in coffee beans without the use of potentially harmful chemicals. The green coffee beans are first soaked in water to increase the size and add to the overall moisture level. Then the bean is soaked in Green Coffee Extract where through osmosis, the caffeine is transferred from the green bean into the extract. Over the span of 10 hours, a patented carbon filtering system through activated charcoal continually traps the extracted caffeine until 99.9% is removed leaving the natural flavors of the coffee intact.
Typica: One of the oldest Coffea Arabica varieties. It is grown all throughout the world in various coffee growing regions, and natural variations or deliberate hybrids have used the Typica variety to create diversity.
Variety: A subspecies of the coffee plant. There are hundreds of coffee varieties each imparting their own distinct characteristics and flavor notes. Typica and Bourbon are the most common coffee varieties, but other popular types include: Mundo Novo, Catuai, Caturra, SL-28 and SL-34, Ethiopia Heirloom, Mokka, Pacas, Maragogipe, and Geisha.
Washed Process (aka Wet Process): Cherries are collected and put into floating water to sort the ripes and unripes. Cherries that float to the top are considered defected beans. After sorted, the cherries are put through a de-pulping machine, where the outer part of the cherry is removed until the seed comes out and is moved by water. The coffee is left in fermentation tanks between 8 and 50 hours depending on the country, temperature, and local processes to remove the mucilage that is stuck to the seed after the cherry is removed. Occasionally a farm may not ferment the bean to remove the sticky fruit flesh, but rather mechanically remove any pulp using a demucilager. The clean coffee seed – including the parchment layer - is then dried on patios in the sun or raised beds. They will dry to a moisture content of 10-12% before being hulled, bagged, and shipped. Washed coffees are generally very clean tasting, with bright acidic notes.
Baggy: a term used to describe a flavor note (similar to straw) found in older green coffee caused by the burlap bag it is stored. It is considered a defect imparting negative flavors.
Baked: A roasting defect due to using too much convention heat vs. conduction heat or by roasting the coffee too long at a low temperature. Can be identified with a flat or dull flavor.
Blend: Not to be confused with a blended milkshake drink you would find at Starbucks; a coffee blend is made up of two or more coffees mixed together by the roaster in order to create a more balanced and well-rounded offering. For example, Temple’s Three Pillars Blend is composed of three coffees from Honduras, Mexico, and Peru. Ideally, blends are used to highlight the unique aspects of each component to create one harmonious offering. Most of the time the coffee is blended after it is roasted, though a roaster may choose to blend the green coffee and roast them together if they feel the coffees roast similarly.
City Roast: The earliest palatable stage the roaster can stop and still result in good quality coffee, typically dropped right after first crack. Acidity is high and green coffee origin characteristics are clear. Considered a light roast coffee with Agtron numbers between 50-70.
First Crack: An audible popping sound similar to popcorn popping. Indicates the coffee beans have gone through a chemical change from endothermic (taking in heat) to exothermic (giving off their own heat source).
Flavor Notes: Flavors perceived by the roaster while cupping a specific coffee. Examples include: pecan, strawberry, lemon, dark chocolate. Usually found on the coffee bag to give the customer an idea of what the coffee will taste like.
Full City Roast: A coffee that has been roasted to the brink of second crack. Agtron numbers between 40-50. Temple roasts all of their espresso offerings to a full city roast.
Green Coffee: coffee that has not yet been roasted. A yellow-ish, green-ish colored raw coffee seed. Usually stored and shipped in vacuum sealed burlap bags for months – up to years.
Roast Profile: “Roast Profile refers to the relationship between time and temperature in coffee roasting, with the endpoint being the "degree of roast". Roast profiling is the active manipulation of the ‘roast curve’ or graphed plot of bean temperature during the roast, to optimize the results in terms of flavor. Two batches might be roasted to the exact same degree of roast, temperature endpoint or time, and have very different cup results due to different roast profiles. It's not just important how dark a coffee is roasted, it is equally important how it got there, and that is expressed in the roast profile” – Sweet Marias
Second Crack: The second auditory pop the roaster receives that is caused by a cellular break down of the coffee bean. Occurs after first crack, and indicates the coffee is moving from a full city roast to a dark roast.
Under-developed: An undesirable characteristic of coffee that is roasted too-light. If coffee roasting is ended before first crack, the coffee beans tend to taste astringent and grainy – similar to how green coffee tastes before being roasted.
Brown, Ryan. Dear Coffee Buyer: A Guide to Sourcing Green Coffee. Published 2018.
Café Imports: Honey Process. https://www.cafeimports.com/north-america/blog/honey-process/ . Accessed 12 February 2021.
Café Imports: Natural Process. https://www.cafeimports.com/north-america/blog/natural-process/ . Accessed 21 February 2021.
Café Imports: Wet Hulled. https://www.cafeimports.com/north-america/blog/wet-hulled-process/ . Accessed 21 February 2021.
Café Imports: Washed Process (aka Wet Process). https://www.cafeimports.com/north-america/blog/washed-process/ . Accessed 18 February 2021.
Little Coffee Place. https://www.littlecoffeeplace.com/what-is-peaberry-coffee . Accessed 22 March 2021
Rao, Scott. Coffee Roaster’s Companion. Published 1 January 2014.
Sweet Marias: Coffee Shrub Glossary. https://www.coffeeshrub.com/glossary . Accessed 21 March 2021
World Coffee Research: Arabica Coffee Varieties. https://varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org/ . Accessed 23 March 2021.