Glossary of Coffee Terms

Acidity: A measure of the acid content of the liquid; in fine coffees acidity results in a pleasant sharpness. Not to be associated with the genuinely sour taste of inferior coffees.

Aftertaste: The sensation of brewed coffee vapors released after swallowing. Characteristics will range from carbony to chocolaty, spicy to turpeny

Aroma: The sensation of the gases released from brewed coffee; may be described as ranging from fruity to herby.

Bitter: Perceived by the back of the tongue and characterized by solutions of quinine, caffeine, and other alkaloids; usually caused by over-roasting.

Bland: Perceived by the sides of the tongue and ranging in taste from "soft" to neutral. Found often in washed Arabica coffees.

Body: Associated with mouth feel and texture, this should be a strong, full, pleasant characteristic.

Bouquet: The total aromatic profile, resulting from compounds in the fragrance, aroma and aftertaste.

Caramelly: A common aromatic sensation; reminiscent of candy or syrup.

Carbony: A common aromatic sensation in dark-roasted coffees, reminiscent of a burnt substance.

Chocolaty: A common aromatic sensation in a brew's aftertaste, reminiscent of unsweetened chocolate or vanilla.

Delicate: Related to mellow; characterized by a fragile, subtle flavor; perceived by the tip of the tongue.

Dirty: An unclean smell or taste that can be specific, such as sourness or mustiness, or a more generalized taint that reminds one of eating dirt.

Flat: Used when describing bouquet to denote a lack of strong perceptions in fragrance, aroma, and after-taste.

Flavor: The experience of aromatics once the coffee is in the mouth.

Fragrance: The aromatic sensations inhaled by sniffing; Can be described as ranging from sweetly floral to sweetly spicy.

Fruity: The aromatic sensation reminiscent of citrus fruit or berries.

Grassy: Used to describe an odor and/or taste in some coffees that is reminiscent of a freshly mown lawn, with an accompanying astringency like that of green grass.

Harsh: A hard, raspy, often caustic flavor sometimes described as "rioy".

Mellow: A rounded, smooth taste, characteristically lacking in acidity.

Mild: Refers to a coffee that lacks any overriding characteristic, either pleasant or unpleasant.

Mouth feel: The tactile sensations the coffee produces on your palate.

Muddy: A dull, indistinct, and thickish flavor that can be caused by the grounds being agitated.

Musty: A flavor that often occurs due to poor storage or lack of sufficient drying, aging, or overheating. In aged coffee mustiness is not necessarily undesirable.

Nutty: An aromatic sensation that is released as a brew is swallowed; reminiscent of roasted nuts.

Neutral: A flavor characteristic that is desirable in good blenders. Used to denote a lack of any strong flavors.

Rich: Used when describing bouquet to denote intense perceptions of fragrance, aroma, and aftertaste.

Rioy: A somewhat grainy or starchy taste, like potato soup in texture.

Rough: Characterized by a parched sensation on the tongue, related to sharp, salty taste sensations.

Rubbery: Caused when fruit is allowed to partially dry while still on the tree, this is a fault that gives beans the character of burnt rubber. It is found mostly in dry-processed robustas, not Arabicas.

Soft: The absence of the parched sensation on the tongue; related to bland.

Sour: Related to over-acidity; a sharp, biting flavor, often from under ripe beans.

Spicy: An aromatic and taste perception reminiscent of spices.

Sweet: Free of any harshness.

Taint: A chemical change in the bean brought about by any number of internal or external changes, which results in a change in the coffee's flavor.

Thin: Related to under brewing, resulting in a coffee lacking in any acidity.

Watery: Caused by the wrong water-to-coffee ratio, which results in the low level of oils in the coffee.

Wild: A gamey flavor often associated with Ethiopian coffees.

Winey: Reminiscent of a well-matured red wine; characterized by a full-bodied, smooth coffee. Often found in Kenyan and Yemeni coffees.

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