Coffee Terms

AA

A grade indication used in a number of countries. It usually denotes the largest and most expensive (though not necessarily the best tasting) screen size.

AB

Next screen size down from AA grade, 15-16 screen.

Acidity

Acidity - the result of naturally occurring flavor acids in coffee - is a flavor attribute that lends brightness and liveliness to the cup.

After Taste

A residual olfactory/taste sensation that remains in the mouth after after swallowing brewed coffee.

Altitude

The height above sea level at which coffee is grown. Coffee grown at higher altitude tends to develop higher acidity and sugar content, and tends to be more highly valued by buyers as a result.

Aribica

One of the two main commercially produced species of coffee. Coffea Arabica is grown at higher altitudes, has lower levels of caffeine and chorogenic acids, and higher levels of lipids and sugars, which in sum result in (most of the time) higher quality cup than it's cousin, Robusta.

Aroma

A sensation produced after inhaling the gases released by freshly brewed coffee.

A/X

A coffee grade for New Guinea coffees, indicating mixed screen size, and a defect specification of up to 10 full defects (primary & secondary) per 350 grams of coffee.

Brightness

Brightness is used to describe the level of acidity in coffee. Generally described in terms of fruit tones.

Caffeine

A mild psychoactive drug that makes the world turn round.

Decaffeinated 

Coffee that has had the majority of its caffeine removed. Studies have shown that 2 - 12 milligrams of caffeine remain in the average 8 ounce cup of decaffeinated coffee. (Prior to decaffeination, an average cup holds 95 - 200 mg of caffeine.)

DP

Abbreviation for "Double Picked," which is a grade of Indonesian coffee. Indicates coffees that have been hand-picked to remove defects two times.

Dry Process

Also referred to as "natural process." Indicates coffee was dried with the cherry left on the seed.

EP

Abbreviation for "European Prep," which indicates the coffee has undergone rigorous sorting - usually by hand, though increasingly via optical sorters.

Espresso

Coffee brewed through an espresso machine (finely ground, and under high pressure.) It is NOT a type of roast or a type of bean, but refers only to the method of preparation.

Fair Trade

Defines a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the right of, marginalized producers and workers - especially in developing countries.

Fruity

A characteristic of coffees that have fermented to the point where acetic acid has become prominent but not dominant. The line between "fruity" and fermented is subjective.

FT

Abbreviation for Fair Trade.

Natural

A processing method that involves letting the coffee seed ferment inside the cherry before dry milling. Also called "dry" or "unwashed" process.

Organic

Coffee can be called organic if it is certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Origins

Coffee producing country.

RFA

Short for Rainforest Alliance, a certification and organization that supports biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods.

Robusta

Caffea canephora, a strain of the coffee plant that has twice the caffeine of arabic, 60% less lipids, and half the sugars thereof. Grows at lower elevation, resistant to pests and diseases.

Screen Size 

Size of coffee beans - measure in 64ths of an inch. Most exported lots range from screen size 14-18. The larger the screen size number, the larger the bean.

SHB

Strictly Hard Bean, a quality and altitude spec from Costa Rica and Guatemala, usually meaning that the coffee has been grown above 1,200 meters above sea level (MASL), usually a denser and higher-quality bean than the HB (Hard Bean) classification.

SHG

Strictly High Grown, a quality and altitute spec from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama, meaning that the coffee was grown above 1,200 meters above sea level (MASL) and connoting a denser, higher-quality bean than the HG (High Grown) classification.

Swiss Water Process

A non-toxic/non-chemical decaffeination process that uses carbon filters and water to remove 99.9% of caffeine from unroasted coffee. 

UTZ

A sustainability certification for coffee, cocoa, and tea.

Washed

Coffees that are depulped and fermented.

Wet-Process

Also called washed coffee. A coffee processing method by which the pit/bean of the cherry is extracted from the pulp using a depulper, then washed in vats of water, and sorted and dried.