Coffee Glossary


A bright, tangy taste, often sensed on the front and sides of the tongue. Acidity is a key factor in coffee flavor and comes from naturally occurring organic acids within the beans. Because these acids break down during roasting, lighter roast coffees have more acidic flavor than dark roasts. Balanced acidity is pleasant tasting, unlike sourness.


A neurotransmitter that increases our sleep drive, or our need to sleep. Caffeine blocks adenosine, which is why drinking caffeinated coffee leads to a greater sense of being awake, alert, and attentive.


An immersion brewing device used for manual coffee brewing and espressos. The AeroPress uses a plastic chamber, which is filled with ground coffee and hot water, and a manual plunger that forces the brewed coffee through a filter. Popular thanks to its portability and simplicity, reputation for being an eco-friendly way to make coffee, and ability to deliver a clean, smooth finished product.


Coffee drink made by diluting shots of espresso with hot water. While Americanos tend to be lighter and smoother than straight espresso, they typically still have a bold flavor profile.


Natural compounds that help the body decrease inflammation and prevent diseases by providing support in eliminated free radicals. Coffee is a major source of antioxidants, like chlorogenic acids and polyphenols, in many diets and is one of the health benefits of drinking coffee.


Coffee beans derived from the seeds of the Coffea arabica plant. It accounts for about 60% of all coffee produced worldwide. Arabica beans are known for their smooth, sweet fruity flavor. Because Arabica coffee needs more specific conditions to grow, they are often more expensive than Robusta beans.


The smell of coffee. Roasting green coffee trips off chemical reactions within the beans, which produces gases. These gases, which are the product of about 1000 different compounds, are slowly released over time; of those, approximately 50 are responsible for the unique aroma profile of the roast. Aroma is crucial to flavor.

Automatic Drip (Auto Drip)

A popular method for brewing coffee that uses a heating coil to heat water. The brewer then dispenses hot water over coffee grounds, which drips through a filter into a carafe. Auto drip coffeemakers are popular thanks to their ease of use and ability to brew a full pot at once.


A term used to describe coffees that have a nuanced flavor profile in which no single aspect—like acidity, bitterness, or earthiness—overpowers the rest.


A skilled coffee professional with deep knowledge of coffee—from coffee origins and flavor profiles to brewing techniques and latte art. They are responsible for preparing and serving coffee beverages in cafes. The word barista comes from the Italian word for bartender.


The seed of the Coffea plant. Coffee beans are not actually beans; they are the pit of the coffee cherry. These seeds are processed, dried, and roasted to create whole bean coffee.


A varietal of Arabica coffee that is known for its sweet, smooth, complex flavors. Bourbon plants grow best at high altitudes, in nitrogen rich soils and are known for having a relatively small yield.

Blade Grinder

A simple, affordable machine that grinds whole bean coffee using a spinning metal blade. While blade grinders are convenient and budget-friendly, they produce inconsistent grounds, which can lead to uneven extraction during brewing.


Coffee roasts created by combining beans from various regions or countries to create a specific flavor profile.


A phase of the brewing process in which wet coffee grounds are allowed to degas. Wetting coffee grounds with hot water creates a chemical reaction in which CO2 is released, causing the coffee bed to bubble and expand. Because CO2 can leave the finished brew tasting sour and harsh, this is an important step in brewing.


The mouthfeel of coffee with regard to its perceived thickness/weight. “Full-bodied” coffees feel rich or heavy, which “light-bodied” coffees are thinner and more delicate feeling in the mouth. Body plays a key role in how we perceive the coffee’s flavor profile, like its sweetness and acidity.


A beverage made using shots of espresso and half-and-half, which creates a naturally sweet, creamy drink with a rich mouthfeel.


The process of extracting flavor from coffee grounds using water. When water saturates the grounds it dissolves soluble compounds, like oils and acids, which create the taste, smell, and mouthfeel of the coffee. Most brewing methods also include a mechanism for separating the liquid coffee from the grounds.

Brew Ratio (Coffee-to-Water Ratio)

The proportion of coffee grounds to water used in the brewing process. The brew ratio is a key factor in the final cup’s flavor profile, strength, and body and will vary based on factors like brewing method, roast, and grind size. Brew ratios are written as [grams of coffee:grams of water]. A smaller ratio (e.g., 1:13) will typically result in a stronger cup of coffee, while a larger ratio (e.g., 1:17) will typically yield a lighter cup of coffee.

Brew Temperature

The temperature of the water used in brewing. Brew temperature varies based on roast level, brewing method, grind size, flavor preferences, and numerous other variables. Brew temperature is a critical aspect of optimal extraction.

Brew Time

The total amount of time water is in contact with coffee grounds during the brewing process. Brew time plays a crucial role in proper extraction and flavor, ensuring that desirable compounds have been fully extracted while undesirable compounds are not.

Burr Grinder

A machine that grinds whole coffee beans using a grinding wheel and a stationary abrasive surface to crush beans. Burr grinders are prized for offering a large range of grind sizes and producing consistently sized grounds, which results in more even extraction during brewing.

Café au Lait

A drink made with brewed coffee and steamed milk, typically in equal parts.


A natural stimulant found in some plants, including coffee beans. When consumed, caffeine blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces feelings of sleepiness, which creates a sense of alertness. Caffeine has also been shown to promote the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, contributing to a sense of focus, increased energy, and improved mood.


A coffee beverage made using equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. 


An Arabica varietal known for producing bright, citrusy coffee with hints of sweetness. Caturra is a naturally occurring mutation of the Bourbon varietal.


An hourglass shaped pour-over brewing device. First patented in 1941, the Chemex is known for producing clean cups that highlight the beans’ unique flavor profile.


The small fruit produced by Coffea plants. The pit of these fruits is extracted during the processing phase and is what we generally refer to as the coffee “bean” (which aren’t actually beans at all!).

Chlorogenic Acids

Naturally occurring acids found in green coffee. Chlorogenic acids break down during the roasting process, which means they are found in higher quantities in light roast coffees. Chlorogenic acids have antioxidant properties that have been connected with health benefits.


A descriptor reserved for coffee that has a balanced, pleasant taste, a smooth mouthfeel, and nuanced flavors.


A yearly coffee festival event that brings together coffee lovers, roasters, and industry experts. Founded by Kevin Sinnott in 2012, CoffeeCon offers opportunities for attendees to sample coffee selections, participate in educational workshops, and meet roasters, baristas, and other coffee-industry insiders.

Coffee Roasters Guild (CRG)

A subgroup of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) focused on professional specialty coffee roasters. The CRG hosts various events (including CRG Retreat), education programs, and networking opportunities with the goal of advancing the art and science of coffee roasting.

Coffee Quality Institute (CQI)

A nonprofit organization dedicated improving coffee quality by establishing common standards for specialty coffee and reliable methods of evaluating coffee quality. The offer various programs and certifications, including the Q-grader and Q-processor training and exams.


Evergreen trees and small shrubs from the genus Coffea. These plants produce seeds that when roasted, ground, and brewed produce the coffee beverage. These plants are native to Africa and Asia and are currently cultivated around the world, most notably between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Coffee trees typically grow to a height of 10 to 20 feet and have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.


An immersion brewing technique that involves steeping ground coffee in cool water for an extended period, typically between 12 and 24 hours. Cold brew coffee is prized for being smooth, with low acidity with a bold flavor profile.


Facilities designed to allow coffee roasters to rent time on professional roasting and packaging equipment and make use of workspaces shared by a collective of members. Co-roasting offers an alternative to owning and maintaining expensive roasting equipment or paying to make use of another roasting company’s equipment. The reduced costs, educational opportunities often offered, and communal/collaborative aspects of co-roasting provide new and small roasters a supportive environment to build their businesses.


A coffee beverage comprised of equal parts espresso and steamed milk.


A brewing method in which coarsely ground coffee and water are combined in a pot, which is then brought to a boil, allowing the grounds to steep. While some coffee lovers opt to “settle” the grounds using a small amount of cold water, Cowboy coffee traditionally does not filter the grounds, leaving some in the finished cup.


The golden-colored froth that forms on the top of an expresso. The foam forms as a result of CO2 gas that forms in the brewing process. While some coffee lovers prefer to remove the crema before drinking, arguing that it can create a bitter flavor, others see its velvety texture as positively contributing to the mouthfeel of the finished espresso.


The layer of grounds that form on the surface of a cup brewed for cupping. During cupping, the crust is broken with a spoon before the cupping expert evaluates the aroma, then the grounds are skimmed off the top before tasting.


A prestigious global annual competition where green coffee is evaluated for quality. Winning coffees are then auctioned at premium prices to buyers and specialty coffee roasters worldwide.


The process of evaluating and grading coffee on properties like fragrance, flavor, and quality. Because tastes can be so subjective, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) partnered to develop tasting standards and scoring.


A utensil used in the process of evaluating coffees. Cupping spoons typically have a round, deep bowl and a short handle, which allows the user to break the crust and scoop up liquid coffee for tasting.


Beans roasted to temperatures between 430 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are typically ready after the second “crack,” produced by the buildup of CO2 being released; this allows the oils within the beans to surface, giving the roast its rich flavors. Dark roast coffees are known for their toasty, smoky flavors and their low acidity and full-bodied flavor.


Coffee beans with at least 97% of the caffeine removed. Coffee can be decaffeinated using chemicals or water.


The process of allowing freshly roasted coffee beans to gradually release the CO2 that builds up inside the beans during roasting. Roasters typically allow beans to degas for several days before packaging them to allow the flavors to fully develop and to prevent the released CO2 from bursting packaging. Coffees are often packaged in bags with a one-way valve to allow this process to continue after packaging.


An approach to sourcing green coffee by establishing direct, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between roasters and producers, with a goal of creating a more transparent and equitable supply chain. Direct trade also often aims to ensure coffee farmers receive a fair price for their beans and focuses on high-quality specialty coffee.


A brewing method in which hot water is poured over coffee grounds in a filter. The coffee drips through the filter and collects in a vessel—often a carafe or pot—below the filter.


A brewing method (and the drink it produces) in which hot water is forced through finely ground, compacted coffee at high pressure, which results in a bold, intense flavor profile. The term “espresso” also refers to the drink produced using this method. Espresso is the base ingredient for numerous coffee drinks, including lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more.


A roast profile specifically designed to complement the flavor profile created with espresso brewing. Espresso roasts tend to be either medium or dark roasts, which highlights the beans’ natural sweetness and body.


Batches of coffee beans all derived from a single coffee farm or estate, which highlights the unique flavor profile of that particular origin.


The process of dissolving the soluble compounds within ground coffee—which contribute to both flavor and aroma—into brewed coffee.


A certification system that promotes fair pricing practices, worker’s rights, and sustainable practices in order to create a more equitable, transparent trade system.


The rate paid to coffee producers “at the farm” for their green coffee—in other words, before the cost of transportation, processing, export fees, roasting, and packaging are factored in.


A device that separates brewed coffee from the coffee grounds. The most common filter materials are paper, fabric, and metal.


The smallest particles produced during the coffee-grinding process, typically finer than the grind size intended. They often have a powder-like consistency.


A beverage made using two parts espresso and one part micro-foamed milk.


An iced coffee drink made using coffee, ice, milk, and often flavored syrups, and often blended to achieve a “milkshake-like” consistency.


An immersion brewing device with a mesh filter attached to the end of plunger. Coffee is allowed to steep in hot water, then the plunger is used to filter the grounds from the brewed coffee.


An Arabica varietal known for its delicate floral and citrus notes. Because of its unique growing needs and its low yield, Gesha coffee is relatively rare and commands a high price.


A device for heating water that includes a long, slender curved spout designed for creating a controlled, steady flow of water when pouring.

Green Coffee

Raw seeds that have been extracted from the fruit of the Coffea plant but have not yet been roasted.


The consistency (i.e., coarseness or fineness) of coffee beans after grinding. Grind size is a critical element to brewing because it directly impacts extraction.


Roasted coffee beans that have been crushed to form particles of various sizes in order to allow water to extract flavorful compounds from the beans.


The process of removing the outer layers, or “skin,” of coffee cherries after they’ve been harvested.

Honey Processed

A method of processing coffee cherries that walks the line between natural and washed coffee. Honey processing strips the skin and some of the pulp from the cherries but maintains a thin layer of mucilage, which is allowed to dry on the bean. The amber-colored, sticky layer resembles honey, which gives the process its name. Honey-processed coffees tend to be sweeter, fruity, and low in acidity.


Part of a coffee grinder that holds the whole beans. Bears are released from the hopper into the grinding mechanism.


A coffee brewing method in which coffee grounds are steeped in water, e.g., French Press and cold brew.


A pour-over coffee maker with a flat bottom, three small drip holes, and a wave pattern to promote even saturation and water flow.


A coffee drink made using espresso and steamed milk.


Decorative designs created on the surface of a latte using steamed milk to create patterns and images.


Beans roasted to temperatures between 385 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are “ready” after the first crack of the seeds, which is caused by the escaping steam and transformation of the natural compounds. Light roast coffees are known for their fruity, floral flavors and their bright acidity.


A coffee drink made of equal parts espresso and milk foam.


Beans roasted to temperatures between 410 to 430 degrees Fahrenheit. Medium roast coffees are known for their sweet, nutty flavors and their balanced acidity and body. 


A small-batch high-quality single-origin coffee, specifically isolated to preserve the unique flavor profile linked to its growing conditions.


The final stages of coffee processing. This often includes hulling, polishing, and sorting the dried coffee beans.


A coffee drink made using espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate flavoring.


A stovetop coffee maker that uses steam pressure to force hot water through coffee grounds, created a strong, full-bodied brew.


The texture sensation created by coffee in your mouth. Some words used to describe mouthfeel are “creamy,” “light,” “astringent,” and “smooth.” Bean origin, roast, and brewing method are some of the factors that shape the mouthfeel of a coffee.


The trade association for the US coffee industry, which represents everyone from coffee roasters to retailers. The NCA works to promote the interests of the wider US coffee industry, from small businesses to large corporations.

Natural Processed

A method of processing coffee in which cherries are laid out to dry on raised beds, allowing the beans to hold on to sugars and flavors concentrated in the coffee. Natural process coffee tends to have a heavier body and intense and distinctive flavors.


Coffee beans harvested from plants grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Organic coffee agriculture reduces chemical exposure for both producers and consumers and is part of a comprehensive program sustainable farming practices that promotes healthy soil and ecosystems.


A coffee-producing region or country. Roasters and other coffee entrepreneurs often “travel to origin” in order to gain a firsthand understanding of the agricultural and production process of the coffee they sell and to connect with the farmers and processors who bring their coffee to market.


An Arabica hybrid varietal produced by crossing Pacas, a mutation of Bourbon, and Maragogipe, a mutation of Typica. Pacamara is known for its intense aroma, creamy texture, and complex acidity.


A device for brewing coffee by continuously cycling hot water through the ground coffee.


Single-serving containers filled with ground coffee designed for single-serve brewers. The coffeemakers puncture a hole in the pod, then force hot water through the pod, extracting flavor from the enclosed grounds, which then drips into the cup below.


Naturally occurring compounds found in green coffee. Polyphenols break down during the roasting process, which means they are found in higher quantities in light roast coffees. Chlorogenic acids have antioxidant properties that have been connected with health benefits.


A method of brewing coffee in which hot water is poured over coffee grounds in a filter, e.g., Chemex, V60, and Kalita Wave. The term “pour over” also refers to drink produced by this method of brewing. 


The methods used to remove the flesh, mucilage, and/or skin from coffee cherries in order to reveal the pit, which is roasted to create coffee beans. Depending on the method chosen, the process can include pulping, fermentation, washing, drying, and/or milling.


An individual or group responsible for planting, growing, harvesting, and initially processing coffee cherries.

Pulped Natural

See “Honey Processed”


The initial stage in coffee processing in which the flesh of the coffee cherry is removed to expose the pit.


Trained professionals who are trained to evaluate the quality of green coffee based on standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). Q-graders undertake a rigorous certification process and exam, which is administered by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI).


Trained professionals who have undergone specialized training in the scientific underpinnings of different processing methods, quality-control measures for processing, and how processing methods influence the flavor profile of green coffee. Q-processors undertake a rigorous certification process and exam, which is administered by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI).


A set of design principles and practices that focus on creating and maintaining food systems and human habitats in line with natural ecosystems, which are diverse, resilient, self-sustaining, no-waste systems.

Regenerative Agriculture

Land management and agricultural practices that leverage the innate power of crops to create closed-loop systems that can continually improve the land one which they are crown and the environment by improving the soil, increasing biodiversity, and capturing and reducing (rather than contributing to) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


An annual event hosted by the Coffee Roasters Guild designed to foster education, networking, collaboration, and community among the global community of coffee roasters. 


The process of applying heat to green coffee in order to create a particular flavor profile to be extracted during the brewing process. The term “roast” can also refer to the finished product of the roasting process.


The date on which the beans were roasted. Most specialty coffee roasters recommend consuming their coffee within two to four weeks of the roast date for optimal flavor.


Coffee derived from the seeds of Coffea canephora plant. Robusta makes up about 40% of global coffee production. Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content than Arabica beans and an earthy flavor. Because Robusta plants are hardier and require less specific growing conditions than Arabica beans, Robusta beans tend to be more affordable to cultivate.


Roasts designed to highlight green coffees that are only available during specific times of year due to harvesting cycles in different coffee-growing regions.


Roasts created from beans that all originate from a single specific source—like a specific farm or a specific region of a coffee-growing country. Single-origin roasts are known for highlighting the specific flavor profile of the source.


Coffee cultivated under the canopy of taller trees. Unlike full-sun agriculture, where trees are cleared in order to maximize sun exposure, shade agriculture leverages the benefits of growing in filtered sunlight, including temperature regulation and natural soil moisture. Shade agriculture also promotes biodiversity, reduces soil erosion, and conserves soil moisture.


A campaign designed to support, promote, and inspire women roasters. Founded in 2016 in response to the lack of representation at that year’s US Roaster Championship using the hashtag #shestheroaster, today the movement offers mentorship, scholarships, and collaboration opportunities for nonbinary and women roasters to enter the field.


A farmer (or collective of farmers) who operate a relatively small coffee farm, generally less than 12 acres. In spite of their relatively small size on an individual scale, they are immensely important to the coffee industry. Sixty percent of the world’s coffee supply comes from farms of less than 12 acres.

Specialty Coffee

Coffee that has received a score of 80 or higher out of 100 based on the standards established by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). Only 10% of the world’s green coffee is rated as “specialty coffee.”


A nonprofit designed to foster, support, and advocate for all aspects of specialty coffee—from agriculture and procession to roasting and brewing. The SCA sets standards for coffee quality, offers education and training for coffee professionals, and promotes greater knowledge and understanding among consumers.


A class of coffee beans grown at high altitudes. The cooler temperatures and thinner air translate to slower growth and cherries with a denser structure that allows for more complex flavors and aromas to develop.

Sugarcane Processed

A method of decaffeinating coffee using a solvent derived from sugarcane. Green coffee is soaked in water, then washed with the solvent, which dissolves and removes the caffeine.


Coffee beans that are grown, processed, and traded with a focus on environmental and social responsibility across the value chain, to include minimizing environmental impact, preserving natural resources, fair wages and working conditions for producers, and supporting coffee-growing communities with resources and opportunities.

Swiss Water Process

A method of decaffeinating coffee using water, temperature, and time to remove the caffeine. In the Swiss Water Process, green coffee is soaked in hot water, which dissolves its soluble compounds, including caffeine. The caffeine is then filtered from the water using a process that preserves the other compounds, which are then reintroduced to the beans.


A movement in coffee production and consumption that emphasizes high-quality ethically sourced coffee, transparency in sourcing practices, lighter roast profiles, and the sensory experience of coffee drinking. Third wave coffee emerged in the early 21st century and in response to second wave coffee, which revolved around large chains, darker roasts, flavored coffee drinks, and café culture.


The movement and flow of water as it interacts with coffee grounds during the brewing process. Particularly in pour-over brewing, turbulence plays an important role in even extraction and brewing time.


A brewing method in which finely ground coffee and water are brought to a low boil. The brewing vessel is then removed from the heat and the grounds are allowed to settle to the bottom before the brewed coffee is poured into cups.


An Arabica varietal known for its clean, complex, and often sweet flavors. Typica is one of the foundational Arabica varietals because it is the parent variety to numerous other varietals.


A cone-shaped pour-over brewing device produced by Hario. The V60 brewer includes sides set at 60-degree angles and internal ribs designed to aid in water flow and a single large opening at the bottom of the brewer.


Distinct variations of the Arabica and Robusta coffee plant species. There are about 120 coffee plant varietals, and each is known for its specific flavor profiles and unique growing conditions.

Washed Coffee

A method of processing green coffee in which the beans are de-pulped the same day they’re picked, fermented for 18–36 hours, then washed and dried. Washed coffee creates consistent cup with a clear acidity while enhancing the beans’ floral aromatics.


Coffee beans that have been roasted but have not yet been ground for brewing.

Cheers to you for diving deep into the world of coffee with us! U3 Coffee exists to create the most meaningful coffee experience for millions of mindful, motivated humans like you. Let’s learn, empower, and celebrate the journey from bean to cup. Because here, we’re United by Coffee.

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