Coffee Glossary for Beginners

Definitions of some of the most commonly used coffee terms.

  1. Acidity
    The sharp high quality characteristic of Kenya’s coffee as well as other high altitude coffees.
    NB: Acidity in coffee has nothing to do with pH factors, and coffee is a low acidity product ranging between 5 and 6 on the pH scale.
  2. Aroma
    The pleasant smell of freshly brewed coffee
  3. Barista
    A person who makes coffee professionally.
    Baristas have to be skilled/ to know much about coffee off by heart, for instance, the different types and how to prepare them. This requires a lot of training.
    Their skill has been acknowledged worldwide giving rise to barista competitions and awards.
  4. Beans
    Coffee cherry extracts, whether in raw or roasted forms
  5. Bland coffee
    Pale flavored coffee common among low grown robusta coffees.
    Blandness can also be caused by under-extraction, meaning that there is too little coffee or too course a grind.
    Bland coffee has little flavor and is not desirable to people who enjoy the complex flavors and aromas of fine coffee products.
  6. Blend
    A combination of two or more coffee varietals from the same region or from different regions.
    One of the reasons for this is to strengthen or weaken particular coffees in order to adjust their prices.
    Beans can be blended both before and after they’re roasted.
  7. Body
    The tactile impression of the weight of coffee in the mouth, often listed on many different coffee blends or coffee bags.
    The body of coffee can be described as thin, medium, full, buttery and syrupy, for example.
  8. Brew
    A word used to refer to the process of making coffee, or to a cup or mug of the beverage.
  9. Caffeine
    The drug contained in coffee which helps to wake you up and keep you alert.
    It is a bitter white alkaloid derived from coffee (or tea) and used in medicine as a mild stimulant or to treat certain kinds of headaches.
  10. Cherry
    The fruits of coffee plants, usually green when unripe, and red when ripe
  11. Coffee culture
    Social behaviors or atmospheres that rely heavily on coffee as their lubricant.
    In Nairobi, for example, is the coffee culture of meeting friends in the evenings at the coffee shops in the Central Business District to catch up socially or for business meetings.
  12. Crema
    The caramel colored foam that appears on top of a shot of espresso during the brewing period.
    It dissipates soon after brewing.
  13. Decaf
    Decaffeinated coffee/ coffee that lacks caffeine.
  14. Flavour
    The total impression of aroma, acidity, and body that describes all parts of enjoying a cup of coffee.
  15. French roast
    The darkest possible roast of coffee, almost to the point of burning.
  16. Froth/ foam
    An aggregation of milk bubbles used to top cups of coffee.
    It is prepared using a frothing machine that aerates the milk using hot steam.
  17. Grind
    The method of preparing coffee beans for brewing i.e. coarse, medium and fine grinds.
    The grinds determine the machines that will be used to brew the coffee, e.g. fine grinds are best for espresso machines.
  18. House coffee
    Smooth coffee that can be enjoyed by all kinds of coffee drinkers and can be consumed in large quantities, for example Shiriki Coffee Lifestyle Blend.
  19. Organic coffee
    Coffee produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or any other such additives.
  20. Roast
    The degree to which coffee beans are heated usually described as light, medium, dark and even extra dark.
  21. Shelf life
    The time period for which coffee remains fit for consumption, be it at a distribution store of at one’s home.
    Read ‘How Long Does Coffee Last?‘ by for more information.
  22. Stale coffee
    Coffee that has lasted past its shelf life or has been exposed to oxygen for an extended time period.
    Its taste becomes flat and irritable.
  23. Tone
    The appearance or color of coffee described as light, dark, fruity etc.
    Cuppers pour coffee into clear glass mugs to determine their tones. This is one of their techniques.

Other source: Log on for definitions of more terms.

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