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A-Z Coffee Vocabulary and Glossary

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Desirable bright, tangy, fruity, or wine flavour characteristics found in many Arabica coffee beans. Nothing to do with amount of acid, or pH, coffee has a relatively neutral pH of between 5 and 6. Green coffee stored for more than a year may have loss of flavor and acidity. Acidity is reduced with darker roasts. Not to be confused with sour notes. 

A burnt, harsh sour taste.
Other descriptors: bitter, tart, sharp, irritating or acerbic.

Regulated storage to bring out a heavy body; not referring to specifically the age ie. an“old” crop.

A type of coffee bean, mainly grown in Central and South America at higher altitudes. As we are are based in Singapore, we also source Arabica from our neighbours which offer different flavours from the differences in climate and processing technique.

Aftertaste (aka. Finish)
Vapors released after swallowing your coffee. 

Dry taste sensation commonly at the back of the throat or tongue. Somewhat bitter but not undesirable, it may be tasted in many dark roasts and some Indonesian coffees.

Fragrance nuances of coffee when in contact with water and can have a heavy influence on the perception of a coffee flavor. Without the fragrance, tasting notes would be limited to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

Floral notes are experienced most clearly in the aroma. Other descriptors include floral, winey, chocolatey, spicy, tobaccoy, earthy, and fruity. Coffee freshness, including aroma, can be maintained for if properly stored.

Other descriptors: carbony or fireplace. Common and desirable in a dark roast.

Vigorously sucking the coffee into your mouth during a cupping session almost as if slurping noodle soup. This action spreads the coffee evenly across the tongue for a balanced taste test. 

A drying, sour, salty sensation detected mostly at the sides of the tongue or back of your throat.

Result of coffee stored over time in burlap (jute) bags. Beans acquire a straw-like flavor from the bags.

May also be used to describe grassy. light roasted coffee.

Other descriptors: flat, dull, and uninteresting. May be caused by roasting too slowly. Depending on your machine and roaster. anything over 20 minutes will likely have a burnt/baked flavor.

Complex coffee without any overwhelming flavor or aroma characteristics dominating the other flavours.

Blending single origins together correctly, can create an interesting flavorful and balanced coffee. For example, (Yemen Mocha) is typically bold and flavorful, but is also well balanced. In contrast, our Ethiopian Trio Blend, generally has a dominating fruity wine flavor. 

Some drinkers may prefer coffees with dominating flavor distinctions over balance.

A harsh, generally unpleasant taste detected mostly in the back of the tongue. Bitterness is characteristic of over-extracted, defective, or extra dark roasted coffees.

Physical mouth feel and texture of brewed coffee. Full-bodied coffees have a strong and creamy mouth feel. The viscosity of the brewed coffee is affected by the dissolved + suspended solids and oils extracted from the coffee.
Descriptors: thin and watery, thick and creamy. Light, Medium, Full.

Aroma of freshly ground coffee.

A bread/grain-like aroma. Characteristic of insufficiently roasted, sour coffee. Other descriptors: green, beany 

Pleasant, almost tangy, flavor reminiscent of wine.

Saltiness caused by heating coffee after completion of brewing. Often caused by heating brewed coffee overnight.

Smell and taste of oxidized sugar that has caramelized. Coffee beans contain sugars which caramelize during roasting. Susceptible to burning for Italian roasts.

Often used to describe roast degree when cupping darker roasted beans. 
Other descriptors: Burnt and smoky

Chicory (Cichorium Intybus)
A herb used as a coffee substitute or additive to flavour coffee.

Coffees seldom have a very strong chocolatey flavour/aroma, but some Central American and Yemeni coffees have a distinct bitter-sweet chocolatey taste.

Try our chocolatey Golden Cup Blend

Describes the aroma/taste of ripe citrus fruit. Citrus notes are common as coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherries. Unripe citrus can be described as "sour".

Absence of any pungent or unusual flavors.

Flavor shifts experienced while smelling and tasting a coffee. May be specially crafted by blending single origins or by blending a dark and light roast. Excellent single origin coffees can be both complex and balanced, but the more acceptable (by the majority) complex flavors are a result of blending two or more complimentary single origin coffees.

Try our:
Sumatra Lintong
West Java
Indonesian Aged Mandheling

Layer of saturated coffee grinds on the surface when cupping coffee.

"Breaking the crust", involves agitating the layer to release trapped vapors, allowing the cupper (taster) to smell the unique characteristics of the coffee. After noting down the smell, the crust is scooped out before tasting the brewed coffee.

Learn about cupping

Scents of fresh earth, wet soil, or raw potatoes prominent in semi-dry processed coffees from Indonesia. While not necessarily undesirable, earthiness may be caused by molds during the processing of harvested coffee cherries.  

A sour and oniony taste characteristic of over-fermented coffee. After de-pulping coffee cherries, which removes the skin and some attached mucilage (pulp), the separated beans will still have a significant amount of pulp attached. The remaining pulp is often loosened by fermentation, allowing it to be washed away prior to drying. If fermentation is not stopped as soon as the remaining parchment (husk) is no longer slimy, and has a rough texture, the coffee may acquire a ferment flavor.

Fermentation is a chemical process where the sugars in the mucilage are broken down in the presence or absence of oxygen. 

Upcoming post on Coffee Fermentation.

Lack of flavor and aroma.

Light flowery scent of honeysuckle, jasmine, dandelion and nettles. Floral flavour and sweetness are prominent at all roast levels in different forms.

Try our Yirgacheffe Misty Valley

Coffee beans are seeds of a coffee cherry, which is actually a fruit. Not used to described unripe or over-ripe fruit notes. 
Other descriptors: wine-like brightness, citrus, ripe fruit 

Try our Ethiopian Apex Blend

Aroma of freshly mowed grass, herbs, foliage, beans, and unripe fruit. While not necessarily undesirable, it is normally used to describe sour notes from under-roasted coffee beans and under-dried or water damaged coffee beans. 
Other descriptors: green, herby, or herbal

Green Coffee
Unroasted coffee beans. Some people choose to brew unroasted coffee beans.

Pungent, irritating, rough or undesirable, such as the lower quality bitter Robusta beans which companies may use as a filler in their blends. All our coffee is 100% Arabica. 

See grassy. Herbal qualities may be accentuated by not fully drying the beans to the usual 10% to 12% moisture content during processing. 

The smell/taste of animal hide or leather. May be found in select east African coffee beans.

Honey Processing
Mucilage is left on the bean to dry, resulting in a sweeter cup. Also known as pulped natural processing. Read more about honey processing.

Try our honey processed coffee Panama Teresa.

Instant Coffee
Instant coffee is freeze-dried and dissolves in your water after mixing. It can be stored many months on supermarket shelves and is often marked with a "best before" date.

Our coffee is always freshly roasted-to-order, and does not dissolve in water and requires the use of filters, drip bags or other equipment which separates all, if not the majority of the coffee grinds from the coffee liquid for consumption

Other descriptors: cereal, toast, grain, roasted grain (corn, barley, or wheat), malt extract, freshly baked bread 

Smell of medicine or iodine. May be caused by cherries drying while still on the coffee plant.

Balanced, mild, no strong tastes or aftertaste. Commonly found in medium roasted coffee beans grown at low levels (less than 1200m) Arabicas. 


May describe the smoothness from washed Arabica coffee.

No predominant notes, which may still have a pungency taste and used in blending. Beans mainly hail from Brazil and Colombia.

Reminiscent of fresh nuts. Not to be used for taste of bitter almonds. Common in coffees from South America.

Accentuated with the use stagnant water by wet processing. Avoided by recycling the pulped water during processing.

Transfer of taste from storage in paper bags or filter coffee prepared using low quality filter paper.

Occurs when a cherry only contains one round bean instead of two coffee beans squished against each other.

Try our Single Origin Peaberry 

Primary tastes
Flavors detected by the tongue are primary tastes, and flavors detected through the nose are secondary tastes. Our tongue picks up on the four distinct tastes (salty, sweet, sour, and bitter), which are influenced by aroma for other tasting notes.

Beans which float and do not roast and darken in colour.

Peanut flavor that results from processing unripe or underdeveloped coffee beans. 

A botanical type of coffee bean which is more earthy, with less acidity and less aromatic than Arabica Coffee. Of

Not always undesirable, and mostly found in fresh Robustas.

Roasted coffee with burn marks caused by inadequate tumbling, getting stuck in the roaster during tumbling or by roasting too hot.
Other descriptors: tipped, charred 

Balanced, clean tasting coffee free of foreign tastes or aftertastes.
Other descriptors: round, rounded, soft. 

Undesirably sharp and biting similar to vinegar or acetic acid. Sour or soury flavors are sometimes associated with the aroma of fermented coffee. Not to be mixed with acidity, which is a pleasant sensation associated with bright coffee flavors.

Pleasant aroma of sweet spices like cloves and cinnamon. Not to be mixed with savoury spice notes (pepper, curry) 

Try our Sumatra Lintong

Improper storage of beans without a one-way valve or airtight containers result in oxidation of compounds in the coffee, which causes the coffee to taste more bland.

An unexpected off-flavor not clearly defined by usual taste categories. Too much pulp in fermenting parchment, for example, will produce tainted coffee.

Desirable flavor of fresh tobacco, not to be confused with ashy flavours.

Try it out with our Indonesian Aged Mandheling

The combined sensation of smell, taste ,and mouth feel experienced when drinking wine reflecting pleasant acidity and fruity notes. Not to be used for sour or over-fermented notes.

Smell of dried wood, oak barrels, driftwood, or cardboard. Special consideration needs to be paid at storage ports and shipping as beans improperly stored for extended periods become woody. At low altitudes with high temperatures and humidity, the beans deteriorate at a faster rate.

Have a phrase you think we should add to our glossary?
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