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A-Z Coffee Vocabulary and Glossary

If you think there is anything else we should add to this list that would help, comment below or email us at hello@cowpressocoffee.sg :)

Acidity

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. 

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

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

Arabica 
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. 

Alkaline
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.

Aroma
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.

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

Aspiration
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. 

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

Baggy
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.

Baked
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.

Balance
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.

Bitter
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.

Body
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.

Bouquet
Aroma of freshly ground coffee.

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

Bright
Pleasant, almost tangy, flavor reminiscent of wine.

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

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

Carbony
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.

Chocolatey
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 here:
 https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/golden-cup-blend

Citrus
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".

Clean
Absence of any pungent or unusual flavors.

Complexity
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
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/sumatra-lintong-september-roaster-special
West Java
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/west-java-august-roaster-special
Indonesian Aged Mandheling
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/indonesian-aged-mandheling

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

Cupping
"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 here: 
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/pages/coffee-cupping-guide-in-8-simple-steps?_pos=9&_sid=419dc0515&_ss=r

Earthy
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.  

Ferment
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
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.

Flat
Lack of flavor and aroma.

Floral
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
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/ethiopian-yirgacheffe-misty-valley

Fruity
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 Ethopian Apex Blend
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/products/ethiopian-yirgacheffe-guji-blend?_pos=1&_sid=1d5da084d&_ss=r

Grassy
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.

Harsh
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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mild

May describe the smoothness from washed Arabica coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

Try our Single Origin Peaberry here:
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/products/papa-new-guinea-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.

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

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

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

Rubbery
Not always undesirable, and mostly found in fresh Robustas.

Scorched
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 

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

Sour
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.

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

Sumatra Lintong
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/sumatra-lintong-september-roaster-special

Stale
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.

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

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

Try it out with our Indonesian Aged Mandheling
https://cowpressocoffee.sg/collections/frontpage/products/indonesian-aged-mandheling

Winey
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.

Woody
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?
Email hello@cowpressocoffee.sg
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Facebook @cowpressocoffeeroasterssingapore


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