Coffee Terms You Need To Know

Coffee Terms You Need To Know

People holding cups of coffee

If you are a coffee enthusiast and you are trying to make sense out of some terms you read, see on a coffee bean bag, or on chalkboards in coffee shops, this glossary to help you understand better. 

We will start with  

Coffee Drinks 


This is one of the most popular drinks. A cappuccino is made by combining shots of espresso with a substantial layer of hot milk. Cappuccino is usually served in a large, round coffee mug. You can also make this drink at home as long as you have an espresso machine and freshly roasted coffee beans. 


Americano is made from espresso, diluted with hot water. Americano has the flavour of a strong coffee. It is a drink choice for those who prefer strong, robust coffee flavours. 


Espresso comes from the Latin word "Expresere" which means "to press out". The word espresso refers to a brewing method that extracts the heart of the coffee beans. It is a rich, dark, strong coffee that can be served without milk or with milk to create options like latte and cappuccino. Espresso is a popular choice for coffee lovers especially in the morning because it provides a kick of caffeine. It is made by combining finely ground coffee beans with hot water. 


Crema is not a coffee drink. It is a word used to describe that fine layer of foam you see on top of your espresso. This layer of carbon dioxide is present in the coffee beans during the process of extraction. The crema is considered by purist to be the sweetest part of an espresso drink. 


Frappe is also known as frappuccino is made of used ice, blended with coffee and milk. Frappe is usually a hit in the summer when the temperature is high. Frappe can be made and enjoyed at home. 


A latte is made using a shot of espresso and hot milk. A latte is ideal for those looking for something sweeter than espresso as it is creamy. It is usually served in a tall glass. Some baristas may add chocolate powder for an aesthetic impact. You can add other flavours like hazelnut, caramel, coconut, and vanilla. 


The mocha contains chocolate syrup, espresso, and steamed milk. It can be topped with whipped cream, chocolate cravings, or cocoa powder. Mocha drink originated from the Port of Mocha where Portuguese traders came up with the idea of adding chocolate to their coffee. Mocha can be served with many variations like tuxedo mocha and white chocolate mocha. 

Iced latte 

This is latte-served with ice. To make an iced latte, put ice in a glass, add milk, then pour espresso inside it and mix. 

Iced Mocha

Iced Mocha is mocha served with ice. To make an iced mocha, add chocolate to a glass, add espresso and mix well. Then add milk until the glass is almost full. You can add ice to it or pour the mixture into an ice-filled glass. 

Flat white 

It is a coffee drink that contains microfoam and espresso, that is steamed milk with small fine bubbles and glossy consistency. A flat white is generally served in a ceramic cup with a saucer. It is a very popular coffee in Australia.


Affogato is an Italian coffee dessert. It usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with hot espresso. Affogato can be served in a ceramic cup or a 220ml glass.


Cortado is a beverage that originated in Spain. It contains espresso mixed with a roughly equal amount of warm milk to reduce its acidity. The milk in a cortado is often steamed, not frothy. 


Cold-brew is a drink that is not just enjoyed in summer but all year. To get this drink, coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for 12 to 24 hours to create chilled coffee that is low in acidity and very concentrated. 

Read more about how to make cold brew at home

You should know terms used to describe coffee, they are:


This is the desirable taste or flavour sensation in coffee. Acidity is tasted mainly at the tip of your tongue. The acidity here does not refer to the pH level or the acidic content of coffee but it refers to the flavour compounds such as citric or tartaric acids that are present in coffee.


It is used to describe the fragrance of brewed coffee. Some coffee lovers think the aroma of coffee is the "best part of waking up". Do you think so too? Whenever you enjoy a whiff of the coffee you are brewing, you are enjoying its "aroma". 


Bland refers to the pale flavour of a coffee. It is often found in Robusta coffees. Blandness is also caused by under extraction. Bland coffee has little flavour, you can't enjoy it if you prefer complex flavours. 


Bitterness is a part of coffee cupping. It is that taste you get at the back of your tongue. Over extraction or coffee that is grounded too fine, can be a cause of too much bitterness. 


It is a term that refers to the weight of coffee on your tongue, that is how much of the taste coats in your mouth. Coffee can be full-bodied (creamy) or light (thin, delicate). The term is used interchangeably with "viscosity" or "mouthful". 


Briny is a salty sensation caused by excessive heat after brewing. To avoid briny coffee, don't allow your fresh pot of coffee to sit on heat for a long time. If you want another cup, you should start the brewing process afresh. 


When coffee is described as stale, it means that it has been exposed to oxygen for a long. Some packaged coffee can lose its freshness before it gets to you because it was not packaged properly. Stale coffee would have a flat, cardboard taste you won't like. Order our freshly roasted beans that are well packaged. Also, when you buy coffee and expose it to air, it can go stale. If you bought excess coffee beans, you can store them in an airtight container.

Read more about the best way to store coffee beans


The tone is the appearance or colour of coffee. Pouring your coffee in a clear glass mug can help you determine its tone. 


This is a term used to describe coffee that has a flavour reminiscent of fine red wine. Winy coffee is produced in regions like Kenya. This rich, complex flavour is something you can observe when cupping coffee. The more coffees you taste, the more flavours you will be able to discern.

Read more: How to cup coffee at home

Coffee Roasting 

These are terms mostly used for roasted coffee beans.

Light roast 

This kind of roast does not produce oils. It is roasted to produce light, acidic flavours. In other words, lightly roasted beans have a more pronounced acidity. The beans usually have a cinnamon-like colour.

Medium roast 

This kind of roasting produces a small quantity of oil. Medium roast beans have more body than light roast. The beans are usually similar in colour to milk chocolate. Medium roast ranges from medium-light roast to medium-dark roast. 

Try our medium roast coffee beans

Dark roast 

Dark roast beans produce a substantial amount of oil. It has a bitter flavour with little acidity. The beans are dark in colour and the flavour profile is smoky, bitter, rich, and bold. 

First crack 

It is a term used to describe the first stage of expansion when the coffee beans swell. The sound it makes can be likened to that of popcorn popping in a microwave. Once the coffee has its first crack it means that it has reached the light roast territory. 

Second crack 

This is the second stage of expansion when moisture is released and the structure of the beans starts to change. Once coffee beans have reached the second crack, it is getting into the dark roast territory. 

Coffee preparation 

If you are interested in preparing coffee, you should know the following terms. 


Cupping is a simple way to taste, assess, and compare the quality, texture, and flavour of coffees. Cupping is not only done by professionals. You can also cup coffee at home. 


Demitasse is a French term that means "half cup". It is a small cup that is often used to serve espresso since espresso is served in a much smaller portion. 

French press  

A French press is sometimes referred to as a press pot. It is an equipment used in making coffee. The coffee is steeped in water for some time. Then the grounds are removed from the coffee using a filter plunger. This will press the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot. 

Green beans 

Green beans are also known as green coffee. It is a term used to describe unroasted coffee beans. Coffee turns brown during roasting. 


It is a manual brewer. This brewing method is easy to use, you can use it outdoors (camping). It consists of a cylindrical chamber and a plunger. An aeropress is capable of brewing highly concentrated coffee. 


It is one of the steps in brewing coffee. Bloom happens when you first put in a small amount of water to coffee grounds. It is a visual expansion of wet grounds which helps to release trapped carbon dioxide within the grounds.

Contact time

This term is sometimes used interchangeably with "brewing time" or "dwell time". It refers to how long coffee grounds remain in contact with water during brewing. 

Organic coffee

Organic coffees are produced without synthetic substances like pesticides and herbicides. 


Robusta beans are also known as "Coffea Canephora". These are species of coffee that grow at low elevations. It is usually cheaper and less desirable because the flavour quality is poor. 


Arabica originated from Ethiopia. Arabica coffee comes from the beans of the "Coffea Arabica plant". It has a smoother and sweeter flavour with notes of sugar. 

Single-origin coffee

Single-origin coffee is a term used to describe coffee beans that come from a particular farm or growing in a region rather than beans sourced from several places (blends) 


Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant in coffee drinks which leads to more activeness in the body. The amount of caffeine found in coffee beans varies depending on the origin of the coffee plant (Robusta or Arabica) and the altitude at which it grows. 

After taste 

This the taste of brewed coffee vapour released after swallowing. It is also called "finish". After taste can be spicy, tangy, or chocolatey. 


A balanced coffee can be complex but it doesn't have an overwhelming flavour or aroma. A well-balanced coffee has flavours that you taste evenly across your tongue. 


"Barista" is an Italian word that means "bar person". A barista is a person who makes coffee drinks.  

Batch roaster 

A batch roaster is a machine that produces a fixed quantity of beans at a time. In a batch roaster, the coffee beans are removed before the next batch is roasted. 

Blade grinder 

It is a coffee grinder that uses spinning blades to turn whole beans into grounds. A blade grinder is simple to use but it produces inconsistent grinds when compared to a burr grinder.


Blends are coffee beans that are created by adding two or more varieties together. The beans can be blended before or after roasting.


These are whitish or yellowish patches on unroasted coffee beans. This is a result of incomplete drying during processing. 


The crust is a layer of saturated coffee grounds that float to the surface when tasting (cupping) coffee. During the cupping exercise, the crust is scooped out with a spoon before tasting. 

Drum roaster

A drum roaster roast coffee in batches. A drum is used to hold the coffee as it is roasting. As the drum spins, hot gases transfer heat to the drum. Then the drum heats the tumbling coffee beans. 


The coffee decaffeination process involves immersing unroasted coffee beans in solvent to remove their caffeine.

Filter basket 

It is a perforated stainless steel receptacle used to hold grounds when brewing coffee.  

Flavour notes 

Flavour notes are common flavours that we relate to the coffee we consume. In other words, it is a taster's description of the aroma or taste of coffee. 

Flow rate 

Flow rate is the time it takes for water to pass through the coffee into the cup. It is the measurement of how quickly or slowly water flows during the coffee making. 


This is a removable device with a plastic handle that contains a metal coffee filter. 


Rancid or rotten are used to describe decomposing coffee.


These are unroasted coffee beans with a brown or rust colour. This is caused by faulty fermentation, over-drying, or improper washing of coffee cherries. 


ASCA stands for Australian Speciality Coffee Association. It is Australia's leading industry body that is dedicated to promoting and growing the specialty coffee industry.

Phew! You made it to the end of the glossary. It is time to reward yourself with a delicious cup of coffee.😊

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