Guide to essential coffee jargon

Jan 16 2022, 08:28 | by Michela Becchi
We have travelled throughout Italy looking for the best coffee roasters. Here’s a list of the coffee-related terms we’ve learned from the coffee masters.

Many are the coffee-related terms: from varieties to extraction methods, from the types of coffee makers to coffee processing. During our survey, each roaster has introduced some key words that need to be known in order to deepen the coffee world. We wanted therefore to create, with the help of experts, an essential glossary for neophytes who are eager to approach this sector.

Aeropress

Extraction method that combines pressure and immersion. The coffee extracted is cloudier and full-bodied compared to the one obtained with other processes, featuring a more intense fruitiness and lower acidity.

Arabica

A coffee species grown mainly in South and Central America and East Africa. The Arabica beans are more elongated and oval shaped than Robusta ones; the taste is less bitter with intense aromatic sensations.

Barista

A coffee professional who can advise customers and give information on quality coffee. The barista is the heart and the last link in the coffee production chain.

Beneficio

Spanish term that refers to the place where the coffee is processed after being harvested. In the beneficio, coffee beans are washed and then shipped to the consumer countries.

Black honey

During this process, a machine is used for depulping the outer skin in order to obtain quality beans.

Cappuccino

Drink made with espresso coffee and foamed steamed milk with a very fine texture and no visible bubbles.

Capsule

A rigid plastic or aluminium coffee container to use with espresso machines.

Chemex

Pour over extraction method with manual filter. This brewing method is said to create a sweeter coffee. The filter is thicker than that of the V60, and therefore do a better job of putting out oils, leaving a cleaner cup.

Cherry Kaapi Royale

Fine Robusta variety native to India, in the Mysore, Coorg and Malabar regions. It reveals an intense aroma resembling toasted bread.

Pod

Pre-packaged paper filter containing coffee.

Cold drip coffee

Coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for a very long time (at least 7/8 hours). The technique requires a ‘drip tower’ that consists of three glass vessels: a glass top where cold water is poured, a central container for coffee grounds and a carafe on the bottom to collect the final product. The coffee is passed through the water one drop at a time, for a percolation of about 8 drops every 10 seconds.

Cup of Excellence

International coffee competition with an international jury, comprised of industry experts who select the most interesting products. The top-scoring coffees are then sold at auction, a kind of direct exchange between farmers and buyers, based on the quality of the raw material. Participating farmers can earn above-average profits due to the high quality of their product.

Cupping

Tasting method used by coffee professionals to evaluate coffee flavour profile and characteristics.

Water decaffeination process

The process of removing caffeine from coffee beans by soaking them in hot water. It is also called ‘natural’.

Dichloromethane

Also known as methylene chloride, it is a solvent used for the classic decaffeination method. The boiling point of dichloromethane is above 40° C. Coffees roasted at 200° C show no residues of it.

Drip coffee

Coffee brewed by steeping coffee in a filter cone slightly moistened with hot water. A scale is placed under it to check the weight of the coffee. Water is added (approximately twice the amount of coffee), allowing the ground particles to absorb it, thus increasing its volume. More hot water is then poured in a spiral motion until the desired weight is obtained.

Drupe

Fruit of the coffee plant, the drupe – also called coffee cherry – consists of a skin, the exocarp, and the pulp, the mesocarp. The two seeds located within the drupe in the parchment are the only part of the fruit to be used.

Espresso

A beverage obtained from roasted and ground coffee beans. It is made by forcing pressurised hot water through very finely ground coffee beans. The term ‘espresso’ identifies an extraction method obtained with the aid of a machine that delivers water at 9 bar pressure.

Extraction

The process of extracting the substances contained in the coffee beans (fats, acids, amino acids, sugars, Co2). Each type of coffee requires a particular temperature and extraction process.

Farm

Term identifying a coffee crop, widely used for quality coffee.

Filter

The filter or filter coffee is prepared by steeping coffee ground in boiling water.

French press

Extraction method using a wire mesh filter (plunger). The plunger is pressed down, thus separating the grounds from the coffee.

Wet processed

Washed coffee, i.e. coffee cherries immersed in water to ferment for about 12 hours, where the enzymes break down the pectin and pulp residues without affecting the beans. They are then fermented, followed by an additional wash before being dried in the sun. Washed coffee has a very intense aroma because the fermentation process enhances its acidity and aromatic notes. The traditional wet production process requires ca. 100 L of water for 1 kg of green coffee.

Latte Art

Pouring steamed-milk designs on coffee drinks using a milk jug. Latte Art was developed in Italy in the 1970s.

Grinding

The process of pulverising roasted coffee beans. Grinding can be fine or coarse.

Natural process

Natural processed coffee is picked and then sun dried, thus enhancing its sweetness and body.

Blend

A mix of single origin coffee beans. There are Arabica blends as well as blends with different proportions of Arabica and Robusta coffes.

Moka pot

Coffee maker designed by Alfonso Bialetti and composed of 4 aluminium or steel elements: the boiler, filled with water, the metal filter, the upper chamber, equipped with an additional filter, and the safety valve that works as pressure regulator.

Single origin

Coffee that is sourced from a single crop, producer or region in one country. The pedoclimatic conditions of a specific place lend the coffee beans precise characteristics, becoming the expression of a territory.

Neapolitan flip coffee pot

Aluminium coffee maker consisting of a bottom section with the boiler filled with water, of a filter section with ground coffee, and of an upper section with the spout and the lid. When the pot begins to steam, it must be turned upside down, letting the water percolate through the filter.

Pour over

Coffee brewed by pouring water over a bed of ground coffee contained in a filter.

Ristretto

Coffee brewed with less water and extraction time, highly concentrated and intense. The result is a less balanced drink due to the lack of the other elements that make a perfect espresso.

Robusta

A species of coffee grown mainly in western Africa and in the Far East, featuring more rounded beans than the Arabica ones. Full-bodied, more bitter, revealing sometimes unpleasant notes, it is considered a less valuable variety.

Vacuum coffee maker

It brews coffee using two chambers containing water and coffee ground, connected by a narrow siphon tube. Steam forces the water to rise into the upper chamber where the coffee grounds are placed. The pressure eases up and lets the now-brewed coffee through the strainer.

Speciality coffee

A term introduced in the late 1970s that identifies the best coffee beans. These coffees originate from territories with peculiar climatic conditions, without any defects. A green coffee can be defined as ‘speciality’ if it has scored over 80 points during the tasting session according to the SCAA parameters. Speciality coffee has a distinctive and pronounced aroma.

Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE)

A network of coffee industry professionals from more than 90 different countries that sets quality standards for speciality coffees. In Italy the organisation responsible is the Chapter Nazionale with its 500 members, including companies and baristas, providing training and information on quality coffee.

Casein tannate

A molecule derived from the combination of casein and the tannic acid in coffee. Very hard to digest, it is generated when the milk is heated over 70°C.

Roaster

A person who roasts coffee beans and follows the roasting process. Today, the term often refers to the company owner.

Roasting

Coffee roasting is the process of heating the coffee cherry seeds between 190°C (light roast) and 230°C (dark roast).

Variety

Feature of a coffee species that gives it its peculiar aromatic characteristics.

V60

Extraction method that gets its name from the 60-degree angle created by the cone’s shape. The pour over method brews a coffee with a light-bodied and distinctive taste, similar to an infusion with a rich aroma. The water is poured at 96 degrees.

Vittoria a torcia

Direct-fired roaster from the 1950s, powered by a gas system with a torch method. The low temperature enhances coffee’s aromas and characteristics.

by Michela Becchi

in collaboration with Davide Cobelli, training coordinator of SCAE Italy

Thanks to the roasters who contributed to the creation of the present glossary: Leonardo Lelli, Enrico Meschini, Massimo Bonini, Alessandro Staderini, Alberto Trabatti, Francesco Sanapo, Stefano Andreis, Riccardo Spinnato, Maela Galli, Monica Forcella, Stefano Rivò, Federico Rizzi, Mauro Cipolla, Lorenzo Bottoni, Luigi Paternoster, Rubens Gardelli, Andrea Cremone, Paolo Scimone.

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