Revised: September 27, 2015
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Glossary of Coffee Terminology
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A taste fault in the coffee brew giving an acrid and sour sensation on the tongue. The result of long-chained organic compounds due to excessive heat during the holding process after brewing.

A normal characteristic of arabica coffees, particularly of high-growth varieties. Some strains are sought for this particular taste (Kenya), which is influenced by the degree of roasting and does not seem to be objectively expressed by pH measurement. Experts recognize three types of acidity: 1) natural desirable: acid, 2) natural undesirable: sour, and 3) undesirable: process acidity (sometimes sought as a substitute for natural acidity but generally has a biting, puckery flavor.

A primary coffee taste sensation created as acids in the coffee combine with the sugars to increase the overall sweetness of the coffee. Found most often in washed arabica coffees grown at elevations about 4,000 feet, Acidy coffees range from piquant to nippy. A term used to describe a coffee in which this desirable cup characteristic occurs. Particularly desirable in Brazils and found in most Milds. Colombians have both acid and body. An acidy flavor is sharp and pleasing to the taste as opposed to sour, sourish, or fermented. It denotes a taste that has sharpness, snap, and life, compared to a sweet, heavy, mellow flavor. Old crops are never acidy.

Taste those high, thin notes, the dryness the coffee leaves at the back of your palate and under the edges of your tongue? This pleasant tartness, snap, or twist is what coffee people call acidity. It should be distinguished from sour, which in coffee terminology means an unpleasant sharpness. The acidy notes should be very clear and bright in the Mexican, a little softer and richer in the Sumatran, and overwhelming in the Yemen Mocha. Aged coffees, and some old crop, low-grown coffees, have little acidity and taste almost sweet. You may not run into the terms acidity or acidy in your local coffee seller's signs and brochures. Many retailers avoid describing a coffee as acidy for fear consumers will confuse a positive acidy brightness with an unpleasant sourness. Instead you will find a variety of creative euphemisms: bright, dry, sharp, vibrant, etc. An acidy coffee is somewhat analogous to a dry wine. In some coffees the acidy taste actually becomes distinctively winey; the winey aftertaste should be very clear in the Yemen Mocha. In brochures you may find the aftertaste that I call winey described with other terms; fruity is a favorite. Fruit connotes sweetness, however; I find the better analogy is to the sharpness of a dry wine, hence my preference for the term winey. The main challenge is to recognize the sensation, however; once you do that, you can call it anything you like.

A secondary coffee taste sensation characterized by a predominantly piercing sour sensation on the posterior sides of the tongue. Caused by higher-than-normal percentage of sour acids and a high concentration of salts. Typified by an unwashed Rio coffee from Brazil.

The sensation of brewed coffee vapors, ranging from carbony to chocolaty to spicy to turpeny. Released from the residue remaining in the mouth after swallowing. Aged A taste taint that gives coffee beans a less acidy taste and greater body. The result of enzyme activity in the green coffee beans creating a chemical change during the aging process after harvesting.

A supplemental coffee taste sensation characterized by a dry sensation at the back of the tongue. Caused by the presence of alkaloid compounds.

"Coffee Arabica" is the species name assigned to the coffee tree by European botanist Linnaeus while categorizing the flora of the Arabian peninsula. Click Here for more information on Coffee By Country

Strictly speaking, aroma can't be separated from acidity and flavor. Acidy coffees smell acidy, and richly flavored coffees smell richly flavored. Nevertheless, certain high, fleeting notes are reflected most clearly in the nose of a coffee, as some tasters say. There is frequently a subtle floral note to some coffee that is experienced most clearly in the aroma, particularly at the moment the crust is broken in the traditional tasting ritual. Of the three coffees I recommend for your tasting, you are most likely to detect this fresh floral note in the Yemen Mocha, but depending on the roast and freshness of the coffee you could experience it in any of the three samples. The best Colombian and Kona coffees are particularly noted for their floral aroma. The sensation of the gases released from brewed coffee, ranging from fruity to herby, as they are inhaled through the nose.

Designates a coffee that fully manifests the aroma characteristic of its nature and origin.

A secondary coffee taste sensation characterized by a predominantly searing, salty sensation on the anterior sides of the tongue. Caused by acids increasing the saltiness. Typified by an unwashed Indonesian robusta coffee. Acids can cause astringency. In regard to coffee, astringency is identified with undesirable acidity.

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