Revised: September 27, 2015
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Glossary of Coffee Terminology
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An off-taste often observed in cups from weakly roasted coffees that have been stored for a long time in unsuitable conditions.

A taste and odor taint that gives the coffee brew a flat bouquet and insipid taste. The result of the roasting process proceeding with too little heat over too long a period. Generally unpleasant characteristic of having an over-baked taste in an over-heated coffee. Ranks in the following order of intensity: cooked, baked or burnt.

This is a difficult term. When tasting coffees for defects, professional tasters use the term to describe a coffee that does not localize at any one point on the palate; in other words, it is not imbalanced in the direction of some one (often undesirable) taste characteristic. As a term of general evaluation, balance appears to mean that no one quality overwhelms all others, but there is enough complexity in the coffee to arouse interest. It is a term that on occasion damns with faint praise. The Mexican sample should be most balanced, but it has less to balance than the other two coffees. If you tasted the Yemen Mocha against a standard Ethiopian Harrar you would probably sense how the Yemen coffee is similar to the Harrar, but much more balanced. A well-balanced coffee contains all the basic characteristics to the right extent.

basic tastes
Sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. Characterized respectively by sucrose, tartaric acid, sodium chloride, and quinine.

Specific aroma of an insufficiently roasted coffee that has not been able to develop its full aroma.

A basic taste characterized by solution of quinine, caffeine, and certain other alkaloids. Perceived primarily at the back of the tongue. Generally normal characteristics of coffees connected with their chemical constitution, influenced by degree of roasting and the method of preparing the brew. Canephora are more bitter than arabica coffees. A desirable characteristic at a certain level.

black beans
Dead coffee beans that have dropped from the trees before harvesting. Used as the basic unit for counting imperfections in grading coffee on the New York Coffee Exchange. Has a detrimental effect on coffee taste.

Lacking coffee flavor and characteristics. A primary coffee taste sensation created as the sugars in the coffee combine with the salts to reduce the overall saltiness of the coffee. Found most often in washed arabica coffees grown at elevations below 2,000 feet, such as a Guatemalan. Bland coffees range from soft to neutral.

Body or mouth feel is the sense of heaviness, richness, and thickness at the back of the tongue when you swish the coffee around your mouth. The coffee is not actually heavy; it just tastes that way. To follow a wine analogy again, burgundies and certain other red wines are heavier in body than clarets and most white wines. In this case wine and coffee tasters use the same term for a similar phenomenon. The Mexican coffee should have the lightest body and the Sumatran the heaviest, with the Yemen Mocha somewhere in the middle. If you can't distinguish body, try pouring milk into each coffee. Note how the flavor of the heavy-bodied Sumatran carries through the milk, whereas the flavor of the Mexican dies away. If you drink coffee with milk, you should buy a heavy-bodied coffee. If you drink black coffee, you may prefer a lighter-bodied variety. The physical properties of the beverage resulting in the tactile sensations perceived in the mouth during and after ingestion. Used to describe the mouthfeel of a drink, corresponding to a certain consistency.

The total aromatic profile created by the sensations of gases and vapors on the olfactory membranes as a result of the volatile organic compounds present in the fragrance, aroma, nose, and aftertaste of coffee.

A taste fault giving the coffee brew a salty and alkaline sensation. The result of salts and alkaline inorganic material left after evaporation of water from the brew due to excessive heat after brewing.

Bready taste manifests in coffees that have not been roasted long enough or at a high enough temperature to bring out the flavor oils.

Specific taste of a good home brew prepared properly.

Applies to a coffee that has been over-roasted.

A relatively high level of oily material suspended in the coffee beverage. The result of substantial amounts of fat present in the beans. Most often a characteristic of high coffee-to-water ratio brews.

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