Coffee Jargon, Deciphered

Coffee Jargon, Deciphered

Posted on 16-07-2019
By Pact Coffee

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‘Coffee snob’ is a term we avoid, but we get the sentiment. Using a lot of indecipherable jargon is only good for one thing - excluding people who don’t know as much about a topic as you. We’re not a fan of that. But sometimes there are terms we use that the casual coffee drinker might not be familiar with. Which is why we produced this handy breakdown of some coffee terms… enjoy!

Growing, processing and roasting

Agronomy: The science of crop growing and land management.

Altitude: This massively affects the flavour of the coffee, with higher altitudes generally being best as the cool climate allows the cherry to ripen more slowly.

Arabica: The most widely grown coffee variety in the world – believed to be the first type of coffee ever cultivated! It makes up around 60% of commodity coffee and generally all speciality coffee, whereas everything else tends to be the bitter and more caffeinated Robusta bean.

Cherry: This is what grows on coffee trees, a fleshy red cherry that has two seeds inside - and that’s what becomes the coffee bean.

Defects: Issues with a sample of beans that affect their quality. Ranges from a sample having sticks and stones in it, to the bean itself being mouldy or black.

First crack: The snap, crackle, pop of the coffee roasting world… but slightly more complex. This is where the cell structure of the beans start to

Terroir: From the French for land, this refers to the environmental elements that make up the growing conditions of a coffee plant - including everything from soil type to human influence.

Fermentation: A delicate balance is required when it comes to coffee. Fermentation is a metabolic process where sugars convert to acids, gases or alcohol. It can add to the sweetness and acidity of a coffee, but it can also ruin a coffee - requires clever processing.

Green coffee: This is coffee after processing but before roasting, so called because of it’s green colouring. Also known as ‘green’.

Honey process: Sitting between the natural and washing processing method, the honey process involves the skin and pulp of the cherry being removed while the mucilage is left on while drying. This results in a more complex, but less fruity, flavour.

Loring Peregrine S70: Our roaster! Ours is special as it recycles the heat it uses to roast the beans, and produces less exhaust, for more eco-friendly coffee.

Natural process: Coffee cherries are dried intact, usually on raised beds, which allows the sugars in the pulp to break down and add to the flavour of the bean. It requires careful monitoring, however, to make sure the right level of moisture is consistently achieved.

Raised beds: Some processing methods involve leaving coffee cherries to dry out, until they have a particular moisture level. This can be done on raised beds, table-like structures that allow air to circulate around all the coffee for a more consistent result.

Washed process: A pulping machine removes the flesh of the cherry, and the bare beans are then soaked in water for at least one to two days in order to ferment.

Speciality coffee

Commodity v. Speciality: Commodity coffee is traded on the stock-market - bargain basement beans that farmers sometimes don’t even break even on. Speciality coffee is a different beast - crops are subject to rigorous quality checks and, as such, they get farmers a much higher price.

Cup of Excellence: An annual competition held by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, to determine the highest quality coffees that are being produced. We’ve had a few winners and contenders on our books over the years.

Direct Trade: The usual coffee supply chain has masses of steps, with coffee changing hands between mill owners, exporters, importers, packagers, and suppliers - to name a few. We cut out a lot of steps with Direct Trade - going direct to the farmer and buying from them. That’s why they get a fairer price for their beans, as less people are getting a cut.

FNC: Or the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, in full. A non-profit organisation in Colombia, that protects the interests of local farmers and promotes coffee from Colombia. They’re someone we work with a lot!

Single Origin: Coffee that comes from one specific location. Sometimes it’s a country or region but, often in our case, from just one specific farm. The more specific an origin the coffee is sourced from, the more uniform and distinct the flavour should be.


Acidity: Something that really affects the flavour - too little acidity, and a coffee is dull and lifeless. Too much and it’s harsh and astringent. It’s thought that the higher the altitude coffee is grown at, the more complicated the acidity… in a good way, that is.

Clean: If there are any issues during the growing of coffee, this will show up in the taste. Defects will ‘dirty’ the taste, so coffee that has been grown well is referred to as tasting ‘clean’.

Cupping: How coffee is graded and assessed for taste and quality. Loudly sucking up coffee from a soup spoon, so the whole mouth is coated, tasters can really get a sense of the quality and characteristics of a batch of beans.

Flavour notes: What the coffee tastes of - from pineapple to Mars bars!

Mouthfeel: As the word suggests, the feel of the coffee in your mouth. It could be anything from silky to juicy, or heavy to thin.


Aeropress: From the inventor of the Aerobie frisbee, a one-cup coffee press - handy for travelling.

Bloom: The release of CO2 when hot water comes into contact with coffee grounds. As coffee beans are always leaking this gas, a bigger ‘bloom’ indicates freshness.

Cold brew: Coffee doesn’t always have to be hot. You can get a quality chilled cup every time, using the cold brew jug we stock.

Crema: The light-coloured liquid which first comes out of an espresso machine, sitting on top of the coffee shot - the guinness look. Mostly a byproduct of the brew method and sometimes, errantly, thought to indicate quality.

Extraction: What the water takes out of the coffee grounds - essentially, what happens when you brew a cup. Needs to be carefully controlled, or your coffee could be over-extracted and taste bitter.

V60: A great way to brew at home. A plastic cone, lined with a wet filter paper and a scoop of coffee, that you pop on your cup before pouring water through!