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  • Glossary

    Glossary of Coffee Terms

    Acidity - This does not mean the bitterness or acid taste/feel from too much stomach acid. It is an old cupping term that refers to the degree of flavor in a cup. For example, a coffee you would consider “flat” would be one with a low acidity score.s

    Aloha - Aloha is probably the most often-used word in Hawaii. It means hello and good-bye most commonly as greetings, but it also, in an active sense, means friendship, love, best-wishes, all that is good in the world. The real definition goes further, but I find it similar to an old Gaelic word “namaste”, which means roughly “all that’s good in me wishes the best to all that’s good in you”. Live aloha.

    Aroma - Smell…that’s aroma. Wake up and “aroma” the coffee? Pretty simple, huh? Nothing beats the aroma of freshly ground coffee, and that aroma, being undiluted, can actually tell us more about the coffee than the aroma in the cup itself. It is surely a prelude to what you will taste. Aroma in the cup actually has more to do with the roast than the coffee itself. It can be very light in lighter roasts, growing to its peak at city or full-city roasts, then gradually declining as the roast gets darker and darker and darker - can you recognize the aroma of charcoal?

    Balance - Good acidity/brightness, but not too overpowering; full-bodied, but not too heavy; chocolaty, but not like a candy bar; fruity, but doesn’t count as a major food group on your diet - that’s the epitome of ideal balance: a 5 on our scale. As one or more of these factors dominate the cup, the rating drops. Does it matter? That’s one of the wonderful, completely subjective things about coffee - it’s all up to you!

    Body - Body is NOT that thing that keeps your hat from resting on your shoes. Body IS that sensation of fullness or heaviness in your mouth when you take a mouthful of coffee - please let it cool a bit first: there is no coffee term for burnt body. As with all coffee terms, it is both relative and subjective. Body tends to increase in lighter roasts (up to full city) and decreases as the roast gets dark and oily. Additionally, slower roasting, as in a drum roaster, tends to increase body.

    Brightness - Brightness is a term I came up with a few years ago to use instead of “acidity”, which had been around for eons in the coffee industry, but known only to a relatively few people. As the home roasting industry grew, more and more people became confused by the term, so I thought of “brightness” as being more easily understood.

    Chaff - Chaff is the thin, paper-like, tannish-brown substance that flies off (if you are using an air roaster) your coffee beans as they expand during the roast cycle. Prior to roasting, it is known as silverskin, which is a protective coating left on the beans after processing. For clarification, it is not a coating added in processing, it is a natural part of the bean itself.

    Complexity - As the descriptor implies, this is a complex term akin to the meaning of life in general. Can a coffee be chocolaty, fruity and flowery all at the same time? Can buttery and earthy co-exist in the same cup? The more divergent, subtle or distinct, flavors you can discern from a single coffee, the higher the complexity rating. On the other end of the spectrum, when was the last time you had instant coffee?

    Mahalo - The Hawaiian word for thank you. Followed by “nui loa” (mahalo nui loa), it means thank you very much.
    What's this got to do with coffee? mahalo for indulging me.


    Coffee 101

    First of all, coffee is a crop, just like strawberries, apples, or lettuce. It comes from a tree or bush in the ground, and it has a life cycle: it grows, peaks, matures, and declines. When the crop is gone, it is gone for good. No two crops are exactly alike although generalities do persevere year after year.

    There are two main species of coffee trees: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica trees produce less coffee per tree than Robusta and they require more attention; that equates to higher prices. They also produce the more flavorful beans and are known as specialty coffees. There are a number of subspecies of Arabica, perhaps the most common being Typica, Catuai, Caturra and Mocca. Hybrids and sub-species also abound, like Maragogype, Bourbon and Pacas to name a few; they are all Arabica.

    Robusta is a high-yield, low maintenance tree that produces beans with less flavor and lots of caffeine, much more than Arabica varieties. They are used primarily as inexpensive fillers in commercial coffee, sold to soft drink bottlers as a caffeine source, and used sparingly in many peoples' Espresso blends. That being said, virtually everything else written here will be about the Arabica species.

    Coffee: What a Wonderful Thing


    Coffee grows on trees in the tropics. With rare exception, coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn all around the globe. There are many factors that impact the flavor of each crop, including soil condition, sunshine, and precipitation.

    Other factors are the amount of shade the trees have:

    • More shade means slower ripening process means more qualities are drawn from the soil and the air.
    • How the trees are pruned makes a difference, as with any fruit bearing plant.
    • What kind of fertilization is used: chemical or organic.
    • What method of pest control is used: chemical or natural.



    Coffee Knowlage

    How much do you know?

    From a little coffee berry across the world to your own kitchen counter.

    For many of us, coffee is one of those life necessities and splendors we just can’t live without. Some people cannot even picture starting their day without a nice warm cup of coffee. And don’t forget about that mid-day slump when coffee is what gets us through the rest of the day. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    If you love coffee, have you ever stopped to wonder how coffee is made? Many people imagine coffee beans growing on a plant but what they don’t know is that coffee doesn’t start in the form of a bean at all. A coffee bean is actually a seed that comes from a specific type of berries. Therefore, we can say that coffee beans actually come from a fruit!

    Coffee berries usually contain beans that are split in two. However, in around 5% of the beans harvested it can happen that a bean doesn’t split and this type of a coffee bean is popularly called Peaberry since its shape resembles a pea.

    When it comes to length of the whole production process, a coffee tree can take up to five years to produce its precious fruit and it cannot grow in every climate. In order to produce a good harvest, a coffee tree will require special care with the attention to soil. The climate where this type of tree can grow is typically a warm climate of subtropical regions and equatorial regions.

    The berries are typically harvested by a machine or picked by hand. In order to get the beans out, the fruit of the berry needs to be removed and after that the beans need to be processed. There are only two known ways of processing coffee beans - dry processing, which is an older technique and wet processing, which is a more modern technique.

    Dry processing is the oldest method of processing coffee beans. The beans are placed in the sun and left to dry for around two weeks while being turned from time to time so they can dry evenly. Wet processing is a modern method of processing coffee beans and it takes place soon after the harvest. This process consists of bean washing and bean fermentation. During this process the pulp that is left on the beans will become softer and the pulp be rinsed off. Today, this method of processing coffee beans is used more frequently since it prevents damage to the beans. When the processing is done, the beans are sorted. All of the bad beans are thrown out and the good ones are put in bags and shipped. At this point they are called “green coffee beans.” However, it isn’t all done yet. Now comes the final part - roasting!

    Roasting is essential and the final step in coffee production. It requires the perfect timing and setting of temperature to provide the perfect product. While the beans roast, they will split and their coating will be released. How strong the coffee’s flavor is depends greatly on the bean roasting formula. For example, the longer the beans roast the more intense the flavor will be. Ironically, it is assumed the stronger the flavor, the more caffeine. However it is actually the opposite which is true. The longer the coffee beans roast, the more the chemical, caffeine, is removed. You can buy your beans already roasted, but for the freshest experience, many people prefer to roast their own beans at home.

    Keep in mind the name of a line of coffee beans, such as Breakfast Blend, can differ from one company to another. This is due because many use different roasting temperatures and times prepare a particular batch. Roasting beans even for a few minutes longer or shorter can alter the flavor of the entire batch.

    Once the roasting is completed for a batch of beans the finished product is shipped to a retailer or sold directly to the consumer. Coffee beans are shipped all around the world from Africa to Italy or Canada and the United States or Mexico. Everyone serves their coffee in various ways. In Italy it is more common to make shots of espress using their stove top coffee maker. While in the United States many people brew their coffee in coffee pots. No matter which method you use, making coffee is more than just the final brewing process. It is a lengthy process which starts as a simple coffee berry and eventually finds its final destination in the cups of coffee consumers all around the world.