Finding your favourite coffee shouldn’t be hard. You shouldn’t have to interpret what someone is saying or be confused by the terminology they use. However, on the off chance that you are in that situation, we’ve put together a collection of useful terminology to help you navigate what can (occasionally) be a confusing coffee landscape.
We’ll be sure to update this regularly with any new or interesting terminology that emerges - ‘This coffee is very dandruffy...’ - nah, just joking, that’s not one. We must stress that if someone offers you a ‘dandruffy’ coffee then you should politely decline and run like there is no tomorrow.
Coffee Cup Descriptors
|Aroma||The aroma is the fragrance the coffee produces. As the aroma is not diluted, can actually tell us more about the coffee than the flavour in the cup itself.|
|Balance||Balance relates to the how to the different flavour dimensions interact - acidity, body, flavour notes. Coffees that are dominant in one of these flavour dimensions are not considered to be balanced. Dominant characteristics are by no means a negative, its simply an indicator of cup compostion.|
|Body||Body is a term for how thick and flavourful a coffee is. It's one the four characteristics that professional coffee roasters score when rating a coffee in a cupping competition (the four are Flavor, Aroma, Body and Acidity). Roast level doesnt always necessarily affect body. Body is an independent variable. Certain coffees are known for their body, such as Colombian coffee, as well as other Central and South Americans in general. Robusta beans, which are perceived to lower quality and used more widely in mass production, have very little body. Tea generally has very little body. A good determinant of body is If you feel like you could almost chew on it. If the coffee doesn't linger on your palate, it doesnt have body.|
|Brightness / Acidity||A well-balanced coffee will require a certain degree of acidity to round out its flavour profile. The negative connotations of the term acidity have led to a more widespread use of the word brightness, although the terms are interchangeable can also be used to describe to acidity. Brightness relates to the prominence of the flavours in your cup. Its the nutty, chocolately, fruity or citrusy tastes, that spark across the taste buds as you sip. It’s important to note that, whatever the roast, a high or low amount of brighness is not a positive thing, nor is it a negative thing. It is simply a measure and as such is a completely personal preference.|
|Clean||The term clean is relates to whether your coffee is free from flavour defects. For example, certain defects include fermentation, rotten fruit or a peanuty flavor if the coffee wasn't ripe enough when picked. It should be flavourful but without any pungent or unusual flavours.|
|Complexity||Complexity is a term that is used to describe the flavour. The more divergent, subtle or distinct, flavours you can discern from a single coffee, the higher the complexity rating. Coffee flavour arises from numerous chemical, biological and physical influences of cultivar, coffee cherry maturity, geographical growing location, production, processing, roasting and cup preparation.|
Coffee Processing Methods
|Washed||Washed coffees are firstly pulped using either a machine or water, before then being fermented to remove the mesocarp (also known as mucilage) layer, after which is it dried and milled. As a general rule, you can expect washed coffees to have higher levels of acidity or brightness (see above for definition). Their cleaner and lighter body leads to a more consistent cup.|
|Natural||Naturally processed coffees are left to dry on patios or raised beds, whereby the surrounding pulp acts as a casing that allows fermentation happens in a closed environment, before the cherry is hulled and milled. When coffee is naturally processed, more dense and fruity sugars develop within the coffee seed, which then come to life when the coffee is roasted. This leads to extra sugars developing within the coffee seed that react well to the roasting process, and caramelize in higher quantities than with a washed coffee. Without adding any flavors or syrups, your coffee will naturally be more fruit dominant, tasting like sweet, candied berries (blueberry and strawberry flavors being most common) and will end up being fuller bodied.|
|Honey Processed||Honey processing is a method that straddles the two approaches, whereby the cherry is pulped and then dried with the mucilage layer still left on the parchment. The resulting effect of this is that honey-processed coffees tend to be more complex than their washed counterparts, although not as fruity as natural coffees.|
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.