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Coffee Vocabulary

There are many words that can be used to describe coffee. During coffee cupping, certain characteristic are easy to distinguish even for a beginning taster. For example, the difference between natural and washed coffees, and between high-grown and low-grown coffee.

To have a more accurate way to describe the differences found in coffee, it is recommended to have a standard glossary of terms and words before starting to cup. Here are a list of words and terms that are ideal for describing the difference during cupping.

Acidity - A measure of the acid content in the liquid. In fine coffees, acidity is a pleasant sharpness not to be used with the sour taste of inferior coffees.

Aftertaste - The sensation of brewed coffee released after swallowing. Range from carbony to chocolaty, spicy to turpeny.

Aroma - The sensation of the gases released from the brewed coffee, ranging from herby to fruity.

Bitter - A taste by the back of the tongue, usually caused by over roasting.

Bland - Perceived by the back of the tongue and ranging in taste from "soft" to neutral. Found often in washed Arabica coffees such as Guatemalan Low Grown.

Body - Associated with mouthfeel and texture, this should be strong, full, pleasant characteristic.

Bouquet - The total aromatic profile, resulting in compounds form fragrance, aroma and aftertaste.

Caramelly - A common aromatic sensation, similar to candy or syrup.

Carbony - A common aromatic sensation in dark-roasted coffee, reminiscent of a burnt substance.

Chocolaty - A common aromatic sensation in a brew's aftertaste, reminiscent of unsweetened chocolate or vanilla.

Dead - A lack of fragrance, aroma and aftertaste.

Delicate - Related to mellow, fragile, subtle flavour. Found in washed New Guinea Arabica coffee.

Dirty - An unclean smell or taste that can be specific, such as sourness or mustiness.

Earthy - An unclean smell or taste similar to dirty.

Flat - A lack of fragrance, aroma and aftertaste, similar to dead.

Flavor - The experience of aromatics once the coffee is in the mouth.

Fragrance - The aromatic sensations inhaled by sniffing, can be described as ranging from sweetly floral to sweetly spicy.

Fruity - An aromatic sensation reminiscent of citrus fruit or berries.

Grassy - Used to describe an odor or taste in some coffees that is similar to that of a freshly mown lawn.

Harsh - A hard, raspy, often caustic flavour sometimes described as "rioy".

Lifeless - Lacking in acidity, similar to Thin.

Mellow - A rounded, smooth taste, lacking in acidity.

Mild - Refers to a coffee that lacks any overriding characteristic, either pleasant or unpleasant.

Mouthfeel - The tactile sensations the coffee produces on you palate.

Muddy - A dull, indistinct thickish flavour.

Musty - A flavour that often occurs due to poor storage or lack of sufficient drying, aging, or overheating.

Nutty - An aromatic sensation that is released as a brew that is swallowed, similar to roasted nuts.

Neutral - A flavour that is desirable in good blenders. lack of any strong flavour.

Rich - A parched sensation on the tongue, related to sharp, salty taste sensations.

Rubbery - Caused when fruit is allowed to partially dry while still on the tree. Mostly found in dry-processed Robusta, not in Arbica.

Soft - The absence of the parched sensation on the tongue, rather bland.

Sour - Related to over acidity, a sharp, biting flavour often from under ripe beans.

Spicy - An aromatic that is similar to spices.

Sweet - Free from any harshness.

Taint - A chemical change in the bean brought about by any number of internal or external changes which changes the coffee's flavour.

Thin - Related to underbrewing, resulting in a coffee lacking in any acidity.

Turpeny - Tasting like turpentine smells.

Watery -Due to the wrong water to coffee ratio.

Wild - A gamey flavour often associated with Ethiopian coffees.

Winey - Similar to wine, characterized by full-bodied, smooth coffee. Found in Kenyan and Yemeni coffees.