Coffee Terminology and Jargon Buster
Coffee can at first appear to be a surprisingly complex and technical subject. So for those who would like to know more but didn’t like to ask, here is a brief explanation of the more commonly used terms. We’ll keep adding to this section to build up a comprehensive reference guide for our customers.
ACIDITY - Acidity, used as a coffee term, refers to bright, tangy, fruity, or wine-like flavor characteristics found in many high grown Arabica coffees. Coffee with high acidity is described as acidy, which has nothing to do with amount of acid, or pH. Coffee actually has a relatively neutral pH of between 5 and 6. When green coffee is stored for more than a year it will have a perceptible loss of flavour and acidity. Also, acidity is reduced as coffee is roasted darker.
AMERICANO -A style of coffee normally prepared by adding hot water to espresso, giving a similar strength but different flavour from regular filter coffee. The strength of an Americano varies with the number of shots of espresso and the amount of water added.
AROMA - Coffee aroma is the fragrance of brewed coffee and is closely related to coffee flavor. Without our sense of smell, flavor would be limited to the tongue senses of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Many nuances of a coffee are reflected in the smell, or "the nose". Subtle floral notes, for example, are experienced most clearly in the aroma, particularly at the moment when the crust is broken during the traditional cupping process. Typical coffee aromas include floral, winey, chocolatey, spicy, tobaccoy, earthy, and fruity. Coffee aroma is also experienced after drinking the coffee when vapors drift upward into the nasal passage. This "retro nasal" aroma is responsible for much of a coffees aftertaste. A coffee's aroma is highest shortly after roasting and then declines rapidly. Coffee freshness, including aroma, can be maintained for months if placed in proper storage immediately after roasting.
BARISTA - Italian for Bartender, a Barista is someone who makes coffee drinks as a profession. In Italy, a Barista typically serves both coffee and alcoholic beverages.
BOILER - A pressure tank used to make hot water or steam, found in most commercial espresso coffee machines.
BREWING - Any method of making a coffee beverage from fresh water and roasted coffee grounds.
BURR GRINDER - A burr grinder, or burr mill, uses rotating flat to conical metal disks with sharp ridges, or burrs, to evenly grind the coffee beans. A bur grinder is typically adjustable from very fine to coarse and produces a consistent particle size compared to the simpler blade grinder. Consistent particle size is important in brewing quality coffee, making burr grinders the choice of coffee professionals.
CAFE AU LAIT – French for coffee with milk.
CAFE LATTE - A shot or two of espresso in a cup filled with frothy steamed milk. Baristas will sometimes pour the frothy milk through the espresso in an open mug to make an artistic design in the crema (espresso foam) floating on the surface, known as Latte Art. "Latte" is short for "Caffe Latte", which is Italian for "coffee with milk".
CAFE MOCHA – This is a variation of the better-known cafe latte. Like a latte, it is typically one third espresso and two thirds steamed milk, but with a portion of chocolate added, typically in the form of sweet cocoa powder or sometimes chocolate flavouring syrup. Mochas can contain dark or milk chocolate and are becoming more popular in the USA, Canada and Australia.
Unlike cappuccino, mocha doesn’t contain the well-known milk froth on top, though they are sometimes presented with whipped cream and a dusting of either cinnamon or cocoa powder. Marshmallows may also be added on top for flavour and decoration.
CAPPUCCINO – An Italian coffee drink prepared with espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam. A cappuccino differs from a latte in that it’s prepared with much less steamed or textured milk. The European cappuccino differs from the US version in volume, as the US cappuccino is often served as a 12 oz drink.
CHICORY - A herb used as a coffee substitute and to flavour coffee. Chicory has been used as a coffee additive for centuries, both to enhance the flavour of coffee and to stretch coffee supplies. In New Orleans, Louisiana, many have developed a preference for chicory coffee.
CORRETTO – An Italian beverage consisting of a shot of espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquer, usually grappa, brandy, sambuca or amaretto. It is also known (outside of Italy) as an "espresso corretto". It’s widely consumed in Italy after lunch or dinner, and is ordered as "un caffè corretto grappa", "[…] corretto cognac", "[…] corretto sambuca" or "[…] corretto amaretto", depending on what the customer would like to have added to the coffee.
CREMA - The reddish brown froth covering the surface of a cup of espresso. The presence of crema is the main difference between filter coffee and espresso. In an espresso machine, hot pressurised water is forced through the finely ground coffee which quickly extracts the most soluble constituents. Oils in the coffee grounds form small rusty brown coloured bubbles which are then forced out of the portafilter by pressurised hot water. These bubbles of coffee oils are what makes the crema which floats to the surface of most espresso drinks. Coffee packed too finely in the portafilter tends to create crema that is too dark, while coarsely ground coffee will produce crema that is too light. The variety of coffee used will also affect the volume and colour of crema produced when making espresso.
DECAFFEINATED - Coffee with at least 97% of its original caffeine content removed. The decaffeination (decaf) process involves immersing the unroasted coffee beans in a solvent to remove the caffeine, separating the solvent from the coffee beans, and then processing the solvent to isolate the caffeine. The conventional process involves reusing the decaffeinating solvent again and again, thereby saturating the solvent with coffee flavours and preventing further transfer of flavour from the beans to the solvent. Commonly used solvents include, water (see Swiss Water Process), benzene, ethyl acetate, methylene chloride (MC), and carbon dioxide (CO2).
DEMITASSE - A small cup that holds about 3 to 4 ounces of liquid. Cappuccinos are traditionally served in a ceramic demitasse. The word Demitasse is derived from the French for "half cup".
DOPPIA - Italian for double, a "Doppio" is two full shots (approximately 3 ounces) of espresso.
ESPRESSO - Espresso is made by forcing hot water at 9 to 10 bars of pressure through very finely ground coffee beans. The extraction of espresso happens quicker than filter-drip coffee because the more finely ground coffee has a larger wetted surface area. The high pressure hot water in an espresso machine is necessary to overcome the extra surface tension produced by the larger surface area of the finely ground coffee. What makes espresso so different than filter drip coffee is that it has crema, an important part of the flavour of espresso coffee drinks. Because of the crema and quick extraction process, espresso has more flavour and (perhaps surprisingly) less caffeine than filter-drip coffee.
ESPRESSO CON PANNA – An Italian coffee drink consisting of a standard espresso with cream added before being served (from the Italian “coffee with cream”).
ESPRESSO MACCHIATO - "Macchiato" simply means "marked" or "stained," and in the case of caffè macchiato, this means literally "espresso stained/marked with milk." Traditionally it is made with one shot of espresso, and the small amount of added milk was the "stain." However, later the "stain" came to refer to the foamed milk that was put on top to indicate the drink has a little milk in it. This allowed the Baristas to show the serving waiters the difference between an espresso and an espresso with a little milk in it; the latter was marked. In the United States, "macchiato" is more likely to describe this version, leading to a common confusion that "macchiato" literally means "foam," or that a macchiato must necessarily have foam.
ESPRESSO MACHINE - An espresso machine forces hot water at 9 to 10 bars of pressure through very finely ground coffee beans. The high pressure hot water in an espresso machine is necessary to overcome the extra surface tension produced by the large surface area of very finely ground coffee. An espresso machine makes coffee that has crema, a reddish brown foam of coffee oils formed as the espresso is forced through a portafilter. Crema is an important part of the flavour and aftertaste of espresso coffee drinks. Because of the crema production and quick extraction process, espresso machines make coffee with more flavour and less caffeine than filter-drip machines.
ESPRESSO POD - Ground espresso coffee compressed and wrapped in a filter used to make a single serving of espresso. Special pod machines are used to make coffee from espresso pods. An obvious advantage of using espresso pods is the lack of coffee grounds to clean up. A disadvantage is that pods use already ground coffee which stales quicker than whole bean coffee.
ESPRESSO RISTRETTO - also called a "corto" is a very "short" shot of espresso coffee. Originally this meant pulling a piston lever faster than usual using the same amount of water as a regular shot of espresso. Since the water came in contact with the grinds for a much shorter time the caffeine is extracted in reduced ratio to the coffee oils, resulting in a flavour with more body and less bitterness. All of these flavours are usually attributed to espresso in general, but are more pronounced in a ristretto. Because of this exaggerated flavour, ristretto is often preferred by espresso coffee lovers. Today, with the proliferation of modern automated machines which are generally less controllable, ristretto tends to just mean less water; a normal double espresso shot is typically around 60 ml (2 fl oz), while a double ristretto is typically 45 ml (1–1.5 fl oz). One modern method of "pulling" a ristretto shot is to grind the coffee finer than that used for normal espresso and pull for the same amount of time as a normal shot. The smaller spaces between the particles of finer-ground coffee allow less water to pass through, resulting in a shorter shot. However, this can also lead to a gritty taste, if the coffee is ground fine enough that the insoluble components can pass through the portafilter. Another modern method is to simply stop the extraction early, so less water has time to pass through the ground coffee. This produces a slightly different taste than fine-grinding and is often preferred because it does not require the Barista to change the settings on the grinder. A third modern method is to prepare the shot without adjusting the grind but to tamp it more firmly. This will compact the grinds in the filter basket allowing for a shot time comparable to a regular espresso. This method has the added benefit that adjusting the coffee grinder is not necessary while keeping much of the body and flavour of the fine-grinding method.
FILTER BASKET - The perforated, usually stainless steel, receptacle used to hold the coffee grounds when brewing coffee. The filter basket for an espresso machine fits inside a portafilter that clamps to the machine. Espresso machines typically utilise two filter baskets, one for brewing single servings and one for brewing double servings.
FRENCH PRESS - The French Press, or Cafetiere (French for "coffee pot"), was invented in France in the mid 1800s. To use a French Press, remove the filter-plunger top and place coarsely ground coffee into the bottom of the press. Using a fine grind with a French Press will result in coffee that's gritty and bitter. After letting the coffee steep for several minutes, serve immediately, or place into a different container to keep hot. Since the coffee is fully immersed in the French Press, the level of extraction is high. Leaving coffee in the press for more than 5 minutes will over-extract the grounds and the coffee will become bitter. A French Press is also called a "plunger pot".
FROTHING - The process of making froth, or velvety hot foam, from milk using the steam wand of an espresso machine. A Barista uses the steam wand to draw air into the milk until the mixture reaches 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the foam becomes thick and velvety.
GRIND - The particle size of ground coffee. The recommended grind depends on brewing method. The grind should be adjusted to create the desired amount of coffee extraction. The finer the grind, the quicker coffee can be extracted. Too much coffee extraction will remove unwanted chemicals and make the coffee taste bitter, while too little extraction causes the coffee to taste flat and watery. Finely ground coffee has more surface area than coarsely ground coffee which allows for quick extraction, but the increased surface tension will not allow water to pass through the grounds by gravity. Espresso machines force hot water through very finely ground coffee at eight to ten times atmospheric pressure (8 to 10 Bars). Experience has found that with an espresso machine, optimum flavour is achieved by adjusting the grind so that a 1.5 ounce shot glass fills in about 25 seconds. A medium grind is used for filter-drip coffee machines and a course grind is used for brewing with a French Press. The finest of all grinds is the powdery Turkish Grind, used to make Turkish Coffee.
KNOCK BOX - A small stainless steel pan or drawer under or near the espresso machine of a bar counter for disposal of spent coffee grounds. It's called a knock box because the barista knocks the portafilter to remove the grounds.
LATTE - A shot or two of espresso in a cup filled with frothy steamed milk. Baristas will sometimes pour the frothy milk through the espresso in an open mug to make an artistic design in the crema (espresso foam) floating on the surface. "Latte" is short for "Caffe Latte", which is Italian for "coffee with milk".
LATTE ART - Creative designs made on the surface of an espresso drink. Latte art may be made by skillfully pouring milk through espresso, or with the aid of toothpicks, chocolate syrup, or sprinkles.
MACCHIATO - Italian for "spotted". There are two types of Macchiatos, "Latte Macchiatos" and a "Caffe Macchiatos". To make a Caffe Macchiato, also called "Espresso Macchiato", fill a small glass with espresso and dab a spoonful of velvety frothed milk on top. To make a Latte Macchiato, pour espresso into frothy steamed milk leaving a dark spot on top.
PISTON ESPRESSO MACHINE - An espresso brewing device in which the required water pressure for making espresso is provided by a piston attached to a manually operated lever.
PORTAFILTER - A removable device, usually with a plastic handle, that contains a metal coffee filter and clamps onto the group of an espresso machine. A bottomless, or naked, portafilter is similar to a regular portafilter but with the bottom removed to expose the screened basket.
SHOT - A coffee shot, or serving, is 1.5 ounces of espresso. Shots pulled short are less than 1.5 ounces. Shots pulled long are more than 1.5 ounces.
SKINNY - Any espresso drink made with non-fat milk. For example, a skinny Latte is a Latte made with non-fat milk.
STEAM WAND - A pipe stem on most espresso machines used to provide steam for frothing milk.
TAMPER - A device used to compress coffee inside a filter basket before beginning the brewing operation. Tampers are often hand held accessories or attached to espresso grinders. Attached tampers allow baristas to handle the tamping operation with one handed flair.
TAMPING - Tamping finely ground espresso beans is necessary to produce consistent espresso and prevent channeling of the brewing water through the portafilter. Proper tamping requires a consistent force of up to about thirty pounds. Always use the best quality tamper you can find, they are weighted better and allow you to apply the pressure evenly.
TURKISH COFFEE - Coffee ground to a fine powder, brewed by mixing with hot water, and served with the grounds. Preparing turkish coffee requires some expertise, partly because finely ground coffee does not mix readily with water.
WHOLE BEAN - Unground roasted coffee beans. Whole bean coffee has the advantage of staying fresh much longer than ground coffee. Also, whole beans can be ground to different sizes for different machines and for optimum flavour.