Glossary

DefinitionDescriptionContext
Vinegary Generally associated with the aroma of fermented coffee, it is an unpleasant sensation, typical of vinegar.  Tasting
Acidity Acidity is one of the main flavour sensations and originates from the combination of acids and sugars contained in the coffee, which increases its sweetness. It is the normal characteristic of washed Arabica coffee, in particular coffee grown at an altitude above 1200 - 1300 metres; some coffees are sought-after due to this particular characteristic, for example Kenyan coffee. The experts distinguish three classes of acidity: 1 - pleasant natural; 2 - unpleasant natural; 3 - undesirable acrid. The higher the degree of roast, the lower the acidity.  Tasting
Watery (coffee) The beverage has no body due to the low level of oils in suspension in the brew, resulting from the low fat content in the coffee.  Tasting
Acrid Secondary coffee flavour characterised by an acrid pungent sensation at the sides of the back of the tongue, caused by an abnormal accumulation of acids and a high content of salts, which excessively increase the normal acidity. This flavour is typical of Rio coffee. Tasting
Alkaline Flavour completely characterised by a dry sensation on the bottom of the tongue, due to the presence of alkaloids. Tasting
Bitter Primary flavour given by the caffeine and other substances, it is perceived initially by the taste buds surrounding the bottom of the tongue; it is pleasant if it remains within certain limits and is accentuated in the presence of acidity. The Robusta variety is generally more bitter than Arabica. Tasting
Peanut A sensation reminiscent of this type of dry fruit; normally not considered positive. Tasting
Sour A sensation of both bitterness and astringency, rasping and unpleasant. It is a characteristic often found in low quality Robusta coffee. Tasting
Astringent Creates a furry sensation in the mouth, also as an aftertaste, due to the presence of tannic substances of woody origin; it is always negative. Typical of certain types of Indonesian Robusta coffee.   Tasting
Balsamic Coffee with hints of mint, aniseed and alpine herbs.  Tasting
Balanced  Coffee with all the basic characteristics in the right proportions. Synonym: rounded. Tasting
Bouquet The overall aromatic profile created by the sensations left by gases and vapours on the olfactory membranes.   Tasting
Burnt, smoke Reminiscent of burnt food and/or wood smoke; it is typical of highly roasted coffee or oven-roasted coffee.  Tasting
Sharp Flavour characterised by solutions of tartaric, citric or gallic acid which, in combination with the salts contained in the coffee, accentuate its salinity making it acid and sharp. Found in some African types of Robusta coffee such as Ivory Coast.   Tasting
Caramel  Typical caramel aroma without any hint of burning: sensation created by a group of sugar carbonate radicals present in the coffee aroma. Noticeable also in soluble coffee.  Tasting
Carbonic Aromatic sensation originating from a complex of slightly volatile heterocyclic compounds, present in the aftertaste of the coffee, which are reminiscent of burnt substances.   Tasting
Caoutchouc see Rubber Tasting
Caustic Negative coffee flavour sensation, characterised by a sour burnt sensation at the sides of the back of the tongue, caused by alkaloids which increase the sourness of the acids in combination with a high percentage of salts.  Tasting
Ash Reminiscent of a used ashtray or a fireplace when the fire has gone out; becomes more intense as the degree of roasting increases; within certain limits it is not considered a negative aspect.  Tasting
Cereal, malt, toast Sensation of cereals, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked  - like bread just taken out of the oven or toasted - sometimes malted.  Tasting
Cherry Strong, pungent, fruity flavour originating from the cherry skin. Tasting
Chocolate Aromatic sensation produced by a number of pyrazine compounds present in the coffee's aftertaste: they produce sensations resembling the flavours of plain chocolate or vanilla; one of the most highly valued and prized aromas.  Tasting
Body  Physical properties of the beverage in the form of tactile sensations perceived in the mouth, during and after digestion. This definition is used to indicate the structure of the beverage; the perception is rounded. High in good quality coffees.  Tasting
Cooked Typical flavour of instant coffee processed at excessively high temperature. Tasting
Creamy Moderately high level of oils in suspension in the beverage, resulting from a marked presence of fats in the beans. Tasting
Leathery Bad smell which gives the coffee a sensation reminiscent of leather. This defect is due to detachment of the fats present in the beans, resulting from excessive heat used in the drying phase, especially when performed in mechanical dryers.   Tasting
Weak Coffee lacking body, but not flat.  Tasting
Sweet Classic sensation given by the residual sugar substances in the roasted coffee; too high a degree of roast reduces this sensation. The term is often used as the contrary of sour. Initially perceived by the fungiform taste buds on the tip of the tongue.  Tasting
Floral sweet Aromatic sensation produced by a range of aldehydes similar to the fragrance of jasmine.  Tasting
Spicy sweet Aromatic sensation produced by a range of aldehydes similar to spices (cloves, cinnamon or cardamom). Tasting
Hard Secondary flavour characterised by a sour pungent sensation, perceived at the sides of the back of the tongue. The term is used with particular reference to certain types of Brazilian coffee. Hard coffee attacks the palate with a sensation of bitterness and astringency, not combined with good body. Hard coffee is always badly balanced, and in some cases can also be acrid.   Tasting
Grassy Hints of fresh green grass; it is considered positive only within certain limits; normally an indication of immature beans.  Tasting
Fermented A flavour defect which produces a very unpleasant acrid sensation on the tongue. Smell and flavour typical of fermenting coffee cherries or of the skins removed during pulping in wet processing. Tasting
Floral  Sensation of flowers, sense of freshness which can be more or less marked but never dominating; it is the aroma of good coffee, at times reminiscent of wildflower honey; it is always positive.  Tasting
Fresh Secondary taste sensation characterised by a mainly sweet tone  and a fresh lively sensation on the tip of the tongue. This flavour is due to a higher than normal acid content which gives the coffee a hint of bitterness.  Tasting
Fruity Pleasant sensation of ripe fruit, with occasional hints of citrus; evident in good quality coffee with high acidity.  Tasting
Rubber A flavour defect which produces a sensation of burnt rubber in the mouth. This flavour is associated with the natural coffees produced in Africa and sometimes in Indonesia. Tasting
Intense - superior - rich Adjectives describing a complete coffee, which has a well developed body and, above all, a high aromatic level. Tasting
Damp jute A flavour absorbed by the coffee before roasting (green coffee), during transport in damp jute sacks; it often becomes a mouldy flavour.  Tasting
Light If it refers to the body of the coffee, it indicates a beverage which is lacking in  consistency with a low content of solid suspended materials, in particular insoluble fibres and proteins. Tasting
Woody A flavour defect characterised by an unpleasant taste similar to wood, the result of a complete loss of organic material of the coffee beans, due to an excessively long storage period. Coffee kept in the raw state for a long time gradually loses its aroma and flavour characteristics and only preserves the characteristics of the woody part.  Tasting
Malted Aromatic sensation reminiscent of toasted wheat.  Tasting
Mature - mild Primary flavour originating from a combination of salts and sugars, producing an overall increase in sweetness. This characteristic is found mainly in washed Arabica coffee, grown below 1300 metres. The definition can vary from mild to delicate. It is a harmonious sensation reflecting a perfectly balanced body, not too acid and not too bitter, but dense and intense.  Tasting
Medicinal Negative flavour effect, characterised by a sour, bitter and penetrating sensation at the sides of the back of the tongue.   Tasting
Softness Rounded perception in the mouth; increases with sweet flavour and fatty substances and decreases with the appearance of bitter and acid flavours; in espresso coffee, great softness is almost always combined with a creamy body.  Tasting
Mould The coffee can acquire a mouldy flavour if kept in inappropriate conditions or during pulping and washing of the green coffee. The smell and flavour can also be acquired during transport, especially if the coffee is containerised with excess humidity and the container is not well ventilated. Tasting
Neutral Secondary taste sensation, characterised by the absence of a predominant taste on any part of the tongue, but producing a dry sensation at the sides of the tongue. It is caused by a concentration of salts high enough to neutralise both the acids and the sugars, but not sufficient to produce a salty sensation.  Tasting
Nut A fresh nut flavour (as opposed to old nut, which is negative as it tends towards a rancid flavour).  Tasting
Straw Flavour defect which gives the coffee beans a marked straw flavour; it is a result of the loss of organic material in the green beans during storage after harvesting.  Tasting
Powerful Coffee with a persistent aroma and good body. This sensation is linked to the quantity of molecules released by the beverage which are perceived firstly by the sense of smell and then by the sense of taste.  Tasting
Rancid Flavour defect which gives the beverage a very unpleasant taste. It is the result of oxidisation of the fats in the roasted beans, caused by humidity and oxygen during the period of ageing after roasting. Tasting
Riato A blander sensation than the taste of Rio. This flavour can be acquired also during the drying process on patios when on rainy days the coffee is gathered into piles and covered with oilcloths. Under the oilcloth the coffee heats up, begins to ferment slightly and acquires this particular flavour similar to phenic acid. Tasting
Rio A flavour defect which gives the coffee beans a marked medicinal flavour. It is a result of continuation of the enzymatic process, when the coffee beans stay in the drupe and it dries on the branch of the bush. The Rio flavour is appreciated in some Mediterranean countries for the preparation of Turkish or Greek coffee.  Tasting
Round A balanced coffee with all the organoleptic characteristics at the right level. Tasting
Sack Unpleasant flavour found in coffee that has been under-roasted and kept for a long time. Flavour and smell of sack absorbed by green coffee packaged in unseasoned jute sacks.  Tasting
Spicy  Reminiscent of spices  (cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg) or aromatic herbs  (sage, oregano).  Tasting
Tobacco Flavour of good tobacco, not to be confused with the flavour obtained from combustion.  Tasting
Earthy  Sensation perceived on the tongue due to a reduction in saliva; it precedes or accompanies astringency; also indicates a musty coffee bean smell. Occurs when the fats of the green beans absorb organic material from the earth during harvesting. Tasting
Texture A characteristic of the cream: the smaller and more tightly packed the bubbles, the better the cream.  Tasting
Toasted  Positive sensation due to transformation of the sugars during roasting. Consists of aromas of caramel and cereals.  Tasting
Old Flavour completely lacking in freshness, at times flat with a hint of straw. Found in coffee roasted a long time ago:  the aroma changes and acquires an unpleasant specific flavour similar to hay, straw and aged wood.   Tasting
Green Defect that gives the flavour of the coffee a grassy character, due to incomplete development of the sugar compounds during the roasting process.  Tasting
Winy A primary flavour sensation, created by combination of the sugars with the acids, which reduces the overall bitterness of the coffee. Fruity pleasant flavour reminiscent of good wine, found not only in Ethiopian coffee, but also in some Central American coffee, washed straight after processing.  Tasting
Drying Process via which almost all the humidity is eliminated from the coffee.   Processing
Extraction Indicates two different processes: extraction of the bean and extraction of the caffeine. Extraction of the seed is performed in two ways: by dry treatment and by wet treatment. The caffeine can be extracted via three different methods: a) with water and activated carbon; b) with carbon dioxide c) with dicloromethane and  ethylene acetate.  Processing
Washed see Wet treatment Processing
Picking Coffee harvesting method. The cherries are harvested one by one, selecting only the ripe fruit: it is the most expensive technique, but provides the best quality uniform results. The resulting coffee is aromatic, clean and uniform.  Processing
Quakers A term now universally used and applied to coffee beans harvested when still green, damaged or underdeveloped, giving  the coffee a flavour similar to peanuts.   Processing
Stripping Coffee harvesting method. Can be done by machine or by hand, stripping the fruit and leaves from the branch. It is quick but damages the plants and the harvest is not uniform. Technically it is simpler and also more environment-friendly; the result is a coffee with higher sugar content.  Processing
Roasting Coffee roasting process. It is performed in a fluid bed or in drum roasters. The heat from the walls and from the other beans causes the green raw beans to bounce, tumble and crack, like pop corn.  Processing
Dry processing This system produces natural coffee, when the beans are harvested by stripping. It consists of the following phases: cleaning and washing (separation from leaves, twigs and debris), drying (in the sun or in dryers - 1-3 days / 45-60°C); hulling (separation of skin/pergamino from bean); winnowing (the beans are sieved using screens with sized holes). Processing
Wet processing This system produces washed coffee and is used in particular if the coffee cherries have been harvested by picking. It consists of the following stages: cleaning, pulping (mechanical separation of pulp/bean via rollers); fermentation (12/24 hours in water to remove the mucilage); washing (120 l/kg); drying in the sun for 9-10 days or in a dryer; hulling and polishing; winnowing. The process affects the final colour of the bean: Coffea Arabica becomes blue-green, Coffea Robusta becomes green-yellow. Processing
Vaporisation The raw coffee is treated with water vapour in order to swell the beans; spacing of the molecules facilitates extraction of the caffeine.  Processing
Bar Unit of measurement for the pressure developed in the coffee machine boiler at the time of dispensing. To correctly emulsify the fats contained in the coffee and therefore obtain an espresso with cream, the pressure must reach at least 15 bars.  Preparation
Dispenser   Preparation
Filter holder   Preparation
Thermoblock   Preparation
Arabica   Varieties
Brazil Produces 30% of all the world's coffee.  Varieties
Bourbon Round convex bean  Varieties
Cameroon Produces mainly Robusta coffee  Varieties
Caracolito Small round pearl-like bean  Varieties
Colombia Produces only Arabica coffee: rich full coffee, ideal for any roasting. Colombia is considered the king of Milds and is the world's leading producer of washed coffee.  Varieties
Costa Rica Produces very expensive qualities of washed Arabica coffee, acid and floral.  One of the most famous is "Tarrazu".  Varieties
Hard Hard washed coffee from Central America (Strictly Hard Bean, Hard Bean), typical of the altitudes at which it is grown. In this case, hard refers to the hardness of the bean and not to the flavour in the cup.  Varieties
Ecuador Produces a light coffee with sharp taste, used mainly in blends.  Varieties
El Salvador Produces Arabica coffee but it does not have the flavour and body normally associated with this quality.  Varieties
Ethiopia Produces coffee with a strong flavour, full-bodied and with excellent aroma. The best-known is called "Harrar". Varieties
Flat bean Flat sometimes elongated bean  Varieties
Jamaica Produces Arabica coffee of great delicacy, in particular Blue Mountain, with a magnificent fragrance and a slightly acid taste. Sold above all in Japan, it is very expensive and found only in specialist shops.  Varieties
Guatemala Produces sweet, fruity washed Arabica coffee at low altitudes; it gains in body as the altitude increases. The best varieties are "Coban" and "Antigua". Varieties
Haiti The best quality coffee produced here is characterised by a rich, delicate sweet flavour.  Varieties
Hawaii Produces Arabica coffee, "Kona" variety: high quality, sweet, pleasant and slightly acidulous. Varieties
Honduras   Varieties
India Produces washed Arabica coffee, full-bodied, sweet and with low acidity, and dry spicy Robusta coffee. The best-known quality is called "Mysore".  Varieties
Indonesia Produces mainly Robusta coffee Varieties
Kenya Produces excellent quality  Arabica coffee with a light fruity taste and considerable acidity. The "Kenya Peaberry" is particularly expensive.  Varieties
Maragogype Particularly large bean Varieties
Mexico Its coffee is rich but light with the right level of acidity. The best variety is Coatpec, exported above all to the United States.  Varieties
Nicaragua Produces fragrant Arabica coffee, varying according to altitude.  Varieties
Papua New Guinea It began to grow coffee only in the '50s, selling mainly to the United States and Australia. It produces washed Arabica coffee with a fruity aroma and pleasant taste, similar to Kenyan coffee. Varieties
Peru It is a slightly acid coffee with good flavour; the best-known variety is "Chanchamayo". Varieties
Dominican Republic  Produces full-bodied chocolaty Arabica; its coffee is known as "Santo Domingo". The best quality has a full strong flavour.  Varieties
Robusta Coffea Robusta - Accounts for approximately a quarter of the world's coffee production. It originates from Africa where it is grown mainly in Ivory Coast and Uganda, although a considerable quantity also comes from Brazil. The plant, grown at between 200 and 600 metres, is less delicate and more resistant than the Arabica.  Varieties
Santos The best quality produced in Brazil and characterised by a light pleasant taste.  Varieties
Sumatra and Java Produces a sweet full-flavoured Arabica coffee. In these islands, a large amount of Robusta coffee is also produced which is excellent but of inferior quality to the Arabica. The best variety is "Mandheling".  Varieties
Tanzania Similar to Kenyan coffee, but with less body. The best quality is  "Kilimanjaro", from the name of the mountain where it grows.  Varieties
Venezuela "Meridas" are some of the best quality coffees, sweet and delicate, light tasting and light-bodied.  Varieties
Yemen The coffee produced takes its name from the town of Moka, and has a particularly exciting and full-bodied flavour.  Varieties