Glossary of coffee related terms
The glossary contains a selection of terms widely used in the botany, cupping, handling, harvesting, processing and marketing of green coffee, particularly in the coffee-producing countries that have participated in the global project on "Improving coffee quality through prevention of mould formation". It is primarily intended to assist in the understanding of terms that are used in the technical documentation developed under the global project, and which is also available from this website. While much coffee terminology is common among coffee producing countries, some divergences have evolved and specific terms have arisen in some locations, often due to innovations in the post-harvest handling of green coffee.
It should be noted that ISO International Standard 3509 (under revision) contains an official vocabulary relating to coffee and its products.
We do not claim this to be an exhaustive list of all the coffee terms used globally, but hope it provides a solid grounding in coffee related terminology. The glossary is divided into the following sections for ease of reference:
Bean: One of the (usually) two seeds borne inside the coffee cherry / fruit. An exception is a peaberry, which is when a single seed develops in the fruit. See also 'Peaberry', under 'Classification and grading', below.
Berry: Botanical word used to designate the coffee fruit. This word is also used in compound terms such as CBB (Coffee Berry Borer) and CBD (Coffee Berry Disease).
Cherry: Term for the ripe, intact coffee fruit with (from outside in) skin, pulp, mucilage, parchment and bean.
Endocarp: Scientific term for 'parchment'. The tough integument tightly pressed to the seed when fresh but from which the seed shrinks during drying. See also 'Parchment', below.
Endosperm: Scientific term designating the tissues that feed the embryo during germination, the bean consists of the endosperm and embryo, i.e., the material inside the developing fruit which ultimately forms the coffee beans. The endosperm fills the integument as the coffee cherry ripens.
Epicarp or Exocarp: Scientific word designating the skin of the fruit , a mono cellular layer covered with a waxy substance ensuring protection of the fruit.
Mesocarp: Intermediate layer of tissues between the epicarp and the endocarp (parchment). It consists mainly of pectinaceous mucilage and pulp.
Mucilage: Common word to describe the slimy layer found between the pulp and adhering to the parchment inside a coffee cherry, but not removed by pulping. Not present in unripe coffee, and disappears in overripe coffee. See also 'Mesocarp', above.
Parchment: Common word to describe the endocarp of the coffee fruit. It lies between the fleshy part (or pulp) of the cherry and the silver skin. Also refers to the thin, crumbly paper-like covering that is left on wet-processed coffee beans after pulping and fermentation. Subsequently removed during hulling. See also 'Endocarp', above.
Pulp: The fleshy outer layer of the mesocarp, directly beneath the skin, removed with a pulping machine.
Silver skin: Common word to describe the seminal integument covering the endosperm - the thin, papery, shiny layer immediately surrounding the coffee bean, being the remnant of the integument. Milling before export removes most silver skin, and the remainder is removed during roasting in the form of chaff.
Unripe fruit: Coffee cherry that did not reach physiological maturity, usually apple-green in colour.
Café cereja: Literally 'cherry coffee'. Portuguese term for ripe coffee cherry that has reached physiological maturity.
Gleaning: Applies to the collection of coffee fruit found lying on the ground beneath coffee bushes, having either become detached during harvest or abscised during development. 'Gleanings' is the collective term for coffee collected in this manner.
Selective- or Hand-picking: Harvesting method in which only ripe cherries are carefully hand-picked. Occurs primarily at higher altitudes where cherries do not ripen simultaneously thus requiring selective picking spanning several weeks. The opposite of 'Strip-picking', below.
Strip-picking: A harvesting method in which all cherries are removed at once by grabbing the lateral branches of the tree and pulling off all cherries in a single motion. Occurs in low altitudes where coffee cherries tend to ripen simultaneously, but means all cherries are harvested irrespective of whether they are ripe, overripe or unripe.
Strippings: Coffee fruit that are harvested by strip-picking. See 'Strip-picking' above.
Tree dried cherry: Cherries left to dry on the coffee tree itself before harvesting.
Varrição or Café de varrição: Term used in Brazil for 'gleanings' or 'wind-fall coffee'. See 'Gleaning', above.
Wind-fall coffee: See 'Gleaning', above.
The purpose of processing is to remove the bean from fruit tissues and render the bean stable while enhancing or avoiding deterioration in taste. Coffee is processed in one of two ways: either wet or dry processing. Some initial basic terminology is given below, with more specific terms in the following section:
Wet processing: Refers to any one of several technological variations where the parchment and skin are separated before drying.
Dry (natural) processing: Refers to any one of several technological variations where the parchment and skin are dried together.
Mechanical drying: Any one of several methods of using artificially produced heat to increase drying rate.
Sun drying: Any one of several drying methods where solar energy is used for drying.
Husking (or De-husking, Hulling, De-hulling): The step, after a degree of drying, where the bean is freed from all remaining fruit tissues.
Milling or Curing: Activities and procedures, in preparation for sale and shipping, performed on the green bean.
Cherry splitting: See 'Splitting of cherry', below.
Conditioning: The holding of dried beans in ventilated bins to achieve an even moisture content within the bulk of the coffee. .
Curing: The final stage of preparing coffee, known as 'curing', usually takes place just before the coffee is sold for export. Coffee passes through a number of operations that may include cleaning, polishing, screening, sorting and grading.
Depulping: The operation, using a pulping machine, to remove and separate the fruit skin and any mesocarp that adheres to it from parchment.
Dry fermentation: After pulping, the coffee is subsequently fermented without using water in order to remove remaining mucilage and any residual flesh. The microbial activity degrades the mucilage easing its subsequent removal.
Dry-process or Dry-processing: Treatment consisting of drying whole, or split, coffee cherries followed by mechanical removal of the dried pericarp to produce cherry, natural, or unwashed coffee. Also known as natural-processed coffee. The dry method is used for much of the Arabica coffee produced in Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti and Paraguay. Most Robusta coffee is processed by this method except in India. It is not practical in very rainy regions, where the humidity of the atmosphere is too high or where it rains frequently during harvesting.
Fermentation: The process of allowing natural enzymes to breakdown the structure of any mucilage (mesocarp) remaining after pulping, prior to it being washed away. Unless fermentation is carefully monitored, the coffee can acquire undesirable, onion and sour flavours. For most coffees mucilage removal takes between 24 and 36 hours, depending on the temperature. Robusta coffee has a thinner but tougher mesocarp and requires 24 to 36 hours longer. The end of the fermentation is assessed by feel, as the parchment surrounding the beans loses its slimy texture and acquires a rougher "pebbly" feel.
Final washing: Machines, or manual washing in channels, are used to remove the weakened mucilage (mesocarp) from the parchment following a fermentation step.
Foreign matter: Any material of non-plant origin such as twigs, stones, metal, animal or vegetable matter not originating from coffee.
Garbling or Hand sorting of cherry: Removal of diseased (particularly coffee berry diseased), immature or dry cherry before pulping.
Hulling (or De-hulling, De-husking, Husking): Mechanical removal of dried fruit tissues (cherry coffee) or dried fruit endocarp (parchment coffee) from the coffee seeds.
Hulling loss: The difference between the weight of the parchment or dry cherry coffee and clean coffee after milling: equivalent to the weight of the husks. Also referred to as milling loss.
Husking (or De-husking): See 'Hulling', above.
Husk: Waste material resulting from the hulling of parchment or dry cherry coffee, made up of the dried pulp and outer covering of the parchment.
Milling: Post drying processes that may involve hulling, polishing, sorting and grading of coffee.
Out-turn: The proportion of the original dry weight represented by the product of the milling operations, whatever they may have been.
Polishing: Final curing operation, usually done with a hulling machine fitted with a different blade, to remove the silver skin adhering to green coffee. Improves the quality of the roast and liquor.
Parchment grading: Grading of wet parchment either before or after fermentation. In a few producer countries floatation in water is used to separate dense from less dense parchments before fermentation and often again after fermentation using washing channels. Normally grade 1, 2 and 3 or lights are distinguished.
Pulping: See 'Depulping', above.
Recirculation: The reuse of coffee processing water, especially for pulping and grading for a specified period or amount of cherry, without affecting the quality of the final product.
Seconds: Parchment coffee which sinks after a considerable period of time.
Semi-washed: A confused term, variously used to describe the separation of fruits by buoyancy in water, or the 'desmucilado' process. See 'Desmucilado', under 'Processed Coffee', below.
Soaking: The submerging of fully fermented and washed parchment in clean water for a period of time. Sometimes practised on partially fermented parchment, which can develop undesirable colours and tastes if dirty water is used.
Sorting (of green coffee): Removal of defective coffee beans either manually or by machine using a programmed pattern of reflected light.
Splitting of cherry: A variation of dry processing wherein the cherry is mechanically split open and the fruit and seeds maintained together in a mass. Drying is faster, but spoilage also appears to be faster.
Via úmida: Portuguese term for 'wet-processing'. See 'Wet-process / Wet-processing', below.
Via seca: Portuguese term for 'dry-processing'. See 'Dry-process / Dry-processing', above.
Washing: The removal of all traces of the mucilaginous mesocarp from the surface of the parchment. See also 'Final Washing', above.
Wet-process or Wet-processing: A method of processing coffee cherries into dried pergamino / parchment coffee. The method traditionally involves, i) removing the cherry pulp through pulpers flushed with water, ii) fermenting the beans to degrade adhering mucilaginous material (mesocarp), iii) washing the beans in clean water and iv) mechanically- or sun-drying the beans to produce parchment coffee. The wet method is generally used for Arabica coffees, with the exception of those produced in Brazil and the Arabica-producing countries mentioned above as users of the dry method. It is not widely used for Robustas.
Wet fermentation: Wet fermentation is when coffee is fermented strictly under water. It can however, encourage development of stinkers and onion flavours due to over fermentation.
Beneficiado or Café beneficiado: Dry coffee beans, separated from all fruit tissues. Equivalent to 'green coffee'.
Bóia or Café Bóia: Normal bulk coffee that has dried or partially dried before harvest to the point where it is positively buoyant in water.
Bun or Buni: The generic name for coffee in Ethiopia, not to be confused with 'm'buni'.
Café de terreiro: Portuguese term for green coffee resulting from the dry-processing method.
Café em coco: Portuguese term for dry-processed coffee before hulling. Synonymous with 'dry cherry'.
Café em pergaminho: Portuguese term for wet-processed beans after pulping, dried to about 12% moisture content, but before hulling has removed their hard outer covering (the endocarp / parchment).
Café en coque: French term for dry-processed coffee before hulling. Synonymous with 'dry cherry'.
Café en parche: French term for wet-processed beans after pulping, dried to about 12% moisture content, but before hulling has removed their hard outer covering (the endocarp / parchment).
Café en pergamino: Spanish term for wet-processed beans after pulping, dried to about 12% moisture content, but before hulling has removed their hard outer covering (the endocarp / parchment).
Café lavado: Spanish term for green coffee produced by the wet-processing method; synonymous with 'washed coffee'.
Café lavé: French term for green coffee produced by the wet-processing method; synonymous with 'washed coffee'.
Café natural: Spanish term for green coffee resulting from the dry-processing method.
Café naturel: French term for green coffee resulting from the dry-processing method.
Café no lavado: Spanish term for green coffee resulting from the dry-processing method.
Centre cut: The dividing line of silver skin running through the flat side of the bean.
Cereza seca: Spanish term for dry-processed coffee before hulling. Synonymous with term 'dry cherry'.
Cherry coffee: The term is predominantly used in India. This type of coffee is also called 'unwashed coffee' or 'natural coffee'. See 'Natural coffee', below.
Descascado or Café descascado or Café cereja descascado: Portuguese term used to denote a parchment or other intermediate type of coffee that is dried with residual mucilage still attached to the parch.
Desmucilado or Café desmucilado: Portuguese term used to describe coffee that has been pulped and the mucilage removed mechanically rather than through fermentation, leaving only the parch from the fruit tissues.
Despolpado or Café despolpado: Portuguese term used to describe coffee that has been pulped and the mucilage removed through fermentation.
Dry cherry: Dry-processed coffee before hulling has taken place. See also 'Dry-processed coffee / Dry-processing', under 'Post-harvest Processing and Storage', above.
EK (Export Kwality): An Indonesian term for a cleaned 'asalan' (see above), cleaned by the use of winnowing on woven trays.
En parche: See 'Café en parche', above.
En oro: Spanish term for clean coffee once both the 'parchment' and 'silver skin' have been removed, i.e. 'Green coffee', see below.
EP (Estate Pounded): An Indian term meaning green coffee that has been dehusked at estate level, rather than in a curing works.
Fermented coffee: Coffee that has been produced by a wet processing method that contains a fermentation step.
Green coffee: A generic term for the naked dried bean only. It may be in any one of a variety of processing procedures from bulk to zero defect. Coffee is exported in this form, ready to roast.
M'buni: An East African term originally for a cherry coffee which has been removed from the main production stream before pulping due to it being diseased, small or light. Has come to mean any cherry coffee, so is also applied to Robusta cherry. Should not be confused with 'floats coffee' and especially 'boia'.
Monsooned coffee: Green coffee beans deliberately exposed to humid monsoon winds in an open warehouse to increase body and reduce acidity. During this process the beans swell and change in colour to a golden/light brown. For example, this process is carried out in coastal curing works during the peak of the South West monsoon in India. This is a specialty coffee largely consumed in Scandinavian countries. This coffee is also used as a base coffee for espresso, especially in the United States.
Natural coffee: Green coffee obtained by the dry-processing method, i.e. by harvesting and drying coffee fruits in their entirety, and then hulling the dried cherries to obtain the coffee beans. Also known as 'Unwashed coffee' and 'Cherry coffee'. See also 'Dry-processed coffee / Dry-processing', above.
Parchment coffee: Wet-processed beans after pulping, dried to about 12% moisture content, but before hulling has removed their hard outer covering (the endocarp / parchment).
Pergaminho: See 'Café em pergaminho', above.
Pergamino: See 'Café en pergamino', above.
Plantation coffee: The term is predominantly used in India. Green coffee produced by wet-processing method, and synonymous with washed coffee.
Primo lavado: A grade of coffee which includes most of the fine coffees of Mexico. Generally used as a contract term which means the coffee is of good grade, but is not really more specific.
Split coffee: A type of 'natural coffee' where the cherry is split or crushed but the beans are dried in contact with the fruit tissues. Practised in parts of Indonesia.
Triage coffee: Consists of small round beans, spotted beans, elephant beans, pales, pulper cuts, dried and shrivelled beans, bits of broken beans of not less than ⅓ of a bean in size, etc., removed as defects when coffee is being sorted and graded.
Unwashed coffee: See 'Natural coffee', above.
Washed coffee: Green coffee produced by wet-processing method. See 'Wet-processed coffee / Wet-processing', above.
Cherry hopper: A suitably designed receptacle where coffee cherry is placed before pulping takes place.
Cherry splitter: A mechanical device used to split the cherry open, leaving the fruit and seeds together in a mass, in order to facilitate drying.
Decorticator: See 'Huller', below.
Depulper: See 'Pulper', below.
Disc pulper: Used in wet-processing to pulp ripe coffee fruit to parchment. The pulping operation takes place between the rubbing action of bulbs on the disc(s) and the lateral pulping bars called chop rails. The gap between the surface of the bulb and the chop rail can be adjusted to allow for any clearance that may be required according to the variety and size of coffee fruit processed. The hopper is fitted with a feed mechanism which ensures even feeding of the fruit to the disc surface.
Drum pulper: Performs the same function as a disc pulper. Essentially a revolving drum with a punched cover inside a fixed breast plate with pulping channels and ribs set at an angle of 45°.
Dry feed hoppers: Cherry is fed into the pulper without water.
Hand pulper: A manually operated pulper.
Huller: Machine to remove dried fruit tissues (cherry coffee) or dried fruit endocarp (parchment coffee) from the coffee seeds.
Lavador: A term used in Brazil representing one of several devices used to separate floating from sinking cherries, and to rinse off the fruit surface.
Mechanical dryer: Mechanical equipment for reduction of moisture content in coffee beans.
Pulper: Machine used in wet-processing to pulp ripe coffee to the parchment bean. Coffee fruit are fed in and the resulting wet parchment is discharged into fermentation and washing tanks. The fruit skin is usually discharged into a pit for water recovery and recirculation. If not well maintained and adjusted, it can subject the bean to mechanical damages like cutting, bruising, nipping, and crushing of parchment besides partial separation of the pulp from the bean.
Siphon feed hopper: See 'Wet feed hopper', below.
Siphon tank: a piece of equipment placed between the cherry hopper and the pulper to allow removal of cherries containing defective seeds based on their high buoyancy. Product is called 'floats coffee' and is different from 'Boia' or 'mbuni'.
Terrace: A general term denoting a flat area where coffee drying takes place. A terrace can be constructed of numerous materials including compacted soil, concrete, and asphalt, and is often covered with a secondary material (e.g. matting or tarpaulin) on which the coffee is dried.
Wet feed hopper: Coffee fruits are fed into the pulper using water siphoned from a tank, improving the flow of the fruit.
Classification: After milling, coffees are classified in different groups or classes which aim to describe homogenous commercial lots. Word lists (associated with classification charts) to name these groups vary according to countries, and include grades, types, classes, origins and trade brands. For example:
Grade: In sensu stricto, grade indicators are used to describe the size of the bean and commonly expressed in 1/64° of inch. The rule is to use even numbers for the Arabicas (20, 18, 16, etc) and odd numbers for the Robustas (17, 15, 13, etc). For example: beans of grade 18 means that beans pass through screen 18 (holes with a diameter of 18/64") and are retained by screen 16. However, commercially, grade indicators are used to classify coffees where bean size, number of defects, altitude of growing, etc. are taken into account, depending on the producing country. In this sense, most producing countries have their own classification and grade charts.
Colombian Mild Arabicas or Extra Mild Arabicas: Wet-processed Arabica coffees from Colombia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The name Colombian Milds can refer either to the coffee or to the country group, as is the case for all other ICO groupings.
Other Mild Arabicas: Other wet-processed Arabica coffees, primarily from Central and South America.
Brazilian Naturals: See 'Unwashed Arabicas', below.
Robustas: The ICO quality classification for all coffee from the species Coffea canephora, including Conilon from Brazil..
Unwashed Arabicas: Dry-processed Arabica coffees, primarily from Brazil and Ethiopia.
A, AA, AAA: Grade indicators used to describe the size of the bean. However, different countries use different indicators for the largest beans; 'A' in India; 'AA' in Kenya, Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea; 'AAA' in Peru.
Clean garbled: Grade of coffee having stringent sorting standards, so it is completely free from defective beans. See also 'Garbling', below.
Fair Average Quality (FAQ): A term used in some countries to describe unsorted, and sometimes uncleaned, coffee from the huller, when it is marketed locally as beans.
Good Hard Bean (GHB): A grade of coffee grown at altitudes above 3000 feet. Term varies depending on the country where the bean is grown.
Grading: Operation which consists of sorting bean by size and/or density. When grading, there is a tolerance of few percentage of beans sizing lower than these normally retained in a given screen size.
Hard Bean (HB): The higher the altitude coffee is grown at, the slower-maturing the bean, and the harder and denser its substance, hence the term. Hard bean usually refers to coffee grown between 4,000 and 4,500 feet above sea level.
Sorting: General term which refers to the separation of beans by different types of classes and the elimination of foreign matter. Sorting by size (grading), sorting by colour, sorting by density (grading), sorting by type of beans (defective beans versus sound beans)
Screening: Method for rapidly estimating quality by counting a certain selection of physical 'defects' in a sample of specified size.
Soft Bean (SB): Describes coffee grown at relatively low altitudes (under 3,500-4,000 ft). Beans grown at lower altitudes mature more quickly and produce a lighter, more porous bean.
Sorted bean: A term used in Kenya to describe beans rejected during sorting. See also 'Triage', below.
Sorting: General term which refers to the separation of beans by different types of classes and the elimination of foreign matter. E.g. sorting by size (grading), sorting by colour, sorting by density (grading), and sorting by type of bean (i.e. defective beans versus sound beans).
Sound coffee: Green coffee that is in a marketable condition.
Strictly Hard Bean (SHB): Coffee grown above 4,500 feet is referred to as strictly hard bean (SHB) as opposed to hard bean (HB). See also 'Hard Bean', above.
Strictly High Grown (SHG): Coffee grown above 4,500 feet can be referred to as strictly high grown (SHG).
Tolerance: The permissible percentage of other grades that can appear in the specified main grade of the coffee.
Triage: A French word with two meanings: i) the action of sorting, and ii) all beans rejected (i.e. defects) during sorting, which is also described in ISO 3509 as 'triage residue'. In Kenya these beans are called 'sorted beans'. See also 'Screening', above.
Unclassified: Beans whose quality evaluation has no specific description.
Ungraded coffee (UG): UG usually comes from mbuni wherever it has been produced, and is an official Kenyan grade
Usually Good Quality (UGQ): Buyer classification denoting beans of usually good quality.
Coated: Beans to which the silver skin adheres. Caused by drought, overbearing or unripe cherries. See also 'Softs', under 'Defects – Appearance / Coloration', below and 'Harsh liquor' and 'Common liquor' under 'Organoleptics and Tasting - Aromas / Flavours', below.
Drought-affected or Droughty: Either coated or misshapen, pale and light in weight. See also 'Coated', above, and 'Ragged', below.
Floats or Floaters: Under-developed, hollow beans – the fruit floats in water and is 'floated-off' during wet-processing. In washed coffee a sign of inadequate grading during wet-processing. With reference to cherries usually comprises overripe cherries almost dried; cherries with one sound and one aborted bean; and cherries with two aborted seeds. In regard to parchment, includes under-developed, hollow and CCB-damaged beans. See also 'Lights', below.
Hail-damaged: Show blackish circular marks on the oval side of the bean.
Lights: A bean the specific weight of which is below normal, caused by drought or die-back and under-development. The parchment in most cases contains empty pods, sometimes filled with air and which do not sink in water. See also 'Floats / Floaters', above.
Ragged: Frequently refers to drought-affected beans. Harvesting a mixture of mature and immature cherries can result in beans having a ragged appearance.
Shrivelled: A bean shrivelled owing to drought or poor husbandry standards.
Withered: Lack of development in growth causing a coffee bean that is wrinkled, thin and light in weight, caused by drought or poor husbandry. See also 'Shrivelled', above.
Amber: Smooth, yellowish beans caused by iron deficiency in the soil.
Black: Caused by harvesting immature beans, or gathering them after they have dropped to the ground. Development of black beans also arises as a result of beans coming in contact with water and heat. They are often taken as the yardstick for rating a defect count. Other causes are insect-damaged, or metal-contaminated beans. Under ISO 3509 black beans are termed as such if 50% or less of their surface is black, and the interior is black.
Blackish: Pulper-nipped beans which have partly oxidized. See also 'Discoloured', below, and 'Pulper-nipped', under 'Defects – Processing Related', below.
Blacks: Beans with more than a quarter of their surface black, deep blue or dark brown.
Bleached: Colourless beans are often caused by drying too rapidly and/or over drying. These are also known as 'soapy' and 'faded' beans, and are usually associated with mechanical drying.
Blotchy: This is due to defective and uneven drying of coffee; as a result, the colour of the beans is far from uniform, showing irregular greenish, whitish or sometimes yellowish patches. It is always advisable to dry beans both thoroughly and slowly.
Boat-shaped: Beans whose two ends curve upwards and appear boat-shaped.
Brilliant or Bright: Extremely bright looking roasted beans, appearing to have an oil-like surface.
Brown: Beans that are brown in colour. May be caused by faulty fermentation, improper washing or over drying. See also 'Foxy', below.
Caracol: See 'Peaberry', below.
Deformed: Ugly, misshapen beans, also includes 'semi-elephants'.
Discoloured: Often pulper-nipped. Other causes of discolouration are contact with earth, metal and foul water, as well as damage after drying and beans left over in fermentation tanks. See also 'Stinkers', under 'Defects – Processing Related', below.
Double-centre cuts: Two dividing lines of silver skin, which are not well defined, running through the flat side of the bean. Coffee with a double centre-cut is of poor quality. When the bean is roasted, it opens and contributes to a commonish liquor.
Dull: Due to faulty drying, often associated with metal contamination.
Ears: Part of a broken elephant bean. See 'Elephant bean', under 'Classification and Grading', below.
Elephant beans: An assembly of beans (usually two, sometimes more) resulting from false polyembryony. They are beans of irregular shape having two or more parts, closely locked together, which may separate either in the peeler or during roasting.
Faded: Beans from an old crop, or dried too rapidly. See also 'Bleached', above.
Flaky: Usually very thin, light and ragged in appearance. See also 'Drought-affected' and 'Ragged', under 'Defects – Agronomic / Climatic', above.
Flat: A coffee bean with one perceptibly flat face.
Foxy: Rusty or reddish coloured due to harvesting of overripe cherries, faulty washing, delays in pulping, improper fermentation or slow drying.
Immature: See 'Quaker', below.
Mottled: Blotchy, stained or spotty, usually caused by uneven drying.
Murram coloured: See 'Foxy', above
Mouldy or Musty: Beans that are partly or wholly discoloured, with greenish-whitish fur-like colour and texture indicating mould growth, or evidence of attack by mould, that is visible to the naked eye. See also 'Musty', under 'Organoleptics and Tasting - Aromas / Flavours', below.
Open: An open bean is one in which the centre cut is inclined to part on roasting. Some open beans derive from lights and of these, some can be eliminated in the washing channel, and some by air separators at the curing works/mill. However, all open beans are not necessarily light coffee.
Overripe: Brownish-yellow in appearance, also known as foxy. Used mainly when referring to cherries. See also 'Foxy', above.
Pales or Semi-pales: Yellow in colour, they stink when crushed or ground. Pales come from immature or drought-affected coffee and are beans with little or no grain. These can largely be eliminated in the washing channel. Amber beans and green parchment beans also frequently cause pales in the roast.
Peaberry: A single, rounded bean from a coffee cherry which bears one bean instead of the usual flat sided pair of beans. Also known as 'caracol', 'perla' and 'perle'. These are frequently separated and sold as a distinct varietal. Papua New Guinea is one of the more popular ones.
Perla: See 'Peaberry', above.
Perle: See 'Peaberry', above.
Quakers: Unripe coffee bean, often with a wrinkled surface. These show up as roast defects being yellow in colour, and will not darken satisfactorily in roast.
Ragged or Deformed: Frequently refers to drought-affected beans. Harvesting a mixture of mature and immature cherries can result in beans having a ragged appearance.
Shell: Malformed bean presenting a cavity.
Shrivelled: A bean shrivelled owing to drought or poor husbandry standards.
Soapy: See 'Bleached', above.
Softs: Beans without grain, and often of a dull yellowish colour. Coated raw beans often produce softs to pales. Good quality coffee is often spoiled by the presence of softs.
Spongy: Beans with a cork-like texture. These beans will be generally whitish in colour.
Spotted: See 'Blotchy', above.
Three-cornered beans: Semi-peaberry in character. See also 'Peaberry', above.
White: Coffee bean that is white in colour, and very light in weight with a density below that of a healthy bean.
Withered: Lack of development in growth causing a coffee bean that is wrinkled, thin and light in weight, caused by drought or poor husbandry. See also 'Shrivelled', above.
Damaged: Includes bleached beans, spotted beans, insect or fungal damaged beans, stinkers and sour beans.
Defect: Any one of a number of visually observable properties of a coffee sample that are taken as contra-indications of quality. Defects in coffee can include; husk fragments, pieces of parchment, malformed beans, insect damaged beans, cherry in husk, bean in parchment, black beans, partly black beans, immature beans, spongy beans, white beans, stinker beans, sour beans, blotchy beans, foxy beans, brown beans, withered beans, mouldy beans and pulper-nipped beans, amongst other terms used.
Antestia: Beans damaged by the Antestia bug, resulting in blackish markings on the bean to almost entirely black beans, which are often completely shrivelled.
Broca-damaged: Beans partially eaten by the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei (Ferrari 1867)), a 2mm long black scolytid beetle which bores galleries through the coffee bean. 'Broca' is the widely used Spanish term for the coffee berry borer, which is one of the most significant pests of coffee.
CBB-damaged: CBB stands for 'Coffee Berry Borer'. See 'Broca-damaged', above.
Diseased: Beans which have been attacked by disease due to poor field husbandry.
Fungal: Beans damaged by fungal (mould) infestation.
Mouldy or Musty: See 'Mouldy' under 'Defects – Appearance / Coloration', above. See also 'Musty', under 'Organoleptics and Tasting - Aromas / Flavours', below.
Bits: Broken coffee bean pieces as a result of damage during processing, less than ⅓ of 'ordinary' bean size.
Black-jack coffee: Coffee which has turned black after picking, during shipping or during reprocessing.
Crushed: Pulper-damaged beans, which often split and fade. Also caused by manual pounding of dry cherry to separate beans from husk. Also the result of too much trampling in fermentation tanks.
Dullish or Dull: Beans lacking lustre and associated with faulty drying, often suggestive of metal contamination, poor processing and age.
Green or Water-damaged: Usually brought about by dry parchment or hulled coffee becoming wet. Occurs at the skin drying stage if the parchment is kept without stirring and is subject to micro-organism attack.
Mottled: Caused by uneven drying. Such beans are not always detrimental to cupping when the coffee is fresh, but coffee of this type will not keep long, and deteriorates in transit.
Over-fermented: A bean that will impart an unclean, fermented or foul taint to a coffee liquor as a result of over-fermentation during wet-processing.
Pulper-cuts: See 'Pulper-nipped', below.
Pulper-nipped: Wet processed beans that are cut or bruised during pulping. These beans will usually present brown or black marks, damaged by the incorrect setting of the pulping knives. Discoloration develops through oxidation in pulping or fermenting water, or through contact with metals (See also 'Discoloured', under 'Defects – Appearance / Coloration', above) and may produce off-flavours. Providing that the nipped beans are clean and not too prevalent, coffee will not be reduced in classification. Pulper damaged beans lead to uneven roast, age rather rapidly and are also susceptible to chemicals, dust and other adverse environmental effects.
Sour: Coffee beans deteriorated by excess fermentation, with a light brown / reddish colour and producing a sour taste when roasted and infused.
Stinkers: Stinker beans are generally caused as a result of over-fermentation, and due to improper cleaning of fermentation tanks and washing channels. Beans adhering to the pulper vats, if not cleaned meticulously, become stinkers. Stinker beans, when crushed or cut, emanate a very unpleasant odour. They taint the liquor, producing an unpleasant taste in the cup, and give a flavour described as 'over-fermented', 'unclean' or even 'foul'. One or two stinker beans can contaminate and spoil a whole batch of coffee. See also 'Discoloured', under 'Defects – Appearance / Coloration', above.
Under-dried: Beans with a moisture content above 12%.
Uneven fermentation: Occurs when part of the coffee is either over-fermented or under-fermented. Both errors in processing produce equally poor coffee.
Unevenly dried: Beans which are improperly dried, often due to lack of sufficient stirring whilst drying, or overly deep drying layers.
Waxy: An over-fermented bean presenting a waxy appearance.
8. Organoleptics and Tasting2
Animal-like: This odour descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the smell of animals. It is not a fragrant aroma like musk but has the characteristic odour of wet fur, sweat, leather, hides or urine. It is not necessarily considered as a negative attribute but is generally used to describe strong notes.
Ashy: This odour descriptor is similar to that of an ashtray, the odour of smokers' fingers or the smell one gets when cleaning out a fireplace. It is not used as a negative attribute. Generally speaking this descriptor is used by tasters to indicate the degree of roast.
Bricky: Produced as result of the use of Benzene hexachloride (BHC) based insecticides to control mealybug, etc. Now practically non-existent.
Bright: Tangy acidity is often described as bright.
Burnt or Smokey: This odour and flavour descriptor is similar to that found in burnt food. The odour is associated with smoke produced when burning wood. This descriptor is frequently used to indicate the degree of roast commonly found by tasters in dark-roasted or oven-roasted coffees.
Caramel or Caramelized: This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the odour and flavour produced when caramelizing sugar without burning it. Tasters are cautioned not to use this attribute to describe a burning note.
Carbonic or Chemical or Medicinal: This odour descriptor is reminiscent of chemicals, medicines and the smell of hospitals. This term is used to describe coffees having aromas such as rioy flavour, chemical residues or highly aromatic coffees which produce large amounts of volatiles. Can be caused by workers with treated leg wounds who subsequently work in fermentation tanks. Certain emulsions in the manufacture of sacks can also present a problem. See also 'Rioy / Phenolic', below.
Cereal or Malty or Toast-like: This descriptor includes aromas characteristic of cereal, malt and toast. It includes scents such as the aroma and flavour of uncooked or roasted grain (including roasted corn, barley or wheat), malt extract and the aroma and flavour of freshly baked bread and freshly made toast. This descriptor has a common denominator, a grain-type aroma. The aromas in this descriptor were grouped together since tasters used these terms interchangeably when evaluating standards of each one.
Chemical: See 'Carbonic / Chemical / Medicinal', above.
Chocolate-like: This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the aroma and flavour of cocoa powder and chocolate (including dark chocolate and milk chocolate). It is an aroma that is sometimes referred to as sweet.
Citrus: See 'Fruity / Citrus', below.
Coarse: A raspy, harsh flavour, lacking in fineness.
Earthy: The characteristic odour of fresh earth, wet soil or humus. Sometimes associated with moulds and reminiscent of raw potato flavour, considered as an undesirable flavour when perceived in coffee. Not to be confused with 'grassy'.
Floral: This aroma descriptor is similar to the fragrance of flowers. It is associated with the slight scent of different types of flowers including honeysuckle, jasmine, dandelion and nettles. It is mainly found when an intense fruity or green aroma is perceived but rarely found having a high intensity by itself.
Fruity or Citrus: This aroma is reminiscent of the odour and taste of fruit. The natural aroma of berries is highly associated with this attribute. The perception of high acidity in some coffees is correlated with the citrus characteristic. Tasters are cautioned not to use this attribute to describe the aroma of unripe or overripe fruit.
Grassy or Green or Herbal: This aroma descriptor includes three terms which are associated with odours reminiscent of a freshly mowed lawn, fresh green grass or herbs, green foliage, green beans or unripe fruit. Seldom found in coffees that have been fully dried.
Green or Greenish: See 'Grassy / Green / Herbal', above.
Medicinal: See 'Carbonic / Chemical / Medicinal', above.
Malty: See 'Cereal / Malty / Toast-like', above.
Muddy: A dull, indistinct but thickish flavour. Can be due to grounds being agitated.
Musty: Can be caused by piling or bagging wet parchment, or as result of parchment getting wet after being dried.
Nutty: This aroma is reminiscent of the odour and flavour of fresh nuts (as distinct from rancid nuts) and not of bitter almonds.
Onion: Off-flavour bordering on the foul. Often associated with the use of badly polluted and/or stagnant water. Can be minimised by the recycling of pulping water.
Phenolic: See 'Rioy / Phenolic', below.
Rancid or Rotten: This aroma descriptor includes two terms which are associated with odours reminiscent of deterioration and oxidation of several products. Rancid as the main indicator of fat oxidation mainly refers to rancid nuts, and rotten is used as an indicator of deteriorated vegetables or non-oily products. Tasters are cautioned not to apply these descriptors to coffees that have strong notes but no signs of deterioration.
Rio: See 'Rioy / Phenolic', below.
Rioy or Phenolic: A taste with a medicinal odour and off notes, of slightly iodized phenolic or carbolic. Cannot be hidden by blending as it always returns. See also 'Carbonic / Chemical / Medicinal', above.
Rubber-like or Rubbery: This odour descriptor is characteristic of the smell of hot tyres, rubber bands and rubber stoppers. It is not considered a negative attribute but has a characteristic strong note highly recognisable in some coffees, especially fresh Robustas.
Smokey: See 'Burnt', above.
Sour: Sour coffee occurs when yeasts turn alcohol into vinegar type acids which cause the 'sour' taste, as a result of over fermentation. The best way to avoid this cup defect is to wash the parchment coffee as soon as fermentation has finished and the parchment feels rough when rubbed between the hands.
Spicy: This aroma descriptor is typical of the odour of sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Tasters are cautioned not to use this term to describe the aroma of savoury spices such as pepper, oregano and Indian spices.
Sweet: See 'Chocolate-like', above.
Taint or Tainted: A term to denote the presence of flavours which are foreign to a good clean liquor, but which cannot be clearly defined or placed in any category. It is often described as an off taste or peculiar flavour for lack of a clear definition. Where the foreign flavour can be defined, it is of course named accordingly. Presence of pulp in fermenting parchment produces tainted coffee. Can be substituted by the phrase 'unclassified flavour'.
Toast-like: : See 'Cereal / Malty / Toast-like', above.
Tobacco: This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the odour and taste of tobacco but should not be used for burnt tobacco.
Unclassified: See 'Taint /Tainted', above.
Winey: This terms is used to describe the combined sensation of smell, taste and mouthfeel experiences when drinking wine. It is generally perceived when a strong acidic or fruity note is found, not necessarily unpleasant. Tasters are cautioned not to apply this term to a sour or fermented flavour.
Woody: This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the smell of dry wood, an oak barrel, dead wood or cardboard paper. A coarse common flavour peculiar to old coffee. This defect results when beans are stored for an extended period of time under unsuitable conditions. Coffee stored at low altitudes with high temperatures and humidity (as in many ports of shipment) tends to deteriorate and become woody rather quickly. All coffees become woody if stored for too long.
Aftertaste: A taste that remains in the mouth longer than usual. See also 'Astringency', under 'Mouthfeel', below.
Aroma: The fragrance of brewed coffee. The smell of coffee grounds is referred to as the bouquet. Chemically consist of aldehydes, ketones, esters, volatile acids, phenols etc.
Aspiration - Drawing coffee brew into the mouth by vigorous suction and spraying it evenly across the tongue to release gases. Aspiration provides for a better sensory evaluation.
Cupping: While tasting wine is called 'tasting', tasting coffee is called 'cupping'.
Common or Commonish: Poor liquor lacking acidity, but with full body. Usually associated with coated raw beans, and softs or pales in roast. See also 'Coated beans', under 'Defects – Agronomic / Climatic', above, and 'Pales' and 'Softs', under 'Defects – Appearance / Colorization, above.
Fiery: A bitter charcoal tasting liquor generally due to over roasting.
Flat: A lifeless coffee lacking any acidity
Foul: Objectionable liquor often similar to rotten coffee pulp. Sometimes the most advanced stage of fruity and sour coffees. The causes are mostly bad factory preparation using polluted water. One badly discoloured pulper-nipped bean is sufficient to give a foul cup to an otherwise good liquor.
Harsh: A harshness of body. Coffee of immature raw appearance (not necessarily from green cherry) frequently has a harsh flavour. Drought-stricken or overbearing trees producing mottled cherry very frequently give this flavour.
Liquoring: The term given to the organoleptic quality assessment of coffee liquor.
Neutral: An insignificant liquor not distinct in any powerful main flavours. Often used for blending.
Pointed: A fine acidity, and sharpness taste.
Smooth: A full bodied coffee, but with low acidity.
Strong: An unbalanced liquor where body predominates to the point of being tainted.
Taint or Tainted: See 'Taint / Tainted', under 'Organoleptics / Tasting – Aromas / Flavours', above.
Thin: Lacking body and acidity, can be caused if the coffee is under brewed.
Twisty: A liquor which, though not directly unclean, is suspect and may become unclean. See also 'Unclean', below.
Unclean: A coffee which has an undefined taste, almost foul.
Astringency: This attribute is characteristic of an after-taste sensation consistent with a dry feeling in the mouth, undesirable in coffee.
Body: This attribute descriptor is used to describe the physical properties of the beverage. A strong but pleasant full mouthfeel characteristic as opposed to being thin.
Mouthfeel: The sensory evaluation of tactile sensations on the palate.
Acidity: A basic taste characterised by the solution of an organic acid. The sharp lively quality characteristic of high-grown coffee, tasted mainly at the tip of the tongue. A desirable sharp and pleasing taste, particularly strong with certain origins, as opposed to an over-fermented sour taste. Not the same as bitter or sour and nothing to do with pH factors. Coffees are low in acidity, between 5 and 6 on the pH scale.
Balanced or Round: A tasting term applied when no one taste characteristic overwhelms the others.
Bitterness: A primary taste characterised by the solution of caffeine, quinine and certain alkaloids. Similar to acidity but lacking smoothness. This taste is considered desirable up to a certain level, and is affected by the degree of roast and brewing procedures.
Round: See 'Balanced', above.
Saltiness: A primary taste characterised by a solution of sodium chloride or other salts.
Sourness: This basic taste descriptor refers to an excessively sharp, biting and unpleasant flavour (such as vinegar or acetic acid). It is sometimes associated with the aroma of fermented coffee. Tasters should be cautious not to confuse this term with acidity, which is generally considered a pleasant and desirable taste in coffee. Can be caused by improper fermentation resulting in a continuation of the fermentation process during the early stages of drying and the presence of overripe cherry. Discoloured pulper-nipped beans are a frequent cause. See 'Pulper-nipped beans', under 'Defects – Processing Related', and 'Foxy beans', under 'Defects – Appearance / Colorization', above.
Sweetness: This is a basic taste descriptor characterised by solutions of sucrose or fructose which are commonly associated with sweet aroma descriptors such as fruity, chocolate and caramel. It is generally used for describing coffees which are free from off-flavours and harshness.
1 Defects in green and roasted coffee:
2 Coffee organoleptics / tasting:
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