A-Z of Coffee Terms: the ultimate glossary for coffee lovers

No Nonsense - Simple Advice

Coffee is good, whichever way you look at it. Top to bottom, left to right, A to Z.

Oooh, A to Z of coffee, that sounds good… 26 excuses to think about coffee. So, this one’s for you, coffee lovers; a fool proof coffee glossary to save you from all coffee-related confusion!

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A – Arabica

Arabica is one of the main two species of coffee plant (Robusta is the other). Arabica beans make up 70% of the world’s coffee consumption and produce high quality, flavourful cups. Higher altitudes and cooler climates make Arabica beans more challenging (and expensive) to grow, but give a top tasting brew that’s sure to leave you beaming. Here at Two Chimps, we only roast speciality Arabica beans.

B – Body

This refers to the thickness, richness and viscosity of a brewed coffee. We say a coffee is full-bodied when it feels thicker and heavier in the mouth.

C – Crema

You know that frothy little top that crowns your espresso? That’s a crema. It’s formed when air bubbles combine with coffee’s soluble oils and is the marker of a well-ground coffee and good barista. The aromatic crema tastes more bitter than the main espresso, so the two should be swirled together before you take a sip.

Stirring an espresso in a latte glass

D – Dark Roast

Dark roast coffee beans are dark brown in colour and often have a shiny, oily surface. Compared to light roasts, dark roast beans spend more time in the roaster and give a cup that’s heavier in body and less acidic. Brew a dark roast and you’ll find that rich, classic coffee flavour with hints of chocolate, nut or spice. If you’re lucky, your dark roast will treat you to all three. ?

E – Extraction

This, in a nutshell, just means the brewing process. More specifically, it describes the amount of flavour removed from the ground coffee and into the water during the brew. Coffee compounds extract at different rates, with fruity and acidic notes extracting first, followed by sweetness, and then finally bitterness. Over-extraction occurs when the water has spent too long in contact with the grounds, while sour-tasting under-extraction comes from grounds that have not spent long enough in contact with the water.

F – Filter Coffee

This isn’t just coffee brewed with a filter – lots of brew methods use filters.

So, what’s filter coffee? This type of coffee is made by pouring hot water either manually (we usually call this pour over) or with an electric filter machine (usually called drip coffee) over ground coffee beans and through a filter. Filter coffee has a clean, bright taste and tea-like mouthfeel. It’s also a favourite amongst speciality brewers. Try this V60 dripper for filter fabulosity!

G – Grind

We kinda want to put this in bold, because this one’s really important.

Grind refers to how coarsely or finely your beans are ground. The size will depend on the way you brew your coffee. If you’re a cafetière lover, you’ll want to choose a medium grind that looks like caster sugar. Espresso machines, meanwhile, take a finer ground that resembles soft sugar. Getting the grind size spot on is a crucial step in ensuring your coffee extracts at the right rate.

Adding ground coffee to a portafilter

H – Hand picked

Hand-picking is one of the many qualities that sets speciality coffee apart. Mechanical strippers, like those used to pick commodity coffee, are impractical in the mountainous areas where Arabica coffee plants are usually grown. Instead, speciality farmers pick their coffee cherries by hand when they are perfectly ripe. This means that only the best beans make it to your brew rather than a hodgepodge of ripe, overripe and grassy-tasting unripe beans.

I – Instant coffee

Instant coffee is generally sub-standard commodity coffee in the form of granules or powder. The coffee product is freeze dried and spray dried and tastes duller and more bitter than freshly roasted speciality coffee. The bitterness often comes from the poor-quality Robusta beans, which have to be over-roasted to remove the taste of impurities.

J – Java

Coffee has many nicknames (cuppa, brew, cup of joe), but java is one of our faves. The term has been around since 1787 and was originally used to refer to the coffee grown on the Indonesian island of Java.

K – Kettle

Grab a swan neck kettle, and you’ll instantly upgrade your filter brew. Their thin, stylish spout allows you to direct the flow of water and make sure all the grounds get wet. Pouring at a consistent rate is important for achieving a well-extracted cup with wow factor!

swan neck kettle pour over kit and coffee

L – Leaf Rust

Leaf rust is an orangey-brown fungus that infects the leaves of the coffee tree. The rust causes the trees to lose their leaves and, eventually, die. Farmers manage the disease through careful spraying and by relocating their plantations to higher areas.

M – Micro-Lot

This is when a farmer grows a small amount of one coffee. It is often experimental – the farmer might be trying a new processing method, for instance – and full of unique flavours. If you fancy trying some micro-lot coffee, be sure to grab one of our Limited Edition coffees!

N – Natural Process

This is probably the oldest and most original form of post-harvest processing and is also referred to as ‘dry processed’. Once picked, the farmers lay the coffee cherries out to dry in the sun before separating the bean from the dry flesh. This process often adds a little fruity flavour to the coffee. Ooooh, cheeky!

O – Over-extraction

Over-extraction occurs when the coffee and grounds spend too long in contact with each other. Grinding too finely or leaving the coffee and grounds to steep together for too long are frequent causes of over-extraction. Symptoms of a poorly, over-extracted coffee? It’ll taste bitter, astringent, or unpleasantly strong.

Pouring coffee from Moka pot

P – Percolation

Percolation is a fancy way of describing how we pass water through a bed of coffee sitting in a filter. There are two main extraction methods (immersion is the other one). The key difference between percolation and immersion is that, with percolation, you are continually adding fresh water to your coffee. The Moka pot, espresso machine and filter coffee are all percolator methods.

Q – Quakers

Quakers are the baddie beans! The term refers to unripe beans which can make a brewed cup taste dry. This is because immature beans don’t contain many natural sugars and so refuse to caramelise in the roast. To make the cut as speciality, a coffee must be free of quaker beans. This means you won’t find any baddie beans in a bag of Two Chimps!

R – Roast Profile

Roasting coffee: it’s more art than science. The roast profile is a set of specifications that record how a certain coffee has been roasted. The profile includes lots of key variables such as temperature, roasting time and air flow and determines the coffee’s overall character and flavour. Here at TC, Andy fine-tunes every roast profile to the second to achieve spot-on coffee again and again!

S – Sparkling Water Process

The Sparkling Water Process is one of the two high-quality ways of decaffeinating coffee. It was discovered in 1967 and involves washing green (unroasted) coffee beans in liquid carbon dioxide to remove the caffeine. Unlike chemical decaffeination processes, this method leaves all the coffee’s flavour compounds untouched.

Swiss Water is the other quality decaffeination method. We like it just as much as the Sparkling Water method, so had to give it a special shout out. Two Ss for the price of one!

Why not take a peek at our awesome decaf range?

The waving goldfish bag and tin - two chimps coffee

T – Tamping

Watch the barista next time you order an espresso. Do you see them press down the coffee grounds with something that looks like a stamp? That’s tamping. And knock the ‘s’ off ‘stamp’ to give you the name of the tool: the tamp.

Tamping is a critical step in preparing an espresso. The coffee grounds are quite loosely packed when you first put them into the portafilter. This isn’t what we want. We need tightly compressed grounds so the water passes through them at an even rate. This helps to ensure a full-flavoured, well-extracted espresso.

U – Under-extraction

We’ve had over-extraction, so we guess you knew this one was coming! Under-extraction occurs when the water hasn’t spent long enough in contact with the coffee grounds. This could be because the grind size was too coarse, or the coffee dose was too low. You’ll be able to spot an under-extracted coffee by its sour taste.

V – Varietals

There are two main species of coffee plant: Arabica and Robusta. Varietals are the subspecies belonging to each type. There are many different ones, with Bourbon, Castillo, Caturra, Catual, SL28 and SL34 being some of the most common Arabica varietals. Each varietal has a different flavour and this will change depending on where the coffee was grown.

W – Washed/Wet Process

Here’s another processing method for you. This time, the farmers use a depulper machine to remove the skin and most of the flesh from the cherry. The coffee is then soaked in water to remove the rest of the sticky flesh through fermentation. Washed coffees often have a clean, complex taste with a higher acidity. This process is widely used across Latin America and parts of East Africa.

Natural & Washed separated by bags

X – Xylitol

The tricky letter in any A-to-Z. We’ve gone for Xylitol, a naturally occurring alcohol you can use as a sugar substitute in your coffee. It looks like sugar but contains 40% fewer calories and doesn’t damage your pearly whites.

Y – Yeast

Rewind to the washed process, and you’ll find yeast playing a starring role. Yeast fermentation occurs in the water tank to break down the sticky flesh with different enzymes and alcohols. The strain of yeast culture must be carefully selected because different types affect the bean’s flavour in different ways.

Z – Zzzzz

Looking for a brew without the caffeine buzz? No problem. With our ethically sourced selection of decaffeinated coffees, you can enjoy a delicious cup and still be snoozing by nine. Sleep tight!

coffee beans and Two Chimps logo

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