Speak Like a Roastmaster

Coffee Lingo

Acidity

A very desirable quality of gourmet coffee. Acidity gives coffee its brightness, liveliness and sparkle. Coffee has roughly the same pH as a carrot.

Arabica

The better of the two primary types of coffee. Arabica is preferred over its low-grown, disease-resistant and productive counterpart called robusta. Arabica is also:

  • prized by coffee lovers for it's nuance, liveliness, intensity and variety
  • grown at higher altitudes
  • less disease- and pest-resistant
  • more exclusive; it is produced in smaller volumes each year.
  • less caffeinated—contains 1.1% caffeine compared to robusta's 2.2%

Blends

A mix of beans from different coffee-growing countries. Roasters carefully craft coffee blends to develop new tastes and sensations not found in regular single-origin coffee.

Body

The heaviness or weight of the coffee in the mouth—sometimes described as mouth feel. Body can be light and thin, delicate, medium, or heavy. When a coffee's body is thin, it feels like skim milk. When a coffee's body is heavy, it feels similar to syrup or butter.

Bourbon

One of the older varieties of arabica, named after the French island colony off the coast of Africa. Though thoroughly delicious, it's difficult to find. Farmers began to abandon it long ago because its yield is less than half of the newer, less-tasty varieties. Recently, bourbon has enjoyed renewed popularity among gourmet-coffee drinkers around the world.

Caribou Coffee Natural Decaf™

This is Caribou Coffee's decaf coffee. It's made by extracting caffeine through all-natural, chemical-free decaffeination processes. Our methods preserve almost 100% of the coffee's original flavor. Learn more.

Cupping

The method that professionals use to taste and evaluate coffee. During cupping, the cupper will:

  • Grind coffee into a porcelain or glass cup
  • Pour hot water over the top
  • Let steep for a few minutes
  • Let grounds rise to the top and crust over
  • Break the crust with a silver spoon
  • Evaluate the coffee's aromas
  • Allow the coffee to cool
  • Sample the liquid, evaluate the flavors and spit the coffee out to avoid caffeine intake

Decaffeination

Typical decaffeination processes remove caffeine by mixing coffee beans with water, supercritical carbon dioxide, ethyl acetate or methylene chloride. This removes about 98% of the coffee's caffeine.

Caribou Coffee doesn't use ethyl acetate or methylene chloride decaffeination. We choose to use only all-natural, chemical-free decaffeination processes. Learn more.

Grade

The classification of green coffee by size and density. Every country has its own method of grading. The highest grade, though always sold at a premium price, may or may not be the best. In most countries, grades mean very little. The truth is always in the cup.

Green Beans

The seeds of the coffee fruit. When they're roasted, ground and brewed they yield coffee. While usually green, they can range from dull beige to light tannish-green to jade or a lovely blue-green.

Harrar

A very old growing region of Ethiopia that always uses the dry process method. It's known for its complex fruity blueberry, winey and spicy tones.

Peaberry

Usually, there are two flat, green coffee beans inside of a coffee cherry. But occasionally, only one football-shaped bean develops. This single bean is called a peaberry.

Processing

Green beans are separated from the cherry and fruit that surrounds it. This is done one of two ways:

  • Dry (natural) processing
    Ripe cherries are spread out to dry in the sun and raked several times a day to ensure even drying. After two or three weeks, the dry hull is cracked off, much like the shell from the meat of a nut. Dry processing tends to produce earthier flavors that can be very complex with low acidity, rich berry notes and a syrupy body.
  • Wet (washed) processing
    Involves cutting the skin of coffee cherries and allowing the remaining fruit to ferment until it can be easily washed off. Exposed beans are then dried. This processing method retains the perfect clarity and sweet brightness of the coffee's natural flavors.

Region

An area inside of a country that's distinguished geographically or by the flavor characteristics of its coffee. Some countries have several major growing regions. Atitlan and Huehuetenango are examples of regions within Guatemala.

Roasting

The cooking process that develops the green beans' locked-in flavors. During roasting, beans are tossed using a spinning drum that runs on hot air.

Single Origin Coffee

Describes regular coffee beans that all hail from the same country of origin. Also known as varietal, pure straight or estate coffee.