If you’ve recently gotten into drinking coffee or are considering making your own coffee at home using an espresso machine or another kind of coffee maker, then you may have come across some barista terminology that can be confusing at times. When you get into the world of coffee, you are likely going to come across a lot of different words that you have probably never heard of before, and maybe don’t really understand what they mean. Getting familiar with the different terms when it comes to coffee will help you get a better understanding of how your coffee is made and make it easier for you to start making your own coffee at home using any brewing method.
Common Barista Terms
Let’s start with the basics. When you first get into coffee or start brewing it at home, having an understanding of these basic coffee terms is important.
- Arabica: This refers to one of the most popular species of coffee beans. It makes up around 60% of the coffee grown around the world and is considered the better quality option.
- Robusta: This is the second most popular coffee bean species worldwide. It produces a stronger coffee compared to Arabica and is generally considered to be lower-quality.
- Body: The texture and feel of the coffee when you drink it.
- Balance: A ‘balanced’ cup of coffee doesn’t have any overwhelming aromas or flavors like bitterness or sourness but will still be complex.
- Single Origin: A coffee that comes from just one country, region, or plantation. If you get a single origin coffee, it will not be blended with another type of coffee or coffee from elsewhere.
- Exotic: When ‘exotic’ is used to describe coffee, it will have an unusual aroma or flavor. For example, coffee with floral notes.
- Earthy: A coffee described as ‘earthy’ tastes like soil or earth. This is quite common with Indonesian coffees.
- Bright: A ‘bright’ coffee has a more acidic flavor. This term is often used to describe coffee from Central America or Ethiopia.
- Caffeine: This natural alkaloid is found in coffee beans. It provides coffee with a bitter taste and provides an energizing effect when drunk.
Coffee Production Terms
Understanding the following terms can help you get a better idea of how coffee is produced and the processes that it goes through from bean to cup.
- Green Coffee: This refers to raw coffee beans that have not yet been through the roasting process.
- Fair Trade Coffee: Coffee that the farmers have been paid a fair price for. Fair Trade Coffee ensures that farmers are not operating at a loss.
- Dry Processing: A method of processing coffee cherries that involves removing the fruit from the bean without water.
- Wet Processing: A coffee processing method that removes fruit from coffee cherries using water. It is considered to produce better quality coffee.
- Parchment: A fine skin that is developed on top of the coffee beans when they are dried after wet processing.
- Roasting: This refers to the process of heating coffee beans to a very high temperature, extracting their flavor, and giving them a brown color.
- Specialty Coffee: A grade provided by the Specialty Coffee Association. Green coffee beans are graded before they are roasted and need a score of eighty or above out of one hundred points to be given this grade.
- Roasting Degree: The level of lightness or darkness of coffee beans after they are roasted.
- Roast Date: This tells you when the coffee was roasted, and how fresh it is.
- American Roast: A medium-brown roast that is popular in the US.
- Dark Roast: Coffee beans that are roasted for a longer amount of time, making them very dark in color. They are more bitter and oilier than other roasts.
- Full City Roast: A medium-dark roast with beans that have a little oil on the surface. It is known for enhancing the natural flavors of the coffee and is less acidic compared to medium roast.
- Light Roast: This refers to coffee beans that have only been roasted for a short amount of time. The beans are typically free from any oil on the surface and light brown in color.
Coffee and Espresso Making Terms
When you’re making espresso, it’s important to understand the following terms:
- Espresso machine: A coffee machine that uses a high amount of pressure to extract flavors from coffee grounds
- Portafilter: The filter basket and handle on an espresso machine where the coffee grounds are placed.
- Tamper: A tool used to press coffee into the filter basket before brewing espresso.
- Brewing Ratio: The ratio of coffee to water used when brewing coffee.
- Brewing Time: How long the water is in contact with the coffee grounds.
- Brewing Temperature: The temperature of the water that you use to make espresso or brew coffee. Ideally, you should keep the water between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit to make the best coffee. Temperature affects the extraction phase and has a major impact on the characteristics of the final cup of coffee.
- Crema: A small amount of foam that you will find on the top of an espresso shot. It occurs when carbon dioxide is forced from the oils in the coffee beans.
- Grind Size: This refers to the size of the coffee grounds used to make coffee or espresso. They can be coarsely ground or finely ground depending on requirements.
- Grinder: A grinder is used to grind whole coffee beans into a powder-like state.
Coffee Beverages Terms
Coffee can be used to make a wide range of beverages, which include:
- Espresso: A strong shot of coffee, originated in Italy. It is traditionally made with 7g of ground coffee for a 30ml serving and is brewed in around 25 seconds.
- Filter Coffee: This coffee is brewed by filtering water through coffee grounds. The filter is generally made from paper and keeps the coffee grounds from ending up in the brewed coffee.
- Cold Brew: This coffee is made using coffee grounds and cold water. It has a brewing time of twelve hours or more.
- Americano: A shot of espresso with hot water added to it.
- Latte: A drink made with an espresso shot and three times as much steamed milk as espresso, topped with a layer of foam.
- Cappuccino: A drink made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
- Cortado: A drink that includes adding an equal amount of steamed milk to a shot of espresso.
- Flat White: Popular in Australia, this drink involves adding a larger quantity of steamed milk to espresso.
- Affogato: An Italian drink made by adding a scoop of gelato to a shot of espresso.
- Mocha: An espresso drink that is similar to a latte, but with chocolate syrup or powder also added.
- Ristretto: An even stronger version of the espresso, made using less water and finely ground coffee.
- Lungo: A ‘longer’ espresso with more water due to adding more extraction time. This results in a weaker flavor compared to a regular espresso.
Coffee Brewing and Coffee Makers Terms
There are various different ways in which you can make coffee, which include:
- Pour Over Coffee: A type of drip coffee that you make by pouring a thin stream over water over a filter containing ground coffee. The water should be poured slowly and steadily to get the best results.
- Immersion Methods: A method that uses immersion refers to any coffee brewing method where the grounds are immersed in the water, rather than having the water pass through them.
- Chemex: A Chemex is a coffee maker that has an hourglass shape and is used to make pour-over coffee. The filters used by this coffeemaker are around 20-30% thicker compared to others, which filters more bitterness out of the coffee.
- AeroPress: A coffee maker that is quick and convenient, offering coffee-drinkers the option to make espresso like coffee in a very short amount of time, including while on the go.
- Moka Pot: An Italian coffee maker that brews coffee with a percolation method. It has been around since the 1930s and is still a popular sight in Italian households.
- French Press: A simple method of making coffee by immersing the grounds in hot water, allowing them to steep, and then separating the grounds from the brewed coffee using a plunger that pushes them to the bottom of the pot.
- Capsule Coffee Makers: Capsule or pod coffee makers are becoming increasingly popular. The coffee grounds are sealed in a pod, which is inserted into the machine. These machines have a fine needle that pierces the pod and allows water to pass through to extract the coffee. Common brands include Keurig and Nespresso.
While you can start making great coffee at home without understanding every single coffee term that is out there, having a general understanding of what the different things mean will definitely make it easier for you to make better coffee. You will also find it easier to choose the right coffee when you understand the different words used to describe certain characteristics, know where your coffee is from, and how it is processed.