Coffee Facts from A-Z

Are you as obsessed with coffee as we are? How well do you know your coffee knowledge? Test yourself with our coffee facts from A-Z!


Capital letters usually indicate the grade, or size of a bean, ie. Kenya AA. AA is Kenya’s highest grade involving large beans and a limit on the number of defects allowable per specified unit weight.


Liveliness, carrying the high notes of flavor in a coffee. When coffee is unripe, poorly roasted or poorly brewed acidity can become overly pronounced becoming tart, sharp or sour, as in vinegar.


“Coffea Arabica” is the species name assigned to the coffee tree by European botanist Linnaeus. Arabica coffee accounts for 67% of the world’s coffee production. Arabica typically has less caffeine than other commercial species of coffee, popularly referred to as Robusta. Arabica is the starting point for producing good coffee; nevertheless, most Arabicas are no better than Robustas, due to poor production procedures. Arabicas are more expensive to grow than Robusta.


The smell that is released from freshly ground coffee (dry aroma) and from freshly brewed coffee.


The perceived thickness, creaminess or viscosity of brewed coffee. A full-bodied coffee is one with a rich, almost heavy, mouth-feel. The perception of body can be created by sediment, produced by certain brewing methods, and, a mark of quality, by the amount of lipids (fats, oils and waxes) in the coffee.


A hot drink made with espresso and foamed milk. The European style of cappuccino calls for 1/3rd espresso, 1/3rd hot milk, 1/3rd foam in a cup holding approximately 5 ounces of beverage. Named after the Catholic Capuchin monks in Italy who wore robes that looked similar to the foam of the espresso drink.


An Arabica cultivar developed from Bourbon. Small in size but quite dense with growth, it requires greater inputs than older Arabicas but rewards the grower for it with higher yields and fine quality.


Pieces of the innermost skin of the cherry (the silverskin) that clings to the green coffee after processing. This skin comes loose in the roaster.


The ripe fruit from a coffee tree. Typically contains 2 beans, or 1 peaberry.


A term used to describe coffee with no discernible defects in its flavor.


A process used by professionals to sample and evaluate coffees that is similar to a wine tasting. Every coffee that is considered for purchase must be carefully cupped. The cupping process first involves detection of any defects or inconsistencies that might appear from cup to cup; one bad bean can destroy even a pot of coffee.

Specialty coffee cupping then proceeds to explore for positive traits. Coffees that are chosen for quality purchase must be outstanding in clean cup (no defects, taints or muddiness), sweetness, refined acidity, smooth body, distinct pleasant flavor, elegant aftertaste and good balance.


Coffee that has had at least 97% of its caffeine removed is classified as decaffeinated.


Water is poured through coffee grounds in a filter (paper or sieve) into a receptacle below. Paper filters will emphasize the aromatics and flavor layers of a brew. While a sieve will favor body by permitting sediment and more oils through.


An intense tiny portion of coffee brewed by forcing hot water at high pressure through tightly packed coffee grounds. A single espresso is approximately 1 liquid ounce. Espresso cannot be kept. After only two minutes it begins to lose its crema (foam) and smoothness of taste. It should (ideally) always be served in porcelain and enjoyed on the spot.


Coffee grounds and water are steeped together. After the grounds sink to the bottom of the coffeemaker a strainer plate is pushed down to separate the beverage from the spent grounds. This brew is thicker bodied than drip coffee since the coffees oils and extreme fine sediment have not been filtered out.


Raw coffee that is ready for roasting.


Removal of the coffee bean’s skin, called parchment, just prior to sorting.


Green coffee is packaged in jute bags usually weighing from 132 to 154 pounds, depending on origin. These are then typically batched into lots of 250 to 320 (and more) bags which fit perfectly into standard shipping containers for export. Each lot represents one specific type of coffee. Some smaller farms can combine their lots with other smaller lots to meet the minimum of 250 to 320 bags needed for export.


A “light” dark roast in the tradition of Northern Italy, think the Milan – Trieste area, typically used for espresso.


Coffee that has not come into contact with herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals. See our Certifications page for more on organic coffee.


Coffee fruit carries two seeds which face each other. When extracted and properly dried these are called coffee beans. On rare occasions (3 to 5% of the time) one of the two seeds aborts and the remaining one takes on a rounded peppercorn-like shape, called a peaberry. Peaberries can be sorted out and sold separately, often for a higher premium. They are not in themselves of higher quality than other beans.


Robusta coffee accounts for 33% of the world’s coffee production. It is cheaper to grow than Arabica since it is a much heartier plant. Robusta typically has up to twice the caffeine content of Arabica. Because of its low cost and high caffeine it is used for most commercial brands of coffee. Brewed Robusta adds more brown pigment to the brewed cup, giving it a “richer” look, and produces an un-sweet, neutral to harsh tasting cup; tastes similar to what a wet brown paper bag smells like.