Terms and Meanings


Acidity is a desirable characteristic in coffee. It is the sensation of dryness that the coffee produces under the edges of your tongue and on the back of your palate. The role acidity plays in coffee is not unlike its role as related to the flavor of wine. It provides a sharp, bright, vibrant quality. Without sufficient acidity, the coffee will tend to taste flat. Acidity should not be confused with sour, which is an unpleasant, negative flavor characteristic.

The wonderful smell of freshly roasted and ground coffee. The acidity will help you sense this aroma. Aroma is a sensation which is difficult to separate from flavor. Without our sense of smell, our only taste sensations would be: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The aroma contributes to the flavors we discern on our palates, such as vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon. Subtle nuances, such as “floral” or “winey” characteristics, are derived from the aroma of the brewed coffee.

Bitterness is a harsh unpleasant taste detected towards the back of the tongue. Most of the time this would mean a bad coffee unless it was a very dark roast where the bitterness is intentional. It can be caused by a number of factors including burnt coffee or milk, incorrect grind, defective beans or over-roasted beans.

A pale flavor perceived on the upper sides of the tongue, caused by sugars reacting with the salts to reduce saltiness. Commonly found in low grown robusta beans and coffee that has been under extracted.

Body is the feeling that the coffee has in your mouth. It is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness or richness that is perceived on the tongue. A good example of body would be that of the feeling of whole milk in your mouth, as compared to water. Your perception of the body of a coffee is related to the oils and solids extracted during brewing. Typically, Indonesian coffees will possess greater body than South and Central American coffees. If you are unsure of the level of body when comparing several coffees, try adding an equal amount of milk to each. Coffees with a heavier body will maintain more of their flavor when diluted.

Often used to describe the good pleasant acidity of the coffee, the bright taste left in your mouth.

A salty sensation associated with coffee that has been over roasted or brewed too hot.

A full flavor and oily “mouthfeel.”

An aromatic created by a volatile of sugar compounds that produces a sensation reminiscent of syrup or caramelized sugar.

A coffee that has burnt, charcoal tasting overtones.

A tasting term describing sensation shifts; resonance, depth.

The caramel colored, creamy layer on top of a shot of espresso. A good espresso should produce at least 1/5th inch (5mm) layer of crema on top. The crema “caps” the espresso retaining its flavor and aroma.

A tasting term describing coffee which tastes a little off and a bit like dirt. It has an earthy or musty flavor.

The after taste or the lingering taste of the coffee.

Flavor is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma and body are all components of flavor. It is the balance and homogenization of these senses that create your overall perception of flavor.

A taste sensation created as the salts in the coffee combine with the sugars to increase the overall sweetness. A smooth, well balanced coffee with low to medium acidity.

Perceived primarily on the trip of the tongue, used to describe coffee that is free from harsh flavors or defects.

A smooth, full-bodied flavor with a hint of acidity and dryness associated with fine red wines. Often found in coffees that are grown above 4,000 ft.