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Coffee Descriptors:
ginny
A

Acerbic
A taste fault in brewed coffee that leaves a sour and acrid taste. Can be the result of leaving brewed coffee on heat.

Acidity
A measure of the acid content of the liquid; in fine coffees, acidity results in a pleasant sharpness. Acidity points out a coffee’s flavor and provides liveliness, sparkle or snap to the drink. It is tasted mainly on the tip of the tongue. The acidity of a coffee may be assessed as lively, moderate, flat or dull. Not to be associated with the genuinely sour taste.

Aftertaste
The perception of brewed coffee vapors released after swallowing. Characteristics can range from carbony, chocolaty and spicy to turpeny.

Aroma
is the fragrance of brewed coffee. The smell of coffee grounds before being brewed is referred to as the Bouquet. Think of the aroma of coffee as "the best part of waking up," however, it may not refer only to the brand that that phrase is associated with. Whenever you enjoy a whiff of brewing coffee, you are enjoying its "aroma."

B

Baggy
An off taste or smell akin to burlap bags.

Baked
Tasteless, flat or bland.

Balance
Tasting term applied to coffees for which no single characteristic overwhelms others.

Bitter
Bitterness is the taste perceived at the back of the tongue. Dark Roasts are intentionally bitter. Over-extraction, or too little coffee at too fine a grind, can be a cause of bad bitterness. Whether or not you like dark roasts, bitterness is a part of coffee cupping. Studying the flavors of coffee includes bitterness, as well as many other qualities.

Bland
The word "bland" refers to the pale flavor often found in low grown robusta coffees. Blandness can also be caused by under-extraction, meaning that there is too little coffee or too course a grind. Bland coffee has little flavor and is not desirable for people who enjoy the complex flavors and aromas of fine coffee products.

Body
The tactile impression of the weight of the coffee in the mouth is called its "body." You can see body listed on many different coffee blends or coffee bags. The body of a coffee may range from thin to medium to full to buttery to syrupy. Try many differently bodied coffees to discover which one is your favorite.

Brackish
A taste that is bitter and salty.

Bright
Tangy acidity is often described as bright, when describing the flavors of coffee. This sharp, or bright quality is common in Central American coffees. You can taste acidity mainly on the tip of your tongue, and bright flavor is refreshing and snappy. Try to discern brightness when tasting new coffees.

Briny
The salty sensation caused by excessive heat after brewing is described as "briny." Truck-stop coffee will often have this unpleasant quality. To avoid briny coffee, make sure not to let your fresh pot sit on the heat for a long time. If you need another cup hours after you brewed your first pot, it is best to start fresh rather than drinking the now-briny brew.

Buttery
A rich, full flavor with an oily body or texture.

C

Caramelly
An aromatic sensation created by the sugar compounds that produce tastes reminiscent of candy or syrup.

Chocolaty
An aromatic perception in a brew’s aftertaste, reminiscent of unsweetened chocolate or vanilla.

Clean
A coffee cupping term describing a coffee sample that is free from flavor defects.

Complexity
A tasting term describing coffees whose taste sensations shift and layer pleasurably, and give the impression of depth and resonance.

Cup Character
A means of describing a cup of coffee that includes the coffee’s aroma, fragrance, acidity, body, sweetness, aftertaste and freshness.

Cupping
The technique used by cuppers to evaluate the flavor profile of a coffee. To understand the minor differences between coffee growing regions, it is important to cup coffees from around the world side-by-side. Cupping is also used to evaluate a coffee for defects or to create coffee blends.

D

Delicate
Related to mellow; characterized by a fragile, subtle flavor; perceived by the tip of the tongue.

E

Earthy
The description, "earthy," refers to the spicy "of the earth taste" of Indonesian coffees. Earthiness is a very nice quality in coffees, which is smooth, fresh, and even reminiscent of soil or damp earth. While this may seem to be a bad description of flavor, once you recognize it you can appreciate how enjoyable an "earthy" taste really is.

Exotic
When "cupping" coffee, one word that could be used as a descriptor is "exotic." This generally refers to unusual aromatic and flavor notes, such as berry or floral. Exotic flavors are those which you don't normally experience while drinking your normal cup of coffee, and are often undertones or subtle notes in the overall flavor.

F

Finish
The sensory experience of coffee just as it is swallowed.

Flat
Used when describing bouquet to denote a lack of strong perceptions in fragrance, aroma and aftertaste; also called dead.

Flavor
In cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee, flavor is what distinguishes the sensory experience of coffee once its acidity, body and aroma have been described.

Fragrance
As a specialized term in cupping, or sensory evaluation of coffee, fragrance describes the scent of dry coffee immediately after it has been ground, but before it is brewed. Can be described as ranging from floral to spicy.

Fruity
An aromatic sensation reminiscent of citrus fruits or berries.

G

Grassy
Used to describe an odor and taste in some coffees that is reminiscent of a freshly mown lawn, with accompanying astringency like that of green grass.

M

Mild
A trade term for high-quality Arabica coffees, often contrasted with hard or inferior coffees.

Mellow
Full, well-balanced coffee, implying low or medium acidity.

N

Nutty
An aromatic sensation that is released as a brew is swallowed; reminiscent of roasted nuts.

R

Richness
A satisfying fullness in flavor, body and acidity.

S

Spicy
Aromatics reminiscent of various spices, detectable either when smelling or tasting coffee. When discerning the flavors of coffee, spiciness is similar to what you describe in other foods and drinks. Spice flavors in coffee are just like spices in other foods. Flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, chili, and many other spices can all be discerned in different coffees.

Stale
Stale coffee has been exposed to oxygen for too long. It becomes flat and has a cardboard taste. Leaving your can or bag of coffee open or cracked to expose air can cause coffee to go stale. To avoid this, use an airtight container to store your coffee, and even keep it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

Sweet
When describing coffee, the term "sweet" means smooth and palatable coffee that is free from defects and harsh flavors. Adding sugar to coffee is not the same as a coffee tasting sweet. Sweetness depends on the actual flavors of the coffee bean and roasting technique, so when learning coffee cupping you will discover that sweetness is a much more subtle flavor than what you normally think of as sugary sweetness.

T

Tobacco
The aroma and flavor of fresh tobacco in brewed coffee. A tobacco-like taste is not necessarily disagreeable and is found in various specialty coffees throughout the world. A tobaccoy taste or aroma should not be confused with characteristics of burnt tobacco (ash).  

Tone
The appearance or color of coffee is described as its tone. A description of the tone of coffee may look like; "this light toned coffee resembles the brown robes of the Franciscan Order." Pouring your coffee into a clear glass mug will help you to determine its tone, and is a technique for coffee cupping.

W

Winy
Using the term "winy" when describing coffee means that the coffee has a flavor reminiscent of fine red wine. Kenya is one of the most notable regions to produce" winy" coffee. This rich, complex flavor is something that you can learn to recognize when studying cupping. The more coffees you taste, the more wine, sweet, and other flavors you will be able to discern. Aroma Aroma is the fragrance of brewed coffee. The smell of coffee grounds before being brewed is referred to as the Bouquet. Think of the aroma of coffee as "the best part of waking up," however, it may not refer only to the brand that that phrase is associated with. Whenever you enjoy a whiff of brewing coffee, you are enjoying its "aroma."
Edited by ginny on 03/12/2013 12:03 PM
 
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