Stylized Coffee Cup,

Basic Gourmet Coffee Terms

It's Not
Just Flowery Speech

If one is to be a coffee gourmet, one should know the coffee terms. What may seem like flowery speech actually has meaning. And once you are familiar with the jargon, gourmet coffee descriptions don't sound nearly as highbrow.

Basic Gourmet Coffee Terms

Two general terms used are "premium gourmet coffee" and "specialty coffee." They both simply refer to true gourmet coffee because so many grinds and beans are labeled and advertised as 'gourmet' that shouldn't be. (See the Gourmet Coffee Guide, below.)

Gourmet coffee is described in terms of...

  • flavor
  • aftertaste
  • sensation in the mouth

Coffee actually exhibits some of the same characteristics as wine.

Acidity and body both refer to the feeling a coffee leaves in the mouth. Acidity is sparkle, the crisp, light feeling on the tongue, as with a dry white wine. (It does not refer to acid levels.) A high-acidity coffee is "lively" and a low-acidity coffee is "smooth."

Body is a bold, heavy, lingering feeling, like you get sucking on dark chocolate, or drinking red wine, sometimes pungent.

Coffee will have, predominantly, high acidity or full body, but not both. Some have a nice balance though; they’re said to be "mellow." Every coffee should have some acidity, though, or it will just taste flat.

The finish of a coffee is its aftertaste; sometimes that's where all the action is. As with acidity and body, a coffee's finish can be light and crisp, even sweet, or heavy, dry, and lingering.

Many terms describe a coffee's flavor. Coffee beans tend to take on flavors in the soil in which it is grown. And coffee is often planted between other plants or trees. So besides that flavor which is distinctly coffee, it may have fruit or winey flavors, spices, nuts, herbs, flowers, or other neighboring plant flavors. It may have distinctively earthy characteristics. Kona coffee beans, for example, are grown in volcanic soil, giving Kona coffee a very rich, unique flavor, duly reflected in the price.

Gourmet Coffee Guide

4-Minute Fine Tea Guide

More mini-tutorials like Gourmet Coffee Terms

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