The Quick Guide To Coffee Tasting Lingo

Posted on 10. Nov, 2012 by in Articles, How-To

When it comes to talking about coffee, the true coffee lovers will know to use coffee jargon. Why? Just because they can. Be one step closer to becoming one of these well-respected coffee connoisseurs by familiarizing yourself with some of the basic coffee terminology. In this article, we will focus especially on the specific adjectives and properties that are used to describe the flavor and characteristics of a coffee brew. Let’s get started!

The flavor of coffee

When it comes to talking about the flavor of coffee, people will come up with the craziest comparisons. The whole point of identifying the taste of coffee however is to share what the flavor reminds us of. It is not uncommon to hear or read about a certain type of coffee having a “fruity” or an “earthy” flavor. Describing the flavor of coffee is thus quite subjective, but the sign of a good description is that you can generally see where the person is coming from after you tasted the coffee they were talking about. If you have a conviction that the coffee you tasted has the distinct flavor of a pumpkin but nobody else seems to realize it, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable position. Yes, admittedly, tasting coffee can be a little ostentatious if you take it too seriously. Always be casual about discussing the flavor of coffee, especially when you are a beginner coffee taster, and let people have their own opinion. After all, what matters is that you both like the way coffee tastes.

The acidity of coffee

When we talk about the acidity of other liquids such as water, we usually think in terms of the concentration of hydrogen ions, commonly known as the pH scale, ranging from 1 to 14. Water for instance should have a neutral pH of 7. Talking about the acidity of coffee however means something different. The acidity of coffee refers to the sharp but pleasing aftertaste that a gulp of the brew leaves in your mouth. The higher the so-called “acidity” of coffee, the more refreshing and interesting it is considered. Coffee with little or no acidity is often referred to as “flat” coffee, because its aftertaste is quite dull and boring. It may be a little difficult to appreciate this written description so go ahead and brew yourself a cup of coffee to try to evaluate the acidity yourself while you read on!

The body of coffee 

Unless you are a wine expert, you may be wondering how a liquid can have a body…well, in drink tasting terminology, body refers to the thickness, viscosity and texture of the drink as it feels in one’s mouth. Usually, a brew with a fuller body feels richer while a cup that lacks body is usually quite watery. The viscosity and thus the body of coffee is determined not only by the bean’s variety and place of origin, but also the method used to prepare the brew. This is because the body is ultimately determined by the chemical and oil content of the coffee drink. The different brewing methods affect the chemical content of the brew differently. A French-pressed cup of espresso will feel a lot richer than an espresso prepared with a filter machine. This is because the filter catches most of the chemicals that would otherwise give the coffee its body, leaving it quite watery. Keep in mind though; there is nothing wrong with liking coffee with a more moderate body.

The aroma of coffee 

The aroma of coffee refers to the way it smells. Smell is probably the first sense that you use to notice coffee near you, since the aroma lingering in the air is quite powerful and distinctive. However, aside from the regular coffee smell that we are all too familiar with, there are more subtle, nuanced characteristics to the aroma of coffee that are worth noting. Once again, just as with tasting, the smells that people associate the smell of coffee with can be quite fantastic. A “flowery”, “muddy” or “woody” aroma is not unheard of, and these are some of the more normal similes used. Feel free to be creative; do not let your inhibitions or your fear of being judged prevent you from forming your own opinion about the smell of a brew of coffee. A good way to practice developing and appreciation for the subtle aroma of coffee is to simultaneously drink and smell different brews.

The finish of coffee

The finish refers to the final aftertaste that coffee leaves on your palate. Does the coffee simply pass down your throat without any memory or does it leave a pleasant (or unpleasant?) lingering taste? Do you feel refreshed? Do you feel like you need another gulp? Determining the feeling associated with the finish of a coffee is not easy. In fact this is a very tough one to put into words for a lot of people, so don’t worry if you find yourself searching for words.


We hope that this article helped to clear up some of the coffee jargon you might have seen on our website or heard people talk about. The days of pretending to know what we have been talking about is now finally over!

If you have any questions, comments, opinions or perhaps requests for more articles of this nature, please do not hesitate to leave a comment in the appropriate box below!

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