S ]

Salty One of the four basic taste sensations, yet saltiness rarely comes to the forefront in coffee taste.  When it does, it is just perceptible.

Second Crack The stage in roasting where the beans become brittle due to dehydration.  As a result, the beans crack and begin to carbonize, producing the burnt characteristics of extremely dark roasts.


Sharp Intense flavor taint resulting in salty and soury compounds.  Sharp towards salty is termed rough.  Sharp towards soury is astringent.  When used in reference to acidity, it can be a complimentary term relating to tangy and nippy.

Silverskin The thin, innermost skin of the coffee fruit.  During roasting, any silverskin left on the bean turns into chaff.

Single-Estate Term used to describe coffee produced by a single farm, single mill or single group of farms, and marketed separately from other coffees. Also: Estate-Grown, Single-Farm

Single-Origin Term used to describe unblended coffee from a single country, region or crop.

Size Classification A way of sorting coffee by the size of the green bean.  The beans fall through screens with round holes of various dimensions.  Sizes range from 13, which is the smallest, to 20, which is very large.  Peaberries are sized with screens which have oval-shaped holes from 9 to 13. Also: Screen Size

Slurp and Spit The term for slurping the coffee from the spoon, tasting it and spitting it out.

Smoky A taste sensation reminiscent of smoked food.Usually a positive descriptor, and more common in dark roasts.

Smooth A quantitative descriptor for moderately low-bodied coffee.  Also referring to a full-bodied, low-acidity coffee.

Soft Low acidity coffees that have a light or very light acidity just short of bland.  A mild coffee with a dry aftertaste.

Soft Bean Term used to describe coffees grown at lower altitudes.

Solid Drum A type of drum roaster that has a drum with solid sides.

Sour One of the four basic tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

Source The place of a coffee’s origin.  Also used as a verb, as in “to source coffee” from a particular place.

Specialty Coffee Coffee that tastes good.Coffee produced with care and sophistication to achieve recognized quality.  Also refers to green coffee with a limited amount of allowable defects.

Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) An association of specialty coffee roasters, wholesalers, retailers, importers, growers and manufacturers.

Spicy Said of aroma or flavor suggestive of spices.  Sometimes associated with aromatic, piquant or pungent.Suggesting cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

Strength Usually a term quantifying brewed coffee.  Strength is conveyed through concentration of soluble solids in suspension, not the prominence of any one characteristic.

Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) Coffee grown above 4,500 feet.

Strong A term indicating strength derived from greater soluble solids in the extraction or intensity of any one characteristic of note.It is also used as an adjective to virtue or defect, as in “a strong sour taste” or ” a strong fine aroma.”

Sun-Dried Term used for coffee that is dried by exposing it to the heat of the sun by spreading and raking it in thin layers on drying racks or patios.

Sustainable Coffee A slightly vague description for coffees grown and sold in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.

Sweet One of the four basic tastes.  Also the recognition of sweetness or the absence of bitterness in a coffee.Said of a smooth, palatable coffee, free of taints or harshness.

Swiss Water Process A trademarked decaffeination method that removes caffeine from coffee beans using hot water, steam and activated charcoal.

T ]

Taint A negative taste, fragrance or aroma occurring anywhere in the coffee chain.

Tangy A somewhat sour and fruity taste sensation.

Tart A sour taste sensation between tangy and soury.

Taste The total sensory impression of the four combined basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

Terrior The personality and character in aroma and taste represented by a coffee’s origin.An overall flavor profile common to a particular growing region, district, altitude or processing style.

Thick Term to indicate an extremely heavy body.

Toasty Having the aroma of fresh roast or fresh-baked bread.

Typica A botanical variety of Coffea arabica.  The trees are conical in shape and can reach heights of 15 feet.Widely considered to be the original arabica variety.

U ]

Umami Commonly called the “fifth taste,” this word describes the flavor that is often thought of as pungent, savory, tangy or meaty.

V ]

Varietal Traditionally refers to the genetic subspecies of coffee based on location, such as Costa Rica or Colombia .  Today more commonly used to mean varieties of Arabica, such as typica and bourbon.

Velvety Heavy in strength and body, low in acidity.

W ]

Washed Process Post-harvest process of separating the seeds from the fruit before drying.  Most important is the intermediate step of controlled fermentation between the pulping and the rinsing and drying phase.  Properly washed coffees typical exhibit sweetness, clarity and good acidity. Also: Aquapulp, Demucilage, Wet Process, Lavado

Water Process A trademarked decaffeination method that is similar to the Carbon Dioxide method, but instead of removing the caffeine with activated carbon filters, it is washed from the CO2 with water in a secondary tank and is then recycled to extract more caffeine from the coffee.

Water Quench Using water to rapidly cool roasted coffee to prevent over-roasting and the loss of aroma.

Wet Process A type of coffee processing that involves removing the skin and pulp from the bean while the coffee fruit is still moist.In the traditional wet process, the coffee skins are removed, the skinned beans sit in tanks where enzymes loosen the sticky fruit pulp and then are washed.  In the demucilage method, the pulp is scrubbed from the beans by machine. Also: Aquapulp, Demucilage, Wet Method, Washed Process

Whole-Bean Coffee Coffee that has been roasted but not yet ground.

Winey A bittersweet fruity quality characteristic of a fine red wine.  A sweet soury taste, sometimes used to describe acidity.

Woody A desirable scent or flavor reminiscent of a fine wood such as cedar or sandalwood