Coffee culture nomenclature

Published: Friday, May. 23, 2014 - 6:04 pm

Call it joe, mud, wakey juice or cupped lightning, it’s said that coffee is the most-consumed beverage on the planet, after water (what about beer?). It involves a global industry that, microcosmically speaking, comes down to ordering your favorite brew from a barista (an expert at making coffee drinks).

Coffee terminology is seemingly endless and can be quite “insider,” but a bit of a working vocabulary is necessary to navigate the world of java with confidence and panache. This mini-glossary can help get you started.

Baltimore: A 50-50 blend of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, also called a “half-caf.”

Bird-friendly beans: Coffee grown in shaded rainforests amid the flora.

Burr mill: A coffee grinder with shredding discs that can be adjusted for coarse and fine grinds.

Cake in a cup: Coffee with double the sugar and cream.

Cupping: Tasting various coffees for aroma, flavor, mouthfeel and finish for critical evaluation; think wine tasting.

Crema: The brownish-reddish foam that floats atop espresso, an indicator of its quality.

God shot: When all the coffee-making elements are in harmony, sometimes a “short shot” (ristretto) of espresso can be so heavenly that, somehow, God must have been involved in its making.

Green eye: Coffee with three shots of espresso.

Hard beans/soft beans: Hard beans are grown at higher altitudes than soft beans and are generally considered the superior of the two.

New crop: Pre-roasted coffee warehoused one to four months after harvest, compared to “current crop,” stored five to 12 months from harvest.

Old crop or past crop: Pre-roasted beans warehoused for more than a year after harvest.

Portafilter: In espresso-making, it’s the filter basket that holds the metal puck full of ground coffee, and fits into the espresso machine.

Sept. 29: International Coffee Day.

Shot in the dark: Coffee with one shot of espresso.

Silverskin: A membrane-like film that covers dried coffee beans; when removed, it’s called “chaff.”

Skinny harmless: A latte made with nonfat milk and decaffeinated coffee, a.k.a. “why bother.”

Tamper: In espresso-making, it’s the tool (usually metal) used to tamp down the ground coffee in the puck that goes into the portafilter.

Viennese roast: Coffee beans that are roasted darker than American medium-brown but lighter than Italian or French. Its characteristic is low-acid smoothness.

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Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni



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