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Coffee Glossary: A Glossary Of The Different Coffee Types

Page 6: Terms Beginning With R To Z

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  Coffee Have a fresh cup! Photo © Julien Bastide | Dreamstime.
Since coffee beans are high in fats, the fats can go rancid, like any other oil. They will smell rancid.
Coffee with depth and complexity of flavor, full body, and an overall satisfying taste.

An iodine aroma or flavor caused by a bacteria that attacks the coffee. It used to be prevalent in coffees from Brazil, hence the descriptor.


The application of heat applied to green coffee beans for the purpose of developing certain flavor characteristics: the darker the roast, the heavier the flavor. In order, the degree of roasts recognized by the National Coffee Association, are:

  • Light Roasts: Light City, Half City, Cinnamon, New England
    Light brown in color, these varieties have not been roasted long enough for the oils to break through to the surface
  • Medium Roasts: City, American, Breakfast
    Medium brown in color and stronger flavor than Light Roasts, these beans also have a non-oily surface. This is the roast preferred in the United States.
  • Medium/Dark Roast: Full City
    Darker in color than medium roasts and richer in flavor, these beans have some oil on the surface and create a brew with a slight, bittersweet aftertaste.
  • Dark Roasts: High, Continental, New Orleans, European, Espresso,
    Viennese, Italian, French
    These slightly-dark to charred-black beans have a shiny, oily surface and create coffee—the darker the roast, the oilier the bean (long roasting brings the internal oils to the surface). They produce coffee with a pronounced bitterness, but the darker the roast, the less acidity it has.

A bittersweet smoky flavor emitted by a dark roast.

Coffea robusta typically grows in hotter and more humid areas at lower altitudes, around 600 to 1500 feet. It produces a coffee that has less fine, less nuanced qualifies than Coffea arabica, grown at higher altitudes.
Characterized by a parched, dry sensation on the tongue, related to sharp, salty taste sensations. Usually the result of lower-grown coffee.

The aroma and flavor of hot rubber tires or rubber bands, a characteristic of bad robusta coffee.

Coffee grown under shady tree canopies, in the rainforest. Coffee has traditionally been grown this way. More recently, large producers have been eliminating rainforest trees, growing coffee under the full sun. Shade-grown coffee implies organic or other ecologically-sensitive growing conditions.

Coffee that is low in acidity with smooth edges and a pleasant mouthfeel.

Low-acid, mild-flavored coffee.

Beans grown at relatively low altitudes mature more quickly and produce a lighter, more porous, less dense bean.

A puckery, astringent taste that is drying in the mouth due to poor coffee processing.
Bright acidity that dances on the tongue before quickly dissipating—the coffee version of Champagne bubbles.

An aromatic and taste perception reminiscent of either wood-spice (cinnamon) or wood-seed (clove). Aged coffees are often spicy.

Coffee that is flat with a cardboard taste due to being exposed to oxygen for too long. See Flat.

A negative quality, generally before the coffee turns woody. See also past crop and woody.

The flavor of reheated coffee.

The ratio of ground coffee to water.

The highest grade of coffee. The second best grade is Extra.

A coffee which is smooth and tasty and free from harshness.

A thick-bodied coffee with a substantial aftertaste.

Lingering acidity.

No acidity, a lifeless flavor due to underbrewing.

The appearance or color of coffee.


A strong, sugared, silty beverage made from coffee ground extra-fine into a powder almost the consistency of flour. It is made with an equal ratio of coffee and sugar in a special pot called an ibriq, boiled and removed from the heat 3 times to achieve a thick beverage with a distinctive taste that is served with the grounds. This method is the same as used to make Greek coffee. When coffee traveled north to Austria, the Viennese invented the process of filtering coffee.

A single or straight coffee from one region or country of origin.

Turkish coffee. Photo by Eyup Salman | SXC.
Coffee incorporating semisweet chocolate and heavy cream, beaten until frothy and topped with whipped cream. It can be spiced with cloves and cinnamon.

A roast slightly darker than an American Roast. Some of the chestnut-colored beans have oil on the surface, some are dry. The sugar in the beans are caramelized, and the flavor is balanced in terms of acidity, aroma, body and varietal flavor characteristics.

Coffee that has been roasted but not ground.
Exotic-flavored coffees with extreme characteristics.
A term used to describe some coffees that are full-bodied, smooth yet lively—similar to a mature red wine.
The aroma and flavor of wood—think old pine or plywood—and a very dry mouthfeel. Generally a negative quality of old coffee—see past crop—although some coffees, e.g. from Yemen and Sumatra, have a touch of woodiness as part of their natural flavor profile.

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