Glossary beginning with C

Click one of the letters above to go to the page of all terms beginning with that letter.



An alkaloidal compound that has a physiological effect on humans, and a slight bittering flavor. It is found throughout the coffee plant but is more concentrated in the seed / coffee bean. Arabica ranges from 1.0 to 1.6% caffeine, and Robusta (Coffea Canephora) from 1.6 to 2.2% caffeine. It is highly water soluble. The amount of caffeine in brewed coffee is directly proportional to how much ground coffee was used to make the cup. See the Caffeine FAQ for more:


A standard volume measurement for coffee cherry used in Costa Rica. A Cajuela is a standard box size, or can also be a basket. One Cajuela can result in about 1.5 kilos green coffee. A good picker can pick 15 cajuelas per day.

Cane Sugar

A lightly refined sugar, that has a slight rustic sweetness, but without molasses-like flavors of brown sugar or raw sugar. It refers to a sugar that has not fully refined, yet is bleached white. This is commonly found in sugar-producing countries. Sugar bleached white by this sulfitation process is called "mill white", "plantation white", and "crystal sugar".


Cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage with steamed silky milk on top, averaging 150-190 ml.


A defect term referring to oxidized, unpleasantly sharp cheese flavor, found in coffee that has not been stored correctly, or shipped with cheese.


The Spanish-language term for Peaberry, Caracol, is the same for "snail".


Caramel is a desirable form of sweetness found in the flavor and aroma of coffee, and is an extension of roast taste. Extremely light or dark coffees will lose potential caramel sweetness. This is a broad term, and can find many forms since it relates to the degree of caramelization of sugars; light or dark caramel, butterscotch, cookie caramel, syrupy forms, caramel popcorn, various types of candy, caramel malt (beer brewing, many types).


Caramelization is slower than Maillard reactions, and requires higher temperatures. These reactions involve only sugars. They really begin up around 150C to 180C, with water being lost from the sugar molecule beginning the chain of events. In all cases the sugar is converted to a furfuryl. These are a type of furans that have a caramelly, slightly burnt and also slightly meaty notes. The same compound is produced via a different route in the Maillard reactions. However it is with prolonged high temperature that many other types of aromas are generated. Caramelisation is more predictable than Maillard reaction due to less variation in the starting compounds. Without the sulphur or nitrogen found in the amino acids caramelization is unable to produce flavors as meaty as Maillard reactions. It is interesting to note how the sugar solutions taste changes in caramelization. A sugar solution initially will be sweet with no aroma. Through caramelization it becomes both sour and a little bitter, as a rich aroma develops. Generally the longer sugar is caramelized the less sweet it tastes, so the key is to balance the benefits of uncaramelized sugar sweetness while avoiding light roast astringency and sourness.

Carbon Dioxide Process

A decaffeination method where beans are placed in a liquid bath of highly-pressurized CO2. As I understand it, supercritical CO2 acts as the solvent penetrating the coffee and extracting the caffeine, so when the coffee returns to normal temperature and pressure, there is no residue once the CO2 floats away. Some C02's approach the chemical decafs in cup quality, others are nearer to SWP decafs. Here's a longer and perhaps simpler explanation: Here is how it works: Coffee is mixed with water, and the beans expand in size, their pores get opened and the caffeine molecules become mobile. At this point carbon dioxide is added at 100 atmospheres pressure to the pure water. Basically the water and the carbon dioxide are mixed to create the sparkling water. The carbon dioxide acts like a magnet and attracts all the caffeine molecules that became movable. When the caffeine is captured by the carbon dioxide, this is removed. The carbon dioxide is very selective and it doesn't touch the carbohydrates and proteins of the coffee beans, which would damage quality. When the carbon dioxide has finished removing the caffeine, the coffee seeds are dried naturally. Carbon dioxide is then recycled and caffeine is sold for other commercial uses.


A roast-related flavor term, referring to burnt flavors from dark roast levels. For some this is a pleasant flavor if residual sweetness is present, but plain carbon flavor is usually not pleasant.


CATIE graduate school and training program, research headquarters and an outreach center focused on coffee.CATIE, or Centro Agronomico Tropical de Invetigacion y Enseñanza (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), has dedicated itself to sustainable rural development and poverty reduction in tropical America. The center, located in Turrialba, Costa Rica. “CATIE has one of the largest collections of Arabica coffee germplasms in the world. That is to say a collection of plants that represent a large number of different varieties, but most importantly a large number of plants that came from collections made in Ethiopia; the CATIE collection has over 900 such landraces."


Catimor is a broad group of cultivars derived from HdT (Hibrido de Timor) and Caturra cross, highly productive, sometimes with inferior cup flavor. The main issue is the Robusta content in HdT, although this has given Catimor types some resistance to Coffee Berry Disease, and Rust (CLR), and in some cases to Nematodes. One issue is that Catimor is over-bearing, requires much fertilizer input, and might "wear itself out" in a short time span (5-10 years). The first research in this cross was at CIFC in Portugal in the late '60s, tested in Angola and Brazil. It was introduced in the 1980s in multiple places, one of the first being the Variedad Colombia released in 1985. Based on Brazilian and Portuguese types, IHCAFE 90 and IHCAFE 95 (Costa Rica 95) were widely planted. Honduras has Lempira, El Salvador has Catisic, Nicaragua has Catrenic. Cauvery was developed in India from plant material direct from Portugal. Indonesia is widely planted in Catimor types, such as Ateng, the main benefit being this resistance to Coffee Leaf Rust.


Catuai is a high-yield Arabica cultivar resulting from a cross of Mundo Novo and Caturra. The tree is short, with lateral branches forming close angles to the primary branches. It is robust and can tolerate areas with strong winds or rain. Catuai requires fertilization and care. It was developed by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil in the '50s and '60s, and is widely used in Brazil and Central America. There are yellow-fruited and red-fruited types, and many selections. In 2000, a new type called Ouro Verde was released with more vigor than Red Catuai.


Caturra is an Arabica cultivar discovered as a natural mutant of Bourbon in Brazil in 1937. It has a good yield potential, but was not ideal for Brazil growing conditions (due to lack of hardness and too much fruit in 3-4 production cycles). However, it flourished in Colombia and Central America and had good cup characteristics, possibly displaying citrus qualities. At higher altitudes quality increases, but production decreases, and it sometimes requires extensive care and fertilization. It has a good cup quality, and perhaps shows a more citric acidity, and lighter body than Bourbon.


Coffee Berry Borer is a pest that burrows into the coffee seed, and a major problem in many coffee origins. In Latin America it is known as Broca


Cellulose is the principle fiber of the cell wall of coffee. It is partially ordered (crystalline) and partially disordered (amorphous). The amorphous regions are highly accessible and react readily, but the crystalline regions with close packing and hydrogen bonding may be completely inaccessible. Native cellulose, or cellulose 1, is converted to polymorphs cellulose III and cellulose IV when exposed to heat. Coffee's structure is a well developed matrix enhancing the mass uniformity and aiding in the even propagation of heat during roasting. Cellulose exists in coffee embedded in lignocellulose (an amorphous matrix of hemicellulose and lignin containing cellulose), making up the matrix cell walls. Hemicellusloses are polysaccharides of branched sugars and uronic acids. Lignin is of special note because it is a highly polymerized aromatic. Severe damage occurs to the cell walls of the matrix at distributed temperatures above 446 degrees F and bean surface temperatures over 536 degrees F The actual temperature values will change due to varying levels of other constituents. Second crack, associated with darker roasts, is the fracturing of this matrix, possibly associated with the volatilization of lignin and other aromatics. Under controlled roasting conditions, the bean environment temperature should never exceed 536 degrees F. A wider safety margin would be achieved by limiting the maximum environment temperature to 520 degrees F. These temperature limits minimize damage to the cell matrix and enhances cup complexity, roasting yield, and product shelf life.


Cenicafe promotes research in coffee to aid Colombia coffee farmers, as part of the FNC


Chaff is paper-like skin that comes off the coffee in the roasting process. Chaff from roasting is part of the innermost skin (the silverskin) of the coffee fruit that still cling to the beans after processing has been completed.


Channeling refers to the formation of small water jets during espresso brewing due to poorly distributed grounds. When high-pressure water is forced toward the espresso puck, the water attempts to find the path of least resistance out, so if the coffee is not distributed evenly the water may form a small "channel" through the puck, rather than being forced through the coffee. This will result in a watery, under-extracted cup.


This is a new caffeine-free coffee from Cameroon, the first record of a caffeine-free species from Central Africa. Cameroon is a center of diversity for the genus Coffea and such wild species are potentially important in breeding programs. In this case the new species could be used for breeding of naturally decaffeinated beans. Type Locality: Bakossi Forest Reserve, Tombel Division, Southwest Province, Cameroon. Etymology: "The name is in honour of a Professor A. Charrier, who managed coffee breeding research and collecting missions at IRD during the last 30 years of the 20th century."


A coffee that has a kitchy quality, or literally cheese-like flavors in the cup. The second is actually a trade term, when their is a dairy-like sourness in the cup. We had this once in a Jamaica coffee. Also see Cappy

Chemex Coffee Brewer

A glass filter drip coffee brewer with an extended brew time.


Chicory was a popular coffee substitute and economizer for 2 centuries, back when coffee was more prized, and pure coffee was a luxury. In that time, it became a matter of cultural preference to use chicory in coffee, in the United States it was synonymous with New Orleans coffee. The specific taste of famous New Orleans brands is due to the blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory. But when I worked in New Orleans I found how stale the coffee was, and what low quality chicory was being used. If you use high quality coffee, like our French Roast Blend that you roast yourself, and a true imported French Chicory, you will get optimal results with that typical New Orleans Cafe au Lait cup character. Read the review below for the ratio of coffee-to-chicory typically used. I was always told that Chicory was related to the Radish and that is what I wrote on this page. But you savvy readers won't let me make such errors: Chicory is in the plant family Compositae or Asteraceae, the sunflower family. Think Jerusalem artichoke. Radish is in the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family, the mustard family.


In coffee, a specific multi-faceted tropical fruit flavor found in Chirimoya (Cherimoya), a fruit from the Andes. Wikipedia reads: Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. When ripe, the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado.

Chlorogenic Acid

Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are important to coffee flavor, contributing to flavor when in the proper balance and level. They are a group of phenolic acids esterified to quinic acid, and account for up to 10% of the weight of green coffee. They are known to have antioxidant properties. Like all acids, its levels are reduced in roasting; darker roasts result in less acidity in the cup. Since it reduces to quinic acid in roasting, and quinic acid in high levels results in perceived bitterness and sourness, too much CGA is not desireable. Robusta coffees have roughly 25% more CGA than arabica!

Citric Acid

Citric acid is, in moderate amounts, a component of good, bright coffees. It is a positive flavor acid in coffee that often leads to the perception of citrus fruits and adds high notes to the cup. Fine high-grown arabica coffees have more citric acid than robusta types.


Qualities in coffee that are reminiscent of a citrus fruit; orange, lemon, grapefruit, kumquat, etc. Usually these terms imply a brightness in the coffee, a more acidic, wet-processed type of coffee.

Clean Cup

Clean cup refers to a coffee free of taints and defects. It does not imply sanitary cleanliness, or that coffees that are not clean (which are dirty) are unsanitary. It refers to the flavors, specifically the absence of hard notes, fruity-fermenty flavors, earthy flavors or other off notes.

Coffee Berry Disease

A fungal disease that results in cherry dying and dropping to the ground before it is ripe. It is a serious problem in Kenya, and most of East Africa, and can be transmitted by the coffee seed.

Coffee Cherry

Coffee is a fruit from a flowering shrubby tree; we have come to call the whole fruit coffee cherry. It usually ripens to a red color, although some types ripen to yellow, and is smaller than most real cherries, but close enough. In other regards, the tree and fruit do not resemble a cherry. Old European texts often refer to the fruit as the "coffee berry". Coffee cherry can also be a flavor accent in the cup.

Coffee Crop Cycle

The Coffee Crop Cycle refers to the period of growth of the cherry to maturation and harvest. Coffee has one harvest period a year, although in some there is a second small harvest. From the flowering, to the fruit development and ripening, the coffee fruit is on the tree for a long period. The crop cycle differs for many origins. We have a chart that offers a rough estimate, but this too varies from year to year.

Coffee Diseases

Coffea Arabica is susceptible to a host of diseases, such as Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), Coffee Berry Borer (CBB, also known as Broca), and Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR). There are many others, but these diseases do the most economic damage to the coffee crop worldwide.

Coffee Grading

Coffee grading is the technical skill of evaluating and scoring of physical coffee defects in green coffee. The sample is 300 grams, and there is a particular point system to score the intensity of each defect, based on the full "black bean" which equals 1. Size is also rated in the unit of 1/64ths, so 17 screen means 17/64ths.

Color Sorting

Sorting coffee by removing beans that have a color that indicates a defect. Color coffee sorting is often done by an optical sorting machine, which has a high speed camera that watches a stream of beans and actuates a jet of air to remove off-colored beans. Most high quality coffee also involves hand color sorting, which is traditionally done by women sitting either at conveyor belts or at tables.


The co-presence of many aroma and flavor attributes, with multiple layers. A general impression of a coffee, similar to judgments such as "balanced" or "structured"


The transfer of heat between matter. In coffee, conduction heating is contrasted with convection heating, which occurs in a moving fluid.

Conical Burr Grinder

A conical burr grinder has two cone-shaped burrs that sit inside one another; coffee bean fall between the two burrs and are ground between them. Produces a much more even grind than a whirley blade grinder. Concical burr mills are very even at medium and fine grinds, less so at coarse grinds. The mill can be electrical or cranked by hand.


Transfer of heat through the bulk movement of a fluid. In the case of coffee roasting, we discuss convection in the context of heated air moving as a fluid through a roast chamber.

Country Of Origin

Country of Origin is where the coffee is grown in general terms. Region is a more specific area within the country. Arabica coffee grows in only in particular environments with adequate rainfall, temperate climates, good soil (often volcanic), sufficient altitude, and roughly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.


An audible popping sound heard during roasting. In coffee, one refers to "first crack" and "second crack," which come from two different classes of chemical reactions.


A mouthfeel description indicating thickness and soft, rounded texture. See also buttery.


A burnt flavor taste caused by phenolic compounds from dark roast levels.


Crisp can have several meanings, since it modifies other flavor terms. Crisp acidity might mean bracing, fresh fruit acids. Crisp chocolate notes might refer to tangy bittersweetness. It involves something that occurs briefly, and that provokes reaction, normally positive.


This is the crop year the coffee was harvested and processed in, and provided that the coffee has been properly stored and is the MOST current available crop, shouldn't be a primary consideration in buying a green coffee from us. It is sometimes expressed as a single year or a split year ('01/'02 for example). The industry standard is that the crop year as inked on the burlap bag means the year it was grown-picked-milled-shipped and then arrived at market. But this is a very long process which means that a very fresh green coffee selling in December of 2008 will be '07/'08. So the dates are a bit confusing but Sweet Maria's is really obsessed with green coffee freshness, and I think that many in the trade are not always paying attention to this issue. Crop is marked on all coffee bags, and is "Cosecha" in Spanish. Now that we use vacuum packing, we have extended the life of coffee and maximized it's freshness.


In coffee cupping (tasting), you first judge the Dry Fragrance by smelling the ground coffee. Then you add hot water and judge the wet aroma. This is done in 2 steps: first by sniffing the crust of floating grounds that naturally caps the liquid mixture, then by "breaking" the crust with a cupping spoon.


The naming of a cultivar should conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (the ICNCP, commonly known as the Cultivated Plant Code). A cultivar is a particular variety of a plant species or hybrid that is being cultivated and/or is recognised as a cultivar under the ICNCP. The concept of cultivar is driven by pragmatism, and serves the practical needs of horticulture, agriculture, forestry, etc. The plant chosen as a cultivar may have been bred deliberately, selected from plants in cultivation. This is the term we prefer to Varietal in terms of coffee, since it implies the intentional cultivation for organoleptic and production results.

Cultivar Flavor

In-the-cup coffee flavors (and in extension aromatics) that result from the plant material used to produce the coffee. In general, the Coffea Arabica sub-species does not display strong flavor distinctions between cultivars as one might find with wine or other fruits. Any flavors from the cultivar are highly influenced by the growing environment and processing, but in some cases cultivars have distinct taste recognizable to most coffee drinkers, as with Pacamara or Gesha types. Robusta and Liberica have distinct flavors, but these are different sub-species: Coffea Canephora (robusta) and Coffea Liberica.

Cup Of Excellence

The Cup of Excellence (COE) is a competition held more-or-less yearly in many coffee producing countries. Until 2008, the COE was limited to Central and South America, but with the 2008 Rwanda Cup of Excellence the competition has expanded to Africa, as well. In the COE, coffees are rated by an international jury and then auctioned off. COE coffees regularly fetch many times normal market rates for coffee, with the top coffees ofter selling for more than $20/pound.The Cup of Excellence was founded in 1999 in Brazil and expanded to other countries in the coming years.

Cuppers Correction

The cupper's correction is a term we use to measure the "intangible" qualities of a cup: if, for instance, a coffee totals 88 points, but it is high quality enough that we feel it should be a 90, we add in a +2 cupper's correction.

Cupping Spoon

A cupping spoon is specifically designed for the tasting procedure of the same name, cupping. It is similar to some bouillon spoons or gumbo spoons, and features (usually) a round deep bowl and arched handle. They are highly fetishized objects by the coffee cupper, and some guard their favorite spoon jealously!

Current Crop

Refers to any coffee that has not been replaced by new crop shipments, even if it was shipped from origin many months before. See Past Crop and New Crop as well.