Glossary beginning with S

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



S-line coffees include the heavily planted S795 and the earlier S288, which have good rust (CLR) fungus resistance. In Indonesia they are planted widely as well, and called Linie S, found in Lintong, Aceh, Flores, Sulawesi, Papua, Bali and Java.


Selection 288, a coffee leaf rust (CLR) resistant strain of arabica released by the Coffee Board of India in 1937


S795 is a hardy variety developed in India, and stands for Selection 795, a cross of S288 and the older Kent variety. It has strong CLR Rust fungus resistance, and is widely planted in India. S-line coffees are also in Indonesia.


A flavor hint of sage found in coffee, either leafy sage, dried sage, or sage flower. This could indicate a more rustic cup quality, or even defect flavor in dried sage, or a very clean floral aspect.


As the name intimates, these berries float. They are white or nearly white, not having the waxiness of normal coffee, appearing as though deficient in fat. Goes well with Quakers.


Salty is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, saltiness is not usually a positive quality, but more moderate amounts related to minerally flavors can be positive. We have found some Brazil coffees to have salty and mineral-like character.

Sapid Flavors

Pleasant tastes, referring to "in the mouth" sensations derived from the basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory (umami). In a broader sense, sapid means "pleasing to the mind", referring to the intersection between pleasant sensory input and mental enjoyment.


Sarchimor is a disease-resitant Catimor-relative, crossed between Villa Sarchi and Hibrido de Timor


The SCAA stands for Specialty Coffee Association of America, and is a trade group. The SCAA was formed by a group of roasters and importers who felt they did not have a trade association that represented their interests. The main commercial coffee group is the the NCA (National Coffee Association), which tends to cater to larger roasters, although that has changed over time. The annual SCAA trade show in one of the major gatherings for coffee people from all parts of the business, and all over the world. There is also the SCAE for Europe and SCAJ for Japan, who also have smaller trade shows each year.


Mineral buildup formed over time as hard water is heated in a boiler. Excess scale causes brew problems and eventually shortens the life of a machine, so espresso machines and brewers should be regularly descaled.


Scorching refers to a roast error that can be discerned by inspecting the roasted coffee, where darker burn marks appear in patches, especially on the flat surfaces. These can be seen as the coffee reaches 1st crack, but can sometimes be hidden by roast color at darker roast levels. But the flavor defect that results will remain. It can easily be tasted in the cup; burnt or smoke flavors, or a lack of sweetness. It is usually the result of an over-heated roast environment (initial drum temperature too high), or over-charged roast drum (too much coffee in the drum, or possibly not enough air movement. Natural coffees from lower-grown sites can be more susceptible to tipping and scorching. Scorching is also called Facing.

Scott Laboratories

The Kenya research organization that was contracted with cultivar development from 1934-1963. Scott Labs was responsible for the development of the SL varieties, based on the Mokka and Bourbon types brought by the Scottish Mission and French Mission to Kenya from Yemen and Bourbon island.

Scottish Mission

The Scottish Mission introduced Mokka coffee from Yemen to their site in Kibwezi Kenya in 1893, and later at Kikuyu. These were called the St. Austin and St. Augustine types in Yemen, but morphed into something new in Kenya. The French Mission coffee introduced from Tanzania to Kenya a few years later (1897) was more popular and had better characteristics.


Screen-drying is also called Raised Bed or Africa Bed drying because of it's original use in Ethiopia. It is a method of drying coffee in the sun, laying it on elevated screens or mats to allow air movement through the coffee. It is now used in many countries because it allows for even drying with both sun and convective air movements through the elevated coffee beds. It is considered better than Patio-drying by many.


Running coffee through a screen with holes of a fixed size to sort beans for size.

Second Crack

Second Crack is the second audible clue the roaster-operator receives about the degree-of-roast, following First Crack. Whereas First Crack sounds a bit like popcorn popping, Second Crack has a faster, shallower patter, much like Rice Krispies in milk, electrical sparking, a snapping sound. Second crack is a further stage of the pyrolytic conversion of compounds in coffee and occurs around 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The 2nd crack is a physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee, and results in an eventual migration of oils to the outside of the bean, as they are freed from their chambers within the coffee. When second crack is volatile, it can blow small discs off the coffee bean.


Semi-washed has been used, most commonly in Brazil, to describe a hybrid coffee process. But it is uncertain if the term always indicates the same method. Semi-washed coffees are also very common in Sumatra, where they are called Giling Basah. Semi-washed coffees are best described as "wet-hulled", and will have more body and often more of the "character" that makes Indonesians so appealing and slightly funky. In this process, the parchment coffee (the green seed with the parchment shell still attached) is very marginally dried, then stripped of the outer layer, revealing a white-colored, swollen green bean. Then the drying is completed on the patio (or in some cases, on the dirt), and the seed quickly turns to a dark green color.


Semperflorens is a mutant cultivar with Bourbon genetic background, named for the fact it flowers year round (is resistant to photoperiodism). It was found in Brazil in 1934.

Sensory Analysis

Sensory Analysis is a broader term for all qualitative evaluation of food and beverage. In coffee, it is a better term for what we call "cupping"

Shade Grown

An ambiguous term used to describe coffee grown under shade. Shade grown coffee is said to better preserve animal habitats and avoid mono-culture on farms, but the truth of this may depend on the growing region. If a farm exists on the top of an arid plateau, for instance, it might be above the tree-line and, hence, naturally exposed to the sun. "Shade Grown" is also not an official certification (e.g. "Organic," "Fair Trade"), so no official standards for determining "shade grown" status exist.


Sidikalang is found less and less frequently in Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia. Much of the Typica was lost in the late 1880s, when Coffee Leaf Rust swept through Indonesia. However, both the Bergendal and Sidikalang varieties of Typica can still be found in Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Flores, especially at higher altitudes and in remote areas.


A mouthfeel description indicating a delicate, light, elegant softness and smoothness. Usually refers to a lighter body than terms such as velvety, or creamy.


On dried green bean coffee, the thin inner-parchment layer that clings to the bean and lines the crease on the flat side. Silverskin becomes chaff and falls off the bean during roasting. It is a fine inner layer coating the seed, between the thicker parchment and the bean. Formerly, dry mills would polish coffee to remove the silverskin, since the coffee looked better to the buyer. But this generates heat that damages cup quality, so the polishing step is discouraged.


Skunky is a defect term related to improper roasting; tipping or scorching of coffee. It relates to a lack of sweetness, a presence of bitterness, and a particular skunk-like animal character


Scot Labs selection 28 Kenya cultivar, a preferred type with Bourbon and Mokka heritage. It supposedly is selected from Tanganyika DR cultivar, found by A.D. Trench on a trip through Tanzania, and has similar drought resistant properties. DR is of French Mission Bourbon origin. Many prefer SL-28 to the other successful, sidely used cultivar, SL-34.


Scott Labs selection 34 Kenya cultivar, a preferred type with French Mission Bourbon heritage. It supposedly is selected from French Mission Bourbon trees at Loresho Estate in Kabete Kenya. SL types are responsible for 90% of Kenya coffees. SL_34 has better yields than SL-28, and is grown at lower altitudes than SL-28


Our shorthand for Sweet Maria's.


This smell and flavor is similar to fireplace effluence, campfire, or burnt food. Dark-roasted or oven-roasted coffees can have smokey flavors, or roasters where the air is recycled in the roast drum (or does not vent at all). Sometimes green coffee can have a smokey hint, and this might be found in the roasted coffee too, suggesting bad mechanical drying at the coffee mill. Smokey hints might be a positive quality in certain exotic coffees (Monsooned India, Aged Java and Aged Sumatra come to mind) or in rustic Yemeni coffees.

SO Espresso

Short for Single Origin espresso, meaning using one origin specific coffee to make espresso, as opposed to using a blended coffee.


Sorting refers to several steps performed in the preparation of coffee for export. Coffee is sorted by size on a grader or screener (and peaberry is sometimes removed as well). It is sorted by density on a density table (Oliver table, or rarely an air density sorter). It is sorted by color with a high tech optical color sorter, and/or by hand, visually.


Sour is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sourness in moderate amounts os favorable, although the term has negative connotations. Sourness can result from too-light roasts, which have a corresponding bitterness. It can also be the result of acidity, which is usually a favorable characteristic.

Sour Bean

A "sour" is a physical coffee bean defect due to excess fermentation where bacteria or xerophilic mold attack the seed. They range from yellow to brown in color, and can occur from several conditions: over-fermentation, falling to the ground, excessive time between harvest from the tree and processing. The favor from sours is (no surprise) sour, fermented, acetic, fruity, sulfurous, vinegary.

South American Coffee

South American coffee varies widely from country to country, from chocolaty semi-washed Brazils to lighter Colombias, Organic Peru coffees to high grown Bolivia. No specific flavor can be attributed to South American coffees.


Sparkles is a key coffee quality term, and refers to brightness in the cup. Bright things often shine, both visually and in a gustatory sense, and that is expressed among tradespeople as sparkley, sparkles, or "this coffee is well-sparkled." It is not related to crystals, as in the proprietary "flavor crystals".

Specialty Coffee

Specialty coffee was a term devised to mean higher levels of green coffee quality than average "industrial coffee" or "commercial coffee". At this point, the term is of limited use, since every multi-national coffee broker opened a "specialty division" and because, under the same term, coffees of highly varying quality, high to low, are imported. Some say Erna Knutsen, the San Francisco coffee broker, coined this term. Some say it was Rod Lazar's grandfather, Frenchie Lazar. At the time the SCAA was formed, it certainly meant something more than now. And some called this "Gourmet Coffee" which means ?@$# ???


A reference to the mouthfeel of a coffee when it leaves a tactile impression of sponges. This is often found in Liberica coffees, and can be unpleasant if excessive.


Coffea Stenophylla is a distinct Species in the Genus Coffea originating in West Africa, endemic to foothill elevations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, and taken into Ghana and Nigeria. It is slow to mature and has mild to poor cup character. It has unique purple fruit when ripe.


Green coffee in general can be stored up to one year from the date of processing with no noticeable changes in flavor. Bright, delicate coffees can fade faster; earthy coffees can last a bit longer. Very often the type and quality of the processing methods used on the coffee will determine how long a coffee will hold up. For example, "Miel" or pulped natural processing very often shortens the storage life of a coffee - you will see changes in flavor sooner and in a more pronounced way than with other processing methods. Coffee ought to be stored in a cool dry place, ideally in a breathable container like burlap, or cotton. For a hundred years or more coffee has been transported the same way, in large burlap or jute bags. More recently, producers have experimented with vacuum packaging and storage in special multi-layer poly bags to extend the life of the coffee. It has been more recently that Storage has become a greater factor in the processing chain of coffee.


A dried hay-like character due to age of the green coffee and the corresponding loss of organic material storage.

Strecker Degradation

The Strecker Degradation is an interaction of amino acids (AKA proteins) with a carbonyl compound in an environment with water, resulting in the creation of CO2 and an Aldehyde or Ketone. The later two components are important for volatile aromatics and flavors, and the Strecker Degradation contributes to browning. It involves compounds formed in the Maillard reaction and is therefore necessarily linked to it in coffee roasting.

Strictly Hard Bean

In Costa Rica, a classification/grading for specialty coffee. indicates the coffees was grown at an altitude above 1200 meters/4000 feet. Beans grown at a higher altitude, have a greater density, and thus a better specialty cup.

Strictly High Grown

a general Specialty Coffee classification/grading. It indicates the coffees was grown at an altitude above 1200 meters/4000 feet. Beans grown at a higher altitude, have a greater density, and thus a better specialty cup. It is pretty much synonymous with SHB, Strictly Hard Bean, the classification used in Costa Rica for the same grade of coffee.

Strictly Soft

Brazil has it's own grading system for defects in the cup - Strictly Soft is the highest grade in the schema. Hard is considered a middle grade defective/commercial level coffee, so the term soft expresses clean, mild flavors


Many people say that they like "strong coffee" but this term needs to be pulled apart a bit to have any meaning. Some origins can be more pungent or intense than others, usually due to the processing methods or the preparation. Dry-processed coffees will in general have more earthy and potentially wild flavors. Aged coffees definitely have strong flavors - pleasant to some, not so much to others. We refer to this as "Bold" in our reviews - a vague term, but opposed to mild. Strong is in opposition to "weak" and can only mean brew strength, the intensity of the brewed coffee, if it is brewed in a more concentrated way, with too much ground coffee in respect to the amount of water used. Espresso is obviously one of the strongest coffee drinks since by definition it is a coffee extract, i.e. very little water in proportion to a large dose of coffee. Strong might also be interchangeable with "Bold", another vague descriptor and both of these could also refer to a dark roast level.


Like Balance, structure is an esoteric term. After all, you can't taste a "structure" nor can you taste a "balance." They come from a sense of all the sensory components of a coffee, characterizing the relation between flavors, acids, mouthfeel and aftertaste as well-defined and comprehensive. Well-structured coffee has an architectural feel, as something that is "built", well-founded, solid, with flavors and sapid experiences that relate well to each other. Usually it refers directly to the acidity, or perhaps we might say the acidity is a core component of structure, since a coffee with weak acidity tastes limp and flat.


Sucrose is largely destroyed by the roasting process through various reactions and thermal caramelization. It is destroyed at this rate: 2.9% remains in a light roast; 0.9% in a medium roast, 0% in a dark roast. Sucrose is sweeter before caramelization, but perhaps more aromatic after caramelization. Still, if there is no sweet taste, the perception of caramelized sucrose will not be sweet. "Sucrose is the principle sugar in coffee. The melting point of pure crystalline sucrose is in the 320-392 degrees F with 370 degrees F most commonly accepted. Degradation of dry sucrose can occur as low as 194 degrees F. and begins with the cleavage of the glycosidic bond followed by condensation and the formation of water. Between 338 and 392 degrees F, caramelization begins. It is at this point that water and carbon dioxide fracture and out-gassing begins causing the first mechanical crack. These are the chemical reactions, occurring at approximately 356 degrees F, that are exothermic. Once carmelization begins, it is very important that the coffee mass does not exotherm (lose heat) or the coffee will taste "baked" in the cup. A possible explanation is that exothermy of the charge mass interrupts long chain polymerization and allows cross linking to other constituents. Both the actual melting point of sucrose and the subsequent transformation, or caramelization, reaction are effected by the presence of water, ammonia, and proteinatious substances. Dark roasts represent a higher degree of sugar caramelization than light roasts. The degree of caramelization is an excellent and high resolution method for classifying roasts."


A Colombian coffee grade referring to screen size of 17-18 screen. In the traditional bulk Arabica business, Supremo was the top grade Colombia, with Excelso one step below at 15-16 screen. Neither of these refer to cup quality, only bean size.


Usually a taste defect, reminiscent of the smell of flavor of sweat, sometimes considered mildly positive. It can be the result of bad storage conditions for green coffee, but we have also experienced it from roast profiles where the seed is overroasted on the interior due to too much conduction in the thermal transfer. It is an unsweet taste. Some Kenyas can be mildly sweaty, i.e. akin to minerally, not with a stench of foul sweat. It can be found in Yemeni coffees as well, along with leather and hide notes, and has some relation to musty flavors in Indonesia coffees.


Sweetness is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sweetness is a highly desirable quality, and the green bean has many sugars and polysaccharides. However, the main sugar, sucrose, is largely destroyed by roasting, with only 2.9% remaining at a light roast, and 0% at a darker roast. When caramelized sugars have aromatic sweetness, but not sapid sweetness on the palate. Hence, over-roasting is to be avoided to preserve some sweetness.

SwissGold Filter

A brand of reusable metal filter for drip coffee brewing. Swissgolds are alternatives to paper coffee filters. They have the advantage that they do not impact a taste to the cup (paper filters can give a paper-y taste), and they are reusable. Swissgolds have larger pores than paper filters, which means larger particles make their way into the cup.


Swiss Water Process is a patented water filtration decaf method, not a chemical solvent method. The plant is in Vancouver, Canada.