Sweet Maria's Coffee Glossary

All Terms:
(A-C), (D-L), (M-S), (T-Z)

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   Processing    Biology/Cultivars    Trade Terms    Sweet Maria's Terms    Defects


Acrid
A general negative flavor term, from defect bean, bad roast, or bad brewing: Unpleasantly sharp, astringent or bitter to the taste or smell.
Related Terms:
Defects Astringent
Categories:
Defects


Alkaloid
A taste sensation characterized by a dryness and related bittering flavors, sometimes at the posterior of the tongue, usually sensed in the aftertaste. It is not always a wholly a bad thing, in moderate intensities
Related Terms:
Aftertaste Cupping Flavor Sensory Analysis
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Ashy
A quality in aroma or flavor similar to that of an ashtray, the odor of smokers' fingers or the smell one gets when cleaning out a fireplace. In the most moderate amount, it may not ruin a cup, but is never used by Sweet Maria's as a positive quality. Ashy flavors can hint at roasting defects, anything from smokey unclean air being recycled through a roasting drum (or a roaster that doesn't vent, like a barbeque drum roaster set-up). Softer, lower-grown coffees will show ashy tastes before high-grown, dense coffees, given the same roast treatment
Related Terms:
Roast Defect Tipping Scorching Smokey Burnt
Categories:
Flavor Roasting Defects


Astringent
Astringency is a harsh flavor sensation, acrid flavor, that provokes a strong reaction. It can have dryness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness as components. It is certainly the opposite of sweetness and cleanness in coffee, always a defect flavor.
Related Terms:
Sensory Analysis Cupping Defect Acrid
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Baggy
Coffees that are held for too long run the risk of this taint. Essentially the coffee comes to absorb the flavors of whatever it is stored in - usually the burlap or jute bag. Many times a darker roast on these coffees will conceal this taint. Baggy flavors are the result of several factors: the fats in the coffee absorbing the smell of burlap, the loss in moisture content as the coffee ages, and other chemical changes. For some origins theses changes in flavor can emerge in 1 year, 9 months, even 6 months for some decafs
Related Terms:
Storage Defect Skunky Past Crop
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Baked
Baked flavor happens in under-roasted coffees haven't developed their character, or coffees that simply sat in the roaster too long without enough heat. It can also happen to scorched coffees where the outside of the bean is browned and the inside is under-roasted. Flavors are typically astringent, grain-like, sour, and body is thin and possibly gritty.
Related Terms:
Under-developed Grainy
Categories:
Flavor Roasting Defects


Black Bean
A coffee bean whose interior is totally back (endosperm), due to fungi, mold, yeast, pest. This happens with over-mature coffee cherry where the bean falls to the ground and is attacked by the Colletotrichum coffeeeanum fungus, or other aforementioned problem. Overfermentation of mature cherries can also result in back beans due to mold and yeast attack. Full black beans score 1 full defect point in coffee grading (the worst type of defect). Black beans will resist roasting and have a very harsh, acrid flavor
Related Terms:
Defect Coffee Grading
Categories:
Defects


Burlap Bags
Burlap bags are the traditional container in which coffee is transmitted. Burlap is cheap, but long storage in burlap bags may result in a characteristic "baggy" defect taste.
Related Terms:
Coffee Storage Vacuum Packaging Baggy GrainPro SuperGrain Bag
Categories:
Equipment Processing Trade Terms Defects


Burnt
Burnt flavors in coffee are the result of over-roasting, fast roasting, or roasting in a high-heat environment. This often occurs when the initial roaster temperature when the green coffee is introduced is too high. Usually, scorching and tipping result in burnt flavors. Sometimes, smokey notes in a cup can be a result of native qualities to the coffee, and not necessarily a defect, or the result of an exotic process such as a Monsooned or Aged coffee.
Related Terms:
Tipping Scorching Smokey
Categories:
Flavor Roasting Defects


Cappy
A defect term referring to oxidized, unpleasantly sharp cheese flavor, found in coffee that has not been stored correctly, or shipped with cheese.
Related Terms:
Cheesy Yeasty Mildewy Baggy
Categories:
Flavor Defects


CBB
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
Related Terms:
Coffee Diseases Coffee Leaf Rust Nematodes
Categories:
Origins Biology/Cultivars Defects


Defect
In coffee, a defect refers to specific preparation problems with the green coffee, or a flavor problem found in the cupping process. Bad seeds in the green coffee sample are termed defects, and scored against the coffee to determine it's grade. Also, defect flavors are those found in cupping the coffee, and described by a host of unfavorable terms, such as Skunky, Dirty, Cappy, Soapy, Animal-like, Sour, etc. Roast problems can produce defect flavors, as well as poor sorting or preparation of the coffee, mistakes in transportation and storage, problems at the wet mill, bad picking of the fruit or problems going back to the tree itself.
Related Terms:
Scorched Tipped Sour Skunky Baggy Coffee Grading Cupping
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Dirty Cup
Dirty cup is a general term implying some form of taint, usually an earthy defect, but also a mixed defect of ferment, hardness, dirt, moldy flavors etc.
Related Terms:
Defect
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Erpsig
Erpsig is German for pea-like; cooked bean, pea, or lentil sensation. It is called Peasy, but related to earthy, mushroom, groundy defect flavors, not to leguminous flavors.
Related Terms:
Defect
Categories:
Defects


Facing
Facing refers to scorch marks found on the flat side or face of the coffee bean. Along with tipping, it is one of the telltale signs of scorching, a roast problem.
Related Terms:
Scorching Tipping Creosoly Baked Defect
Categories:
Roasting Defects


Faded
A general characterization that cup flavors are diminishing in quality due to age of the green coffee, and loss of organic compounds.
Related Terms:
Past Crop Baggy Straw
Categories:
Trade Terms Defects


Ferment
Ferment is the sour off flavor, often vinegar-like, that results from several possible problems. It might be the result of seriously over-ripe coffee cherry. It can come from coffee cherry that was not pulped the same day it was picked, and/or was exposed to high heat between picking and processing. Often it comes from poor practices at the wet mill, when coffee is left too long in the fermentation tank, or old coffee that is over-fermented is mixed with new coffee.
Related Terms:
Processing Winey Fruity Vinegar Defect Acetic Acid
Categories:
Flavor Trade Terms Defects


Fermented
As a defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. Fermented flavor can be the result of poor wet-processing, over-ripe cherry, or some other contamination in the processing. As a processing step, all wet-process coffee is fermented to break down the mucilage. Coffee is fermented for 12-24 hours, sometimes longer, so the mucilage can be washed off the parchment layer.
Related Terms:
Wet-process Fruity Vinegar Fermenty
Categories:
Processing Defects


Fermenty
A defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. This often takes the form of vinegar-like aroma and flavor. Fermenty or vinegar flavors can result from high levels of acetic acid, whereas moderate levels lead to positive winey flavors.
Related Terms:
Winey Defect Fermented Acetic Acid
Categories:
Defects


Floater
In the wet process, and sometimes in Pulp Natural or Forced Demucilage process, coffee cherries or parchment are floated in a tank of water. Good cherries or seeds are dense and sink. A coffee bean that did not mature inside the parchment layer will float in wet-processing.
Related Terms:
Sailor Quaker Defect
Categories:
Processing Defects


Floaters
During the wet-process method, coffee cherry or the de-pulped (without skin) coffee seeds are floated in a water bath and/or transported down a channel in water. At this time, floating fruit can be skimmed off, whereas good fruit/seeds will sink. Coffee will float if the bean is hollow, undeveloped, under-developed, damaged by the coffee berry borer or other pest.
Related Terms:
Under-ripes Quakers
Categories:
Processing Defects


Fruited
In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don’t exactly see the difference in terms of these two words, but the question of fruit flavors emerging in a coffee context is critical. Is it a good quality? Is it fresh, aromatic, sweet fruit? Is it ripe, or is it over-ripe, fermenty, vinegary fruit? And there’s a side argument as well: did the fruit flavors come from well-prepared coffee, or did it emerge in a process where the coffee had too much contact with the mucilage of the coffee cherry. (This might happen in over-fermenting, in a hybrid process such as Indonesia wet-hulling, or in poorly executed dry-processing).
Related Terms:
Fruity
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Fruity
In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don’t exactly see the difference in terms of these two words, but the question of fruit flavors emerging in a coffee context is critical. Is it a good quality? Is it fresh, aromatic, sweet fruit? Is it ripe, or is it over-ripe, fermenty, vinegary fruit? And there’s a side argument as well: did the fruit flavors come from well-prepared coffee, or did it emerge in a process where the coffee had too much contact with the mucilage of the coffee cherry. (This might happen in over-fermenting, in a hybrid process such as Indonesia wet-hulling, or in poorly executed dry-processing).
Related Terms:
Fruited Fermented Fermenty
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Golden Beans
Golden beans are found in Yemen and Ethiopia dry-process coffees, and sometimes in other origins. They are pale yellow and slightly translucent. While not an outright defect, they are caused by iron deficiency in the plant, and/or high soil PH. They are sometimes separated and sold at a premium, with the false belief that they have better cup quality.
Related Terms:
Defect
Categories:
Origins Defects


Grady
Grady is a rarely-used defect coffee term for muddled, unclean coffee flavor. Also, the affable old neighbor on Sanford & Son.
Related Terms:
Dirty
Categories:
Defects


Grainy
A roast-related flavor, sometimes used negatively, but it can also be a positive flavor attribute. Usually grain flavors indicate a too-light roast, stopped before 1st crack concluded, like under-developed grain flavor. It can also result from baking the coffee, long roasts at low temperatures. Grain sweetness in some coffees is desirable, like malted barley, wheat, toast, brown bread, malt-o-meal, graham cracker, etc.
Related Terms:
Under-roasted First Crack Light Roast
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Grassy
Greenish flavor in the cup, usually indicating early crop, unrested coffee. This is a fresh cut grass flavor, chlorophyll-like, not a dried grass or hay flavor that would indicate old, past crop coffee.
Related Terms:
Greenish Rest Processing Parchment
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Greenish
A smell or flavor of fresh-cut green plants, vegetable leaves or grass, usually indicating fresh new-crop coffees that have not fully rested in parchment. Part of the expertise of cupping lots at origin before export is to see the potential cup quality despite the greenish flavors of young, unrested coffee.
Related Terms:
Sensory Analysis Taint Defect Crop
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Hidey
This descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the smell of animal hides, similar to leathery. It is not necessarily considered as a negative attribute but is generally used to describe strong notes. Hidey flavors can be found in Yemeni coffees as part of their rustic qualities, but in a clean coffee such as a Ethiopia wet-process, hidey would certainly be a defect flavor.
Related Terms:
Barnyard Animal-like Leathery
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Medicinal
A defective flavor characterized by a penetrating medicine-like, alcohol or chemical type taint flavor. This type of defect usually comes from poor processing or storage, but could indicate that the coffee has absorbed the smell of some industrial material: tainted jute bags, stored it plastic at high temperatures, etc.
Related Terms:
Defect Taint Sensory Analysis
Categories:
Defects


Mildewy
Off aroma and flavor that reminds one of a dank, moldy closet. This flavor can hint at a dangerous coffee mold and should not be consumed. Most common in Sumatra coffees that ship with a high moisture content, and industrial grade robusta coffees.
Related Terms:
Defect Taint Sensory Analysis Cappy Musty
Categories:
Defects


Musty
Musty refers to an aroma and/or flavor that ranges from slight intensity to mildewy defect flavor. Unlike Mildew taint, musty can have a slight (VERY slight) positive connotation when it is extremely mild, and linked to foresty flavors in Indonesia coffees. It can also relate to the hidey, leathery flavors of dry-process Yemeni coffees. In any greater intensity, or in a coffee profile that should be clean, musty is NOT a positive quality.
Related Terms:
Sulawesi Sumatra Yemen Indonesia Foresty Hidey Leathery Mildewy Defect. Rustic
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Past Crop
Refers to an older coffee not from the "New Crop" or the "Current Crop". Cuppers will even use it as a general term for baggy, old hay or straw flavors; faded sensations of what it might have been when the green coffee was fresh; Past-Cropish
Related Terms:
Baggy Aged Coffee Straw Faded Defect
Categories:
Trade Terms Defects


Potato Defect
Research conducted by CIRAD and OCIBU over a six year period in Burundi has shown this off-flavor to be caused by a yet unidentified bacterial agent that enters the cherry skin and produces a pyrazine chemical toxin that binds to the forming green beans. They first thought it was caused by a bacterial transmission via an insect vector, the Antestia bug that pierces the coffee cherry wall and sucks sugars; but later they concluded that anything that pierces the cherry wall can allow the bacteria to enter and eventually release the the nasty pyrazine-based toxin. Because you can't detect it until you roast it, this defect is a real bummer for roasting companies and a real challenge for research. - Culled from Tim Schilling's blog post on the topic, since it is the best description of the defect that is out there...
Related Terms:
Sour Defect Cupping Black Bean
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Pulpy
Can refer to flavor or mouthfeel. In terms of flavor, it means the negative flavor of fermenty coffee fruit, indicating there were errors in the coffee processing.
Related Terms:
Taint Sensory Analysis Defect
Categories:
Flavor Sweet Maria's Terms Defects


Quakers
A quaker is an industry term to describe under-ripe, undeveloped coffee seeds that fail to roast properly. These are most often the result of unripe, green coffee cherry making it into the final product. Normally, these are skimmed off as floaters (in the wet-process) or visually removed in the dry-process method. They are removed on the density table (Oliver table) as well. They occur much more often in dry-process coffees due to the lack of water flotation of the fruit, and the difficult task of removing them visually. Even the best coffees might have occasional quakers, and they can be removed post-roast when they are easy to see. Under-developed coffees do not have the compounds to have a proper browning reaction in the roaster (Maillard Reaction, caramelization), so they remain pale in color. My own theory on the term: Quakers are those resist fighting in war, quaker beans are those that resist roasting in the drum; coffee roasting re-imagined as war? hmmm...
Related Terms:
Maillard Reaction Floaters
Categories:
Processing Defects


Rioy
Result of continued enzyme activity when coffee beans remain in the fruit and the fruit dries on the shrub. Usually associated with natural processed coffees grown in Brazil. The Brazil grading rates coffee as Strictly Soft (the best), Soft, 'Soft-ish', Hard (+1, +2), Riado, Rioy, Rio Zona (the worst).
Related Terms:
Brazil Coffee Grades
Categories:
Defects


Roast Defect
Roast defects indicate a problem with the roasting machine or process, resulting in off flavors in the cup. These are distinct from flavor defects that are a result of green coffee processing, or other factors from the plant itself. While roasting cannot make bad coffee good, it can easily make good coffee bad! Roast defects are sometimes characterized by a lack of sweetness, whether that be caramel, sugar, chocolate, syrup, etc.
Related Terms:
Tipping Scorching Burnt Flavor
Categories:
Roasting Defects


Rubbery
A taste fault giving the coffee beans a highly pronounced burnt-rubber character. Result of continued enzyme activity in the coffee bean when it remains in the fruit and the fruit is allowed to dry on the shrub. Usually associated with natural processed robusta coffees grown in Africa.
Related Terms:
Defect Taint Sensory Analysis
Categories:
Defects


Sailor
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.
Related Terms:
Floater
Categories:
Defects


Scorching
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.
Related Terms:
Roast Defect Tipping Burnt Creosol Facing
Categories:
Roasting Defects


Skunky
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
Related Terms:
Scorched Tipped Sour Baggy
Categories:
Roasting Defects


Smokey
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.
Related Terms:
Burnt Scorching Tipping Aged Coffee Defect
Categories:
Flavor Defects


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.
Related Terms:
Coffee Grading Coffee Defects
Categories:
Defects


Straw
A dried hay-like character due to age of the green coffee and the corresponding loss of organic material storage.
Related Terms:
Baggy Past Crop Faded
Categories:
Defects


Sweaty
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.
Related Terms:
Musty Leathery Hidey Defect
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Tipping
Tipping refers to a roast error that can be discerned by inspecting the roasted coffee, where the ends of the elongated bean appear burnt. It can easily be tasted in the cup too; 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), an 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.
Related Terms:
Scorching Burnt Roast Defect
Categories:
Roasting Defects


Unclean
A general negative description of dirty or hard flavors in a coffee that should have none. These are flavors without positive qualities, that distract from the cup. Also simply called "off"
Related Terms:
Defect Earthy Dirty Hard Rioy Clean
Categories:
Defects


Under-developed
Under-developed refers to roast problems, usually too-light roasts. If a coffee is not roasted until the reactions responsible for the audible First Crack are completed, there will be astringent and un-sweet flavors (high trigonelline levels) and a grainy roast taste.
Related Terms:
Trigonelline Roasting Roast Taste First Crack Second Crack
Categories:
Roasting Defects


Vinegar
Vinegar-like qualities are a defective flavor taint in coffee, resulting perhaps from poor processing, fermentation, sanitation. Usually, this comes from high levels of acetic acid, and come with a sour edge. Lower levels can lead to positive winey notes. Over-ripe coffee cherries, or delays in getting picked cherry to the mill can be the cause as well.
Related Terms:
Acetic Acid Fermenty Fermented Defect Sour Winey
Categories:
Flavor Trade Terms Defects


Wild
Wild flavors in coffee is a general characterization that connotes something foreign or exotic in a flavor profile, usually somewhat unclean. This can be found in some East African coffees, although it is usually the result of poor processing or handling. For example Yemeni coffees have wild notes of hide, leather, earth, and such. To some these are defect flavors.
Related Terms:
Sensory Analysis Cupping Humus Earthy Rustic
Categories:
Flavor Defects


Woody
Generally a taste defect from age; old green coffee, perhaps yellowing in color. This is due to the drying out of the coffee over time, and as the moisture leaves the seed it takes organic compounds with it. Also, when coffee rehydrates itself, it brings in foreign odors, baggy and dirty tastes and smells. Aged coffees can have a positive hickory-like taste and aroma. This entry does not address positive wood qualities like cedar, and such. Also not to be confused with foresty or woodsy character in Indonesia coffees.
Related Terms:
Baggy Past Crop Dirty Aged Coffee Foresty
Categories:
Flavor Defects