My coffee tastes like grapefruit? Decoding basic coffee lingo

Taste the citrus undertones or the chocolate base? Think acidity is a negative term or that pungent means sour? Decoding coffee lingo can be a non-intuitive challenge and we want to help! Below are a few of the most common terms used to describe your coffee.

ACIDITY: Acidity is near always a wonderful thing in coffee! Unlike citrus acidity, coffee acidity produces a smooth, dry, sharp, pleasantly tart sensation at the tip of the tongue. High acidity coffees, like Kenya AA, are revered in the coffee world for their complexity and balance. Many elements must unite to produce this fine flavor but it is the acidity — that moment of crisp clarity — that enables many fine coffees to shine. In contrast to high acidity coffees, low acidity coffees, such as a Sumatrans and Indonesians are more pungent and earthy. While equally as good as a Kenya, they will have a heavier, almost dense mouthfeel.

BALANCED: Balanced coffees possess a unique blend of distinct and complex elements, where one dominant quality or characteristic does not overwhelm the others. Balance also implies synergies in aroma, mouthfeel, and texture. Guatemala Chiquimula, with its stunning aroma, balanced texture, and distinct notes of chocolate, blackberry, and vanilla, is a great example of a balanced coffee.

CARAMEL: Caramel is best described as a dual condensed olfactory and taste sensation of caramelized sugar. While you are unlikely to taste a pronounced caramel flavor in your coffee, you will taste sweeter notes reminiscent of dark caramel, butterscotch, or malt. Organically grown Columbia Campesina, with its sweet aroma and rich body is wonderful representation of caramel-toned coffee.

CITRUS: Citrus is often used to describe acidic coffees with strong orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, or mango tones. Dominican la Cotorra, with prominent hints of orange and lime, is a wonderful representation of a citrus toned coffee.

CHOCOLATE: Chocolate notes are aromatic and most influenced by roast. Different roasts will produce degrees of chocolate and vanilla notes based on the bean’s dominates tones. Costa Rica la Pastora, for example, produces dominant chocolate base notes with sweet, milder overtones.

COMPLEXITY: Complex coffees often have multiple, complimentary flavors, tones, and aromas. El Salvador Millenium, which seamlessly transforms itself from fruity to sweet and from winey to smooth, is a great example of a complex coffee.

CREAMY: Creamy coffee is also frequently described as having a buttery or thick texture. The texture is created by a higher oil / fat content on the bean’s surface. Espresso, which boasts an almost syrupy texture is a good example of a creamy coffee.

DELICATE: Delicate beans are often characterized by a soft, mild, sweet taste present at the start of the sip that gives way to other taste sensations. Papua New Guinea, with its dark chocolate, cherry, and maple syrup overtones, is a great example of a delicate coffee.

EARTHY: Earthy coffees are low in acidity and often produce a  pungent, mineral-like taste sensation ranging from grassy to walnut to a gritty hummus flavor. Sulawesi Toraja is a great example of an earthy coffee.

FRUITY: Fruity is often used to characterize coffees that are grown near fruit and brushed with a fruit flavor. Fruity coffees, such as Guatemala Antigua, often produce stunning aromas, a dry sensation, and are laced with subtle fruit and / or berry tones.

NUTTY: Nutty is a term as closely related to the coffee as to the roast. Typically, nutty refers to texture and a tonal quality of hazelnut, walnut, or almond. Coffees with nut tones include Café La Reina and Tapestry.

PUNGENT: Pungent coffees are generally characterized by powerful chili or pepper infused aromas and flavor tones. Often pungent coffees, such as Sumatra OrangUtan, are highly aromatic, a little spicy, and have a bit of a kick to them. Don’t let the word turn you off! Pungent coffees, including this Sumatra, can be extraordinary.

ROUND: Round refers to a complete, full mouthfeel.

WINEY: Winey is generally used to describe East African coffees, such as Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Winey coffees tend to have sweet base notes and an almost tangy to tart close.

If you are are interested in exploring a particular region, coffee, or taste and are unsure of where to start or would like to construct a custom sampler, please reach out to

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