Want to brush up on your vocabulary? We have compiled together coffee terminology related to green beans, coffee processing, exporting and some industry jargon to help you expand your knowledge and understanding of coffee.
refers to the level of acid present in a coffee when tasting. Acidity is one of the categories used in a cupping assessment and is measured in terms of intensity and in terms of quality. Examples of acidity may include citric, lactic, malic, phosphoric, quinic and acetic.
refers to an elevation and is measured as metres above sea level (masl). Altitude typically references the elevation of a coffee farm, or as an elevation range of a coffee growing area.
means to be without oxygen, often refers to a step in coffee processing to describe the fermentation environment if it is completed without the presence of oxygen.
refers to coffee of the botanical species Coffea arabica.
refers to the smell and aromatics of a coffee, this can be ground roasted beans or brewed coffee. Aroma is one of the categories used in a cupping assessment.
refer to temperatures, humidities, wind and clouds. Atmospheric conditions can be influenced by mountainous terrain, such as slopes, aspects and valleys, or by the presence of flora such as shade trees. Differences in atmospheric conditions can lead to different microclimates, which impact the growth of coffee trees.
refers to characteristics, either positive or negative, of a coffee. An attribute is anything that can affect the quality or flavour of a coffee, for example, defects.
is a carbon rich substance made by slow burning natural materials in a low oxygen environment, and is used to fertilise plants and trap greenhouse gases in the soil. See our article on biochar at Maguta Estate.
refers to the amount of variability and the populations of living organisms within specific environments. An area may be considered biodiverse if there are many different organisms (flora and fauna) in that area.
refers to the total quantity of organisms present in an area, or, refers to organic matter used in fertilisers.
refers to our Project Origin score labelling system. Our black label coffees score from 83-85 points.
refers to a mixture of coffee beans from single origins or from single varietals combined together to make a blend.
refers to the density of the coffee on the palate. Body can also be described as the weight of the coffee. Body is one of the categories used in an SCA cupping assessment and is measured in terms of level (heavy to thin) and in terms of its quality.
is a measurement of sugar content in an aqueous solution and is referenced as Degrees Brix, or ºBx. 1ºBx is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution. This measurement is used in coffee to help producers determine the ripeness of cherries during harvest to achieve a desired sweetness in the cup profile.
refers to a large quantity of a single item.
also known as the commodity market price, is the global benchmark price for coffee on the world market, regardless of quality. The C-market price is a US dollar amount per pound of processed green bean. The specialty coffee industry tends to pay above the C-market price. Fair Trade also pays above the C-market price by about 20%. Project Origin historically has paid on average 50-100% above the C-market price. See our article on the World Coffee Market for post pandemic coffee prices.
is an alkaloid compound that acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system, and is commonly found in tea and coffee plants.
commonly read as CM, refers to a method used for processing coffee that utilises fermentation tanks filled with carbon dioxide. Whilst not identical, CM processing in coffee is adopted and modified from wine processing. See our CM Selections page.
is the dried skin and pulp from the cherries of the coffee tree, often used for tea or infusions. Cascara is high in caffeine.
refers to a crop that is grown for the purpose of income, rather than grown solely for the purpose of eating or replanting for self use.
refers to the ripeness of a coffee cherry, often spoken in relation to harvesting. Cherries can be under-ripe, over-ripe, ripe or perfectly ripe, and can be determined by degrees Brix, colour or floating.
refers to a cup of brewed coffee that is free from defects as assessed in an SCA cupping assessment. The clean cup category is a yes or no response.
refers to a farm, business or organisation owned by its members, who share in the benefits or profits of the co-operative. Co-operatives are often found through Africa and linked with local washing stations.
refers to a cupping assessment (see cupping) for a competition titled the Cup of Excellence. This form differs slightly from the SCA cupping form, and allows for scores ranging from 0-8 in each category, as well as slightly different terminology for assessment.
refers to the regions where the world’s coffee can grow, and lies between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer.
refers to a farm where the owners and workers grow and cultivate coffee trees. Some coffee farms process the green beans on site while others deliver the cherries to a washing station.
can refer to either a dry mill or a wet mill. See dry mill and wet mill for definitions.
a numerical score determined by quantifiable characteristics to determine the quality of a coffee. The score is a number out of 100 and determined through a cupping session.
refers to coffee that is commercial grade or commodity grade. It is not specialty grade. Commodity coffee is often sold in bulk and its cost is determined by the C-market price.
or cultivated variety, refers to a variety of plant produced by selective breeding and not commonly found in the natural environment. For example, bourbon and typica varietals are cultivars.
refers to the overall expression of a coffee based on its characteristics, including the flavours, textures and attributes it offers.
refers to the practice of tasting and assessing brewed coffee in a quantifiable manner. A cupping will evaluate various taste and aroma characteristics of a coffee, including aroma, body, sweetness, acidity, clean cup and balance, and result in an overall score. For arabica coffee, a score of 80 or more points classify the coffee as ‘specialty’. For cupping protocols, please see the standards as set by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).
or decaffeinate, refers to a coffee that has had the caffeine removed from the beans. This process is typically done after processing and before exporting.
refers to a characteristics in coffee that does not meet quality control standards. A defect can be identified in a physical assessment through green grading, or can be found as a sensorial assessment through cupping. The severity of the defect and impact on its quality score is outlined by the SCA.
refers to the physical weight of processed green beans. Density is a measurement that can be used to aid roasters and is measured in our Project Origin quality control assessments.
refers to the weight of a coffee on the palate. Density can also be referred to as body. See body.
refers to a step during coffee processing where coffee skin and pulp is removed. This step can be done before or after fermentation and before drying at a wet mill.
refers to an operating model where companies sourcing goods or raw products have a direct relationship with the producer or farmer, with a focus on providing a mutually beneficial trade relationship. At Project Origin, we believe the true essence of direct trade should see us sharing the risks across producer, exporter and roaster for multiple harvests to build sustainable trading. See our article on direct trade.
refers to the dried fruit covering green coffee beans. Natural processed beans are stored in their dried cherry pods after the drying stage until they are exported, when they are hulled at the coffee mill to remove the dried cherry pod for transportation.
refers to the infrastructure/building and/or machines like a huller, density tables, screen size sorters and colour sorters, used to separate dried beans from its outer shell and dried cherry pod, or the dried parchment to prepare the final green coffee beans for export. A dry mill is used as the final step to process, clean and sort all coffees before they are packaged for shipping. In many origins, a coffee mill is separate from coffee farms, as not every producer owns one themselves. Milling a coffee is essential before exporting it.
see natural process.
refers to an area of land, often in the country away from the city, owned by a person, family or organisation.
a natural by-product made from sugar cane that is used in the decaffeination process of green coffee beans.
refers to coffee of the botanical species Coffea eugenioides.
refers to a person or company who sends goods or services from one country to another for sale. Project Origin is a green coffee bean exporter.
refers to someone who owns or manages a farm.
a Portuguese word for farm or estate.
or full container load, references a shipping container that is filled exclusively with a single shipment for a single client.
refers to a chemical breakdown of a substance by using bacteria, yeast or other microorganisms. All coffee processing undergoes fermentation at some point, and is done when the pulp or mucilage is in contact with the green bean.
a Spanish word for farm.
refers to a step in coffee processing after cherries are harvested but before they are fermented. Whole cherries are placed in containers of water to assess whether they float or sink. This process is used to further check the ripeness of the harvested cherries.
refers to a smaller, mid season harvest of coffee cherries in Kenya that occurs in cyclical opposition to the main harvest.
refers to any matter that does not come from the coffee cherry, and is used during green grading.
refers to our Project Origin score labelling system. Our gold label coffees score 90+ points.
refers to a quality classification of coffee. Grades include commodity and specialty.
is a company that specialises in bags for transporting and storing agricultural commodities. GrainPro bags are used for transporting and storing processed green coffee beans.
is the seed that grows inside a coffee cherry. The coffee seed is processed to provide the green coffee beans used for roasting and consumption. Green coffee beans can also be referred to as coffee seeds. Traditionally, two beans grow inside each cherry, with the exception of peaberries (see peaberry).
refers to a physical grading assessment to classify the appearance of a green bean sample. A green grading will assess a sample for defects (see defects) and determine the overall quality of the green bean sample.
refers to our Project Origin score labelling system. Our green label coffees score from 86-89 points.
a Spanish word for farm or estate.
refers to the harvesting of coffee cherries by selecting cherries manually and picking them from the tree by hand. Hand picked cherries are commonly done on smaller to medium sized estates and farms where the land is mountainous or rugged. Countries with rugged terrain can include Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Colombia. Hand picked harvests have the capability to be selective in the harvests due to observation compared to mechanical harvests which collect all cherries regardless of ripeness.
refers to the collection of coffee cherries from the coffee trees.
refers to the period of time used to collect all the coffee cherries from the coffee trees. Typically speaking each country will have a general harvest period where cherries are collected each year. In some countries, such as Colombia and Kenya, there are two harvests (see mitaca and fly crop respectively), and in some countries, such as Honduras, the harvest period extends later than expected, resulting in a late harvest. See our downloadable harvest calendar here.
refers to a method used for processing coffee beans. The honey method traditionally depulps coffee cherries before the drying stage where the beans retain some of the mucilage on the green beans. The amount of mucilage can be varied. Honey processes are typically named after the colour of the final dried bean to distinguish amount of mucilage that remained, for example, yellow honey, red honey, purple honey and black honey.
refers to dried parchment of the coffee cherry.
refers to the mechanical removal of dried parchment from the dried green bean. This is a step used in coffee processing prior to exporting.
also known as coffee chaff, husk refers to the dried skin of a coffee bean. It is removed during wet processing prior to the drying stage, and in dry processing it is removed at the milling stage prior to transport.
refers to an unripe or underdeveloped coffee bean and cherry.
are acids derived from minerals present in the earth’s crust. Examples include sulphuric acid and phosphoric acid.
refers to sacks made of hessian fabric that are used to store and transport processed green coffee beans.
refers to a harvest that occurs during the months that follow a typical harvest period. The late harvest is most often seen in Honduras. See our late harvest article for effects and benefits to late harvested coffees. See our downloadable harvest calendar here.
or less-than container load, references a shipping container that is filled with multiple orders from multiple clients. This is used when an order cannot completely fill a container as a stand-alone order. It is more economical to combine a smaller order with other orders for shipping than to send a container that is not full.
refers to coffee of the botanical species Coffea liberica.
refers to an offering of coffee cherries. A lot can either be of a single varietal or can be a blend of varieties. A lot can come from a single location, for example a farm or estate or a single section of a farm or estate, or it can come from multiple locations, for example multiple farms or estates or from multiple sections of a farm or estate. Our Regional offerings are an example of a coffee lot that comes from multiple farms or estates.
refers to the harvesting of coffee cherries via machinery as opposed to hand picking. Mechanical harvesting is most often done on larger estates with flat land that can support the equipment, such as in Brazil.
refers to the climatic and atmospheric conditions that exist within a small area or a particular habitat that differ from the conditions that surround it. The differences could be slight or they could be significant, and the area could be as small as a few square metres or as large as a few square kilometres.
refers to a small, specific lot of coffee that has been separated and treated differently from other lots of coffee. The term does not simply refer to the size of the lot, but also to the attention a producer might give to it, its treatment and its quality. At Project Origin, most of our green label coffees are microlots.
refers to the mid season harvest in Colombia, a country that has two harvests each year. The main harvest, and their mitaca harvest. See our downloadable harvest calendar here.
also known as humidity, refers to the amount of water remaining inside the coffee bean after processing is complete. Moisture content will typically be reduced to 10-12% in order to effectively store the beans for storage and shipping prior to roasting. This is also one of the measurements Project Origin takes for quality control measurements.
refers to the feel of the coffee on the palate. Mouthfeel can also be referred to as texture and is one of the categories used in the COE cupping assessment. Examples of mouthfeel can include creamy, velvety, oily, buttery, sticky.
or the inner mesocarp, refers to the flesh of the coffee cherry in between the pulp and the parchment, and is most commonly referred to during the processing stages. Coffee mucilage is very high in pectin and has no caffeine.
refers to a method used for processing coffee beans. The natural method traditionally keeps the cherries whole through the fermentation and drying stages. Cherries are stored in the dried cherry pods prior to export for protection. Also commonly known as dry process.
refers to a processing method of green coffee beans that is somewhere between natural process and black honey process. See honey process.
refers to the the use of only natural materials and a lack of chemical or artificial materials during agricultural practices and processes.
are acids derived from plants or animals. Examples include citric acid in lemon, acetic acid in vinegar, lactic acid in milk and malic acid in blackberries.
refers to the country where the coffee grew.
or the endocarp, refers to the protective layer of the coffee cherry that sits between the mucilage and the silverskin of the cherry.
refer to a paved or bricked area in which coffee is dried on. Coffee dried on patios are often dried under the sun and turned regularly to allow for even drying around the cherry or bean.
refers to a growth mutation of the coffee beans where one of the two beans inside the cherry dies, leaving the other bean to grow in a small balled shape. Peaberries are typically small in size and dense, and separated from other beans and lots.
refers to a person who works to pick cherries from the coffee tree. Pickers are often seasonal workers and only work during the harvest season, or they work doing other roles during the off-season.
refers to the method used to convert the coffee seeds from inside coffee cherries to the green bean product ready for exporting and roasting. The most common processes used are washed, honey and natural processing methods.
refers to a person or persons who manages the processing of a coffee harvest or manages a coffee farm.
or the outer mesocarp, refers to the flesh of the cherry that exists between the cherry skin and the mucilage. The pulp is typically removed during coffee processing at the depulping stage for some washed and honey methods using a wet mill.
refers to a standard as measured by multiple attributes. In arabica coffee, quality can be determined via physical and sensorial assessments, including green grading and cupping, and is expressed via a score out of 100. At Project Origin, our definition of quality includes additional factors when defining a coffee. These factors include the cup profile, the score, the price and the relationship between ourselves and the producer. See our quality page for more.
refers to a set of procedures used to ensure a coffee meets and maintains a set of pre-determined standards. At Project Origin, our quality control team undertakes quality control on all green beans that pass through our warehouse.
refers to an elevated bench often made with a mesh or plastic for the bench top used to dry coffee beans. Raised beds allow for air circulation above and below the coffee.
refers to our Project Origin Regional lots that blend multiple coffees together from one coffee growing area to create a cup profile representation of that area. Our Regional lots exist to provide consistency to roasters in profile, as well as offering premium prices to producers for their black label harvests. See our regionals page.
refers to coffee of the botanical species Coffea canephora variety robusta.
refers to a small sample size of coffee, usually between 50-300grams, that is roasted for the purpose of tasting a coffee without the need to roast a high volume or a full batch.
refers to samples sent by a producer or exporter that represents a specific lot of coffee. The green coffee is usually not completely ready for export at this stage.
or pre shipment sample, refers to a sample of ready to export green coffee sent prior to a full order being shipped.
refers to a sample of green coffee freshly harvested and processed. Type samples are often milled by end and offered straight off the drying beds.
refers to the physical size of a coffee bean, often used as a grading system through Africa or Asia. Examples include screen size AA and AB.
refers to a method used for processing coffee beans. The semi-washed method has some variation and is a less fully washed process. One version is where coffee cherries have mucilage removed mechanically, skipping the fermentation step, and are sent directly to drying beds. Another version is where cherries are pulped then put in tanks with water for fermentation but not allowed to fully ferment. They are then washed like a usual washed coffee but as fermentation wasn’t complete some mucilage will remain on the parchment when the beans are sent to the drying beds. Dried green beans are stored in parchment for protection prior to shipping.
refers to the physical sensations of the human body, touch, taste, sight, aural and smell.
refers to trees that grow taller than coffee trees and are used to provide shade cover and protection for the optimal growth of coffee trees.
or the tegument, refers to the thin membrane that covers each hemisphere of the green coffee bean and sits underneath the parchment.
refers to one country.
refers to someone who owns or manages an agricultural holding smaller than a farm.
refers to obtaining a certain item or product. For example Project Origin sources coffee beans from different origins.
refers to the classification of coffee quality. According to the universally used SCA standards, an arabica coffee can be classified as ‘specialty’ if it scores 80 points or above on a cupping sheet.
refers to a method used for processing coffee that uses fermentation time and drying techniques to enhance flavour, sweetness and body characteristics. See our Supernaturals page.
refers to the full sequence of processes and steps involved in the production, sale and distribution of a product, from the maker or farmer through to the consumer.
refers to the presence of sweetness in coffee and how sweet in flavour a coffee tastes. Sweetness is one of the categories used in a cupping assessment and is measured as a yes or no question for its presence in the cup. Quality or intensity of sweetness is not measured in an SCA cupping assessment, but it is measured in a COE cupping assessment.
refers to the physical, geographical and climatic conditions of a particular crop growing area. Factors can include altitude, aspect, sun exposure, microclimate, temperature, weather conditions, soil composition, biodiversity and more. Terroir is used to describe how these factors impact the natural flavours of the agricultural product.
refers to the feel of the coffee on the palate. Texture can also be referred to as mouthfeel and is one of the categories used in the COE cupping assessment. Examples of texture can include creamy, velvety, oily, buttery, sticky.
refers to cherries that are not yet ripe and have not finished growing. Also see cherry ripeness.
refers to a coffee made from a single variety of tree.
refers to the subspecies of coffee tree. For example, the species is called Coffea arabica, or arabica coffee, and the variety is called geisha.
refers to a method used for processing coffee beans. The washed method traditionally depulps coffee cherries prior to fermentation, then washes the beans clean before the drying stage. Dried green beans are stored in parchment for protection prior to shipping. Also commonly known as wet process.
refers to a community place for processing harvested coffee cherries. A washing station will purchase delivered cherries from pickers around the nearby region, collate them and process them before moving them to a coffee mill for storage. Washing stations are often found throughout Africa and Asia where farmers do not own their own equipment. Despite the name, washing stations can and do prepare washed, honey and natural processed coffees.
refers to the movement of water in a processed coffee bean. Water activity is measured as part of our Project Origin quality control.
refers to the infrastructure/building and/or machines like pulping machines, used to de-pulp cherries from the seeds. A wet mill is used as a step in washed and honey processing methods.
see washed process.
refers to the weight or volume of the cherries harvested.