Coffee Jargon Explained

Walk down any high street and you will see numerous cafés and coffee shops advertising ‘Speciality Coffee’, ‘Arabica coffee’, ‘House blends’, ‘Sustainability’. Go into these coffee shops and there will be a menu full of coffee related jargon, and a barista asking if you would like the single origin blend for a small extra fee.

So why is coffee not just coffee? And what do all the phrases and buzz words mean?

Check out our quick breakdown below and comment if we have missed any off that you are unsure about…

Arabica – Arabica coffee is the name of a species of coffee bean which comes from the Coffea Arabica plant. Much like Kidney, Butter, Haricot or Cannellini beans that you buy from the supermarket are all beans, but just different types (species). See our previous blog post for more details on Arabica.

Robusta – Another popular species of coffee bean from the Coffea Canephora plant. Read more on our blog.

Green Beans – (No, not the squeaky kind your mum made you eat with your dinner) Green beans are coffee beans before they are roasted.

Cherry – A coffee cherry is the fruit of the coffee plant. Each cherry contains two coffee beans.

Speciality Coffee – This is a broad term used to describe the quality of the coffee, from the moment it is grown, to the moment it is brewed and prepared for drinking. A plant grown in optimum conditions, prepared and dried with skill and attention, then roasted to preserve an optimise the beans natural flavours, and finally prepared by yourself or a barista in just the right way to maximise flavour and experience. This whole package results in a speciality coffee.

Blend – Many cafés and coffee companies advertise coffee as a blend. This could be a combination of Arabica and Robusta beans ground and mixed together which produce your final brew. Or it could be a mixture of coffees from different regions of the globe. For example, a Costa Rican Arabica mixed with a Colombian Arabica. Roasters blend regions together to try and develop particular flavour characteristics.

House/Signature blend – The same theory as a blend except house and signature blends belong to a roaster/Café/Company. If a Company sells a house blend or signature blend, the specific mixture of beans will be unique to that company.

Sustainable – Coffee beans that have been ethically sourced. The sales of the beans are at a fair price which enables farmers to invest in more efficient farming methods and technology. Reducing deforestation and maximising crop yields. E.g. Fairtrade.

Roast Levels – The length of time your coffee beans have been roasted for. Darker roasts have been in the roaster for a longer period than lighter roasts. Medium roasts sit between the two.

Crema – A layer of emulsified oil which sit on top of your espresso. It is a combination of Crema and foamy milk that enable the designs to be created on top of your latte.

Extraction – Drawing out flavour from coffee grounds via water, time and pressure. Over extracted coffee will taste bitter. Under extracted coffee will be weak and sometimes sour.

Single Origin – Beans which come from one area/region of a country. Most likely these are beans from different farms which are all within one region.

Micro-Lot – Coffee beans from one farm. Due to their nature, Micro-lots are in limited supply and are usually seasonal.
Direct Trade – When green coffee beans are bought directly from the farmers. This ensures the farmer the best possible price, and the buyer more confidence in higher quality beans. 

Decaffeinated – Coffee beans that have had their caffeine removed.

Coffee Drinks

Espresso – A shot of coffee that has been extracted using near boiling water and high pressure.

Americano – Espresso topped up with hot water.

Latté – Espresso topped up with steamed milk and a layer of foamed milk.

Cortado – Espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk. (Much smaller than a latté or flat white).

Flat White – Espresso topped up with steamed milk.

Cappuccino – Espresso topped up with equal parts steamed and foamed milk.

Macchiato – Espresso with a very small amount of foamed milk.

Frappuccino – Espresso coffee mixed with ice, milk and sugar/syrup/sweetener.

Cold brew – Coffee that has been extracted in cold water over 24 hours. (See easy home recipe).

Iced Coffee – Espresso extracted over ice and topped up with milk.

Affogato – Espresso poured over vanilla ice cream.

Ristretto – Smaller than an espresso with a more concentrated flavour.

Doppio – Double espresso.

If you can think of any more terms you would like to see explained drop them in the comments below. We will keep adding to this list and create a coffee jargon master list that you can always refer back to!


Singl Coffee

Thanks Asher!


This post is so important and helpful! Well done x

Leave a comment