Kona Coffee Vocabulary

Kona Coffee Vocabulary

An almost exhaustive list of Coffee and Kona Coffee Jargon. (Alphabetical List)

AcerbicA taste fault in brewed coffee that leaves an acrid and sour taste. Often the result of leaving brewed coffee on heat.

AcidityA favorable expression that suggests a pleasant sparkle or tang resulting from roasting coffee.  Acidity diminishes with increased roasting; thus, dark roasts have less acidity.  Acidy tastes are responsible for lively, snappy coffees.  Though coffee contains far less acidity than most juices, soft drinks, tea or wine, its natural acids make the coffee come alive.  Most of the world’s finer coffees have considerable acidity Acidity in coffee is a characteristic of high-altitude coffees. Kona Coffee is grown in higher altitude regions of around 2000 feet. Mountain Thunder organic farms are at 3200 feet. Citric, Malic and Lactic acids are three of the most pleasing and predominant of the hundreds of acids found in coffee. If you use milk in your coffee, please note that it neutralizes some of coffee’s acidity.

AcidyA desirable taste that is nippy and sharp.

AcridAn irritating and piercing taste associated with harsh, bitter and pungent sensations. Sometimes found in over-roasted coffees.

African Beds Raised flat-bed structures, usually made of wood with a metal screen, on which parchment coffee is dried. Used as an alternative to patio drying, and notable for the fact that they allow more airflow to pass through the coffee during drying. In Kona, small farmers use this style of drying to dry small amounts of parchment. Usually, a hinge with a roofing-material door is put on the screen to protect the drying parchment from rain water.

AfterburnerA device attached to a roaster that incinerates smoke and odor.

AftertasteThe mind’s second opinion and lingering memory of a coffee. The nose and taste sensation after swallowing. Also: Finish.

Agtron Scale A number system for characterizing degree of roast by measuring coffee’s luminance on a white to black scale. Also: Agtron Rating

Air Roaster A roasting apparatus that utilizes forced hot air to simultaneously agitate and roast green coffee beans. Many farms in Kona use the air roaster to roast beans. They boast control over the roast, however, unlike drum roasters, air roasters do not agitate the beans through a seasoned drum and/or coffee oils. Also: Fluidized Bed Roaster, Fluid- Bed Roaster, Sivetz Roaster.

Air Quenching The use of rapid airflow to stop the roast and cool the coffee upon the completion of roasting. At Mountain Thunder, as with most all roasters, and upon completion of a roast, you want to stop the beans from progressing any further in their roasting process. This is done by sucking air through the hot coffee, drastically brining down the temperature of the coffee. 

AlkalineA secondary taste sensation related to pungent.

AlqueireA traditional unit of volume and land measurement. In terms of volume, it is equivalent to about 13.8 liters or 12.5 U.S. dry quarts. One alqueire also equals a variety of land measurements ranging from .35 acres to 24 acres.

American Roast A traditional term for a medium roast characterized by a moderately brown color and dry bean surface. Generally falls between 420 and 440 degrees F when reading bean temperature.

AppellationA distinct term denoting a geographic growing region having noticeably distinct flavor attributes.

Aquapulp Method A coffee-processing method in which the pulp or mucilage is scrubbed from the beans by machine. Also : Demucilage, Lavado, Washed Process, Wet Process.

ArabicaA traditional species of coffee originating in Ethiopia. There are many varieties, including typica and bourbon. Arabica tress are synonymous with the Specialty Coffee Movement, because they develop a higher quality bean. To be distinguished from Robusta strain, which is more potent and higher in caffeine content.

Aroma- The smell perception of the elements present in roasted coffee. When nearly boiling water is added to ground coffee some constituents change to gases and are recognized as aroma.  The odor of unbrewed ground coffee is called its fragrance.

Arroba- A measure of volume used in Spanish-speaking countries, equal to about 25 pounds.

Astringent- A drying sensation on the tongue most often caused by the presence of immature beans in the coffee.

Automation- The automatic operation or control of any equipment, process or system. Although automation is a welcome process or investment, most of the processes in Kona are manual, especially in bagging roasted coffee and the picking of fresh coffee cherry. Even wet-milling and dry-milling of coffee are partially manual, as the crop in Kona is exceptionally small by worldly standards.

Bacterial Blight – A coffee disease that can occur when wet and cold conditions prevail. In Kona, there really are not any diseases that can drastically affect the coffee crop like in other coffee producing regions. We are blessed with being one of the most geographically remote places on earth, and as a result, none of the most obnoxious pests related to coffee have made it here.

Bag- A burlap sack of coffee. Bag weight differs by country of origin, but is traditionally 132 or 152 pounds. In Kona, the burlap sacks created for wholesale or large, bulk orders is 100 pounds. This has been the tradition in Kona, probably because the original pioneers of Kona Coffee were smaller-framed, Japanese workers. Another contributing factor could be that in Kona, the slope of the mountain is quite steep, and a 100 pound bag is easier to handle on mount Hualalai and Mauna Loa. A bag of coffee could also mean a roasted bag of coffee, and the burlap sack of green coffee and the roasted bag of coffee can be used interchangeably. Also : Bale

Baggy- An off-taste or smell similar to that of burlap bags. Can be due to a storage problem or biological issue.

Baked- Bland, tasteless or flat. Often the result of coffee roasted too slowly at too low a temperature. Rather than experiencing the aromatic uniqueness of coffee that you would normally experience at medium-dark and dark roasts, a “baked” bean is more like a nut than your typical perception of a roasted coffee bean You need caramelized sugars (characteristic of darker roasting) to go in the opposite direction of a “baked” bean. Generally comes from under-roasting.

Balanced- Denoting a pleasing combination of two or more primary taste sensations. Containing all the basic characteristics to the right extent and aesthetically pleasing. Also : Round.

Basic Tastes – The basic sensations that your tongue gives to the human experience. Specifically, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. 

Batch Roaster – Apparatus that roasts a given quantity of coffee at a time. Unlike continuous roasters, batch roasters have an identifiable start and stop time to each roast. This is the be differentiated from roasting plants that have a supply-line that moves through a machine in a linear fashion ie. the modern pizza oven. See also: Continuous Roaster.

Bean Probe – Any measuring probe positioned on a roaster to enable the operator to read external bean temperature.

Bean Temperature – The external temperature of the coffee bean during the roast cycle. Generally used as the control temperature for the roasting process. Bean temperature is also used to measure the outside temperature of the bean during the drying process of the wet-milling process. This is a very important reading, as it allows quality control during the wet-milling process, such that correct interpretation of temperature can create consistently high-quality coffee. A significant term used during roasting and wet-milling.

Beneficio- A central American coffee term for a coffee-processing establishment, such as a wet mill.

Bird Friendly- A certification that designates that a coffee has been grown in accordance with the Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center’s guidelines, which help protect bird habitat through shade-grown coffee and other environmental focuses. In Kona, there are mixed approaches to Bird-Friendly growing conditions. Usually, natural trees are left to stay in the coffee fields, as they contribute to the fertility of the land, and so is bird friendly. Mountain Thunder’s organic coffee farm is bird friendly, as natural tropical “ohia” oak trees are interspersed with the coffee.

Bitter- A harsh, unpleasant taste perceived mostly at the back of the tongue. All coffees have a slight bitterness that is characteristic of the roasting process and moderate bitterness can be balanced by sweetness. Some coffees have a pleasing bitter-sweet flavor like very dark chocolate. Unpleasant bitterness can be found in dark roasts, or is usually caused by over extraction or leaving coffee on a heating element too long.

Black Bean – A common physical defect of green beans, resulting in a bean which is at least 50 percent black externally or internally. Usually the result of an infection during bean development or the prolonged fermentation of cherries that have been picked up from the ground. In Kona, state of hawaii green bean standards consider all black or partially black beans a defect. Such defects count against the lot of coffee and the percentage of black beans will show up in the certification record of each lot. Too many black beans will result in failure of certification. Such strict standards protect the quality of Kona coffee, leading to a strong brand name. Only perfect coffee can be exported using the Kona name.

Bland- Lacking in positive taste characteristics. Not highly flavored. Also: Dull, Mild, Tasteless.

Blend- A mixture of two or more coffees that differ by growing regions, districts, farms, varietals, processing methods or roasts. In Kona, blends are a bad word. The movement of the Kona coffee council is to promote 100% Kona Coffee. In Hawaii, people are savvy to the marketing techniques of blenders that “ride on” the Kona name, which has driven the urge to drink only pure 100% Kona coffee. Because Kona beans are 4-7 mm bigger than other origin beans, Kona Coffee is very smooth, as bigger beans mean smoother flavor. Because of this, people can taste the difference from 10% to 100% Kona Coffee. There is no substitute. If you are looking for the best cup of coffee, only drink 100% Kona Coffee.

Body- The tactile impression of the weight or viscosity of coffee in the mouth. The heaviness of a coffee in your mouth perceived after swallowing.  Body is actually micro particles of insoluble coffee fiber suspended in water.  The amount and kind of insolubles vary from one coffee to another.  Also : mouth feel.

Bouquet- Usually a reference to an overall aroma impression of brewed coffee. The total aromatic profile of the initial fragrance of the dry ground coffee plus the aroma of the brewed coffee and the nose impression when drinking. Also : Fragrance

Bourbon- A botanical variety of Coffea arabica that features broad leaves and small, dense fruit. In Kona, Bourbon is grown on several farms

Brackish – A taste sensation that is distasteful, bitter and salty.

Breaking the Crust – During cupping, the action of breaking apart the cap of coarse grounds on the top of a cup prior to tasting. This is done using the old-fashion way of brewing coffee–by having the grounds directly in your beverage.

Brokens- Coffee beans that were cracked or broken during processing; considered a defect. In Kona, brokens count against you, along with a scoresheet of 20+ other possible defects. Having your defect rate too high will make your coffee downgraded into lower and lower grades. Taste corresponds to grade level, and so broken beans are to be avoided at all costs. Broken beans usually develop while pulping, during the wet-milling process.

Burnt- A bitter, smoky or tarry flavor characteristic, often found in brewed coffee that has been over roasted. Similar to having too much burnt black stuff on your BBQ. The taste of charcoal is bitter. Yet in the right amounts, it makes the coffee taste good, and is what gives coffee its characteristic taste. French Roast is the darkest you can go before you burn the coffee.

Briney- salty taste caused by excessive heat after brewing (truck stop coffee has this familiar taste).

Buttery- 1. A full and rich flavor with an oily body or texture 2. Rich and oily in flavor and texture, characteristic of some Indonesian varietals (for example, Sulawesi)

Coffee- Originally came from Africa. Used today as a beverage that helps give the drinker a pick-me-up. Great beverage to help wake up in the morning.

Coffeol- Is the fragrant, volatile oil that readily dissolves in water and gives brewed coffee it’s flavor.

Soura sharp, biting flavor, often caused by under roasting. In Kona Coffee, sour coffee is caused by defective beans called “sours”. These often dark, black beans consistently give sour characteristics in cupping. Prime grade 100% Kona Coffee can contain up to 15% defects or sours. Usually though, coffee that is too sour is rejected by the State of Hawaii inspection procedure. Mountain Thunder, however, is committed to quality, and will never roast prime grade coffee. As an alternative, Mountain Thunder offers Select grade, which blows prime out of the water in the flavor department. The term “sour” is used in the Kona Coffee industry, and is a derogatory quality to be avoided. Sour coffee is completely preventable with the use of color sorters which sort out black and brown beans.

Spicyan aroma or flavor that recalls a particular spice: For instance black pepper, cardamom, cedar.

Strongrefers to degree of various taste attributes, or to the proportion of coffee solubles to water in a brew.

Sweeta general term that refers to coffees which are smooth and palatable.

Tangyis a darting, fruit-like sourness, occurring often in high-grown Latin American coffees.

WildCoffee with extreme flavor characteristics. Ethiopia Mocha Harrar is an example. In Kona Coffee production, this can mean the planting style of coffee where rows are almost non-existent. May yield the same amount of coffee per acre, but most definitely harder to pick.

WineyLike wine, some of the more acidic coffees leave a dry aftertaste in your mouth.  This pungency can add to the complexity of the overall taste experience.