Coffee Glossary : S

Are you not familiar with a term used in one of our articles or reviews? Our Coffee Glossary defines hundreds of common and not-so-common words in the coffee lexicon. Click any letter below to view a list of coffee terms and definitions beginning with that letter.

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  • Sanani.  A comprehensive market name for coffees from several growing regions west of Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen. Usually a lower-toned, somewhat less acidy version of the Yemen style.

    Santo Domingo.  Coffee from the Dominican Republic. High-grown Dominican coffee is a fairly rich, acidy coffee with classic Caribbean characteristics. Lower grown Dominican coffees tend to be softer and less acidy.

    Santos, Bourbon Santos.  A market name for a category of high-quality coffee from Brazil, usually shipped through the port of Santos, and usually grown in the state of São Paulo or the southern part of Minas Gerais State. The term Bourbon Santos is sometimes used to refer to any high-quality Santos coffee, but it properly describes Santos coffee from the Bourbon variety of arabica, which tends to produce a fruitier, more acidy cup than other varieties grown in Brazil.

    SCAA, Specialty Coffee Association of America.  An important and influential association of specialty coffee roasters, wholesalers, retailers, importers and growers headquartered in Long Beach, California.

    Semi-Dry-Processed Coffee, Pulped Natural Coffee, Semi-Wet-Processed Coffee.  Coffee prepared by removing the outer skin of the coffee fruit (a process called pulping) and drying the skinned coffee with the sticky mucilage and the inner skins (parchment and silverskin) still adhering to the bean. This processing method, situated between the dry method and the wet method, has no consensus name. It is one of three processing methods practiced in Brazil, and is used sporadically on a small scale by farmers in Sumatra and Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    Shade Grown, “Bird Friendly.  ” Describes coffee grown under a shade canopy. Arabica coffee is traditionally grown in shade in many (but not all) parts of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela, and in some other parts of the world, including India and some regions of Indonesia and Africa. Elsewhere arabica coffee is traditionally grown in full sun, or near full sun. The importance of maintaining shade canopies to supply habitat for migrating song birds in Central America has led to a controversial campaign by researchers at the Smithsonian Institute and their supporters to define “shade grown” in rather narrow terms (shade provided by mixed native trees) and label coffees grown under such a native canopy as “bird friendly.” Farmers who traditionally have not grown coffee in shade but maintain extensive forest reserves on their land understandably object to the concept, as do those who use non-native trees to shade their coffee. On the other hand, shade grown coffees most definitely are much easier on the environment than sun grown coffees, and the better tasting traditional varieties of arabica, bourbon and typica, are, in Central America at least, best grown in shade.

    Sidamo, Washed Sidamo.  Market name for a distinguished light-to-medium bodied, fragrantly floral or fruity wet-processed coffee from southern Ethiopia.

    Silverskin.  The thin, innermost skin of the coffee fruit. It clings to the dried coffee beans until it is either removed by polishing or floats free during roasting and becomes what roasters call chaff.

    Single-Estate Coffee, Estate-Grown Coffee.  Coffee produced by a single farm, single mill, or single group of farms, and marketed without mixture with other coffees. Many specialty coffees are now identified by estate name, rather than the less specific regional or market name.

    Single-Origin Coffee, Straight Cofee.  Unblended coffee from a single country, region, and crop.

    Sivitz Roaster.  Type of coffee roaster named after inventor Michael Sivetz. Also known by the generic terms Fluid Bed Roaster, Fluidized Bed Roaster, and Air Roaster, A roasting apparatus that works much like a giant popcorn popper, utilizing a column of forced hot air to simultaneously agitate and roast green coffee beans.

    Soft Bean.  Often used to describe coffees grown at relatively low altitudes. In the same context, coffees grown at higher altitudes are often designated hard bean. The lower altitudes and consequently warmer temperatures produce a faster maturing fruit and a lighter, more porous bean. Soft bean coffees usually make a less acidy and less flavorful cup than do hard-bean coffees, although there are many exceptions to this generalization. The hard bean /soft bean distinction is used most frequently in evaluating coffees of Central America, where it figures in grade descriptions.

    Spanish Roast, French Roast, Heavy Roast.  Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast considerably darker than the American norm; may range in color from dark brown (see Espresso Roast) to nearly black (see Dark French Roast) and in flavor from rich and bittersweet to thin-bodied and burned.

    Specialty Coffee.  Practice of selling coffees by country of origin, roast, flavoring, or special blend, rather than by brand or trademark. The term specialty coffee also suggests the trade and culture that has grown up around this merchandising practice.

    Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).  An important and influential association of specialty coffee roasters, wholesalers, retailers, importers and growers headquartered in Long Beach, California.

    Steam Wand, Nozzle, Pipe, Stylus.  The small protruding pipe on most espresso machines that provides live steam for the milk-frothing operation..

    Straight Coffee, Single-Origin Coffee.  Unblended coffee from a single country, region, and crop.

    Strictly High-Grown.  Highest grade of El Salvador coffee.

    Strictly High-Grown Washed.  Highest grade of Haiti coffee.

    Sulawesi, Celebes.  Single-origin coffee from the island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes), Indonesia. Most come from the Toraja or Kalossi growing region in the southeastern highlands. At best, distinguished by full body, expansive flavor, and a low-toned, vibrant acidity. At worst, many display unpleasant hard or musty defects. Some display an earthiness which many coffee lovers enjoy and others avoid.

    Sumatra.  Single-origin coffee from the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Most high-quality Sumatra coffee is grown either near Lake Toba (Mandheling, Lintong) or in Aceh Province, near Lake Biwa (Aceh, Gayo Mountain). At best, distinguished by full body, deep, expansive flavor, and a low-toned, vibrant acidity. At worst, many display unpleasant hard or musty defects. Some display an earthiness which many coffee lovers enjoy and others avoid.

    Sun Drying.  Drying coffee directly after picking (in the dry method) or after fruit removal (in the wet method) by exposing it to the heat of the sun by spreading and raking it in thin layers on drying racks or patios. A more traditional alternative to machine drying.

    Sun Grown.  Describes coffee that is not grown under a shade canopy. Arabica coffee is traditionally grown in shade in many (but not all) parts of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela, and in some other parts of the world, including India and some regions of Indonesia and Africa. Elsewhere arabica coffee is traditionally grown in full sun, or near full sun.

    Supremo.  Highest grade of Colombia coffee.

    Sustainable Coffee.  At this writing, a contested and vaguely defined category of environmentally friendly coffees. A caucus in the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is attempting to evolve reliable guidelines for what constitutes a genuine sustainably grown coffee. Supporters of organic coffees object to the concept as dangerously fuzzy.

    Swiss Water Process.  A trademarked decaffeination method that removes caffeine from coffee beans using hot water, steam, and activated charcoal rather than chemicals or solvents.

    Adapted from Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing & Enjoying; Espresso: Ultimate Coffee; and Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival. St. Martin's Press.

    Copyright © 1996, 2001 by Kenneth Davids. All Rights Reserved.