Coffee Glossary : C

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.

Cúcuta.  Market name for a coffee grown in northeastern Colombia, but often shipped through Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Café au Lait.  Coffee drink combining one-third drip coffee with two-thirds hot frothed milk.

Caffè Americano.  An espresso lengthened with hot water.

Caffè Latte.  A serving of espresso combined with about three times as much hot milk topped with froth.

Caffeine.  An odorless, bitter alkaloid responsible for the stimulating effect of coffee and tea.

Cappuccino.  An espresso drink comprised of one serving of espresso topped with hot milk and froth.

Caracas.  A class of coffees from Venezuela, ranging from fair to excellent in quality.

Caracol.  Also known as Peaberry. A small, round bean formed when only one seed, rather than the usual two, develops at the heart of the coffee fruit. Peaberry beans are often separated from normal beans and sold as a distinct grade of a given coffee. Typically, but not always, they produce a brighter, more acidy, but lighter-bodied cup than normal beans from the same crop.

Caturra.  A relatively recently selected botanical variety of the Coffea arabica species that generally matures more quickly, produces more coffee, and is more disease resistant than older, traditional arabica varieties. Many experts contend that the caturra and modern hybrid varieties of Coffea arabica produce coffee that is inferior in cup quality and distinction to the coffee produced by the traditional “old arabica” varieties like bourbon and typica.

Celebes.  Former name of Sulawesi. Single-origin coffee from the island of Sulawesi, 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.

Chaff.  Flakes of the innermost skin of the coffee fruit (the silverskin) that remain clinging to the green bean after processing and float free during roasting.

Chanchamayo.  Market name for a respected coffee from south-central Peru.

Cherry.  Common term for the fruit of the coffee tree. Each cherry contains two regular coffee beans, or one peaberry.

Chiapas.  Coffee-growing state in southern Mexico. The best Chiapas coffees are grown in the southeast corner of the state near the border with Guatemala, and may bear the market name Tapachula after the town of that name. At their best, Chiapas or Tapachula coffees display the brisk acidity, delicate flavor, and light to medium body of the better known Mexican coffees of Oaxaca and Vera Cruz States.

Chicory.  The root of the endive, roasted and ground, it is blended with coffee in New Orleans style coffee.

Chipinga.  Region in eastern Zimbabwe near the border with Mozambique that produces the most admired coffees of that country.

Cibao.  Market name for a good, generally low-acid coffee from the Dominican Republic.

Cinnamon Roast.  Also known as Light Roast and New England Roast. Coffee brought to a degree of roast of coffee lighter than the traditional American norm, and grainlike in taste, with a sharp, almost sour acidity. This roast style is not a factor in specialty coffee.

City Roast.  Also Light French Roast, Viennese Roast, Light Espresso Roast, High Roast, and Full-City Roast. Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast somewhat darker than the traditional American norm, but lighter than the classic dark roast variously called espresso, French, or Italian. In the cup, full-city and associated roast styles are less acidy and smoother than the traditional American “medium” roast, but may display fewer of the distinctive taste characteristics of the original coffee. Among many newer American specialty roasters, roast styles once called full-city, Viennese, etc. may constitute the typical, “regular” roast of coffee.

Clean.  Coffee cupping or tasting term describing a coffee sample that is free from flavor defects.

Coatepec, Altura Coatepec.  Market name for a respected washed coffee from the northern slopes of the central mountain range in Veracruz State, Mexico.

Cobán.  Market name for a respected high-grown coffee from north-central Guatemala.

Coffea Arabica.  The earliest cultivated species of coffee tree and still the most widely grown. It produces approximately 70% of the world’s coffee, and is dramatically superior in cup quality to the other principal commercial coffee species, Coffea canephora or Robusta . All fine, specialty, and fancy coffees come from Coffea arabica trees.

Coffea Canephora.  Also Robusta. Currently the only significant competitor among cultivated coffee species to Coffea arabica. Robusta produces about 30% of the world’s coffee. It is a lower-growing, higher-bearing tree that produces full-bodied but bland coffee of inferior cup quality and higher caffeine content than Coffea arabica. It is used as a basis for blends of instant coffee, and for less expensive blends of preground commercial coffee. It is not a factor in the specialty coffee trade except as a body-enhancing component in some Italian-style espresso blends.

Coffee Oil, Coffeol.  The volatile coffee essence developed in the bean during roasting.

Cold-Water Method.  Brewing method in which ground coffee is soaked in a proportionally small amount of cold water for 10 to 20 hours. The grounds are strained out and the resulting concentrated coffee is stored and mixed with hot water as needed. The cold water method produces a low-acid, light-bodied cup that some find pleasingly delicate, and others find bland.

Colombia.  The standard Colombia coffee is a wet-processed coffee produced by small holders, and collected, milled and exported by the Colombian Coffee Federation. It is sold by grade (Supremo highest) rather than by market name or region. It can range from superb high-grown, classic, mildly fruity Latin-America coffee to rather ordinary, edge-of-fermented fruity coffee. Coffees from some estates and cooperatives and from privately operated mills are sold by region as well as by botanical variety (Bourbon is best). Narino State in southern Colombia is currently producing the most respected Colombia coffee. Mixed Medellin, Armenia, and Manizales Columbia coffees are often sold together as MAMs.

Commercial Coffees.  Packaged pre-ground (pre-brewed in the case of instant or soluble) coffees sold by brand name.

Complexity.  A tasting term describing coffees whose taste sensations shift and layer pleasurably, and give the impression of depth and resonance.

Continental Roast.  Also known as Espresso Roast, After-Dinner Roast, and European Roast. Terms for coffee brought to degrees of roast ranging from somewhat darker than the traditional American norm to dark brown. Acidity diminishes and a rich bittersweetness emerges. Among many newer American specialty roasters, roast styles once called by these names may in fact constitute the typical, “regular” roast of coffee.

Continuous Roaster.  Large commercial coffee roaster that roasts coffee continuously rather than in batches.

Costa Rica.  The best Costa Rica coffees (San Marcos de Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredi, Alajuela) display a full body and clean, robust acidity that make them among the most admired of Central American coffees.

Crema.  The pale brown foam covering the surface of a well-brewed tazzina of espresso.

Cupping.  Procedure used by professional tasters to perform sensory evaluation of samples of coffee beans. The beans are ground, water is poured over the grounds, and the liquid is tasted both hot and as it cools. The key evaluation characteristics are Aroma, Acidity, Body, and Flavor.

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.