Nate’s Top 5 Misused & Abused #Coffee Terms

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misused coffee terms

Misused Coffee Terms

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Strong coffee“…”Bold coffee” These as well as other coffee related terms have been misused and abused over and over, making it very difficult for new coffee lovers to break the code. Here my list of the top 5 most misused and misleading coffee terms. There are many more, so I invite you to share your own thoughts and favorites in the comment section below 🙂

  • STRONG coffee: The ‘strength’ of a coffee refers to the coffee to water ratio.  It is NOT a particular type of roast. Some people mistakenly refer to a dark roast as a ‘strong’ coffee. While certainly there are some coffees with stronger flavors than others, the actual meaning of STRONG coffee refers to a high ratio of coffee grounds to water. Conversely, ‘Weak’ coffee is coffee that is brewed with a lower coffee to water ratio.

  • DARK roast coffee: Sometimes also referred to as French Roast, Italian Roast, or Full City+, but can refer to any coffee roasted beyond the

    Showing the coffee bean roasting stages from green to charcoal

    norm. A coffee that is dark roasted is quite simply one that has been roasted for a longer period of time, or at higher temperatures. When a coffee is dark roasted, very little of its unique terroir (unique conditions of the growing region; ie soil drainage/makeup, precipitation, elevation) flavor remains, and nearly all of the flavor is from the roasting process itself. These coffees tend to be more bittersweet and smoky in their flavor. It is not appropriate to refer to a dark roasted coffee as ‘strong’ coffee.
    roast coffee: Some people think that lighter roasted coffee is weaker in flavor. This is certainly not the case, rather it is a different type of flavor. Lighter roasted coffee derives a large amount of its flavor due to its terroir. These unique flavors can range from a bursting blueberry Harrar to rooty/earthy Sumatran. Again, the strength of the coffee is determined by the coffee/water ratio. That being said the definition of ‘light’ roast is a bit subjective, and varies from roaster to roaster. I’ve seen ‘light’ roasted coffee that was dark as night and as shiny as a freshly minted penny. I have also seen ‘light’ roasted coffee that was light tan and barely roasted. Personally, I define a light roast as a coffee that is medium to light brown in color, has no shiny oil on the surface of the bean, yet is roasted hot and long enough to allow the chemical reactions inside the bean occur that produces the optimum flavor. My sweet spot is between numbers 8-12 on the chart.

    Green Mountain's "BOLD" can be light roasted

  • BOLD coffee: This can either mean dark roasted coffee, or an increased coffee to water ratio.  You will find different meanings of the term ‘bold’depending on what coffee shop or coffee company you are dealing with. It is important for you to ask the right questions to know what their particular definition is. If you walk into a Starbucks store and ask for ‘bold’, you will get a cup of super dark roasted coffee. If you order ‘bold’ coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, you will get a pack of K-cups with more coffee in each serving. Due to the varied meanings, I choose not to use the word ‘bold’ to describe coffee.

  • Acidity: When people hear someone say that a coffee has acidity, they generally think of it as a negative descriptor. This is likely due to the fact that outside of the coffee world, acidity is defined as ‘sourness or the state of being an acid’. Not really something you attribute to a great cup of coffee!  What acidity means in terms of coffee is the presence of a ‘tartness’ or ‘tingle’ on the tongue. That is also what is referred to as being ‘bright’.  A coffee’s acidity is graded when a coffee is evaluated, but the acidity is not judged on how bright it is, but how ‘pleasing’ it is.  It is quite subjective, and what is ‘pleasing’ to one judge is not necessarily to another. For its subjectivity and multiple definitions, I’m not a fan of scoring coffees based on acidity.
    • What great 'spro looks like

      Espresso: Newsflash folks…Espresso is not a variety of coffee bean or a special degree of roasting. True, you will find companies that market ‘espresso beans’ or an ‘espresso roast’, these are misleading.  Espresso is simply a coffee brewing method in which hot water is forced through a bed of finely ground coffee with at least 9 atm of pressure. You can brew espresso with light, medium, or dark roasted coffee. It is a common misconception that espresso is brewed with only dark roasted coffee. In fact, I prefer espresso made with a lighter medium roasted coffee.
      Sadly enough, properly brewed espresso is not a very easy thing to find.
      For instance, there are 5 coffee shops that I’ve ordered espresso from in my town, and they have all been very sub-par! They all used coffee that was ground some time before I even entered the shop, tamped at about 1lb of pressure, and used dirty portafilters, creating a wonderful imitation of ashtray water. If your idea of espresso is bitter nasty cigarette butt water, then obviously you know what I mean.  I challenge you to find a ‘real’ barista and try a shot of espresso. A good indicator is if there is a layer of creamy brown foam on top, known as crema.  Another hint will be the volume of the shot, it should be just an ounce or two…not 8 like one local shop here serves up!

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