Coffee Terminology

What’s all this business about Full city roasts (Medium Roasts), French roasts (Dark Roasts), Espresso roasts (Dark Roasts), and how are they different from one another?

There are six general roast descriptions for the Coffees of the World. The different roasts are determined by timing. The longer a coffee is roasted, the darker and less acidic it becomes. Depending on the temperature, the type and number of pounds of coffee roasted, and the equipment used, roasting time is usually between 10 and 15 minutes. The most common roasts are as follows:

Cinnamon Roast or Blond Roast/Light Roast:  Blond Roast is always more acidic than darker roasts of the same coffee, simply because heat breaks down the acidity as it roasts.  The high acidity of Blonde Roast is generally perceived as a lemony, citrusy or sour taste, and seems to be craved by some people.

Full City Roast/Medium Roast: This is the most common roast denoting the full development of coffee flavor. It is dark brown with few traces of oil on the surface of the bean. The flavor can be caramel to chocolate like with some hints of smokiness.

French Roast/Dark Roast: Very dark brown with large amounts of oil on the beans surface. It is bittersweet, smoky and pungent.

Espresso Roast/Dark Roast: Excellent Espresso is a three-part endeavor.

  1. Espresso is actually a method of brewing that employs hot water “pressed” through finely ground coffee. It produces a syrupy bittersweet shot of wonder that is the concentrated “essence” of coffee.
  2. Espresso Blend is a blend of coffees specifically chosen to enhance the espresso’s quality. It is widely believed that a single coffee cannot provide all of the necessary elements for a great espresso.
  3. Espresso Roast is a specific roast to a certain degree of darkness (proprietary) to decrease the acidity and bring out the best flavor of the coffees used in the blend.

These three points differ, sometimes dramatically (for better or for worse) with each specialty coffee company you may visit. Taste-testing Espresso can be an exciting and fulfilling addition to your journey through the Coffees of the World.

Italian Roast/Very Dark Roast: Coal black and soaked with oil, amazingly aromatic with more pronounced characteristics of the French Roast and lower yet in acidity.



What is Acidity?  

Acidity, though kind of a harsh sounding word, is actually a pleasing, highly desirable characteristic of coffees complex flavor. Acidity is present in the form of formic, malic, and acetic acid, among others. These are the same acids found in vinegar, fruit, and wine. If coffee is properly roasted, these acids become wonderfully balanced and give coffee its pleasing “snap” and sharp, bright liveliness that let you know that you made a wise choice…or not.

If you’re sensitive to coffee acidity, then a low acid coffee such as Sumatra, or a very low acid coffee (acidity lowers in longer roasting time) such as a Dark French Roast would be an excellent alternative. Cold Brewed Coffee is very low in acidity (66% less!)  due to the coffee being extracted with cold water.

What is Body? 

A tasting term to describe the luscious, sometimes almost syrupy quality that a (high quality) coffee imparts. It is the sensational texture, fullness, and consistency created on the tongue.

What is Flavor?

Simply put, flavor is an overall evaluation of a coffee’s taste. Terminology varies and is somewhat open to interpretation but may include such terms as mild, bold, tangy, pungent, and earthy.

What is a Varietal? 

A varietal is a specific kind of straight coffee (unblended), named after its country or place of origin; Kenya, Sumatra, Kona, etc.

What are Special Blends?  

Every good specialty coffee company will showcase certain “Special Blends”. They will have fancy, exotic, or even funky names like Kona Blend Fancy, or Ozark Mountain Fog Lifter. These are simply instances where someone at one time or another thought that a particular varietal would taste really good mixed or blended with one or more other varietals! (Our Espresso is a blend of 4 different coffees!) Simple enough, right? Well, yes and no. Much time and energy has been spent and books have been written on the art and science of blending, with the sole purpose of creating a concoction that is much better in the cup than the sum of its parts.

What is Mocha?  

Is it Chocolate? Is it Coffee?  Mocha is actually a port on the Arabian Peninsula called Yemen. Yemen, although across the Red Sea from Ethiopia where the mother of all coffees still grows wild, was the first to actually cultivate and commercialize coffee. This exotic “Mocha” coffee (now known as Arabian Yemen Mocha) was then popularized in Europe and many thought it had an aftertaste similar to Chocolate. No wonder no one knows what’s what!

What is Java?  

The real answer to this question (as above) is another question. WHERE is Java? Java has become synonymous with coffee. Here is the reason, more or less. Due to some killer coffee marketing by the Dutch on one of the main Indonesian islands, yep, that would be…Java; a new slang term took hold. Now java is coffee, and coffee is java.

What is Mocha-Java?  Well, this is where all reason goes south! Shouldn’t this be some kind of great chocolaty coffee drink? Well, it sounds like a blend of something anyway!  Mocha-Java is actually and for real, the mother of all coffee blends. It is a combination of equal parts, more or less, of Mocha (Yemen) coffee, you know from that port we talked about, and Java. No, not just any coffee, but Java coffee from the island in Indonesia discussed earlier. Many specialty coffee houses don’t even purchase real Mocha/Yemen or Java.  (WE do!) They take similar tasting coffee, blend away, and then call it Mocha-Java. This doesn’t mean it won’t be reasonably good. It just won’t be blended from the Classic coffees that gave the blend its name.

What in the world is a Peaberry? 

Every once in a while, you’ll come across a varietal that is followed by that mysterious word – “Peaberry”.  One in every ten coffee beans, give or take a bean, is a peaberry. A peaberry is a botanical anomaly where the bean forms as a whole rather than two halves. (Flat berries) These beans or peaberries are thought by some to have mystical quality that comes through in the cup. (Since all of the goodness of the coffee is present in one bean instead of two halves).  Is there any truth to that?  Well, if you’ve never partaken, you’ll just have to decide on your own. However, for whatever reason, the peaberry is sorted out and sold separately!

What is Flavored Coffee?

Did you ever wonder what constitutes a great dessert coffee and how this amazing coffee is created?

Well, just let me tell you…. well, O.K., it isn’t rocket science. Actually the “hands on method” is pretty darn simple, but like all the best of things, and similarly conveyed by the rest of this site, several key factors must be in place to have the heavenly experience described above.

1. These coffees begin with…big surprise, the best green mountain-grown coffee available, BUT, it should be a mild coffee such as Brazilian or Mexican, so as not to compete too much with the flavoring concentrate.

2. The coffee must be brought to a nice medium roast, not too light or it will be a bit grassy and acidic, not too dark or it will become too powerful and eclipse the flavoring of choice.

3. Then, while still warm to the touch, the coffee beans are transferred to a sterile plastic container where the highest quality flavoring is poured evenly over the beans.

4. Then it’s shake and bake!  The coffee beans are shaken vigorously until thoroughly coated. Because the beans are still warm, they soak up every delectable ounce of flavoring.

O.K. So like I said, it’s not high tech, but after a number of different flavoring methods I have experimented with over the years, this produces the finest tasting coffee imaginable. After all, it’s more or less “home made” with old-fashioned loving attention to quality.
(well…ahem, at least, the way we make it here at Lakota Coffee Company!)

Now, assuming proper brewing, those scrumptious flavors will blend beautifully with the delicate aromatic quality of a mild high-grown coffee and, well, there you have it!  You have arrived… at Flavored Coffee Nirvana!

What about Decaf Coffee?

Have you ever had a cup of decaffeinated coffee that was so good, you scarcely knew it was 99.9% caffeine free? The best decaf coffee you’ll ever taste begins with the finest green arabica coffee beans available anywhere.

The quickest way to have the above experience follows along with everything we’ve learned on this site.

The difference is that after our green coffee importer discovers a great bean at the cupping table, a small percentage of the buy is shipped to a decaffeinating plant where it’s processed before being sent home to the importer’s warehouse.


If you are looking for more information on coffee. Please check out our educational website: