Coffee Terminology

What are the different types of Coffee Roasts?

When you hear the term “Coffee Roast” it is referring to how long the coffee was roasted for. The longer the coffee is roasted the darker the coffee will be. The darker the coffee, the stronger tasting that your Cup of Joe will be.


A Cinnamon Roast also known as a “Light Roast” tastes more subtle than a medium roast. There are a lot of coffee shops that roast like this. A lighter roasted coffee will bring out more floral and subtle notes in the cup compared to the Full City Medium Roast.


A Full City also known as “Medium Roast” is what most Americans drink on a daily basis. The grassy flavor is gone by roasting the coffee a little bit longer and you have a much richer, fuller Cup of Joe! There is only a spot or two of oils on the coffee beans, you have a dry feeling to the coffee when you rub the coffee beans in your hands. A great example of a Full City/Medium Roast is our Colombian Supremo.


A Viennese Roast also known as “Light French Roast” is right in between a Medium Roast and French Roast. A Light French Roast has a little but more developed flavor then a Medium Roast, but you have not yet gotten to the very strong developed flavor of a French Roast. There are numerous spots of oil on the coffee beans, there is a little bit of an oily feeling when you rub the coffee beans in your hands. A great example of a Viennese Roast/Light French Roast is our San Jose Estate Nicaragua.


A French Roast also known as “Dark Roast” is a full blown dark roasted coffee. Most of the acidity is gone from the roasted coffee bean. Whats interesting about a French Roast is that many people don’t realize that a French Roast and a Full City are actually the exact same coffee prior to roasting. The only difference is that a French Roast is is roasted about a minute or two longer than a Full City. A French Roast is a very oily coffee, you have a very oily feeling when you run the coffee beans through your hands. A great example of a French Roast/Dark Roast is our Sumatra Mandheling French Roast.


A Italian Roast also known as “Very Dark Roast” is about 5 seconds from being completely burnt. Italian Roast coffee is the darkest roasted coffee you can get in any coffee shop that dares to carry it. The color of an Italian Roast is charcoal black. The coffee bean itself is very, very oily with an extremely wet feeling to the coffee bean when you are rubbing the coffee beans through your hands. You have to be an experienced Coffee Roaster to always get a Italian Roast right on the dot because it only takes a few seconds to go from Italian Roast to poof, your coffee is on fire…yes I mean literally the coffee will catch fire.


What is Acidity?

Where coffee is concerned, acidity is actually a pleasing, highly desirable characteristic of coffee’s complex flavor. Acidity is present in all varieties of coffee, in the form of formic, malic, and acetic acids among others. These same acids are found in vinegar, fruit, and wine. Proper roasting lends itself to wonderfully balanced acidity, giving coffee its pleasing “snap” and sharp, bright liveliness!

If you are sensitive to coffee acidity, we recommend a coffee that is naturally lower in acidity such as the Indonesian varietals: Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Timor, or Celebes Kalossi. Dark roasted coffees are also a good choice. The darker the roast, the lower the acidity.


What is Body?

A tasting term used to describe the luscious, syrupy mouth feel that a high quality coffee imparts. It is the sensational texture, fullness, and smooth 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 does Single Origin mean?

There are a lot of times when you will hear the term “Single Origin” when discussing coffee. Single Origin refers to coffee that grows only in a single region or country. For Instance, among Costa Rican Coffees, there are four main regions. Coffee from each region is referred to as Single Origin due to the unique characteristics of that region, despite the fact that it comes from the same country. In Costa Rica; Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredia, and Alajuela, are the four primary growing regions, each producing distinct and unique coffees.


On the other hand, when you hear about African Coffee, this refers to the coffee that originates from several different countries that are home to multiple coffee-producing regions. For instance, it can refer to Ethiopian Coffee, which includes coffee from origins such as Sidamo, Harrar, or Yirgacheffe. Or it could refer to Kenyan coffee, which includes coffees from the Mount Kenya and Nyanza regions.


There are of course private estates like Costa Rica Doka for example but that is considered an Estate Coffee. An Estate Coffee is a farm within a coffee growing region but due to certain conditions produce coffee that is unique to that area. In other words an Estate Coffee is a prized coffee from a region. Estate Coffees fetch a higher dollar when they are brought to port because they are more unique and for many small coffee shops this means something that only they have. There could be hundreds of coffee companies that have Costa Rica Terrazu, but only a handful that have Costa Rica Doka. Essentially an Estate Coffee comes down to supply and demand just like Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hawaii Kona.


What does Organics and Fair Trades mean?

When you are referring to Organic Coffee you are referring to the way that the coffee is treated, well in this case not treated. Just like when you buy organic fruit at the grocery store Certified Organic Coffee means that the coffee tree itself as well as the soil and everything else involved with handling the coffee from growing to consumption is “Organic”. In other words there are no pesticides and/or herbicides used on the coffee or the coffee tree. Most of the worlds coffee is Organic, it just may not be Certified. In order for someone to advertise that they are selling Organic Coffee, the coffee itself has to go through a certification process way before the coffee roaster and ultimately the consumer gets their hands on the green coffee or roasted coffee. This certification costs quite a bit of money so many coffee farms choose not to go through with it, due to the fact that it may not be profitable for them in the long run. All of the coffee that we carry is “organic”, it just may be not “Certified Organic”. A great example of this is our Costa Rica Tarrazu and our Organic Costa Rica.


When you start talking about Fair Trade Coffee what you are really talking about is the farmers themselves that grow and produce the coffee getting a fair price for there efforts. There are lots of factors that drive coffee prices up and down in the commodities market but most of the worlds coffee is grown on small family operated farms of 12-15 acres. Keep in mind that in addition to coffee being grown on family farms, this is pretty much there only income. So when the coffee prices get driven way down, these coffee producing families suffer. It is hard enough to put food on the table in some of these counties much less have the coffee taken out from beneath your feet for a devastatingly low price. Now enters Fair Trade Coffee. Fair Trade Coffee farmers get a very good market value for their coffee. Essentially you are taking out some of the middle men and more money goes to the farmer. Now I bet your are wondering why wouldn’t all coffee be Fair Trade? Well that is very simple, Fair Trade Coffee costs more for coffee shops to purchase and ultimately for the consumer. Instead of a pound of Sumatra being $13.95, and Fair Trade Sumatra might be 50 cents to a dollar extra. Many coffee shops are realizing that purchasing Fair Trade Coffee is the way to go, you get a great product and you get to help support the farm that it comes from. Not all coffees are available in Fair Trade but we do our part in buying what we can from our green coffee importers.


What does Specialty Blends mean?

The term Blending or the more commonly used term of Specialty Blends is when you take 2 or more Single Origins and blend them together. It is a very complex but simple process at the same time. Generally you always want to blend coffees that compliment each other. A great example of this is Mocha Java, Arabian Mocha Yemen is mildly acidic and a winey coffee with a fairly light body. Java on the other hand is a heavier bodied coffee that has a much deeper tone than Arabian Mocha Yemen. There are generally only a couple of reasons that coffee companies blend coffees. 1. To cut costs, which we never do. This is why you will see “Kona Blend” in many grocery stores and coffee shops. Why take such a great coffee like Hawaii Kona Extra Fancy and dilute it with Colombian? With the name Kona they can up charge for that blend while only having 10% Kona and 90% Colombian. Here at Lakota Coffee we could never fathom doing such a thing and that is why you will only find the true uncut 100% pure Hawaii Kona Extra Fancy. 2. To insure that they can supply a certain type of coffee year around. If for some reason lets say that Sumatra had a shortage of coffee for the year. A coffee company could come up with Sumatra Blend consisting of 25% Sumatra Mandheling and 75% Celebes Kalossi. Last but not least (and yes this is finally a good reason) 3. to take a coffee that does not have all of the characteristics by itself that many coffee drinkers desire, and blending it with something that complements that coffee to make a superb Specialty Blend. Here at Lakota we only take the highest quality Single Origins and blend them together, we only blend coffee to enhance the characteristics of coffees. We do not blend coffees to save money.


What does Flavored Coffee mean?

The term Flavored Coffee means, that flavoring oils has been added to the coffee beans prior to brewing your favorite cup of coffee. The flavoring oil is a super concentrated Hazelnut Flavoring, Southern Pecan Flavoring, or Chocolate Macadamia Nut Flavoring, etc that gets added to the roasted coffee while the coffee beans are still a little warm and not 100% cooled yet. It does not take much flavoring to go a long way so if you are doing this at home be careful. The flavoring oils themselves do not have sugars or anything to them so the oil themselves do not add any sweetness to your coffee. If you are looking for more of a sweetened flavor, then you need to consider a flavor shot of Hazelnut, or French Vanilla like when you get a cappuccino. This flavor shot is added after you brew your coffee. Just take your favorite coffee and add your favorite flavor shot and voila.


What does Decaf Coffee mean?

What most people don’t know is that green decaf coffee is the same as regular caffeinated coffee prior to making it decaf. It does not come from a special coffee tree or anything like that. Lets take Colombian for example; there are numerous ways to turn Colombian Coffee into Decaf Colombian. If you like the “Natural Method” then you are looking for Swiss Water, however if you also like no flavor to your decaf coffee then you are also looking for Swiss Water. Just like every other Decaf Method, the Swiss Water Process takes 99.99% of the caffeine out of the coffee but it also takes all the flavor. If you are looking for the best tasting Decaf Method, look no further than CO2. There are also numerous other methods, but to list a few MC, KVW, Triglyceride, Direct Method, Indirect Method.

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