The Coffee Dictionary – Letter B
Coffee has proved to be endlessly fascinating, engaging, and rewarding. Coffee is many different things for different people. This amazing drink is full of flavour, intrigue, history, and countless stories. With this coffee dictionary, it is excited to explore and discover coffee with your beloved one.
Coffee Definition Print Coffee Dictionary Art Print by gingermandy from The Coffee Dictionary – A, source:society6.com
Barista | BREWING; ESPRESSO
Directly translated from Italian, barista means “bar person”. However, due to Italy’s influence on world coffee culture, the term “barista” has come to refer solely to a professional coffee maker. Over recent decades the role of the barista has become more globally recognized and respected. This can be seen in many ways, as, for example, in barista competitions and barista-branded products on shelves, as well as in the increasingly specialized and specific function of the barista within cafés and restaurants. There is an increasing number of courses and qualifications surrounding the role, although most expertise is still learned through an on-the-job apprenticeship. The role of the barista has traditionally been a preparatory one – the making and serving of drinks. However, as coffee becomes more complex and customers more interested and discerning, the barista can take on a sommelier-like guise. With the increased automation in actual coffee preparation, there is a possibility that the role could one day become almost identical to that of a sommelier.
Basket | BREWING
Espresso is not defined by a certain size, shape, or consistency, but by its strength – it is a concentrated coffee. It is also fair to say that it needs to be brewed under pressure, which creates the crema. The size of the espresso depends on the size of the basket used. Group handles (the part of the espresso machine that is locked in and released for each shot) can fit a variety of basket sizes, typically ranging from 14g to 22g for double shots. The individual baskets are designed for a specific dose of coffee to be used. This will mean that there is enough room above the bed of coffee in the chamber for the water to pool before it passes through, and that the holes cut into the base of the basket will produce an appropriate resistance (more coffee will create more resistance and vice versa). It is therefore important to use the correct dose for each basket size, plus or minus a gram on either side.
Bean to cup | BREWING
Coffee brewing can range from fully automated to completely manual. There is a correlation in that higher-quality cups of coffee tend to be made more manually, though this is continually being challenged. Often, automated machines are made with the goal of ease of use, potentially at the expense of cup quality, as they cannot be adapted to the specific needs of different coffees. At the same time, the coffee-making process is full of variables that technological advancements can help us address more rigorously. There is a huge range in sophistication and quality of bean-to-cup machines. The top machines on the market are quite remarkable and allow you to make excellent coffee. The key here, as with all automation in coffee making, is that the machine can still be programmed or driven by a person. It still requires the user to understand how to tweak the controls to adjust for different coffees.
Blending | ROASTING
The coffee blend is a ubiquitous thing. “Try our secret master blend/house blend”, etc. is an opening gambit that every coffee drinker will have come across. There are a few reasons why roasters blend. One is to bring different flavour characteristics together; another is to save money and hide problems with a coffee or multiple coffees. Similarly, by blending, roasters can avoid the seasonal variations of coffee supply and instead offer a more continuous product. The problem with the term “blend” is that it does not really mean very much. In wine making, the term refers to a blend of different grapes usually from the same vineyard or village, but in coffee it more often refers to a blend of several coffees from different countries. Each coffee in that blend will already most likely be a blend of different types of coffee plant. Some coffee companies now eschew blends in order to highlight the characteristics of a coffee from a single source and focus on its story and origin. However, the term “single origin” technically just denotes coffee from only one country, so you could have a blend of lots of Brazilian coffees grown in farms across numerous regions and it would still be sold not as a blend but as a single origin. It is interesting to think about a big farm that covers a lot of land. A coffee could come from one farm but in essence be a blend of many plots. We have other terms that suggest more specificity, such as a single-variety lot, a micro lot, or even a nano lot. Blending has become less popular in speciality coffee – it is potentially harder to roast a blend of different coffees and then be able to extract those coffees evenly. This is where the idea of “post blending” comes in. Here, the roaster will roast the coffees separately to find a roast that suits each bean, and then blends them together afterwards. There are definitely conflicting views as to the benefits of blending and there will be different motivations as to why one might blend. It remains a very successful way to market and sell coffee, allowing a company to produce something unique to it and with a story customers can connect to.
Bloom | BREWING
The bloom is a term used to describe the rapid release of carbon dioxide (CO2) that occurs when water hits ground coffee. It is that frothy, crustlike top you find on the top of a French press before you plunge down. The specific context in which we refer to this as a “bloom” rather than a “crust” is when brewing single-serve filter coffees. Often, the bloom will be singled out as a specific part of the pouring process. Brew recipes will indicate how much water to add at the beginning to “bloom” the coffee. This will be followed by a wait before the coffee is poured. The idea is that by expelling the carbon dioxide we can help the water access the flavour from the coffee and expel the potentially negative flavours of too much CO2. There is probably some truth in this. There is an argument that the bloom time can affect flavour, owing to the number of aromatics released, and the time the coffee is left to bubble away can be used to alter this. I am dubious as to the exact impact of varying “blooming” on coffee brewing, and see it more as an indication of how freshly roasted the beans are as opposed to the quality of the brewing.
Blossom | GROWING
Coffee trees are a flowering species. The plant is self-pollinating and therefore does not require insects to produce fruit. In most countries where coffee is grown there are distinct seasons and the flowering follows heavy rainfall. The flower is a beautiful, simple white blossom that is wonderfully aromatic and is often described as being very similar to jasmine. This flowering is followed by fruit bearing, and the maturation of this fruit can take up to nine months, at which point the ripe cherries can be harvested, processed, and the precious beans released from inside. It is common to describe the coffee blossom aromatic as a flavour note in certain cups of coffee. This aroma is included in the Le Nez du Café smelling box. It is a lovely aroma, a somewhat tricky one to familiarize oneself with, as in many coffee-consuming countries access to coffee blossom is almost nonexistent.
Body | TASTING
Body is one of the slightly more elusive terms in the tasting repertoire, though I think that it needs to be considered alongside mouthfeel. In essence, body can be described as how big and heavy the coffee feels in your mouth. The body of a coffee will usually be described on a spectrum of light to heavy, though it is interesting to consider that you could experience a light body with a sticky mouthfeel or a big body with a juicy mouthfeel. Tasting can be pretty hard going at first, as there is such a complexity of flavours happening at once. Focusing on some core aspects of the coffee, such as body and mouthfeel, can be a great way to begin discussing and assessing coffee. Body and mouthfeel have a certain degree of bjectivity and so can be a little more shareable. Aromatics are extremely complex and pinpointing exactly whether you are tasting orange or mandarin is less tangible.
Bolivia | ORIGIN
With its staggering altitudes, some of the world’s highest-grown coffee is found in Bolivia. The country has great coffee-growing conditions, yet production is small and diminishing. Production and transportation can be tricky due to the mountainous nature of the land, and cocoa can provide a more stable income. I used a coffee from Bolivia for my first World Barista Championship in 2012. Like the best coffees from this country, it was very sweet and clean and of the Caturra variety. This complex and ripe coffee from Finca Valentin in the Loayza region stands out as one of my all-time favourite espresso coffees.
Boston Tea Party | HISTORY
In 1773 the North American colonies (as they were at the time) were becoming increasingly resistant to a taxation policy that was being decided upon by a British parliament as opposed to their own elected representatives. The importing of tea to the North American colonies was a particular bone of contention following the Tea Act of 1773. The resistance to the act culminated in the Boston Tea Party protests. On December 16 that year the tea-carrying ships of the East India Company were not allowed to unload their tea cargo. That evening, the ships were boarded by 30 to 130 men (accounts vary) and the chests of tea were symbolically thrown overboard. This event was apivotal event in the lead-up to the American Revolution (1765–83). Thereafter it was seen as unpatriotic to drink tea, and coffee became the hot beverage of choice. The United States has for many years now been the largest importer of coffee in the world and coffee is intrinsically linked to the culture of the country.
Bourbon | VARIETY
There is no relation to the American whiskey beyond the name, which originates from the well-known dynasty of French kings. The Bourbon coffee variety was first grown on the island of Réunion, which was previously named the Île Bourbon after the French royalhouse. The Bourbon variety is well known in the world of speciality coffee for producing a distinct and sweet cup profile. The fact thatBourbon is so widely grown helps highlight how much other factors affect flavour. There is a wide range of cup profiles from around theworld where Bourbon is grown. There is also a spread of Bourbon varieties and mutations over the years. Red, yellow, and orange are specific variations. A great tasting comparison is to pair the Bourbon coffees of Rwanda against Bourbon lots from El Salvador.
Brazil | ORIGIN
Brazil has for many years now grown and harvested more coffee than any other country in the world. The country produces a range of qualities across both the Arabica and Robusta species, mostly grown at lower altitudes. Brazil is known for round chocolaty and nutty flavour profiles with lower acidity, though there is a small variety of higher-grown, more acidic coffees produced as well. Brazil leads the world in the utilization of technology in growing, harvesting, and processing coffee. This is made possible by the flatter, lower-altitude farms, which permit the use of harvesting tractors. Coffee is grown in lines a lot like vineyards and the vehicles knock the cherries off the tree. This results in a mix of under- and overripe cherries. Complex sorting machinery is then required to separate the various qualities of cherry. During my visit to the Daterra farm in the Cerrado region, not only was I very well looked after, but I was blown away by the technology the farm had and the ability of that technology to improve the quality of sorting and processing. The owners had a bespoke sorting system that separated the cherries by ripeness based on pressure and LED sorters that scanned thousands of beans per second. Brazil has also seen a continuing increase in the amount of coffee consumed internally.
Brew ratio | BREWING
A brew ratio refers to the ratio of coffee to water as part of a brew recipe. In many ways, it is easier to just explain the weight of ground coffee dose used and the weight of the yield (final beverage). All the same, the brew ratio can be useful in communicating and considering the beverage in its fundamental form. For example, one might say a 50 percent brew ratio or a 1:2 ratio. Both mean that the beverage weighs twice that of the dose used. That means you could use a 15g dose for espresso or a 22g one but produce two shots with the same brew ratio by pouring 30g and 44g out, respectively. Even though thesecond shot is bigger, it is actually the same style of shot – you just started with more coffee.
Brix | GROWING
A degree Brix (1°Bx) represents 1g of sugar per 100g of aqueous solution. In effect, the Brix scale is a measurement of how sugary a liquid is. Brix readings are used to assess the sugar in grapes for wine making as well as in a plethora of other vegetables and fruits. What does this have to do with coffee? Coffee farmers focusing on quality are looking outwards to utilize methods of assessing and improving quality. Brix readings are becoming more and more popular in assessing the ripeness of the coffee cherries based on the sugar content. A refractometer, much like that used to measure the strength of coffee, is used to assess Brix. Indeed, the only difference between the two is the interpretation of the reading.
Buffer | WATER
There is a lot to say on the topic of water. I chose to give “buffer” its own entry as I think it has the most dramatic impact on flavour. It can be slightly confusing to understand at first, mainly because it is a scientific process and because there are several terms for “buffering” in water chemistry. It can also be referred to as the “alkalinity” of the water or the “bicarbonate content”. It is listed on most bottled waters and its job is to help maintain a stable pH. This “buffering” system is integral to life on planet Earth. The blood running through your body relies on the very same system to keep a steady pH. Coffee is an acidic beverage with a lower pH than the water you will have used to make it. Waters with high buffering ability will make the drink less acidic. This is a problem as we value good acidity in coffee. To see the startling effect of buffering, simply take the tiniest pinch of baking soda (a form of bicarbonate) and drop it into your cup of coffee. Taste and notice that it will have lost all of its acidity. The resulting cup will be bland and bitter.