The Coffee Dictionary – Letter C
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
C market | TRADING
The coffee futures market, or C market, is a global commodities market that operates in US dollars. Futures markets are based on contracts for a specific commodity to be delivered in the future (it is all in the name, really) and dictate the commodity price of a globally important product from day to day and year to year. The futures market has a huge impact on the livelihood of many working in the coffee industry, especially growers. A frost in Brazil can push the market price up due to worries that the world’s largest producer will make less coffee – worries that quickly ripple around the globe. Coffee, like any commodity market, hits peaks and troughs. It is all good when the market is at a peak, but when the market is in a trough, coffee is not even worth growing for many farmers. Speciality coffee prices mostly far exceed the C market prices, with a premium being paid for quality.
See “French press”.
Caffeine | STIMULANT
Wine is culinarily complex and contains alcohol. Coffee is no different, except its drug is caffeine. There is no doubt that, without the stimulating element of caffeine, coffee would not be the globally consumed drink it is today. Caffeine serves the same evolutionary purpose in the coffee plant as it does in many species: as an insecticide, it provides the plant with a natural defence mechanism. Caffeine content in a cup of coffee varies wildly. The origin of the coffee has a huge impact, as does the species – Arabica typically has half the amount of caffeine Robusta has. Coffee grown at higher altitudes tends to have a lower caffeine content as it needs less defence. There are varieties of Arabica that are naturally low in caffeine and are seen as a potential solution to decaffeinating coffee, though the plants are likely to mutate and develop higher caffeine contents in different environments. What makes caffeine content slightly confusing for everyone buying coffee-based drinks in shops is that, without knowing the amount of coffee used to make the drink, it is very hard to predict how much caffeine is in the beverage. Cup size is misleading: a smaller cup could be made with more ground coffee and therefore have more caffeine than a larger cup made with less coffee. Strength is also misleading: an espresso may be very intense but probably does not have sufficient volume to contain as much caffeine as a large mug of filter coffee.
Cappuccino | DRINK TYPE
The cappuccino is an iconic drink, but what exactly is it? There is much debate about nearly all of the drinks on a typical coffee menu. What exactly should the ratio of a cappuccino be: how much espresso to how much milk? And how much foam and what type of foam? And how exactly does it differ from other beverages on the menu? Strict definitions are hard to come by. The cappuccino is possibly the most widely interpreted drink name out there. It is fair to say that a cappuccino is stronger than a latte (there is more coffee to milk) and has a decent amount of foam, though in a lot of commercial shops a cappuccino is just a latte with some chocolate sprinkles added on top. Beyond this, it is pretty tricky. Some claim that a perfect cappuccino is the hardest milk drink to master: dense milk foam that is also big on volume is nigh impossible to create. I have been told of the existence of the perfect cappuccino in which the foam does not separate, but this, I think, must be mythical – all foam separates to the top unless you drink it immediately. Saying that, for a while I did try really hard to make that legendary cappuccino. The origin of the cappuccino is not linked to a monk’s hairstyle, as is often cited. Its origins are instead Viennese and refer to the brown robes of a Capucin monk, with the colour relating to the strength of the coffee-and-milk mix.
Capsules | BREWING
Nestlé invented capsule technology back in 1972, under the Nespresso banner. Since then, other systems from other companies have emerged and have been very successful. Capsule coffee consumption has continued to grow. The main benefit is the abilityto control and oversee more of the coffee-brewing process. Capsules simply contain ground coffee, but the aluminium or plastic capsule coupled with inert gas flushing means that the freshness of the coffee is preserved for impressive lengths of time. Up until recently, the speciality coffee sphere has had little interest in capsules, and as such they have been both nonartisanal and a vehicle for commercial flavour profiles. That said, the technology is capable of acting as a superb brewing system, and since certain Nespresso patents ended in 2012, speciality coffee roasters and companies have begun to enter the market.
Carbonic maceration | GROWING; PROCESSING
Carbonic maceration is a well-defined term in the world of wine. It was in 2015 at the World Barista Championship that the coffee community was introduced to the idea when the Serbian-born Australian Saša Šestić won the competition with a coffee that made use of the method. Lots of parallels can be drawn between coffee and wine: they are both complex, flavoursome drinks made from a singular ingredient in which the terroir greatly impacts the flavour. In wine, carbonic maceration uses the injection of carbon dioxide to ferment the grapes without breaking the skins, so the process happens inside each grape individually. When we process coffee we often utilize fermentation, but with coffee we are using the seed inside the fruit rather than the fruit itself. Šestić, together with his collaborator, the Colombian farmer Camilio Marisande, experimented with this technique to produce a coffee that had more aromatic complexity but a lower concentration of sharp-tasting acetic acid. They also put the beans through this process at much lower temperatures to avoid alcohol buildup. Exploration of coffee processing has never been more extensive and detailed, and boundaries are being pushed all the time. Even though we often categorize a coffee according to the process used, such as “washed” or “natural”, specifics like the temperature of the cherries and the type of water all have an impact on the end flavour. If you get the chance, tasting coffees from a single farm but processed in two different ways can be illuminating: the differences are sometimes subtle but often astonishing.
Cartridge filter | WATER FILTRATION
More accurately described as an ion exchange cartridge, a cartridge filter is very commonly found in coffee shops, positioned under the counter. Much of the same technology also makes its way into the filtration water jugs you may use at home, like Brita. Using a clever piece of chemistry, the cartridge features a “resin” that swaps ions in the water entering the cartridge for ions in the resin (hence the term “exchange”), thereby producing a different solution at the other end. There are different ways these resins can be configured. It is important to acknowledge here that the composition of the water going into the cartridge dictates what there is to swap around, so such systems do not create a specific kind of water. The filtered water’s composition is unique to, and dependent on, the source water used. Nonetheless, you can predict what impact the cartridge will have on different types of water and often you have the ability to adapt the filter somewhat to suit. These systems will always be designed to lower your buffer.
Cascara | COFFEE BY-PRODUCT
Cascara is the name of the dried coffee cherry from which we take the coffee beans. The name is derived from the Spanish for “husk”. Traditionally, cascara has been a by-product of coffee production that was little recognized or used. In Bolivia, however, using slightly toasted cascara to make “cascara tea” is quite common, and is referred to as the “poor man’s coffee”. Recently, there has been a huge upsurge of interest in cascara. Cascara has made its way into many winning World Barista Championship routines for the signature drink round. It is, of course, a great narrative to mix the very same cherry the coffee was grown in with the coffee itself. Cascara is now used in a variety of ways, with many bottled cascara drinks beginning to turn up. My favourite use of cascara so far is a cold cascara infused with Earl Grey tea used as a palate cleanser before drinking espresso. I first had this in the Kaffeine coffee shop in London. Cascara can have varying flavour characteristics depending on the provenance of the coffee itself. An overarching flavour profile for cascara is that it displays notes of what it is – a dried fruit. It most often has notes of raisin, sherry, and botanicals.
Castillo | VARIETY
Castillo is a brilliant example of many aspects of coffee varieties/cultivars and their development. Many of the world’s coffee varieties that are propagated today were influenced by the human touch at some point. The Holy Grail is to create cultivars that yield more coffee, are more disease resistant, and have a higher cup quality. This is difficult, as cup quality tends to be linked to lower yields, and disease-resistant strains utilize Robusta stock, again decreasing cup quality. This is not always the case, however: the cultivars Kenya has become renowned for – the SL varieties – were cultivated during imperial rule for the very goal of achieving higher yields. In doing so, the growers stumbled across incredible cup quality. Crippling crop disease is most problematic in the Americas, and Colombia has done a great job of exploring new cultivars that address this problem. The Castillo variety, like many cultivars, has met with much prejudice: its cup quality was expected to be a compromise and so the perception was that it could not compete with the lower-yielding and more disease-susceptible Caturra variety. The thing is, it is extremely difficult in coffee to isolate one variety and decisively label whether it is good or bad. For example, a variety may do extremely well in Kenya but not in El Salvador. The work of Michael Sheridan of the Coffee Lands Project has been instrumental in shifting perceptions on Castillo by challenging tasters’ preferences on blind tastings between Castillo and Caturra. Essentially, Sheridan’s work shows that expecting Castillo to produce high cup quality under the same growing conditions as Caturra was unfair and unproductive, and that the key was to figure out what growing conditions Castillo needs.
Channelling | BREWING
The term “channelling” refers to the way in which water passes though a bed of coffee. The term is most commonly found in the world of espresso. The idea is to get the water to pass evenly through all the ground coffee and pull flavour from every part. When the water fails to pass through evenly and instead creates either one main path or a number of pathways, we call this channelling. This is very problematic, as it means that the water takes too much flavour from the parts of the coffee it is passing through the most and not enough from elsewhere. There are a number of causes, including bad distribution in the basket, problems with tamping, and grinding inconsistencies. A (bottomless) portafilter will help show up when channelling occurs.
Chemex | BREWING
Invented in the early 1940s, the Chemex has become an iconic coffee brewer for both its aesthetic appeal and its brewing ability. A scattering of pop culture references shows the reach of the Chemex’s appeal, my favourite being James Bond’s use of the Chemex to brew his morning coffee in Ian Fleming’s From Russia with Love (1957). Its beautiful glass and wood design may be a big part of its appeal, but it is the unique paper filters that have the biggest impact on the cups it produces. It is increasingly recognized that the paper filters used for different filter methods have a huge impact and arguably largely define which filter method we have a preference for. So-called “paper tastings” occur to decide which paper will impart the least negative flavours to the cup. The flavour of the paper is one thing and the ability of the paper to filter various elements of the coffee is another. The Chemex papers have a bonded, thicker gauge, leading to what we would call a very “clean” cup, with little sediment and most coffee oils removed. They also routinely do rather well in those paper tastings.
China | ORIGIN
The ultimate tea nation has started drinking more coffee, and it may be surprising to hear that a fair amount of coffee is now being grown in Yunnan Province. Coffee was introduced to China way back in the late 1880s, but it is only recently that both the growing and the consumption of coffee have picked up. The coffee grown in Yunnan has not until recently been of much interest to the speciality market, but crop quality is improving. Coffee-drinking habits are also taking a turn, with consumption increasing along with an interest in highqualitycoffee experiences. The Tea & Coffee China Expo in Shanghai is one of the largest in the world. A visit to the show reveals the fervour and excitement around speciality coffee in China today.
Clean | TASTING
The term “clean coffee” often raises the question “As opposed to dirty coffee?” And the answer is “Well, yes.” When growing coffee there is the potential for many problems to occur that impart unwanted flavours to the coffee. Many defect flavours often taste “dirty”, such as the woody pungent notes in aged coffee. Wellprocessed coffee is often described as tasting clean. Naturalprocessed coffees are often contentious as they can lack the cleanness of washed coffee. However, these descriptors are not just a description of how well processed a coffee tastes. For example, a less high-quality-yielding variety grown at low altitude with a less than favourable environment could be extremely well picked and processed and still not produce a very clean cup.
Climate change | GROWING
Climate change promises to have a huge impact on coffee growing, as indeed it will on many crops. The unique climates and temperatures required to grow outstanding Arabica occur above 3,300 ft (1,000m), but these sweet spots are moving ever upward, which means that there is less potential space to harvest top-quality coffee. Increasing temperatures also mean that the spread of leaf rust gets all the easier and more problematic. Solutions include the potential exploration of varieties that produce a good cup profile at a lower altitude and are more resistant to rust. Mind you, this is not a new thing: it has always been valuable to try to achieve this, but maybe now there is more incentive to do so than before. The truth is that climate change will mean that cup profiles change and that growing excellent coffee will become more difficult.
See “Bloom” and “Crema”.
Coffee futures market
See “C market”.
Cold brew | DRINK TYPE
The cold brew phenomenon is everywhere, from boutique coffee shops to multinational chains, and much like the flat white, this relatively new drink format is here to stay. The principle is very simple: coffee gets brewed with cold water instead of hot. As the heat in water aids extraction, you need to compensate for this by dramatically increasing the brewing time, whether that is through a slow-drip method or a slow-steeping method. A cold brew is always going to take hours instead of minutes. Time, however, does not achieve the same things as heat, and the extraction is really quite different. The coffee has far less acidity and cold brews tend towards the chocolaty, malty, and often boozy end of the flavour spectrum. This has the bonus effect of making a lot of coffees smoother but the downside of not capturing the acidity and aromatics of characterful coffees. Nitro cold brew is also popping up on beer-like taps. Here, the addition of nitrogen gives a Guinness-like creaminess to the cold brew, complete with a beer-like head.
Colombia | ORIGIN
Colombia is one of the most diverse coffee-producing countries in terms of its quality flavour profiles. In departments such as Antioquia, chocolaty, full-bodied cups are found, while in Huila Department (the darling of the speciality market), one can find incredibly ripe, fruity, and juicy coffees whose flavour profiles are closely comparable to those of Kenyan coffees. Multiple microclimates also mean that Colombia can produce a lot of fresh crop coffee throughout most of the year, by using both main crops and smaller “fly” crops. As well as being one of the world’s largest coffee-producing countries, Colombia has a highly developed and progressive coffee infrastructure. Bodies such as the nonprofit Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia – Fedecafé, for short) and Cenicafé, a coffee research centre renowned for its development of more diseaseresistant varieties such as Castillo, are good examples.
Constantinople | HISTORY
It is said that the first-ever coffee house opened its doors in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in the mid-sixteenth century, soon after the beverage itself was introduced to the Ottoman capital. Coffee-house culture, and in particular its ability to be a hotbed for public debate, business, and social mingling, can be traced back to this amazing city and its rich, complex culture. From Constantinople, the institution of the coffee shop spread throughout the Arabic world, Europe, and the world.
Costa Rica | ORIGIN
Costa Rica has long been known for the quality of its coffee. In recent times, the country has been very good at increasing traceability as individual farmers move towards having their own mills and processing their own lots. Many farmers have also focused on explorative processing – the phenomenon of honey-processing originated in this country. There are multiple growing regions in Costa Rica, with Tarrazú garnering much of the reputation for producing high-scoring coffees. There is a range of flavour profiles within Costa Rican coffee, though we most often see light, sweet, and aromatic examples with floral and berry notes and light nutty characteristics apparent.
Crema | ESPRESSO
Beautiful crema. For a long, long time the appearance and quality of the crema – the thin layer of foam on top of a cup of espresso–was one of the defining characteristics by which the quality of an espresso was judged. Traditionally, the perfect crema is a deep, reddish-hazelnut colour and will hold a teaspoon of sugar for several seconds. If you are really lucky it will have “tiger stripes” – a speckled pattern effect across the surface of the crema. The crema, however, is really just a by-product of brewing under pressure and the effect this has on the CO2 in the coffee. It cannot tell you the quality of the coffee, but will instead indicate the freshness of the coffee (coffee loses CO2 and therefore crema as it ages) and the darkness of the roast (a darker roast will produce a darker crema). In summary, the highest-scoring coffees do not produce the highestscoring crema. The marking of crema at the World Barista Championship has become increasingly less important. So many other factors such as the quality of the green coffee, roast, and extraction are much more crucial to the cup’s quality.
Cup of Excellence | COMPETITIONS
Cup of Excellence (COE) is a competition in which producers have their coffees graded and ranked according to their quality. The top lots then get auctioned off to the highest bidder around the world via an Internet auction. This hugely impactful programme was created by the US speciality coffee pioneer George Howell along with Susie Spindler. The programme really helps to throw a spotlight on – and reward – quality, allowing producers access to international buyers prepared to pay for the best. Countries like Rwanda have had their coffee-growing fortunes dramatically altered by this programme, which brings attention to the quality of coffee that a country can produce. Not all coffee-producing countries host the Cup of Excellence, and other auction systems have also popped up, such as the Best of Panama.
Cupping | TASTING
Cupping not only has a humorous name but is also accompanied by a slightly unsettling chorus of various pitched slurps. Cupping is the preeminent method for grading and buying coffee. In order to achieve the most consistent results, the “cupper”, or taster, has to ollow a very specific, though in reality quite simple, set of procedures. You grind the coffee in a bowl, smell the ground coffee, top it off with hot water, wait for four minutes, then break the crust that has formed with a spoon and stir three times. You smell the aroma as this is happening and lastly wait for a further six minutes before tasting. In order to taste the coffee, each cupper dips their cupping spoon, which is much like a soup spoon, into the bowl without disturbing the grounds at the bottom and then slurps the coffee from the spoon, aerating it as they do so. The procedure is then for the taster to return to each cup two more times within the ensuing ten minutes. The main benefit of this procedure is that it enables the cupper to taste a lot of coffee at once. It is often advocated that cupping is the ultimate way to taste coffee, and that when making espressos or filter we are focusing on an aspect of the coffee that we tasted on the cupping table. This does not make sense to me. Cupping is just another way to make a cup of coffee, and when made the primary assessment tool it can actually be a hindrance. This is because the cupped coffee does not fully translate to how we actually make and consume coffee in everyday life.