Arabica vs. Robusta. Light vs. Medium vs. Dark Roast. Single Origin vs. Craft Blend. Grind Sizes.

There are so many coffee-specific terms, language and vocabulary, it’s easy to get lost. Take a look at our Glossary to familiarize yourself with the coffee jargon. And if you’re looking for information or notice a term is missing, feel free to reach out to us and we can add it to the list!

Coffee Anatomy

Coffee Anatomy

BEAN: The coffee seed/bean that is extracted and used to brew coffee.

CHERRY:  The fruit of the coffee bean.

SKIN/PULP: The flesh of the coffee cherry surrounding the coffee bean.

CASCARA: The sun-dried skin from the coffee cherries. Can be steeped in hot water and drunk as tea.

MUCILAGE: A sticky layer of sugars, coating the coffee bean beneath the pulp of the coffee cherry. Removed by washing and soaking the coffee beans.
Cross section coffee cherry, outer skin, pulp, parchment skin, silver skin, green bean infographic
Cross section coffee cherry, beans, pulp, skin, infographic

Connect everyone

PARCHMENT COFFEE: Named after the papery husk on the outside of the coffee once the fruit has been stripped off, the seed fermented, washed, and sun-dried. This is how coffee arrives at the mill before we order it.

GREEN BEANS: Coffee beans which have not yet been roasted. This is how we receive our coffee before the magical transformation of roasting takes place at our Vancouver Island location!

HARD BEAN: Coffee which is grown at higher altitudes between 4,000 - 4,500 feet above sea level ripens slower. As a result, the coffee cherry is denser and harder, providing a more consistent taste. These beans are more expensive. 

Coffee Anatomy

Coffee Grinds

FINE GRIND: This silky grind is finer than table salt. A fine grind is the perfect choice for espresso machines and espresso style coffee makers, like the Moka pot (Bialetti) and Turkish coffee (cezve and ibrik).

MEDIUM-FINE GRIND: This grind is like silky sand but does not stick together and is perfect for drip brewing coffee makers and other pour-over brewers. That's why we make this the grind size for all of our ground coffee. 

MEDIUM GRIND: This sandy-texture coffee grind is one of the most popular grinds, and is another excellent choice for drip brewing coffee makers.

MEDIUM-COARSE GRIND: This slightly smoother but fairly large coffee grind is ideal to use with most pour-over brewers, like a chemex.

COARSE GRIND: This larger coffee grind is best for brew methods that involve immersion in water like a French Press or Cowboy Coffee. 
Spoons with ground coffee, coffee beans in background
Latte in glass on circular wooden table

Coffee Origins

CRAFT BLEND: Combining a variety of single origin coffee beans from different regions.

SINGLE ORIGIN COFFEE: Coffee sourced from one region or farm.

Coffee Anatomy

Coffee Processes

WASHED COFFEE: Coffee that has been run through a demucilage machine, soaked in a water bath, and then raked through water troughs before sun-drying. This is the most common method and the method which Level Ground uses. Washed coffees provide a consistently cleaner and brighter cup of coffee.

NATURAL COFFEE: This is the oldest method of processing coffee. The most traditional method is called "full natural." In this process, farmers harvest and dry the ripest coffee without removing the fruit first. Once fully dried, the seed is separated, resulting with a complex, full-flavoured, often fruity coffee. We do not use this method; we use the washed coffee method.
Workers raking green coffee beans through water troughs
Coffee cherries fermenting in sun

Coffee Origins

CPU COFFEE - CENTRAL PROCESSING/PULPING UNIT: Centralized facility that takes coffee cherries, strips the fruit off, and leaves it to ferment. This process aids in cup quality, as a homogeneous cup can be achieved easier. CPU coffee is a fully washed coffee process. 

HOME PROCESSED COFFEE: Coffee that has been turned from cherry into parchment at the farmer's home rather than a CPU - the equipment involved can vary considerably. 

Coffee Roasts

Coffee Roasts

LIGHT: Less balanced, more intense bright tastes of citrus and floral, high acidity, toasty grain-like flavours.

MEDIUM: Notes of caramelization, citrus, fruit, berry, moderate acidity, balanced flavours, more body.
SCA coffee roasting cards
Six white mugs with black coffee, silver trays with coffee beans

Coffee Origins

DARK: Bold and rich taste, chocolate and full caramelization, with hints of floral, berry, fruit, citrus. Less acidity. 

VERY DARK: This roast is decided by each roaster individually to bring out the best in a coffee for espresso extraction.  The roaster formulates a blend of coffees to create their idea of the best espresso. 
(A good roast to use in espresso brewing.)

Coffee Species

Coffee Species

ARABICA COFFEE: (Latin name Coffea arabica): Arabica is the most common coffee species globally, accounting for 75% of the world's production. Arabica originated in Ethiopia and prefers to grow in cool, subtropical climates at higher elevations (600m+ above sea level). The Arabica species is typically grown on hillsides and is sensitive to frost, heat and direct sunlight. Ideally, it needs moisture, rich soil and shade to create its sweet tastes of fruity, chocolate and caramel noted coffee. Even though it is more popular than the Robusta coffee species, it does have a lower caffeine content (1.5%). 
Landscape coffee trees on farm planted in rows
Close up red coffee cherries on branch

Coffee Origins

ROBUSTA COFFEE: (Latin name Coffea canephora):  Robusta, another coffee species, is higher caffeinated (2.7%) than the Arabica coffee species. Robusta coffee originated in Cameroon. Robusta beans only account for 25% of global coffee production. It is commonly used in instant coffee, espresso and in blends, due to its bitter taste and strong, nutty, earthy taste profile. The predominantly bitter flavour notes can be attributed to the higher caffeine content. Robusta is easier to farm and tends to have a higher crop yield due to its resiliency and insect resistance, and as a result, it has been used in many Arabica hybrids. Due to Robusta's durability, it can be sold at a cheaper price than Arabica on the commodity market. It is grown at lower altitudes (200 to 800m above sea level) and farmed using mono-cropping methods.

Coffee Tasting

Coffee Tasting

ACIDITY: Can present with the delicate nature of a subtle fruit juice or the powerful punch of lemons. Acidity in taste presentation is not to be confused with the pH of coffee.

Almost all brewed coffee will have a pH of 5.0 (water is 7.0). This value can vary from 4.9 to 5.1 depending on the roast depth and variety of coffee. Lower grown coffees and darker roasted coffees will generally have a lower pH. Cold brewed coffee will also commonly have a lower pH than hot-brewed coffees.
(These are all generalizatons.)

BALANCED: A balanced coffee sees the various attributes of coffee in harmonious interplay. None of the taste characteristics are overpowering, thus providing equal amounts of body, acidity, and fruitiness. 
Six white mugs for cupping coffee on table
Coffee cupping mugs, french presses on wooden table

Coffee Origins

BODY: Used to describe the feel of brewed coffee in the taster's mouth. These characteristics can pertain to the coffee's thickness, richness, or viscosity.

EXTRACTION: Extraction takes place when brewing coffee. The process of dissolving ground coffee in water to draw out solubles such as caffeine, carbohydrates, lipids, melanoidins and acids. Over-extraction can lead to sour coffee tastes and under-extraction can result in bitter tastes.

Coffee Species

Decaffeination Processes

ETHYL ACETATE DECAFFEINATION (EA): EA decaffeination uses a special combination of pure water and ethyl acetate (EA) which allows for a gentle caffeine extraction from the coffee bean.

EA is obtained from natural sources like sugar cane (which grows in Colombia!). EA can also be found in many natural products including fruits, vegetables, and coffee. 
Ethyl Acetate Decaffeination process infographic
Decaf swiss water processing infographic

Coffee Origins

SWISS WATER DECAF PROCESSING: A natural decaffeination process which removes 99.9% of caffeine from coffee.

Clean green coffee is soaked in water, then placed with caffeine-free GCE (Green Coffee Extract = water + water-soluble solids in coffee omitting caffeine). Diffusion drives the decaffeination process as the higher caffeine content in the green beans moves into the GCE.

The resulting caffeine saturated GCE is then carbon-filtered to remove the caffeine and reuse the GCE again in the Swiss Water Decaf Process. This is Level Ground's method for decaffeination.