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[Equipment Basics] A Dictionary of Popular Home Coffee Brewing Terms

Are you unsure about certain home coffee brewing terms?

This brief dictionary can help. We'll go over some of the most commonly used terms, broken down into categories for grinding, brewing and brewing equipment.

These definitions should provide enough basic information to help you understand how certain items work or what the concept or term means.

There are also links to more in-depth information on these topics if you want to explore them further.

Grinding

Grind Size: This is how coarsely or finely ground the coffee beans are. Coarser grinds leave coffee beans looking more like pearl sugar. Fine grinds can be somewhat similar to espresso powder.

Stepped Adjustment: This is a coffee grinder that's designed to have only a certain number of grind settings. A good example is a grinder that's limited to 15 different grind settings.

Stepless Adjustment: A coffee grinder whose grind settings are unlimited. It will have a gradient instead of settings. The gradient allows you to make changes of any size or degree that you want.

Conical Burrs: This is a type of burr set that produces bimodal grinds that are fairly consistent. The burr set has a donut-shaped burr and a smaller cone-shaped grind.

Flat Burrs: A burr set that creates a single mode grind. Flat burrs are often used in espresso grinders. The burr set consists of a pair of donut-shaped burrs that lie flat and face one another.

Blade Grinder: This is a grinder that uses blades that are spun in a circular motion. Blade grinders chop up coffee beans roughly. There's usually very little control or uniformity.

Bimodal Grind: This is a sample of coffee grounds that appear in both large and small sizes after having been measured and sorted. Bimodal grinds are created by all burr grinders, even if the difference in sizes is marginal.

Unimodal Grind: A sample of coffee grounds that only has one primary size. This is only accomplished by using flat burr grinders.

Uniformity: This word is used to describe the ground coffee beans' consistency. Uniformly ground beans have much less boulders, fines or other inconsistencies.

Brewing

Extraction: This term is used to explain what happens when water is added to coffee beans. Acids, oils, sugars and flavor compounds are taken out of the beans and are then broken down and dispersed.

Under Extraction: This is what happens when water isn't allowed to fully extract the coffee beans' flavor. Acids are often the first compound to be removed. Under extraction is often identified as a very acidic or sour taste.

Over Extraction: This is what happens when extraction has gone on past the balance point. In other words, the extraction process has gone on for too long. Bitter tasting compounds are the only compounds taken out. Over extraction usually results in a bitter or bland flavor.

Bloom: A step in the brewing process when fresh coffee grounds are sprayed with a little water so that carbon dioxide can be emitted. The grounds are allowed to absorb water, instead of letting the gas be released so quickly that the water can't be soaked up.

Brewing Ratio: An important term that represents the ratio of coffee beans to water. The best balance of strength and flavor is referred to as the golden ratio. Ratios with too much water or too much coffee can end up in under extraction or over extraction.

Slurry: Another ratio of coffee beans to water. This ratio is the mixture found in the middle of the brewing process.

Immersion: This is a home brewing style where coffee beans are submerged in water. The beans will stay there until a french press plunger or other equipment is used to divide the beans and the water.

Pour Over: A brewing technique in which water is poured on top of coffee beans. Gravity allows the water to drain away slowly in a filter. The remaining slurry is then poured into a container.

Cold Brew: This coffee brewing technique uses cold water to bring out the grounds' distinct flavors. Cold brewed coffee generally has less acid and creates less bitterness than other brewing methods.

Espresso: Espresso brewing uses about eight to ten bars of pressure to push water through coffee that has been finely ground. Espresso is a smaller amount of coffee that's rich in flavor.

Brewing Equipment

Vacuum/Siphon: This is a type of coffee brewer that pulls water up into a chamber. The coffee's flavors are then pulled from the grounds. A vacuum is then used to siphon the wate

French Press: A carafe and mesh filter combination. French presses are some of the more popular immersion coffee brewers.

Pour Over Dripper: This is a pour over dripper that includes the slurry, filter and coffee. Pour over drippers either come as part of a carafe or are stand alone items that can sit on a mug.

Automatic Drip: Another common home brewing device. The unit allows beads of water to drop onto a container of coffee grounds. The coffee that is brewed then drips down into a container.

Turkish Coffee: A Turkish pot known as an ibrik is used in this brewing method. Water and coffee are brewed in the ibrik before being poured. No filters are used in the process. Turkish coffee is often thicker and richer than other traditional coffees.

Moka Pot: A moka pot can be used to brew coffee on your stove. Water vapor rises through a chamber and travels through coffee beans in the process. It's also referred to as a "stovetop espresso maker," even though it isn't the same espresso that you'll find in coffee shops.

Percolator: This is a coffee brewing method in which hot waters is continuously cycled through coffee grounds. The process makes coffee that is usually over extracted.

Espresso Machine: Espresso machines use about eight to ten pounds of pressure to mechanically pump water into coffee that is finely ground. The resulting coffee's robust flavor is much more noticeable than coffees brewed using other methods.

Steam-Powered Espresso Machine: These machines use a couple of pounds of steam pressure to move water through coffee grounds. They provide undiluted coffee in a matter of minutes.

By now, you should be a little more comfortable with coffee terminology. Learning and understanding more about coffee can help you continue to improve your coffee brewing skills.

Great coffee beans make great coffee. Lookf for coffee beans that are processed properly, grown from local farms and roasted to the point where none of the beans' rich flavors are left out. Once you've found that, you'll know that you're about to sample some of the best coffee on earth.


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