Breaking down coffee roaster lingo

Nuvin Sithanen
May 8, 2023
An image of a custom printed coffee bag featuring coffee roaster lingo on the coffee bag in an article about understanding coffee roaster lingo

Coffee is a complex and dynamic beverage surrounded by a rich history and vibrant culture. When it comes to the world of specialty coffee, there is a very unique set of terminology and buzzwords often used across packaging and marketing materials that can overwhelm those who are unfamiliar with the sector.

From roast levels and varietals to processing methods and tasting notes, understanding “roaster lingo” can help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions and appreciate the nuances of the coffee they choose to buy. 

While jargon can be useful in certain contexts, it is important for roasters to use relatable language in order to make these concepts more accessible to all coffee drinkers. Helping consumers understand terms such as “roast profile,” “single origin,” “best-by date,” “cupping,” and more can help them gain a deeper appreciation for the industry, its producers, and the art of roasting. 

Whether you are a connoisseur or simply looking to expand your coffee vocabulary, read on to learn more about the language of specialty coffee.

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Coffee lingo on packaging

“Lingo” or “jargon” refers to specialised vocabulary used within a particular industry or group that may not be easily understood by outsiders. The use of coffee lingo on product packaging has become increasingly common in the specialty coffee industry, as using industry-specific terminology can showcase a roaster’s knowledge and expertise while providing customers with useful information. 

That said, it may also alienate or confuse customers who are not familiar with the terminology. This is because jargon can often feel impersonal, creating a barrier between the speaker and the listener. It can also be seen as a way for businesses to create a sense of exclusivity or elitism, which may be off-putting for some consumers. 

Ultimately, the use of lingo on product packaging requires a delicate balance between providing relevant information and being accessible to a broad audience. The specialty coffee industry has several common buzzwords and terms often printed on bags to entice and educate consumers. 

However, roasters and coffee shops should carefully consider how they use these terms in order to avoid alienating customers or appearing as a “snobby” brand. On the other hand, “dumbing down” these terms too much may make the brand appear as an amateur in the market, which may negatively impact sales. 

An image of a coffee bag with a custom printed label that features coffee roaster lingo in an article about understanding coffee roaster lingo

Breaking down common coffee roasting lingo

When it comes to coffee roasting lingo, there are several phrases consumers may come across when shopping. One of the most common phrases is the difference between a blend, single-origin, micro lot, and nano lot. 

A blend refers to a combination of two or more different types of coffee beans, while single-origin coffee is sourced from one specific geographic location. Microlots and nano lots take single origin to the next level. They refer to specific lots of coffees that come from a single farm or a specific harvest batch. These coffees tend to be available in limited quantities and are usually a sign of higher quality. 

Flavour notes are another important aspect of coffee roasting lingo. Roasters will often use terms such as “chocolate,” “fruity,” or “nutty” to describe the flavours and aromatics present in a particular batch of coffee. Flavour notes are the result of the coffee beans’ origin, processing method, and roast profile, among other factors. Roasters often use these descriptors to help consumers make informed choices about the coffee they purchase.

The processing method the bean has undergone will have a significant impact on the flavour notes in the coffee. Natural, washed, and honey are the three primary processing methods used to remove the outer layer of the coffee cherry and extract the beans. 

Natural coffee, which is also known as dry coffee, is usually sun-dried with the fruit still attached to the bean, creating a fruity, often wine-like flavour profile. Washed coffee, on the other hand, is fermented to remove the fruit before being washed and dried, often resulting in a cleaner, brighter taste. Honey coffee is somewhere in between, with varying degrees of fruit left on the bean during processing. The term “honey” comes from the sticky sweet residue that remains on the beans after processing, which can range from light to dark depending on the amount of fruit left on.

Roast profile is also an important aspect of coffee roasting. Roasters often use terms such as light, medium, and dark to describe the roast profile of their coffee. However, wholesale coffee packaging tends to use descriptors like “coffee strength” instead of a profile, which can be confusing for consumers, as strength depends more on the brewing method and not the roast profile.

Instead of a “best by” date, which is often found on consumable products, coffee bags will feature a roast date. This is to inform customers when the batch was roasted and is important because coffee is at its best within two to four weeks of roasting. 

Last, and perhaps most importantly, are packaging materials and certifications. For example, several coffee roasters use biodegradable or recyclable packaging materials, while others may have certifications for fair trade or organic production that help the consumer know more about their purchase.

An image of three coffee bags with custom printed labels that feature coffee roaster lingo in an article about understanding coffee roaster lingo

Why is it important for consumers to understand coffee lingo?

It is important for consumers to understand coffee lingo because it can help them gain a better understanding of specialty coffee, producers, and the supply chain. Breaking down roast profiles and processing methods can also help consumers understand how each step in the production process affects the taste of the coffee. Additionally, understanding coffee lingo can also help customers know how to dispose of their coffee packaging effectively, as many specialty coffee roasters use sustainable packaging materials that require special handling. 

By educating themselves about coffee terminology, consumers can better appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into producing each cup of specialty coffee. More so, choosing the right packaging material is also an important aspect of coffee roasting and retailing, as the right packaging materials can go a long way in retaining the freshness of the product. 

MTPak Coffee provides eco-friendly packaging solutions that protect the freshness and flavour of coffee while being mindful of the environment. Our packaging options include recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable materials that contribute to a circular economy. More so, we offer a variety of customisation techniques to ensure your brand stands out, and your packaging relates to your customers. 

Our coffee boxes are made using recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. We also offer our clients a quick turnaround time of 40 hours and 24-hour shipping time in addition to low minimum order quantities (MOQs) for those looking to remain agile while showcasing a commitment to the environment.

For more information on customised coffee packaging, contact our team. 

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