Glossary beginning with P

Click one of the letters above to go to the page of all terms beginning with that letter.

P

Pacamara

As the name implies, Pacamara is a large bean cultivar, a cross between Pacas and Maragogype with unique flavor properties. This variant originated in El Salvador in 1958, and has spread to nearby Central American countries, but is still chiefly grown in El Salvador. It has unique flavors that range from chocolate and fruit, to herbal or, in the worse coffees, vegetal (green onion specifically).

Pacas

Pacas is a natural mutation of Bourbon cultivar that appeared in El Savador in 1949. It has good cup character, and is an input into Pacamara cultivar as well. Caturra and Villa Sarchi are also natural dwarf Bourbon mutations. In the cup, I find it similar to Bourbon in many ways, and the shrub is more wind-resistant than Bourbon.

Pache

Pache is a dwarf mutation of Typica coffee first observed at Finca El Brito, Guatemala. It is also called Pache Comun. A varitety called Pache Colis is a cross of Caturra and Pache Comun, and is extremely short in form.

Panama

Panama coffee was historically under-rated and overlooked. That perception has been corrected in recent years with the outstanding Best of Panama competition held each year, attracting global competition for the best lots, and spectacular prices. The Gesha cultivar produced in some of the small coffee estates has also garnered heaps of attention for it's unique floral cup character.Panama coffees are brightly toned with vivid floral aromatics and clean fruited notes. They outcup many higher priced coffees and the cup character is obvious, quality is consistent. Cheaper Panamas sold as BEP are a staple of higher-end commercial roasters and lower-end specialty roasters. There are many lower-grown Panamas that are ubiquitous in the U.S. market and of little interest to us here. It's just the Boquete coffees from the Chirqui district, ones from small family-owned farms that produce the truly distinct, unique coffees. They employ N'gbe Indians for the picking season, who will come to the coffee farms to work under some of the best wage standards and work laws in Central America.

Panela

Found in Colombia (and noted to be best in Pitalito and Pedregal), Panela is tan-colored cakes of sugar that are not fully refined. They can range from caramel-vanilla flavors to floral. From Wikipedia: The sugarcane plant is processed in a large press, to obtain the juice, which is cooked at very high temperatures. The panela can be manufactured in disc-shaped pieces or in cubic pieces of cake form and is usually gold or brown in color. Besides sugar, panela also contains large amounts of proteins, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid. In other countries I have heard it called Panocha and Chancaca. It is sometimes called Piloncillo in Mexico.

Parchment

Green coffee still in it's outer shell, before dry-milling, is called Parchment coffee (pergamino). In the wet process, coffee is peeled, fermented, washed and then ready for drying on the patio, bed, or a mechanical dryer. It is called parchment coffee because it is protected by an outer shell, which will be removed as the first step of dry milling, when the coffee is ready to export. While in parchment, it is critical that parchment coffee is rested for between 30-60 days. In Spanish, parchment coffee is called pergamino.

Passionfruit

It is native to South America and widely grown in India, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, California, southern Florida, Hawaii, Australia, East Africa, Israel and South Africa. The passion fruit is round to oval, yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit can be grown to eat or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma. It is known as Maracuya, or Maracuja in Latin America

Past Crop

Refers to an older coffee not from the "New Crop" or the "Current Crop". Cuppers will even use it as a general term for baggy, old hay or straw flavors; faded sensations of what it might have been when the green coffee was fresh; Past-Cropish

Patio-Drying

Patio-drying is a term to indicate that a coffee was dried in the sun after processing, on a paved or brick patio. Drying in the sun is the traditional method and is slower and more gentle than mechanical drying techniques. Coffee is raked on the patio to ensure even drying from top to bottom. Even better is screen-drying on raised "beds" which allows for air movement through the coffee.

Paul Songer

Currently on the staff of Cup of Excellence, Paul is head judge for many of the competitions, and an expert in sensory analysis. He is known for his knowledge of scientific and statistic principles, and synthesizing these in a meaningful way in sensory exercises. His consulting company is Songer and Associates.

Peaberry

Coffee is the dried seed from the fruit of a flowering tree - each fruit having 2 seeds facing each other (the flat side of the coffee "bean") or in the case of the peaberry, a single rounded seed. On the coffee tree, there is usually a percentage of fruit that has one seed within, ie a peaberry, and many more that are "flat beans" with the usual 2 seeds per fruit.

Peak Of Harvest

In some coffee-producing origins, there is a period of time in the middle of the crop where the higher altitudes mature, and where each tree has the highest percentage of mature cherry. Under the best conditions, this is a time when the cup is possibly better, because the pickers bring in fewer under-ripe green cherries, and because the most dense, slow-to-mature cherries are including in their pickings. Of course, other problems can emerge (too much coffee cherry, the mill can't keep up, ripe cherry sits) that actually work against this heavy load; it would be lazy to say "mid-harvest" coffee is better. But it is rarely true that the very first pickings, nor the last where the trees are being "cleaned" of cherry yield good results.

Penagos

Peñagos is a Colombian company that produces demucilage coffee processors. This is a forced demucilage machine that uses little water, and removes the coffee fruit layer from the parchment seed using friction and a small amount of water. It is key to the newer Micro-Mill facilities. With this machine, you can adjust the water pressure level, and control exactly how much mucilage to leave on the seed; you can produce a fully-washed style coffee, or a pulp-natural style coffee.

Percolator

A type of coffee brewer where water is "percolated" through a mass of ground coffee to extract the flavor. Was much in use in mid-19th century US. Often associated with bad coffee, percolators can actually produce a good flavored brew when using good coffee and the equipment is kept clean. Still the best way to produce a large quantity of coffee at once, hence their use (usually as large urns) in hotels and catering.

Phenols

Phenols are a set of organic compounds, relatively stable, that contribute to coffee aroma and flavor. They can have negative characteristics: tarry, smokey, medicinal, woody, leathery. But, especially at lower levels, can be spicy, vanilla, clove, anise, even floral in nature. Phenols are mainly derived from Chlorogenic acids.

Phosphoric Acid

One of many acids that contribute to positive flavor perception in coffee. More phosphoric acid might lead to the sense of higher acidity overall. Since perception of acidity gives a cup finer cup quality, brightness and vibrancy, phosphoric acid is considered desirable in arabica coffees. It itself, it is very tart. Also noteworthy is the fact it is not an acid that can be detected by smell, and is not an organic acid.

Piney

A slightly resinous pine sap flavor, unusual but attractive in some cases.

Pinhalense

A Brazilian coffee equipment manufacturer, that produces a wide range of equipment for wet-mills and dry-mills, coffee hullers, density sorters, graders, screening machines, roasters, dryers etc. They make a forced demucilage machine to compete with the Penagos from Colombia.

Pink Bourbon

A rare variation of Bourbon that ripens to a pink color. It is called Bourbon Roseado in some latin countries. The cup is purported to be fantastic, but finding stable plants that will consistently produce the pink fruit is difficult. The added challenge to harvest ripe cherries is daunting. (With red bourbon, determining ripe color is easier for the pickers). See Bourbon for the full definition.

Piquant

Meaning pleasantly pungent or zesty in taste, spicy, provocative, sapid.

Pomelo

Ancestral grapefruit from Southeast Asia - it has mild grapefruit flavor but low bitterness. In a coffee description , this mean a mild and not-so-aggressive citrus flavor, or citric acidity.

Portafilter

The part of an espresso machine which holds the filter basket, into which coffee grounds are placed.

Potato Defect

Research conducted by CIRAD and OCIBU over a six year period in Burundi has shown this off-flavor to be caused by a yet unidentified bacterial agent that enters the cherry skin and produces a pyrazine chemical toxin that binds to the forming green beans. They first thought it was caused by a bacterial transmission via an insect vector, the Antestia bug that pierces the coffee cherry wall and sucks sugars; but later they concluded that anything that pierces the cherry wall can allow the bacteria to enter and eventually release the the nasty pyrazine-based toxin. Because you can't detect it until you roast it, this defect is a real bummer for roasting companies and a real challenge for research. - Culled from Tim Schilling's blog post on the topic, since it is the best description of the defect that is out there...

Pour-Over Drip

New attention is being given to pour-over drip brewing, but the terminology is definitely not set yet. Pour-over drip brewing is simple and can yield great results based on technique. The older methods are Chemex and Melitta type filter cones. These use paper filters, usually. Newer types are the Hario V60, a modified ceramic come with a large orifice like the Chemex, and the Clever Coffee Dripper.

Pre-infusion

An espresso machine is said to use pre-infusion if it applies a moderate amount of pressure to the coffee before applying full brew pressure. Pre-infusion is often said to improve extraction by causing the coffee to swell, filling fissures in the puck that might otherwise cause channeling.

Preparation

Preparation refers to the dry-milling steps of preparing coffee for export: hulling, grading, classifying, sorting. Sorting means using density sorters (like the Oliver table), optical color sorting, and hand sorting. Then the coffee is bagged and ready to load in the shipping container. EP is a standard called Euro Prep.

Prime Attribute

Part of our coffee reviews, we summarize the main (most obvious) sensory experience of a coffee. This is rated right after Intensity

PROCAFE

Procafé is the Fundación Salvadoreña para Investigaciones del Café, a coffee non-profit research firm in El Salvador that advises farmers and maintains a cultivar garden

Puerto Rico

I have tried other Puerto Rican coffees but only bought Yauco Selecto in recent years. And we pick and choose the shipments because the really early lots have a greenish cast to the cup flavors, and the late lots turn a bit flat. When this coffee is on, in the mid-crop pickings, don't expect fireworks ... rather, think about the general term "island profile". These coffees, which include Jamaica and Kona, have a soft cup, not acidic, balanced, and mild. They are approachable coffees, and all happen to be quite expensive. (Be aware of the fact that higher priced coffees don't necessarily have a "better" cup, but rather that price is determined by the cost of production, and limited availability. Remember that this is a coffee grown in the U.S. so production costs are higher.)

Pulp Natural

Pulp natural is a hybrid method of processing coffee to transform it from the tree fruit to a green bean, ready for export. Specifically, it involves the removal of the skin from the coffee, like the first step of the wet process, but instead of fermenting and removing the fruity mucilage, the coffee is dried with the fruit clinging to the parchment layer. Pulp natural can be performed with a traditional pulper, or with newer forced demucilage equipment, which allows for greater control of exactly how much mucilage is left to dry on the coffee. Pulp natural coffees tend to have more body and less acidity than their wet process equivalents, and can have a cleaner, more uniform quality than full natural dry-process coffees. This is called "Miel" process in Costa Rica, meaning "honey."

Pulping

The first step in processing wet-process coffee, pulp natural or forced demucilage coffees. Pulping simply refers to removing the skins from the coffee fruit, leaving parchment coffee.

Pulpy

Can refer to flavor or mouthfeel. In terms of flavor, it means the negative flavor of fermenty coffee fruit, indicating there were errors in the coffee processing.

Pungent

Refers to an aggressive, intense aroma or flavor, often related to spices (pepper) or roast tastes. Pungent foods are often called "spicy", meaning a sharp or biting character, but not unpleasant. Bittersweet tangy roast flavors are something we sometimes call pungent, but otherwise it is strong spice notes.

Purpurascens

Purpurascens is a purple-leaf coffee mutant of limited value (production and cup quality-wise), but is maintained for genetic reasons.

Pyradines

Pyradines are a product of pyrolysis involving sugars and amino acids, and other routes. They are mainly responsible for harsh notes: bitter, astringent, roasty, burnt notes, but can also give hazelnut, tobacco, anise, floral and other aromas.

Pyrans

Pyrans are related to Furans, aromatic compounds in coffee, derived from sugars. Also referred to as Pyranols and Pyranones, one of the more important is called Maltol, having fruity, caramel sweetness, jam-like, pineapple, strawberry descriptors attached to it.

Pyrolysis

Pyrolysis is the chemical decomposition of a condensed substance by heating. It is a special case of thermolysis, and is most commonly used for organic materials. At lighter levels, caramelization of sugars is an important result of the pyrolysis of coffee, the release of CO-2, and a host of other chemical and physical changes in the coffee. There are two stages of pyrolysis in coffee which we call "First Crack" and "Second Crack." Extreme pyrolysis, which leaves only carbon as the residue, is called carbonization and leads to charred flavors in very dark coffee roasts.Pyrolysis often occurs spontaneously at high temperatures, for example in fires and when organic materials come into contact with lava in volcanic eruptions, and has been assumed to take place during catagenesis, the conversion of buried organic matter to fossil fuels. It is an important chemical process in several cooking procedures such as baking, frying, grilling, and caramelizing. It's important to note that chiefly involves the conversion of carbohydrates (including sugars, starch, and fiber) and proteins.

Pyrroles

There are 70 identified Pyrroles in coffee, important aromatic compounds, thermally formed by a reaction of aldoses with amino acids in the Maillard group of roast reactions. Pyrroles are derived mainly from trigonelline according on one source. In general they relate to unfavorable flavors characteristic of trigonelline bitterness; metallic, earthy, musty, oily, alliaceous, garlic, mushroom, etc.