Last Updated on July 12, 2023
Learning coffee lingo can be fun, and at the same time, expand any coffee lover’s knowledge of the coffee world! From drink-related to gear-related to bean-related terms, the different words will help you order the right drink wherever you go.
While most of us are satisfied just guzzling down our mugs of coffee, it is a true coffee lover that can tell you the difference between an Americano and an affogato, a cappuccino and a frappuccino, and an AeroPress and a French press.
Knowing the different coffee lingo not only broadens your horizon but also lets you know what you’re signing up for when you try that new coffee place with the fancy menu (we got you—we know how intimidating and embarrassing such situations can get!).
Unfortunately, there’s no coffee dictionary, but there is this very useful article on all the coffee lingo you should know! Read on.
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Why Do We Want to Know Coffee Terms?
Knowing your way around coffee lingo is a great way for a coffee newbie (or not-so-newbie) to enter the amazing world of coffee appreciation.
Being exposed to a complex and varied language can be intimidating, but understanding common definitions for coffee drinks, coffee gear, and coffee beans are all important pieces of knowledge when it comes to learning about the nuances of good coffee and picking out your own favorite.
Plus, you’ll never feel embarrassed or confused when talking to an experienced barista again! Sounds like a win-win right?
Different Must-Know Coffee Terms
Coffee lingo involves all the terms associated with coffee, from the drink to the gear used. Here’s a list of the most commonly used terms.
If you’ve just discovered the magic of coffee, all those different terms can leave you pretty confused. Here’s the lowdown on the different types of coffee (the drink) that exist:
- Americano: An Americano is a diluted version of a double-shot espresso.
- Café au lait: That’s the thing about French—even something as mundane as “coffee with milk” can sound so fancy (yes, that is literally what café au lait means!). This drink is essentially a cup of coffee made with hot or steamed milk.
- Café con leche: is often used synonymously with café au lait, but the former is usually served sweetened.
- Affogato: If you ask us, the affogato is Italy’s greatest gift to the world (after De Niro and Gucci, of course). More a delicious dessert than an actual coffee, affogato is espresso with vanilla ice cream.
- Cappuccino: Probably the most common coffee-based drink out there, many of us are no strangers to a cappuccino. This brew is prepared by mixing espresso and steamed milk foam/cream and may have flavors like chocolate and cinnamon.
- Breve: A breve is made using espresso and steamed, foamed half-and-half instead of milk.
- Con Panna: Con panna, espresso con panna, or “coffee with cream” is an Italian drink where a single/double espresso shot is topped with whipped cream. It’s also known as cafe Viennois in the United Kingdom and France.
- Flat White: Like a latte (which is espresso and steamed milk), flat whites are made with steamed milk and espresso, too, but they typically feature lesser amounts of milk and more microfoam than their cousins.
- Cortado: Meaning “cut” in Spanish, cortados are so named because the milk is added to cut through the coffee’s acidity. These are slightly stronger than cappuccinos and lattes and feature equal amounts of steamed milk (not frothed) and espresso.
- Doppio: It refers to a double shot of espresso, which is about two ounces of concentrated coffee extracted using an espresso machine. A doppio is often served black or can be mixed with other ingredients to create a specialty beverage like a macchiato or cappuccino. Brewing coffee in this way involves a high level of pressure that results in more intense flavors and smells.
- Frappuccino: Frappuccinos are a type of chilled coffee beverage that usually consists of espresso, sugar, and milk blended together with ice. You can make this blended coffee drink healthier by substituting sugar for a natural sweetener like honey or stevia or by using a dairy alternative like almond or coconut milk. There are also plenty of ways to add flavor – anything from shot syrups to zesty fruits like lime or raspberry will really kick your frappuccino up a notch.
- Dry Cappuccino: It’s a type of cappuccino that includes very little milk, making it quite different from the classic cappuccino. This means you’ll get an overall more intense and concentrated flavor – perfect for those who like their coffee strong! To make one, baristas add about double the amount of espresso than with a traditional cappuccino and use half the normal amount of steamed milk.
- Lungo: Italian for “long”, lungos are Italian-style coffees made using espresso machines. These drinks feature a single espresso shot and twice the amount of water, making a longer coffee or a lungo.
- Ristretto: Espresso but make it more concentrated, and you have ristretto. Though the same amount of coffee is used as an espresso shot, the extraction is through a finer grind and only half the usually used amount of water is added.
- Macchiato: A macchiato is an espresso drink typically made using very little foamed milk, keeping in line with the true meaning of the word—macchiato means “spotted” or “stained” in Italian and that’s exactly what the milk is supposed to look like!
- Red Eye: Red eye is regular coffee that’s topped with a shot of espresso. Most cafés will make the shot double.
- Nitro Cold Brew: Just like nitrogen-charged beer, a iced coffee cold brew is charged with nitrogen, resulting in a smooth, creamy head.
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Here are the words related to coffee beans:
Robusta: Commonly used to make instant coffee, this species is among the lower-quality beans. Robusta beans are known for their strong flavor and intense aroma due to their higher caffeine content.
They lend themselves well to blending with other café beverages as they deliver a robust flavor that balances out more delicate coffees. Plus, because of their strong taste and texture, these beans are widely used in espresso drinks where a bolder flavor is desired.
Arabica: A common feature in specialty coffee shops, this coffee bean is deemed to be of the highest quality. Among all kinds of coffee beans, arabica has always been favored for its fine aroma, smooth taste, and beats almost all other coffees when it comes to quality.
Arabica is dense, acidic and low-yielding compared with the Robusta variety, making it more expensive but worth the investment. Best served as freshly ground beans or fresh beans roasted within a week or two, arabica is sure to satisfy any coffee lover’s needs
Single Origin Coffee: Single origin coffees are coffees that come from a single location, usually in the same country or region, and have one distinct flavor profile associated with them. These types of coffees are known for their individualistic flavor profiles, which can range from sweet and fruity to earthy and woody notes.
Additionally, single-origin coffees typically taste different than blended coffees, as they don’t have any other elements added that would influence its overall flavor.
Fair Trade: Fair trade coffee is ethically sourced from small farmers who are given an extra premium for their beans. This means that they have more economically viable crops and are given a living wage for the product.
The end result is incredibly tasty coffee that makes a real positive impact on the growers’ lives and the environment – so definitely consider switching to fair trade coffee if you want to enjoy a great cup and do good at the same time!
Direct Trade: When coffee beans are bought by the roasters directly from coffee farmers, it’s known as direct trade. Direct trade coffee is a great option for conscious and quality-minded coffee lovers. In direct trade, farmers and roasters agree on prices and terms mutually, in order to ensure the highest quality beans are being acquired from sustainable sources.
Unlike fair-trade coffee, which necessitates verification from independent third-party organizations, direct trade allows farmers to be more involved in the process of acquiring the beans. It does away with many of the additional costs associated with farmed products as well.
Green Coffee Beans: This refers to unroasted coffee beans.
Dark Roast: Dark roast coffee beans are one of the most popular brewing materials and offer a rich, intense flavor. The beans achieve their dark color when they’re roasted for longer periods at higher temperatures.
As a result, they contain slightly less caffeine but more robust aromas and flavors, which make them perfect for those who enjoy their coffee with some extra zest. Dark roast coffees are typically smoother and less acidic than light or medium caramel-colored roasts.
Light Roast: This type of bean is roasted at a lower temperature than other varieties, giving it a lighter body and flavor profile. The lack of strong roasting notes allows for the natural nuances of the bean to stand out—light roast coffees tend to have brighter acidity and a more subtle sweetness.
Here are the different types of coffee machines and gear used to brew coffee:
Moka Pot: Moka pots are used for espresso-strength coffee on the stovetop. A Moka pot is one of the most traditional and classic pieces of coffee brewing equipment that you can find. It’s a stove-powered device designed to make espressos with a rich, creamy taste.
All you need to use it is ground coffee, water, and heat. Although they can be a little tricky to master, they’re affordable and simple – so worth the time put into perfecting them!
AeroPress: The Aeropress is an incredible piece of coffee gear. It’s a portable, simple device that brews amazing coffee in 1-2 minutes. To use it, you add the desired amount of ground coffee and water to the chamber, stir for about 10 seconds, push the plunger through the chamber to extract your cup of joe, and drink up!
The Aeropress makes espresso-strong coffee in a fraction of the time it takes with most traditional espresso machines. Additionally, it’s lightweight and easy to clean, making it a great choice when traveling or when you don’t have much counter space at home.
French Press: A French Press is a classic coffee-brewing device that has been around for decades. It’s fairly easy to use and makes a great cup of coffee.
To make your own coffee using a French Press, start with coarse freshly ground coffee beans. Then add hot water (not boiling) over top of the coffee grounds and leave it steep for about 4 minutes before pushing the plunger down to separate the grinds from brewed coffee in the carafe. The result is an aromatic, flavorful cup of joe.
Pour Over: My personal favorite when it comes to drip coffee brewing methods. If you’re looking for a manual way to brew a great cup of coffee, the pour over method is one of the simplest and most effective.
All you need is your pour over vessel, filter paper, freshly ground coffee beans, and hot water. This method allows you to directly control how much water passes through your grounds so that you can create the perfect extraction ratio. With practice, you can ensure that every cup of coffee results in an experience tailored to your unique tastes.
There are plenty more coffee-related terms in the world and learning these can be quite fun for coffee lovers! This isn’t an exhaustive list, but know these terms and no one will take you for a coffee noob.
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You’ll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions. ☕