Cool Coffee Terms 

If you’re the type of person who usually orders a black coffee, you might be dumbfounded when you hear someone walk up to the counter and ask for a triple ristretto affogato. Are they even speaking English? Would that beverage taste good? Italian is the international language of coffee, and it’s not easy to translate into terms that you understand. For example, ristretto directly translates to restricted, a word that doesn’t tell you much about what’s in your mug. This glossary will clear up the confusion and help you sound like you know what you’re doing whether you’re shopping for a new carafe or placing an order for your next brew.

Coffee Terms from A to Z

Acidity : A desirable quality in coffee, acidity refers to the brightness of the brew’s flavor. Acidity may be presented as sweet, dry, bright, snappy, winey or fruity, among other flavor accents. Darker roasts have a higher acidity than lighter roasts but often a flatter flavor. With poor quality commercial coffee, however, you will often have an undesirable acidity. This is the burning sensation you feel after drinking bad coffee.

Aeropress : This manual coffee maker produces single servings of coffee, at a time, using a pressurized immersion method. The aeropress  works by steeping the coffee in a tube for a specified amount of time, before depressing a plunger, to force the brew through a filter.

Affogato : The Italian term for “drowned” refers to the fact that this beverage is created by dousing a serving of vanilla gelato, or ice cream, with hot espresso. You can eat it with a spoon or sip it as the ice cream melts. At Starbucks, “affogato” refers to topping any coffee drink, including a Frappuccino, with espresso.

Americano : Espresso that has been diluted with water, reducing the strength of flavor, but preserving the richness and crema.

Arabica : The most popular coffee plant species, Arabica originated in Ethiopia, but is now grown all over the world. This type of coffee has an extensive flavor range, which depends on the variety and roasting method.

Barista : Someone who prepares and serves espresso and coffee drinks, in a commercial setting.

Breve : A decadent, velvety beverage that’s prepared with espresso and half-and-half, or equal parts milk and cream.

Cafe au Lait : French-pressed, or drip-brewed coffee, with steamed milk, added to it.

Cappuccino : A hot beverage layered with equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foam.

Cherry : Coffee beans are found inside the cherry, which is the fruit that the coffee plant produces. Each cherry usually contains two beans, and a variety of processing methods are used to extract the beans from the fruit.
Cold Brew : This immersion method involves steeping coffee grounds in room-temperature water, for 12 to 18 hours, to produce a lightly flavored, but well-rounded beverage, that is served as is, or over ice.

Cold Drip : A method of brewing cold coffee that involves slowly dripping water over coffee grounds, for several hours and collecting the resulting beverage, in a separate container. This results in a more concentrated and sweeter flavor than cold brew.

Cortado : A popular beverage in Spain, Portugal and Latin America, and is made by cutting espresso with a dash of milk or sweetened condensed milk. This drink usually contains more milk than a macchiato.

Crema : The foamy layer of oils that rises to the top of an espresso.

Cubano : A strong, bitter dark roast espresso that is blended with a sugar foam and made by whipping sugar with a small amount of espresso.

Cupping : A method that experts use to taste the flavor notes in coffee, by spooning coffee from a cup or bowl, into another spoon, slurping it up and spitting it out.

Dalgona Coffee : This fluffy, creamy beverage is created by whipping instant coffee, granulated sugar and cold water until it is shiny and smooth. Then, the coffee mixture is spooned over milk. You can drink this Dalgona coffee hot or iced.

Dark Roast : A method of roasting coffee beans until they are dark and emit oil. With a dark roast, this produces a beverage with muted flavors and less caffeine than a light roast.

Direct Trade Coffee : Coffee that is purchased directly from the farm, instead of a broker, or distributor.

Dirty Chai : A cross between a traditional latte and chai latte.  This beverage incorporates a shot of espresso with chai tea and steamed milk.

Doppio : Double espresso

Espresso : An extraction method that forces pressurized water through a puck of finely ground coffee, using an espresso machine, that results in a drink with the same name.

Espresso con Panna : Add a dollop of whipped cream to an espresso to craft this beverage.

Espresso Lungo : A shot of espresso that is pulled, using twice the amount of water, and a longer time frame than a traditional espresso.

Espresso Roast : A blend of coffee beans that displays the best flavor for making an espresso drink.

Fair Trade Coffee : This type of coffee is certified by fair trade organizations, which ensures that the coffee is produced without child labor or forced labor. It supports sustainable farming practices and fair wages for farmers.

Flat White : Espresso or ristretto combined with milk that is heated, without aeration, to produce a latte-like beverage with no foam.

French Press : A container in which you steep coffee grounds for several minutes, before depressing a plunger, to separate the grounds from the brew- creating a bold, elevated brew.

French Roast : Coffee beans that are roasted for longer than dark roast beans, resulting in a beverage with a robust, smoky flavor.

Green Eye : This drip coffee has three shots of espresso added to it.

Immersion : A way of brewing coffee by submerging the beans in water. This process is usually done with a French press, or the method utilized for cold brew.

Italian Roast : The darkest type of roast, which produces a bold, bitter brew and is often used for making espresso.

Latte : An Espresso mixed with steamed milk and a layer of foam.

Light Roast : Light roasts are heated for the shortest amount of time and contain the most caffeine and (good) acidity. However, that acidity is often balanced by citrusy notes, which come from the beans’ origin flavors.

Macchiato : Espresso with a splash of cold, steamed or frothed milk, that can be served cold or iced.

Medium Roast : Medium roasts have a fuller body than light roasts and have less acidity. House blends, breakfast roasts and American roasts fall into this category and typically have balanced flavors.

Mocha : Also called a caffe mocha or mocha latte- this is a latte with chocolate syrup, chocolate chunks or cocoa powder added to it.

Mochaccino : Is a Cappuccino, with chocolate added to it.

Moka : Not to be confused with mocha, this is a stovetop coffee maker that is traditionally used in Italian households.

Monsooned Coffee : A harvesting process that involves exposing coffee beans to monsoon rains, to reduce acidity.

Pour-over : This method of making coffee involves manually pouring water over coffee grounds that sit within a cone-shaped filter. A pour over allows more flavor to develop, compared to drip coffee, because the brewing process takes longer.

Red Eye : Think of this as coffee with a kick. Make it by adding a shot of espresso to a cup of drip coffee.

Ristretto : A strong espresso made with finely ground coffee beans and less water than usual to produce a sweet, concentrated shot, with minimal bitterness.

Roasting : Raw coffee beans are green. Roasting involves heating the beans to reduce their moisture content and enhance their flavor and aroma profiles.

Robusta : This species of coffee is less popular than Arabica and features a harsher, stronger flavor.

Vietnamese Coffee : Made from arabica or robusta beans that are grown in Vietnam. This beverage is made from strong coffee that is dripped into a glass that contains a layer of sweetened condensed milk. Whether you drink it hot, or over iced, you’ll notice that the sweet milkiness of the drink, does not dilute the rich coffee flavor.

Coffee drinks are a bit like Tex-Mex food; they’re made from a few ingredients that are prepared using a wide variety of methods and ratios. Even though the drinks might sound similar to you, coffee aficionados recognize the subtle differences. Whether you’re ready to expand your palate, or just want to sound cooler at the coffee counter, keep this list handy. It might inspire you to upgrade your coffee game and explore something different, the next time you grab a cup of java.


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