So, you want to dive into the rich coffee culture and be immersed in the beautiful world of all things coffee? We commend you, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say there was a lot to learn!
Coffee is believed to have been around since the 15th century, and along the way, there have been many terms developed to describe the wonderful caffeinating beverage and the tools we use to make it. To help you fit in at your local coffee shop, we’ve put together this list of useful coffee terms, coffee synonyms, and some slang for coffee. Grab a cup, and let’s get started!
Useful Coffee Terms
Acidity – This one’s simple: the acidity of the coffee. Often referred to as tartness or brightness. It can carry fruity notes in a coffee.
Aeropress – a single-serving brewing apparatus in which you use a plunger to force hot water through finely-ground coffee — somewhat similar to espresso in taste.
Affogato – a delicious mixed coffee drink consisting of a shot of espresso and a scoop of ice cream.
Americano – a simple cup of coffee on the surface, but actually made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso to create a unique flavor profile.
Arabica – one of the two main varieties of coffee plants (the other being robusta). It produces far superior coffee quality and accounts for about 70% of the coffee consumed worldwide.
Balance – a tasting word used to describe how well the acidity, bitterness, and tasting notes complement and elevate the others.
Barista – someone who brews and prepares coffee beverages professionally.
Black Eye – a type of coffee drink that consists of a cup of regular coffee with two shots of espresso.
Blade Grinder – a device for “grinding” coffee beans that actually uses blades to chop the beans into small pieces for brewing.
Blend – a term to describe a coffee that consists of two or more different beans blended together.
Body – a tasting word used to describe how the coffee feels in your mouth. Often, coffee can feel thin or thick. It is also referred to as mouthfeel.
Burr Grinder – a type of coffee grinder that uses ceramic or metal burrs to crush and properly grind coffee beans for brewing.
Cafe Au Lait – a type of mixed coffee drink consisting of one-third espresso or coffee and two-thirds frothed milk.
Cappuccino – a mixed coffee drink consisting of equal amounts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
Chaff – the papery skin of the coffee bean, which should be extracted during roasting. Leads to a bitter, undesirable flavor in finished coffee.
Chemex – a brewing apparatus that has you pour hot water over grounds in a thick filter. It produces a very clean cup of coffee.
Clever Coffee Dripper – a brewing apparatus similar to pour over and drip machines that includes a stopper at the bottom of the filter to allow further steeping for bolder coffee.
Cold Brew – a type of coffee that is “brewed” by letting grounds sit in room temperature or cold water for 12-24 hours. It produces a smooth, less bitter coffee.
Complexity – a term to describe the range and sophistication of tasting notes in a coffee. The more distinct flavors there are to discern, the more complex the coffee is.
Crema – the creamy emulsified oil that is produced by brewing some coffee — and usually espresso — and sits on top of a cup or shot.
Cupping – a process often used by coffee professionals to taste and compare multiple coffees or multiple roast profiles of the same coffee. It involves making small quantities by adding hot water directly to grounds and drinking.
Dark Roast – refers to the roast level of coffee beans and describes a dark brown appearance and an oily residue on the surface. It’s associated with notes of chocolate, nuts, and caramel.
Drip Coffee Maker – one of the most popular coffee brewers, this machine drips hot water over a basket of grounds and down into a carafe, usually sitting on a warming plate.
Direct Trade – refers to coffee that is purchased by a roaster or wholesaler directly from a coffee farmer.
Doppio – an Italian term for a double shot of espresso.
Dry Process – also called natural process, this refers to coffee beans that have been extracted from the coffee cherry after the fruit has dried.
Espresso – a type of coffee produced by forcing hot or boiling water through a puck of very finely ground coffee.
Extraction – refers to the removal of caffeine and flavor from beans using hot water or steam during brewing.
Fair Trade – refers to a practice of purchasing and selling coffee beans that secures a minimum price for coffee for farmers across the world.
Filter Coffee – an umbrella term used to describe any method of brewing that uses a mesh or paper filter.
Finish – a term used to describe the flavors associated with the ending of a sip of coffee after it has been swallowed.
First Crack – a milestone in the roasting process signified by the audible cracking of coffee beans as their internal temperature rises.
Flat White – similar to a cappuccino but with more milk.
French Press – a method of brewing and a brewing apparatus that involves steeping coffee grounds in hot water, then using a plunger with a steel mesh on the bottom to press the spent grounds out of the finished coffee.
Frappuccino – a refreshing, mixed coffee drink consisting of crushed ice, coffee, and milk. It’s often flavored.
French Roast – usually a bit darker than a dark roast, French roasted beans are dark brown and oily on the surface.
Full-City Roast – an alternative way to describe a medium-dark roast.
Green Coffee – refers to the green seeds of a coffee cherry. These are unroasted and green in color.
Hulling – a process that involves removing the skin of a coffee bean during processing.
Italian Roast – a very dark roast profile popular in Italy and characterized by a nearly black, burnt appearance.
Latte – a mixed coffee drink consisting of a shot or two of espresso with two or three times as much steamed milk. It is often served with milk froth on top.
Latte Art – a practice not specific to lattes that involves creating pictures on top of the foam of a drink, usually done by the careful pouring of steamed milk into espresso and sometimes involving cocoa powder or cinnamon.
Macchiato – a mixed coffee drink consisting of a shot of espresso and a dash of milk. It serves as a middle ground between black espresso and a cappuccino.
Machine Drying – a process that uses motorized drums to dry coffee beans after they have been removed from the coffee cherry.
Micro Lot Coffee – refers to a coffee or collection of beans that has been sourced from a single farm.
Mocha – a mixed coffee drink consisting of espresso, chocolate, and milk.
Moka Pot – an espresso stovetop brewing apparatus that drips boiling water over a puck of finely ground coffee.
Organic – a term used to describe coffee that has been grown without pesticides, herbicides, or other potentially harmful chemicals.
Patio Drying – an alternative to machine drying that involves leaving coffee beans out in the sun to dry naturally.
Peaberry – a small coffee bean that comes from a coffee cherry only containing one seed rather than the usual two. It often produces fruity, bright, and acidic coffee.
Portafilter – the small mesh filter that holds espresso in place in an espresso machine during the brewing.
Pour Over – a brewing method that involves carefully pouring a thin stream of hot water over a bed of coffee grounds in a paper filter. It usually produces acidic, fruity coffee.
Puck – when brewing espresso, hot water is forced through a compact puck of espresso.
Pull – a term for a shot of espresso. Espresso machines initially involved a lever that the barista would have to pull manually.
Pulping – the process of removing the outermost skin of a coffee cherry during processing.
Pump Machine – any brewing machine that uses a water pump to move or force water into contact with coffee grounds. It usually refers to an automated espresso machine that creates the required pressure for brewing using a pump.
Quaker – a term referring to defective coffee beans that don’t roast properly and remain pale in color through the entire roasting process.
Red Eye – a type of coffee drink that consists of a cup of regular coffee with one shot of espresso.
Ristretto – a short shot of espresso, usually smaller in volume and with a resulting difference in flavor.
Roasting – the process of heating bitter green coffee beans to develop more palatable flavors associated with coffee.
Robusta – one of the two varieties of coffee plants (the other being arabica). It produces inferior coffee quality and accounts for about 30% of coffee beans grown worldwide.
Second Crack – a milestone reached in the roasting process for darker roasted beans, second crack is the second round of audible cracking of coffee beans.
Shade Grown – refers to coffee that is grown in the shade, often in an effort to preserve natural foliage and trees while still producing coffee.
Shot – refers to a single “pull” of espresso, usually between one and two ounces.
Single Origin – refers to coffee beans that have been sourced from a single region.
Sorting – a part of coffee processing that involves separating coffee beans based on size, density, or some other characteristic.
Specialty Coffee – refers to a high-quality coffee that is often rich, full-flavored, and complex.
Tamping – the process of compressing espresso into a puck for proper extraction during brewing.
Wet Process – refers to coffee beans that have been extracted from the coffee cherry before the fruit has dried.
Brew – a word for the technique of making coffee that is instead used in place of “coffee”.
Java – believed to have started as a term for a coffee blend from the island of Java in Indonesia.
Java Lava – refers to hot coffee.
Joe – generally used in the phrase, “cup of joe“.
Liquid Gold – refers to how utterly precious coffee is.
Mood Mover – refers to the mood-boosting effects of caffeine.
Slang for Coffee
Bean Juice – refers to the fact that coffee is made by mixing coffee beans with water.
Brain Juice – refers to the often mind-clarifying and mind-stimulating effects of caffeine.
Cuppa – likely taken from the same word to describe a cup of tea, this is a shortening of the phrase, “cup of”.
Dirt – usually refers to coffee that is very muddy, heavy in mouthfeel, or not very flavorful.
Go Juice – refers to coffees stimulating effects that make you “go”.
High Octane – an adjective to describe coffee that is very strong or high in caffeine.
Jitter Juice – refers to the stimulating effects of caffeine that can lead to jitteriness if consumed in large quantities.
Leaded – an adjective to describe caffeinated coffee (as opposed to “unleaded,” which refers to decaf).
Liquid Energy – refers to the energized feeling caffeine provides.
Mud – usually refers to coffee that has a heavy mouthfeel or is unfiltered (such as Turkish coffee).
Rocket Fuel – refers to extremely strong coffee.
Unleaded – an adjective used to describe decaf coffee (as opposed to “leaded,” which is used to describe regular, caffeinated coffee).
Wakey Juice – refers to the feeling of wakefulness that caffeine often provides.
Coffee culture can be an intimidating thing to step into, especially given the wealth of information and terminology most coffee lovers know and use on a daily basis. Add slang to that mix, and you’ve got an overwhelming number of unfamiliar phrases! What’s a coffee lover to do?
Hopefully, these popular and useful coffee terms, synonyms, and slang words will help you familiarize yourself with the terminology and make you more comfortable discussing this fantastic beverage. Coffee should be delicious, not confusing!
See also: 17 Brilliant Uses for Used Coffee Grounds
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