Coffee Terms Defined: Beans, Brews, and Barista Speak So You Can Order a Better Cuppa
Ordering coffee from your local coffee shop can be a fun part of your morning routine that shouldn’t leave you shaking before you’ve taken your first sip. With so much diversity in the types of coffee you may find out there, it’s not uncommon to hear flavors described in terms of lush honeydew melon, ripe blueberries, juicy raspberries, and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts these days. Knowing even just a little about flavors, roast levels, and how much milk you take could mean the difference between a first time success and being 15 minutes late.
While terminology can vary from one cafe to another, a well-placed descriptor might give baristas just enough of an idea as to how much milk you want or how dark you like your brew. Not sure what the difference is between a cortado and a cappuccino? No problem. We’ve got you covered with this short list of terms to help you order your next cup with confidence.
Single Origins: These are coffees from a particular geographic area. A single origin could refer to coffee beans from a region, state, or in some cases, a coffee cooperative or mill that represents several small villages. Single origins often have specific flavors like fruit or nuts.
Blends: Unlike single origins, the beans for blends come from different places and tend to be less expensive. Many espresso-based drinks, especially with milk, use blends.
Drip Method: Coffee brewed in larger batches that can be poured and served quickly. Most coffee shops brew new batches every couple of hours to keep things fresh.
Pour Over Methods: Any way of brewing coffee in small batches, usually by the cup, using a cone such as the Kalita Wave, Melitta or Clever dripper. While not every coffee shop offers this option, some may recommend certain pour-over methods for single origin coffees in order to highlight unique flavors. Heads up that it might take a few extra minutes since pour overs are brewed to order.
Espresso: Finely ground coffee brewed with steam pressure to produce an almost syrupy beverage. The process is sometimes described as “pulling” a shot of espresso.
Doppio: The Italian name for a double shot of espresso.
Ristretto: An espresso shot pulled short. It’s the same amount of coffee as espresso, but less water for a more concentrated coffee.
Lungo: An espresso shot pulled a bit longer. The same amount of coffee as espresso, but more water for a “longer” shot.
Americano: An Italian term for espresso with hot water added to make a full cup of coffee.
Red Eye: Made by adding a shot of espresso to a cup of regular drip coffee for an added caffeine kick.
Latte: Espresso combined with steamed milk.
Cafe au Lait: French for "coffee with milk,” Cafe au lait is simply coffee with hot milk added.
Cappuccino: Combination of espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam. Some cafes may serve their cappuccino topped with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Breve: Italian for “short”, breve is espresso with half-and-half or cream instead of milk.
Flat White: Originally from Australia, a flat white is espresso combined with microfoam of steamed milk giving it a more velvety smooth texture than a latte.
Iced Coffee: Hot drip coffee combined with ice to make it cold.
Cold Brew: Coffee brewed with cold water over a long period of time.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee: Coarsely ground dark roast coffee with sweetened condensed milk poured over ice. Traditionally, it is brewed by the cup with using a drip filter called a cà phê phin.
Affogato: Italian for “drowned,” affogato is a dessert made by pouring a shot of hot espresso over vanilla ice cream or gelato.
Espresso con Panna: Italian for "espresso with cream," Espresso Con Panna is espresso topped off by whipped cream.
Mocha: A likely reference to the port city the first coffee beans were imported from in Yemen, Mocha is usually a combination of coffee, steamed milk, and either chocolate syrup or cocoa powder.