The Coffee Terms You Need to Know

Don't get left behind in the cafe line.

Even if you drink a cup every single morning, it can be hard to navigate a coffee shop menu -- especially when everyone else in line is ordering in what seems to be a foreign language. Don't worry: we broke it down for you. Here are easy explanations of the terms you need to know. Or if all else fails, just do this:


Espresso and hot water, to taste -- supposedly named after American GIs who watered down European espresso to mimic a cup of drip coffee from back home.


Equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

Cold brew

Coffee brewed in cold water for an extended period of time. Easy to make, and much better than watered-down coffee in ice.


The top layer of freshly made espresso, made of emulsified oils. Especially important for good latte art.

Dark roast

Coffee beans that are roasted for an extended period of time, resulting in a stronger flavor.


Italian for "double." Two shots of espresso.


Brewing coffee by pouring water over grounds directly with a filter or device like a French press.


Concentrated coffee, sometimes deemed too strong for uncultured Americans (see: Americano).

Fair trade

A program ensuring coffee growers are paid a minimum wage.


Milk with air drawn in, giving it a thicker consistency.

Half Caf

Half decaffeinated coffee and half regular and fully consistent with the American compulsion to shorten the English language to mono-syllabic sounds.

Irish Coffee

Coffee mixed with brown sugar, fresh cream, and, of course, Irish whiskey.


Frothed milk poured over fresh espresso. With a bit of skill, it’s possible to create designs in the crema.


Either espresso topped with a spoonful of frothed milk (a Caffe Macchiato) or frothed milk with espresso poured in (a Latte Macchiato).


Espresso with chocolate and frothed milk.


Coffee with espresso added.


To heat coffee beans (they start off green) until they darken and create coffee flavors that can be extracted by brewing.


Made with nonfat milk.


This much coffee at Starbucks.

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