Coffee 101: Essential Coffee Terms Every Coffee Lover Should Know

I love coffee. Need I say anymore? It’s one of the most comforting and soul soothing drinks that warms my soul every single time… whether it be early on Saturday morning when the world is still asleep or late at night when I’m trying to write. That being said, there’s something fascinating about the process of making, drinking and appreciating coffee that has mesmerized the world over! Being a coffee lover, I thought it would be a great idea to share some essential coffee terms that every coffee lover should know.

Making a good cup of coffee is somewhat a science and an art form all in one but there’s so much more to coffee than just making and drinking it. Often on my travels I’ve seen and heard different coffee terms being used when ordering coffee. If you’re anything like me, learning new essential coffee terms is a must for my vocabulary because what better way to appreciate the drink of the Gods than by using the correct terminology? So go ahead, make yourself a cup of something delicious and read on.

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Here are some essential coffee terms that every coffee lover should know!

Affogato: Affogato is an Italian term which means “drowned.” This drink involves espresso poured over the top of vanilla ice cream.

Americano: This is an espresso shot diluted with just enough hot water.

Body: This refers to the feel of the coffee’s texture on the palate.

Café Au Lait: This is a shot of espresso added to the same amount of milk. It is also known as café con leche.

Cappa: An abbreviation for “cappuccino.”

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Cappuccino: One shot of espresso topped with foamy steamed milk. There’s more foam than milk.

Cold Brew: This refers to how chilled coffee is processed. It uses the cold-press technique which involves soaking coarsely ground beans in cold water for around 12 hours. The coffee then steeped and the coffee grounds are filtered out. The remaining coffee concentrate is diluted with milk or water and used for iced coffee.

Cortado: A dollop of hot milk added to one shot of espresso.

Crema: The top layer of espresso which is consists of emulsified oils.

Cuppa: Short for “cup of coffee.”

Dark Roast: Term used for coffee beans roasted for a longer time which gives it an overall stronger flavour.

Degas: This refers to the time needed for a batch of coffee beans to release carbon dioxide in bringing out the flavour.

Demitasse: A French term meaning “half cup.”

Doppio: An Italian word which means “double” as in two espresso shots.

Drip: This method involves brewing coffee by pouring hot water over coffee grounds using a French press or filter.

Drip Coffee: The usual black coffee you can find in cafes and is usually made with a coffeemaker, filter, or French press. The process of making drip coffee involves pouring water over ground coffee beans in a filter. The water seeps through the coffee grounds and absorbs its oils and essences and then collects into a pot.

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Espresso: Making espresso involves hot water forcing pressure to fine coffee grounds. The result is highly concentrated coffee which is potent!

Fair Trade: This is an economic program which ensures that coffee growers are paid a proper minimum wage.

Flat White: Cappuccino without the foam / A shot of espresso filled with steamed milk.

Frappe: A common term for “Frappuccino” or ice-blended beverage. Coffee is added with other flavours or syrups.

French Press: This device is composed of a pre-heated glass cylinder with a lid and plunger. Ground coffee is placed in the cylinder, and hot water is added. The mixture is stirred while the lid and plunger are placed on top. This method contains the heat while the coffee is steeped. While the coffee is extracted, the plunger is pressed down to catch the coffee grounds on the bottom while freshly brewed coffee is pushed upward.

Frothed: This involves drawing in air into milk to give it a thicker consistency.

Green Coffee: Coffee seeds have a green colour after it is processed and dried. Roasting makes the colour dark and brown. Green coffee beans are the ones purchased by a coffee roasting company.

Iced Coffee: This type of coffee is made with a cold brew or simply coffee with ice.

Irish Coffee: Coffee that includes fresh cream, brown sugar, and Irish whiskey.

Latte: This is one shot of espresso with one or more cups of steamed milk added into it. Latte has more milk than cafe au lait.

Latte Macchiato: A latte made with milk and foam while pouring espresso in last.

Macchiato: This is an Italian term for “marked.” This drink includes one shot of espresso topped with a “mark” of foamy milk goodness. It is usually served in an espresso glass, giving you around four ounces of coffee kick.

Mocha: A drink composed of espresso and steamed milk with added flavourings such as chocolate or syrup.

Pour-over: This type of drip coffee was first developed in Japan. It involves slowly pouring hot water over a filter cone. Brewing usually takes three minutes and uses various equipment such as cones, kettles, and chambers.

Red Eye: This refers to a shot of espresso added to a cup of drip coffee.

Ristretto: A highly-concentrated espresso which has less water than the usual espresso.

Roast: This refers to heating green coffee beans until they darken. Roasting creates the coffee flavours which can be extracted by brewing.

Skinny: This is basically coffee with non-fat milk.

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I'm Shalinee - a Geminian scientist who loves to travel, write, draw and eat chocolate. I've visited over twenty countries, published a Environmental Science encyclopaedia and somewhere along the way started a science communication company to help students and corporates translate that hard-to-read data generated in a lab. Other than that, I'm just searching for the magic still hidden in the world.

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