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Coffee 101: The Terms You Need to Know to Become a Coffee Connoisseur

Coffee 101

Coffee that goes beyond your throat and reaches deep within is a good kind of coffee. There’s something fascinating about the process of making, drinking and appreciating coffee that it has taken the world over. Coffee takes second place in the world’s most valuable traded commodities (next to petroleum). This black gold moves economies and creates an impact on the day-to-day lives of people.

Making coffee is a science and drinking it can be quite an art. If you want to put your personal relationship with coffee to the next level, it helps to know some terms surrounding this heavenly liquid. The following is a fast facts resource for everything about coffee which will help you challenge any coffee snob.


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: Also known as café con leche, it is a shot of espresso added to the same amount of milk.

Cappa (or Cappu): A shorter term for “cappuccino.”

Cappuccino: This beverage consists of one shot of espresso topped with foamy steamed milk. There’s more foam than milk and would usually amount to eight ounces.

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. When the coffee is steeped, the coffee grounds are filtered out. The remaining coffee concentrate is diluted with milk or water. It is then used for iced coffee.

Cortado: This is a dollop of hot milk added to one shot of espresso. This drink is usually around four ounces.

Crema: This refers to the top layer of espresso which is consists of emulsified oils. This part is crucial for making latte art.

Cuppa: This is just short for “cup of coffee.”

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

Degas: This refers to the time needed for a batch of coffee beans to release carbon dioxide in bringing out the flavor. Degassing ensures that the espresso contains optimum flavor when brewing.

Demitasse: A French term meaning “half cup.” A demitasse is a 3-ounce cup used for macchiato or espresso drinks.

Doppio: This is 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: This is the usual black coffee you can find in diners. It is made with a coffeemaker, filter, or French press. The process of making it involves ground coffee beans in a filter and pouring water over it. The water seeps through the coffee grounds and absorbs its oils and essences. The resulting liquid is collected in a container. Some people prefer to drink it as it is or with sugar and cream.

Espresso: Making espresso involves hot water forcing pressure to fine coffee grounds. The result is highly concentrated coffee that is usually just two ounces. This potent drink gives you that needed kick whenever you need it.

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

Flat White: This is like cappuccino without the foam. It’s a shot of espresso filled with steamed milk.

Frappe: A common term for “Frappuccino” or ice-blended beverage. Coffee is added with other flavorings, syrups or fun ingredients. It’s basically coffee ice cream.

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.

God Shot: This is the term used when a shot of espresso tastes so good or exquisite that it might have been made by the hands of God.

Golden Rule: This is a rule of thumb used to extract espresso. Twenty-five to thirty seconds is needed to create a 2-ounce liquid.

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

Half Caf: Coffee which is half regular and half decaffeinated.

Heart: This refers to the complexity of flavor found in espresso. It is defined as the heart and soul of the coffee.

Iced Coffee: Coffee made with a cold brew or simply coffee with ice.

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

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 Art: This is fancy art made on top of the foam or milk of latte, cappuccino, macchiato and other drinks.

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 flavorings 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 flavors which can be extracted by brewing.

SCAA: The Specialty Coffee Association of America creates standards for the terms and practices in the coffee industry. It is the parent organization of barista and roasters institutions.

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

Trenta: Super-sized coffee amounting to 31 ounces. Starbucks launched this trend as a means for “more refreshment.”

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