Coffee Lingo: Espresso Terms and Definitions

espresso terms and definitions

What’s your favorite espresso-based drink? Have you tried a latte, a cappuccino, or even a tiny espresso macchiato? Not sure what these are?

Whether you’re a home espresso maker or you visit coffee shops on the regular, there are some drinks that will be familiar to you. Whether it’s an espresso breve, cappuccino, americano, or even just getting your regular morning brew – knowing these basics won’t hurt!

When it comes to the language of espresso and espresso-based drinks, there are a lot of espresso terms to consider before placing an order( or making one at home). Knowing a few main espresso terms will give you more confidence and clarity when you’re at the counter (or your own home espresso machine).

I want you to feel excited and confident about espresso. If you’re new to the coffee drinking game and want to take your caffeine love to the next level by exploring the rich and mysterious world of espresso, this espresso guide is for you. If you stick with it, you’ll be on the cutting edge of espresso knowledge.

Espresso Drink Definitions

Espresso Drink Definitions

The drinks listed below are classical espresso-based drinks you’ll find in most coffee shops outside Italy. Some of them have only been around for a few decades. Sometimes when you’re in America or abroad, popular coffee chains might make drinks differently from the way they are traditionally done in Italy.

  • Caffe Americano: a shot of espresso diluted with enough hot water.
  • Caffe Breve: a drink of equal parts espresso and steamed half and half instead of milk.
  • Caffe Latte: a drink made of double espresso and steamed milk and topped with foam.
  • Cafe con Leche: a drink made of espresso with hot whole milk, no foam, and may include sugar.
  • Caffe Mocha: a drink made of double espresso with steamed milk, and chocolate.
  • Cafe Noisette: a drink made of espresso with a dollop of cream.
  • Cappuccino: a drink made of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. (Sometimes abbreviated “cap.”)
  • Dirty Chai: a drink combining shots of espresso mixed into chai into steamed milk.
  • Espresso con Panna: espresso topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
  • Espresso Macchiato: a drink made of single or double shot of espresso topped with a dollop of steamed milk and foam.
  • Flat White: a drink made with a shot of espresso topped by a double shot of steamed milk, no foam.
  • Flavored Latte: a caffé latte (a drink made of double espresso with steamed milk, foam) with  flavoring syrup or powder added for extra flavor. You can order any type of latte, including cinnamon-vanilla, strawberry-raspberry, marshmallow-coconut, or whatever you want! 
  • Latte Macchiato or Long Macchiato: a drink made of half shot or less of espresso below the foam and steamed milk at the bottom of the cup.
  • Red Eye: a drink containing one or two shots of espresso on top of a cup of normal drip coffee.
  • Ristretto: a drink having a smaller, more concentrated shot of espresso, just the first portion of a full-length espresso extraction.
  • Shot: one ounce of espresso (fluid).

Other Useful Terms to Know When Ordering Espresso

Other Useful Espresso Terms to Know When Ordering Espresso

In addition to those drink terms, you’re also likely to come across other descriptors that further specify the way a drink can be made.

  • Doppio: double-shot of espresso, which is extracted using twice the coffee grounds amount in the portafilter. This gives you 60 ml of drink, twice the amount of regular espresso. It is commonly called a “standard” double.
  • Double: twice as much, this may be a double espresso shot, double flavoring, a double amount of foam, two sugar packs, double the amount of milk, or anything else. 
  • Dry: it calls for only foam, no steamed milk at all.
  • Quad: it calls for four shots of espresso.
  • Triple: it calls for three shots of espresso.
  • Wet: it calls for more steamed milk than frothed milk.

Espresso Machine Parts and Espresso Grinder Parts

Espresso Machine Parts and Espresso Grinder Parts

Espresso machines and coffee grinders can be pretty complicated, so it’s important to brush up on the technical terms. The terms you’ll need to know to use an espresso maker and a coffee grinder in a coffee house setting are:

  • Basket: to brew the espresso, coffee grounds are placed in the basket of the espresso machine, which is then locked into the head group.
  • Portafilter: also called a portaholder, it holds the ground espresso beans while they are being extracted. 
  • Group Head: also called the brew group or brew head, it is the front part of any espresso machine where the coffee handle, or portafilter, attaches to.
  • Conical Burr Grinder: cone-shaped center burr to grind the coffee beans.
  • Doser: it is a chamber attached to a coffee grinder that doses out the ground coffee into its container, to prevent splatter of coffee grinds on the countertop.
  • Hopper: it is the part of the coffee grinder that sits on top of the grinder and stores the whole coffee beans that are to be ground. 
  • Knock Box (an espresso machine accessory): it is a drawer  with a built-in knock bar under your espresso machine, to dispose of the grounds after espresso extraction.
  • Tamper (also an espresso machine accessory): it is used to compact, or “tamp,” the grounds into a tightly compressed, evenly dispersed puck within the basket/portafilter for a quality shot of espresso.

More Espresso Terms

More Espresso Terms

To learn the basics, you can click on the links above. Still, there are a few additional espresso related terms that could be useful:

  • Barista: the person who specializes in brewing and serving espresso-based coffee drinks.
  • Crema: the signature reddish-brown foam on top of a freshly pulled espresso shot.
  • Demitasse: a small white cup holding about 2 to 3 fluid ounces (60 to 90 milliliters) of espresso.
  • Mouse Tails: the way the espresso flows from the spouts of an espresso machine. Often considered as a sign of a well-made pour.
  • Puck: the process in which hot steam is forced into a compressed cake of ground coffee to extract espresso.

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