Recent Posts

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Coffee Terms and Definitions: What is a Latte?

Coffee Terms and Definitions

Coffee terms can be confusing- many are based on foreign words, and many people use coffee terms incorrectly, adding to confusion.  This article provides definitions of common coffee terms with pictures.

Coffee Drink Names and Definitions- What is a Latte?

Latte- Equal parts espresso and steamed milk

Shows steamed milk being added to make a latte
Latte- espresso and steamed milk
Image courtesy of cyclonebill CC-SA-20

Cafe au lait- Strong drip brewed or French press coffee with steamed milk added.  This differs from a Latte since espresso is not used as the coffee base.

Cappuccino- Equal parts espresso and steamed milk, topped with frothed milk foam.  May contain chocolate and other sweet flavorings

Cappuccino with leaf pattern in the froth
Image courtesy of  Sven Lindner

Frappe- Iced coffee drink with mocha or caramel, popular at McDonalds McCafe

Espresso- Strong coffee prepared using high brewing and temperature.  Espresso is used to make coffee drinks including latte and cappuccino

Steamed Milk- Milked that has been heated and increased in volume, but not frothed

Frothed Milk- Milk that has been heated and frothed with a steam wand on an espresso machine to make it foamy

Decaf- Decafinated coffee- at least 97.5% of the original amount of caffeine has been removed.

Cafe Americano- Coffee made by adding shots of espresso to hot water

Macchiato- Espresso topped with steamed milk.  You can order a macchiato topped with flavored syrup, for example a caramel macchiato

Frappuccino- Starbucks iced coffee drink- think of this as a coffee milkshake made with coffee and fruit blended with ice

Coffee Ordering Definitions- What does Venti mean?

Whip- Whipped cream added to the top of a coffee drink

Soy- Soy milk, used instead of cow's milk upon request in coffee drinks

Double- Two shots of espresso instead of one in a coffee drink

Mocha- Chocolate flavoring in a coffee drink

Sugar in the Raw- Sugar that is less processed than regular sugar.  It has larger granules and tastes like a cross between regular sugar and brown sugar

Barista- Name of the person at the coffee shop who makes coffee- "barista" applies to both males and females

Venti- The name for a 24 ounce coffee size at Starbucks

Tall- The name for 12 ounce coffee size at Starbucks

Grande- The name for 16 ounce coffee size at Starbucks

Trenta- The name for 31 ounce coffee size at Starbucks, where available

Coffee Brewing Technique Definitions- What is pour over coffee?

Pour Over- Pour over coffee is made by pouring hot water from a kettle over coffee grounds held in a plastic or ceramic cone.  Most coffee shops will make pour over coffee upon request.

Coffee dripper on top of a coffee cup
Coffee dripper to make pour over coffee
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

French Press- French press coffee is made by placing coffee grounds in a glass canister and adding hot water.  A plunger screen is used to press the grounds to the bottom of the canister after steeping for a few minutes, and french press coffee is served.

Espresso- An espresso machine is used to brew coffee at higher temperature and under higher pressure than an auto drip brewer.  Espresso machines may have a steam wand that can be used to make steamed milk or froth for making latte or cappuccino.

Auto Drip- The most common type of coffee maker.  The auto drip coffee maker automatically heats water from its reservoir and slowly drips hot water into a filter basket containing coffee grounds to brew coffee.  The best auto drip coffee makers use cone filters and have thermal carafes.

Cowboy Coffee- Cowboy coffee is made without a coffee maker and without a coffee filter.  Add coffee grounds to hot water in a pan, allow to steep, and then carefully pour off coffee leaving most of the grounds in the bottom of the pan.

Coffee Making Equipment Definitions- What is a cone filter?

Espresso Maker- Specialized coffee maker that uses very hot water and pressure to make a type of coffee called espresso.  This strong coffee is used to make coffee drinks such as Latte or Cappuccino, or espresso may be drunk straight in small servings.

French Press- Glass pot with a metal screen and plunger.  Place coffee grounds in the glass pot, pour in hot water, and let steep for about 3 minutes.  Press the plunger to screen the grounds to the bottom of the pot and serve French Press coffee.

Coffee Dripper- Small plastic or ceramic cone that is placed over a coffee cup.  A cone filter and coffee grounds are placed in the dripper, and how water is poured into the dripper, resulting in brewed coffee.

Vault- Storage canister for coffee beans, may have vent to allow gases from the beans to vent, maximizing freshness.

Auto Drip Coffee Maker- The most common type of coffee maker.  Coffee grounds are placed in a filter basket, and hot water water is slowly dripped into the filter basket, resulting in brewed coffee.

Coffee Filter Basket- This is the plastic bowl in an auto drip coffee maker where the coffee filter and coffee grounds are placed.

Coffee Filter Types- The shape of the coffee filter basket determines what type of coffee filter you need- either Cone Filter or Basket Filter.

Cone Filter- Paper coffee filter shaped like a cone with a point on the bottom

Basket Filter- Paper coffee filter shape that is flat on the bottom, the most common shape for auto drip coffee makers.

Reservoir- The part of an auto drip coffee maker where cold water is placed for brewing coffee.

Coffee Grinder- Used to grind whole coffee beans into ground coffee.  There are 3 major types of coffee grinders: burr grinders, disc grinders, and blade grinders.

Blade coffee grinder- disc and burr grinders produce better coffee
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

K-cup- Small plastic cup that contains coffee grounds, used in Keurig single serve coffee brewing machines.  This article shows what is inside a K-cup and how much K-cups cost.

Single Serve Brewer- Coffee makers that use a small container of coffee grounds to conveniently make a single cup of coffee quickly and easily.  Examples include Keurig, Senseo,  and Verisimo coffee brewers.

Coffee Bean and Coffee Roasting Terms- What is city roast?

Fair Trade- Coffee beans purchased from coffee growers in a manner to ensure reasonable profits for the growers.

Single Origin- Describes coffee beans from a single country or region rather than a blend of beans from various locations.

Shade Grown- Coffee beans grown under the rain forest canopy, rather than clear cutting an area to grow coffee trees.

Dark Roast- Coffee beans roasted for longest, reaching a dark color and smokey flavor.  Dark roast coffee has less caffeine than lighter roasts.  Dark roast beans have oil on the surface.

Dark roast coffee beans are dark brown, oily, and smell smokey
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

French Roast- Very dark roast coffee, smokey sweet

City Roast- Medium-dark coffee roast, more smokey, sweeter, and more oily than medium roast

Medium Roast- Coffee roasted beyond first crack develops a sweeter flavor and the beans have some oil on the surface after roasting

Light Roast- Coffee beans roasted for shortest time, remaining a light brown color after roasting.  Roasting stops just after first crack.  Light roast coffee is more acidic than darker roasts.

First Crack- When coffee beans are roasted, they reach a temperature that causes the coffee bean to visibly expand and make a cracking sound.  The first time this occurs during roasting is known as "first crack".

Second Crack- When roasting continues beyond first crack, the beans will expand further and make a second cracking sound, known as "second crack"

Copyright © 2013 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Coffee Maker Journal


  1. That's right the confusions occurs mainly due to the language barriers.

    Finn Felton

    Kopi Luwak

  2. Oh hey, these coffee terms sure come to mind ever since I helped a friend out with fixing his coffee machine. He ended up calling me to do a coffee machine maintenance because the brewing in his machine went wrong. For me it was somewhat of a challenge because I haven't been drinking coffee for a while.