Coffee Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

Have you ever walked into a coffee shop, looked at the menu and all the fancy names, and just thought to yourself, “I just want a coffee with some milk and vanilla…” If you have, don’t feel ashamed, because those long, fancy, Italian words on the menu are definitely confusing, and I never understood them either until I began to work at a coffee shop. So, here is a little cheat sheet on some of the terms that you’ll encounter at most coffee shops!


Drip coffee

Drip coffee is your basic cup of joe. It is made in a coffee pot just like you would do at home! While this is usually served hot, it can also come iced, and is typically what they give you if you just ask for “an iced coffee.”


Espresso is a very concentrated method of brewing coffee. The grounds are much finer, and they are brewed under high pressure to make a “shot”, which is approximately 1 ounce of liquid. Espresso serves as a base for drinks such as breves, lattes, americanos, macchiatos, and cappuccinos. Espresso can also be ordered just by itself, both hot and over ice.


Americanos are made by cutting espresso shots with water. It dilutes the espresso and makes it very similar to drip coffee. It can be made hot or iced as well.


A standard latte is made with espresso and 2 percent milk. The milk can be steamed to make the drink hot, or it can be served over ice. Also, while 2 percent milk is typical, other milk can be substituted, such as nonfat, oat, almond, or coconut.


A breve is made with espresso and a half and half milk. Breves can be made with steamed milk or poured over ice. Compared to lattes, breves are much creamier and heartier due to the higher fat content in the milk.


A traditional macchiato is an espresso with a very small amount of steamed milk foam on top. Macchiatos can be served hot or iced, with the iced version containing more milk. Iced macchiatos can also be made either layered or stirred. Layered means that the iced milk is in the bottom of the cup and the espresso is delicately poured over the top for a layered look. Stirred just means that the milk and espresso are all combined in the cup.


Cappuccinos are a lot like macchiatos. The difference is that they contain more steamed milk than macchiatos do. Cappuccinos can be made “wet” or “dry.” A wet cappuccino is made with espresso, and then the remaining part of the cup is filled with half steamed milk and half milk foam. A dry cappuccino is made with espresso and the cup is filled only with milk foam.

Cold Brew

Cold brew is a kind of coffee that is actually not brewed. It is made by soaking a large amount of coffee grounds in water, making it highly caffeinated and not as acidic. Due to not being as acidic, cold brew coffee has a very smooth, non-bitter taste. However, it does have a stronger coffee flavor.

Nitro cold brew

Nitro cold brew is made the exact same way as a regular cold brew. But the difference is that it is infused with nitrogen. This makes it taste even creamier and smoother than regular cold brew. In my opinion, it also enhances the natural sweetness of the coffee itself.

Each of these different styles of coffee can be tailored to your liking by adding sweeteners, cream, alternative milk, and toppings. I like to think about each one as just a base that you can customize to fit whatever kind of coffee your craving! Just ask your barista what different options that particular coffee shop offers and get that perfect cup of coffee!

So there you have it, a little cheat sheet on coffee vocabulary. Now you can order your coffee like a pro!

For more articles on coffee, check out this list on the Fill Your Plate blog!

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