The Coffeehouse Dictionary: Coffee-Jargon Decoded

The Coffeehouse Dictionary: Coffee-Jargon Decoded.

by Nick Rynerson


Walking into a coffee shop has the potential to be an intimidating experience, especially when half of the menu items seem to be in Italian and the few English words being thrown around seemingly have different meaning at every coffee shop that you frequent. But not to worry! With a few key phrases under your belt the murky waters of coffee jargon become easily navigated.


Dark Roast/ Light Roast


These common descriptors of black coffee offer a simple tell as to how the coffee bean was roasted. Dark roasts (such as “French roasts”) are darker in color and tend to have a distinct burnt taste to them. Light roasts, on the other hand have a lighter color and typically vary in strength and flavor.


Common misconceptions: Dark roast coffees are not always “bolder” or “stronger” than light roast coffees. And light roast coffees typically have more caffeine than dark roasts. When ordering, as to get exactly what you want, it helps to be specific on the flavor that you desire

(ex. “Which coffee is stronger?” –or- “I’ll take the more mild coffee, please”)




Skinny was originally a Starbucks term that has made its way into the entire coffee world. It distinctly means that one is asking for both skim milk and sugar-free syrup in a latte or milk-based drink.

(ex. “Will you make my vanilla latte ‘skinny,’ please?)


Common misconceptions: There seems to be a bit of a mix of opinion on what “skinny” actually means. I believe this is because it is advertised at Starbucks as “a healthier alternative” but the process is not described to the customer. Some will expect just sugar free syrup or just skim milk.




Seen above drinks on the Coffee Hound menu, these words are noting how many shots of espresso are in a drink. Since espresso is pulled out of our espresso machine in 2oz “shots,” these labels are telling how many ounces of espresso go into what you order.  Most 12oz & 16oz espresso drinks have “DBL.” above them and most 20oz and a few 16oz drinks have “QUAD” above them. This lets you know how much caffeine you will be consuming depending on your drink choice. To add more espresso to a drink, simply ask for an extra “double” or “double-shot”.


Common misconceptions: These are not the sizes of the drinks. Honestly, I blame Starbucks for the confusion. After naming their sizes with an array of nonsensical words, many people think that we are doing the same thing. We are not. But we certainly understand the potential for confusion; so if you order a “quad” or a “double” don’t worry about the barista shaming you for not knowing the lingo!




One of the tastiest drinks on the Coffee Hound menu, the cappuccino is a customer and barista favorite alike. The drink consists of 2oz of espresso and about 5oz of steamed milk. Unlike a latte, the cappuccino milk is about half foam and is served at a slightly cooler temperature. Cappuccinos only come in one size (8oz), although lattes at larger sizes can be made to resemble a cappuccino. They are the perfect drink for someone looking to venture out of their coffee comfort zone!


Common misconceptions: Lattes and cappuccinos are distinctly different. Lattes have less foam and come in a variety of sizes unlike cappuccinos. If you like the quantity of the larger lattes but the foam of a cappuccino, try ordering a latte with “extra foam”!



This is not an exhaustive list of coffee terms, but it should get you going in the right direction. At the Coffee Hound we pride ourselves in customer service and always enjoy helping customers out, so never hesitate to ask us a question if confused. And who knows, you might learn something!


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