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
Dark Roast/ Light
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
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?)
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”.
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
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!
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