A dictionary of coffee talk - Talk like a Barista!

Let's talk like a Barista and ask for drinks like we know what we are talking about...

Know your coffee!..there is nothing smarter than heading into a new cafe(or an old cafe, for that matter) with a bit of knowledge under your belt. As much as I love coffee, I am naturally suspicious of any coffee joint that I walk into. You would be amazed how many places try and baffle or zoom you with BS. Be prepared. Be informed. Do not let any cafe barista or owner pull the wool(or the beans) over your eyes! Learn the lingo!


Barista --The espresso machine operator, one who is fully informed and practiced (hopefully) in the art of coffee preparation; means "bartender" in Italian. In Italy it is a respected career.

Caffe Americano --Espresso diluted with hot water; one shot of espresso with up to seven ounces of water.

Cafe au Lait --Half drip-brewed coffee and half steamed milk.

Caffe Breve --A latte made with half-and-half instead of milk.

Caffe Coretto --An espresso "corrected" with the addition of liquor, typically brandy or a liqueur.

Caffe Latte --Espresso with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam on the top.

Caffe Mocha --Espresso mixed with chocolate and steamed milk and topped with steamed milk or whipped cream.

Cappuccino --Espresso topped with foam.

Con Panna --Literally, espresso with a dollop of whipped cream.

Crema --The reddish-brown, creamy layer of foam that sits on top of a well-drawn espresso.

Doppio --A double shot of espresso.

Draw --To prepare an espresso shot. (See also Pull.)

Drip --Short for drip-brewed coffee - also called a "pour" if you are measuring everything like I do..

Dry Cappuccino --A cappuccino with foam only, ever! Served in an 8 or 12 ounce cup.

Espresso Pitcher --A small, three- to five-ounce pitcher that the barista brews espresso into.

Espresso Macchiato --Espresso "marked" or "stained" by milk foam. Not the 24 fluid ounce caramel flavoured thing that Starbucks serves.

Flavored Espresso Drink --An espresso drink with a flavored syrup added.

Flat --No foam.

Grande -- Starbucks thing... A sixteen-ounce serving of coffee or espresso drink.

Granita --A dessert of shaved, sweetened ice flavored with coffee or fruit juice.

Group --An espresso machine's brewing chamber, comprising the group head and the portafilter.

Group Head --The circular unit that forms the upper half of an espresso machine's brewing chamber and into which the barista places the portafilter.

Group Switch --The button on the espresso machine that turns the group on and off.

Knockbox --A container with a padded bar across the top for the barista to use to "knock" the brewed coffee grounds out of the portafilter.

London Fog -- A coffee free latte made with Earl Grey tea, some sweetening and steamed/foamed milk.

Lungo --A long shot of espresso, about one to two ounces per seven grams of coffee.

Mochaccino --An American invention that features espresso mixed with chocolate and topped with more foam and less steamed milk than a caffe mocha.

One Percent --An espresso drink made with milk that has 1 percent milk fat.

Packing or tamping(the portafilter) --The process of filling the portafilter with coffee.

Portafilter --A handled device with a brew basket at its end that fits into an espresso machine's group head.

Pull --Used as a verb to describe the act of making espresso, as in "to pull a shot."

Purist --A coffee aficionado who demands quality and shuns the use of flavored syrups and the practice of diluting espresso with copious quantities of milk; will only drink an espresso, a macchiato, or a cappuccino. Usually the least happy customer in today's marketing-driven specialty retail store.

The Red Eye -- a shot of espresso poured into a serving of drip coffee. Also known as "A shot in the dark..." a "Depth Charge" (that name now registered with Caribou Coffee but found on cocktail and cafe menus Worldwide - we know this because they issued us with a cease and decist letter [yes, this is an information website and we are within our rights to publish 'information!']) "The Bomb" and a few other names.

Ristretto --A shot of espresso that is cut off at fifteen to twenty seconds (when the crema turns light brown) yielding less than one ounce per seven grams of coffee; an aficionado's ambrosia.

Short --An eight-ounce serving of coffee or espresso drink.

Short Shot --or Short Pull See Ristretto.

Skinny --An espresso drink made with nonfat milk.

Steam Wand --The thin metal tube on an espresso machine connected to the boiler that heats milk and produces foam.

Straight Shot --An espresso served without milk, steamed milk, or foam; the drink of true purists.

Tamping --The action of packing the coffee into the portafilter with enough force to ensure the proper extraction.

Wet Cappuccino --A cappuccino with foam and steamed milk; usually the espresso, foam, and steamed milk are in a 1:1:1 ratio.

With Legs --A drink to go.


Colin works, lives and plays in Victoria, B.C. Canada and feels that life is too short for bad coffee.

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St. Lawrence Market - Front Street - Toronto
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