Drinks Week: Coffee


It’s National Coffee Day! We at Wordnik are celebrating by consuming as much caffeine as possible in its various forms, and with these words about coffee.

Let’s start with espresso (NOT expresso, got that?), “a concentrated coffee beverage brewed by forcing hot water under high pressure through finely ground coffee.” The word is Italian in origin and comes from esprimere, “to press out.” Crema is “the light-colored, orangish head (foam) on a cup of espresso.”

One shot of espresso is a solo or a single; two shots, a doppio or double; three, a triple; and four, a quad. A double double is a Canadian term for “coffee with the equivalent of two creamers and two packets of sugar.”

Espresso breve, literally “brief espresso,” is “espresso prepared with steamed half and half.” Ristretto, Italian for “short,” is an espresso “made with less hot water than normal.” A lungo, Italian for “long,” is espresso “made with more hot water than normal,” as opposed to an americano, which is an espresso with hot water added after it has been brewed, or a long black, which is hot water with espresso added to it. For an explanation of how the americano came to be named,  as well as a cup of joe, check out the Oatmeal’s funny and informative illustration.

A flat white is made with espresso and hot milk, while a white coffee is coffee with milk or cream added. A redeye is coffee with a shot of espresso, as well as slang for an overnight flight, and also known as a speedball, which is also “a mix of cocaine and heroin.” Affogato is “a drink or dessert topped with espresso, and sometimes also with caramel sauce or chocolate sauce,” and means “drowned” in Italian.

A macchiato is an “espresso topped with steamed milk,” and is Italian for “marked” or “stained.” A cortado is “espresso ‘cut’ with a small amount of warm milk to reduce the acidity,” from the Spanish word for “cut,” cortar. Café au lait  or café con leche (French and Spanish, respectively, for “coffee with milk”) is made of half coffee or espresso, and half hot milk.

A latte is “made from espresso and steamed milk, generally topped with foam,” while a mocha is a kind of latte with chocolate syrup. Baristas create latte art by “pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso” in a way that makes “pattern or design” – such as a rosetta – or “by simply ‘drawing’ in the top layer of foam.” Microfoam is “foam consisting of very small bubbles, specifically as an element in the steamed milk used to make certain types of latte coffee.”

Melange – which comes from the Old French mesler, “to mix” – is a “Viennese coffee specialty, half steamed milk and half coffee,” similar to a cappuccino. A cappuccino is “made from espresso and milk that has been steamed and/or frothed,” and comes from the Italian Capuchin, an allusion to the Roman Catholic friars’ brown robes. A mochaccino is, you guessed it, a cappuccino with chocolate.

A crappucino, on the other hand, is something entirely different. Formally known as kopi luwak, it’s “coffee made from the beans of coffee berries eaten, digested and defecated by civets.” Kopi luwak is Indonesian in origin, with kopi meaning coffee and luwak, the regional word for the civet, “a carnivorous catlike animal that produces a musky secretion.” In other putting weird things in coffee adventures, there’s the eggspresso, which is exactly what it sounds like, peanut butter coffee, donut coffee, bacon coffee, and, um, haggis coffee.

For kookiness about coffee sizes, take measure of the OUP Blog post on the trenta, the largest of the Starbuck’s large, and this post from the Language Log on latte lingo, coffee sizes ridiculously borrowed from Romance languages, and 7-Eleven’s various “gulps.”

For all that can be done to a cup of joe, take a trip to this coffee house list and this one. Then again, if you’re not a cafe aficionado (a caficionado?), coffee might be one of those things that smell better than they taste.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Jennie Faber]


3 thoughts on “Drinks Week: Coffee

  1. So excited that you mentioned double-double – it is definitely a Canadian tradition! My sister-in-law used it in the U.S. at a Starbucks – and they thought she meant a double-cup!

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