A Barista’s Glossary

A popular Dunkin Donuts ad poked gentle fun at the gourmet coffee culture with its whole language of coffee beverages with the question, “Is it French? Is it Italian? Perhaps Fritalien!” If you’ve ever been intimidated by a barista’s sneer at your butchering of some cafe menu item, this glossary is for you.

A Barista's Glossary


Never mind the drip coffee pot at your favorite coffee shop. If you order an Americano, you’ll get a cup of coffee made by extending a shot of espresso with a shot of hot water. The espresso process extracts flavor differently from the coffee grounds than a drip coffee maker, so the flavor is different and richer, but it’s as close as you’ll get to a cup of joe in a gourmet coffee house.


That’s what you call the person behind the counter. She also doesn’t pour your coffee. She pulls a shot for you. Anyone who is really passionate about their favorite coffee house will tell you that the barista can make or break the place. Personable baristas who know how to make good espresso develop their own followings. (Obligatory Pop Culture reference: In a recent episode of NCIS, the barista did it. Score one for the butlers.)

Caffe Americano

Just another name for an Americano. You can get a double Americano with two shots of espresso too.

Caffe Mocha

MMmm, mocha. There are many different ways to prepare a caffe mocha, but they all have one thing in common. They combine two of America’s biggest passions, coffee and chocolate. Add a frothy head of cream, and you have a Mochachino.

Cafe Noir

Black coffee. Really. No cream or milk, just the coffee, thanks. It has the same level of pretentiousness as those who prefer film noir.


Espresso with steamed milk topped with frothed milk. The frothy milk at the top of the steaming pitcher is spooned onto the top of the cup to retain the heat. The drink gets its name from the Capuchin monks, who wear hooded robes that resemble the cap of foam on top of the drink. Generally, the proportions for a cappuccino are 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 frothed milk.


It’s the coffee culture’s version of a wine tasting. Professional coffee tasters cup coffee to choose coffee beans that will be bought and used in their blends and coffee roasts. Coffee cuppings have become the new soiree among the coffee elite, though, and often the coffees being cupped will be the personal home roasts created by the attendees at the party.


In Italian, demi means half and tasse means cup. It’s the tiny little cup that espresso is usually served in, though a demitasse can also refer to the entire service of coffee pot and six or eight demitasse cups. The right demitasse cup can affect the flavor of the coffee by retaining the beverage heat, mostly.


A double shot. Of espresso, that is. Hit it with your best shot – twice.


Crema is what makes espresso espresso. It’s the delicious caramel colored foam at the top of a shot of espresso that is essentially coffee emulsion. If you don’t have crema, you don’t have espresso – or at least you don’t have good espresso.


A sublime coffee beverage made by forcing hot water through tightly packed coffee grounds under very high pressure. There are very precise measurements of coffee, water, pressure and temperature which must be observed in order to make excellent espresso. Anything less than excellent espresso is often considered undrinkable by those with a real interest in coffee.

Espresso Breve

Espresso with half and half cream.

Espresso Lungo

A shot of espresso that is pulled a few seconds longer than necessary, supposedly to maximize the extraction process. In most cases, it merely produces bitter, overextracted coffee.

Espresso Macchiato

A shot of espresso topped with a very small amount of steamed milk.

French Press

A coffee maker that consists of a tall glass cylinder, a holder, a cap and a plunger mechanism. Ground coffee is spooned into the cylinder and covered with boiling water. The mixture is allowed to steep, then stirred briefly before the plunger is used to force the coffee ground to the bottom of the cylinder so that the coffee can be poured off. Many coffee conoisseurs swear that this method makes the very best coffee.

Froth or Foam

Milk that has been steamed to create a froth or thick foam


Espresso (either one or two shots) slowly poured into a glass of steamed milk and topped with a thin layer of froth. It’s often dusted with cinnamon or nutmeg.


An espresso made with about half the water usually used. It is intensely concentrated, smooth and thick on the tongue. It is often the basis for other espresso drinks, or used in recipes that call for concentrated coffee.


A single shot of espresso.


  1. Hi! Am from the Philippines and am currently studying barista, here in the Philippines, they put some T.V’s where customer can see something while waiting, or you can give them some newspaper or interesting magazines. Also some Manager’s are talking to customer’s about how they can improve their services thru a survey form that you can device on your own. Remember that if you want to satisfy a customer, you have to talk and ask them because you will have a great idea to improve your business. Hope it can help.

  2. Hi, I am Jason from Nanjing, China. I found your articles on being a good barista very helpful. They not only provide good tips but also broaden my horizon by relevant coffee lingos that will come in handy in actual coffee house jobs.
    I would appreciate it if you could direct me to the resources on how to properly wait the coffee shop customers. The reason that I am asking is that many coffee shops in China are lacking well trained waiters/waitresses who bring good satisfaction to customers. Any of your help would be appreciated!

    Jason Wang – who scratches his head at those waiting staffs

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