Looking for words to describe espresso? Or just need to know what a bloom, a demitasse, a grouphead or a tamper is?
Well, feast your eyes on this list. The best darn espresso and coffee terminology thingy you’re gonna find (IMHO).
These 35 terms are a must-know for any budding espresso enthusiast. How many of the 35 do you know?
Take a couple of minutes to brush up. It’ll save you embarrassment the next time someone asks you what a group head is and you don’t know (duh!)
P.S. If you’re looking for espresso drink names like Latte, Americano, Macchiato and the like, you’re better off reading this banging Espresso Drinks Guide instead.
3. Bar (Pressure)
4. Blade Grinder
6. Burr Grinder
7. Crack (First, Second…)
9. Coffee Cherry
15. Filter Basket
16. Foamed Milk
17. Green Coffee Beans
19. Group Head
20. Instant Coffee
21. Irish Coffee
32. Steam Wand
33. Steamed Milk
Coffee beans are harvested from two* types of coffee plant, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is considered the better tasting bean. It’s less bitter and less caffeinated.
*There’s a few others, to be fair. But pretty much all coffee sold and bought in the States is one of those two.
A barista is a person who makes espresso, usually an employee in a coffee shop. It comes from the Italian for “bartender”.
Although it should be used for someone who operates an espresso machine, it’s sometimes loosely used for anyone who brews coffee.
These guys are important. They’re the difference between a dynamite latte macchiato and wishing you’d ordered a mineral water to go.
3. Bar (pressure)
An espresso machine uses high pressure to pull a shot. We measure the pressure in bars.
One bar of pressure is the pressure you get from the atmosphere at sea level. Espresso needs about nine bars.
You might see flashy ads for espresso machines showing off their 15 or 18 bar pressure. Take no notice. Nine bars is enough.
4. Blade grinder
A blade grinder is the poor man’s choice to grind your coffee beans. It does this with a coarse blade.
The thing is… there ain’t much precision with one of these badboys. It’s just cut and slice.
You’ll get ground coffee, but it’ll be full of large chunks and gritty fines. End result? Bad coffee.
When you add hot water to freshly roasted coffee, the coffee expands and bubbles. This is called a “bloom”.
You see this a lot when brewing a pour over. It’s caused by gases in the coffee from the roasting process, and it’s considered good form to bloom a little to get these gases out. Before the brew, I mean.
The bloom of the coffee sometimes looks a little like a flower. Hence the name.
6. Burr grinder
A burr grinder is a way to grind you coffee, and the one which gives you the best taste.
It’s made using two burrs — kinda like teeth — that are set a distance apart. Then you crunch the beans. Maybe by hand with a crank, or using a electric motor.
Either way, the burrs make coffee grounds that are equal sized. This allows the coffee to extract in a consistent way that makes great coffee.
7. Crack (first/second)
The crack is the name for the loud crackling noise that happens when you roast coffee beans.
As you heat up the beans, a chemical reaction makes a loud “pop” in each bean. It’s funny to listen to, but it’s important as well.
The first crack tells you the beans have browned, and you can finish the roast. If you keep going, you get a second crack. Stopping here gives you a very dark roast.
Crema is the golden-brown foam that sits on the top of an espresso shot. It’s not milk or anything. Just little bubbles.
Besides looking pretty, crema is a sign of well-made espresso. Read more here.
9. Coffee cherry
The coffee cherry is a reddish fruit that grows on the coffee plant. See the picture. The farmer removes the cherry to get the coffee beans inside.
Each cherry actually contains two coffee beans, with a rare (10-15%) chance of one coffee bean — called a “peaberry”.
Decaf coffee is short for decaffeinated coffee. It means coffee with no (or very little) caffeine.
This type of coffee is useful for those who want a late night drink without it affecting their sleep. Or just anyone who wants healthier, caffeine-free lifestyle.
The way decaf is made is pretty crazy. The beans are soaked in hot water and a solvent that dissolves the caffeine. This is done before the roast. Only problem is it changes the taste a bit too much for some.
Demitasse is the name of the tiny cup used to drink an espresso shot. The capacity is about 2-3 fl. oz or 60-80 ml.
It comes from French where “demitasse” means “half-cup”. And you might also use one if you order other smaller drinks like a Macchiato or Ristretto.
A doser is the small chamber on the coffee grinder where the ground coffee collects. You can think of it giving you a “dose” of coffee.
Not all grinders use a doser. It’s important for commercial environments where baristas are pulling thousands of espressos a day. It saves time, but grinders with a doser tend to be more expensive.
Espresso is the strong, concentrated coffee that comes from an espresso machine. It’s so strong, that it’s often used to make other drinks like Cappuccinos or Lattes.
Espresso can only be made using an espresso machine. Other types of coffee are usually just called “brewed coffee”.
Extraction is the process where hot water interacts with coffee grounds. The hot water extracts the coffee solids from the bean which dissolve. This gives you your drink, coffee!
If you want to make great coffee, you need to perfect the extraction. Sounds simple. But it’s a surprisingly difficult thing to master.
15. Filter basket
The filter basket is a small metal basket in your espresso machine. The ground coffee goes in here. You can see it in the photo.
16. Foamed milk
Foamed milk — sometimes called frothed milk — is made by heating milk with a steam wand. To get it right, the steam wand must be placed under the surface of the milk.
17. Green coffee
Green coffee is what we call coffee beans that haven’t been roasted.
After coffee has been harvested, they are a bright green color. It’s only the high heat when you roast ’em up that turns them into a gorgeous brown.
A grinder is used to grind up the coffee beans into coffee grounds. You can’t get a brew going with whole coffee beans, you know?
There’s a real art to grinding coffee. For example, espresso needs fine coffee, a bit like sand. But a french press? That needs much bigger chunks, because the brew time is longer.
19. Group head
A group head is a part of the espresso machine where the hot water comes from. It’s kinda like a socket, you plug in your portafilter once it’s filled with ground coffee.
Keep an eye out for these things. A big coffee shop might have an espresso machine with five or six group heads!
20. Instant coffee
Instant coffee is a cheap and quick way of making a coffee. It’s made with coffee that’s already been brewed, but then is freeze dried. So it kinda saves it for later.
You add hot water and it makes the brewed coffee again. It’s super convenient as you can make a cup in like 10 seconds. The downside? The taste is pretty meh.
21. Irish coffee
Irish coffee is a type of alcoholic drink with coffee in. It’s usually a cocktail, made with Irish whiskey and cream. But it can just be a coffee with some alcohol in it, too.
The hopper is the big chamber at the top of a coffee grinder. It’s where all the beans go before you grind ’em.
Press a button, and the coffee beans will fall down (yay gravity) and get sliced up into coffee grounds.
23. Moka coffee
Moka coffee comes from a Moka Pot, a type of stovetop espresso maker.
It doesn’t make real espresso, but comes pretty close. And at a fraction of the price of an espresso machine. These little things look cute, and are popular across Europe.
A puck is what’s left of the coffee grounds after an espresso shot. The name comes from a hockey puck, because it has the same shape.
The reason it has this shape is because it’s the shape of the filter basket. And after the brew, the grounds are all wet, so it stays looking like a puck (sometimes even after you throw it in the trash).
If you pull a shot of espresso, it basically means you make a shot of espresso.
The word “pull” comes from the old-style lever espresso machines, where you literally pulled the lever to make the water pass through the coffee.
These days, most espresso machines do that automatically. But the word “pull” stuck around.
The portafilter is the device that you clip onto the espresso machine. It has a long handle for you to hold, and a small, round basket to put the coffee grounds in.
The portafilter clips onto the group head of the espresso machine. Once it’s on, you’re ready to pull some espresso.
The roast is how we take raw, green coffee beans and make them ready to brew.
The roasting process uses high heat to turn the coffee beans brown. You can think of it like charring the beans, but it brings out all the delicious flavor in the bean.
The picture shows a large roasting machine, but you can even roast coffee beans in a pan.
Robusta is a type of coffee species, the second most popular one after Arabica.
Robusta is more bitter than Arabica and contains more caffeine. I don’t think it’s unfair to say it tastes worse, too.
It’s used a lot in instant coffee, maybe because the extra caffeine gives it a “kick”. Or just cos it’s cheap.
You can say “skinny” to order a drink with low-fat milk. It’s like a slang term. But most baristas should understand it.
So you’d say, “skinny latte please, I’m on a diet!”
Coffee has hardly any calories, like next to zero. It all comes from sugar or cream. So it makes sense to go for the low-fat option if you’re looking to cut down a bit.
One serving of espresso can be called a “shot”. These, days most espresso drinks are served as a double shot.
And if you like your coffee stronger? Ask for an “extra shot” for more espresso (and more caffeine!)
The spout is the part of the portafilter where the espresso drips out from.
Spouts can have 1 or 2 exits, so you can get 1 or 2 shots of espresso. The photo here has 2. Triple spouts do exist, but they are rarely, if ever, used.
You may even come across a “naked portafilter”. This is where it doesn’t even have a spout. But that’s a term that needs its own article.
32. Steam wand
A steam wand is a little device on the espresso machine that blows out steam. You blow it into milk to make steamed or foamed milk, crucial ingredients if you want to serve a Latte or Cappuccino.
33. Steamed milk
Steamed milk is milk that has had steam blown into it, usually with a steamed wand. It is less dense than foamed milk. It’s the main ingredient for a Latte, and is used in other espresso drinks besides.
Tamping is the process of patting the ground coffee into place in your portafilter. It’s a small task, but an important one. The quality and taste of your espresso depends on it.
A tamper is a utensil you use to tamp (pat) the coffee grounds. The photo shows a metal one, but you can get them in plastic too.
You hold it at one end, and the other end is flat. You’re gonna wanna get this process right for a good espresso pull!
How many did you know? Let me know in the comments.
You were doing pretty well if you could get over 25, and you’re an espresso boss if you got over 30!
The world of espresso is packed with interesting stuff. Have you heard of a god shot before? Or how about a naked portafilter? You may even wonder why espresso machines are so expensive?