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Coffee Lingo You Should Know

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Like most cults—er, uh, “communities of enthusiasts”—coffee lovers seem to speak in their own special language. Whether it’s the baristas slinging ‘spro or the local coffee shop regulars communicating in some unfamiliar jargon, the domain of coffee is home to some fascinating lingo.


For those new to our beloved corner of the world, the specialized language may feel like a barrier to entry. Even those who are deeply ingrained in coffee culture may find themselves confused and unintentionally excluded, thanks to the slang that those in the industry consider second nature.


Chelsea Coffee beans spilled on a burlap backdrop and arranged to spell the word "coffee." Coffee spelled with coffee beans.

We have great news for you, friend—we’ve put together a guide to the coffee lingo you should know. From useful terms that flow like the magical bean water itself to quirky phrases that are just plain fun, the language of coffee fanatics is yours to learn and enjoy. All you have to do is read on!


Your Guide to Coffee Slang and the Language of Coffee Fanatics

No one understands the mystical power of coffee (okay, that’s not entirely true—there’s a lot of science that explores coffee’s unique health benefits), and the mysterious language used by our barista leaders and local coffee roasters echoes the magical qualities of the world’s favorite beverage.


If you want to unravel the cryptic coffee language, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve listed all of the must-know terms below so you can integrate into the coffee community with ease.


‘Spro

Short for “espresso,” also known as our favorite variety of coffee, this term is thrown about by baristas all across this great nation. You may hear baristas use it in funny phrases like “slinging ‘spro,” which (roughly translated) refers to making and distributing espresso to coffee connoisseurs.


Tasting Notes

If you run in groups of passionate coffee consumers, you may hear the term “tasting notes” thrown about. While coffee isn’t wine, there is some overlap between the two cultures. The desire to sample different coffee beans, roasts, and concoctions is certainly one similarity between the two worlds.


Five small cups of coffee rest on a table surrounding by beans and spoons and other coffee implements as a man samples each unique coffee brew.

Tasting notes are the expression of the flavors in coffee. As such, they include a multitude of factors that range from acidity (sometimes called brightness) to aroma (the scent coffee emits). In other words, it’s what you can discern when tasting a specific coffee.

Other tasting notes include (but aren’t limited to):


· Balance – The relationship between sweetness, sourness, and bitterness. Great coffee typically has a healthy dose of all three.


· Body – This term refers to the fullness of the coffee. It is closely related to “richness,” which describes the boldness and coffee taste of the brew.


· Complexity – The dynamics of the coffee. How many different flavors and other tasting notes are coalescing in the particular brew?


· Cupping – When people come together specifically to taste coffee, it is referred to as a cupping session.


Roast

Contrary to popular belief, a coffee roast is not an event where baristas issue sick burns and lots of laughs. Rather, it is the process of using heat and time to dry out the beans and cook them to a particular “roast” level. In other words, it is the literal roasting of the beans.


There is a lot of science and nuance to this process, and it is an integral part of the coffee-making process. Other than the beans themselves, the roast is the foundation that establishes the tasting notes we all crave.


Blend

Speaking of roasts, many of the beans you buy (or enjoy at your local coffee house) are a blend of several varieties. By blending beans from various regions and roasts, an experienced coffee roaster can bring out the best tasting notes of each one and create a complementary finished product that elevates the brewing and drinking experiences.


Barista

We use this word often, and it’s because we truly love our baristas at Chelsea Coffee. So, what exactly is a barista? Simply put, they’re the lifeblood of any coffee shop worth its salt.


A barista is the person in charge of making your coffee when you visit a local coffee bar. They sling ‘spro, greet you with a warm hello, and concoct creative coffee beverages. They are the engine that keeps your favorite shop moving forward. If you experience coffee nirvana, thank your barista!


A Chelsea Coffee barista holds a ceramic mug filled with a latte as they create beautiful latte art using steamed milk poured from a metal pitcher.

Drip Coffee

The most popular type of coffee in the country is drip coffee and for good reason. Automatic drip coffee makers can be found in a shocking number of households and businesses thanks to their convenience and brewing capacity.


In essence, drip coffee uses hot water without introducing excessive pressure to filter through the ground beans and produce a delicious cup of coffee. It’s simple, effective, and exceptionally popular. If you’re looking for alternative brew methods, the world is your oyster, though. There is a myriad of options to experiment with as you undertake your coffee journey.


Fairtrade Coffee Beans

Many local coffee roasters, including our favorite from Gainesville, FL, Sweetwater Organic Coffee Co., opt for Fairtrade Certified coffee beans. This initiative is aimed at ensuring farmers are paid appropriately for the work they do.


If you buy Fairtrade beans, you are helping support producers who may otherwise be treated unfairly. It’s delicious coffee that you can feel good about drinking!


Chelsea Coffee – Your Friendly Neighborhood Coffee Shop

The guidebook to coffee terminology would be roughly the same length as a comprehensive encyclopedia, but the slang above should be enough to get you through the proverbial gates.


If you want to learn more about the secret language of our coffee definitely-not-a-cult, feel free to stop by Chelsea Coffee’s convenient Ocala, FL, location. Our friendly baristas and long-time regulars will welcome you with open arms and catch you up to speed in no time.


In your spare time, we also suggest you visit our blog. It’s packed with industry insights that will appeal to and enlighten everyone from the casual coffee drinker to the most dedicated enthusiast. We update it regularly with free coffee content, so check back often for new tips, tricks, and coffee news!


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