A Barista’s Guide to Important Coffee Terminology


Starting your new post as a barista might be intimidating at first. There’s a lot to know!

Plus, different coffee shops have different terms for the same thing. Chains like Starbucks might have their own name for something that your small shop calls by its original name.

It helps to have a little insight into the terms that people might use and understand just what they want so you can make their order. We’re going to run through some coffee terminology you can keep in mind to get all of the terms straight in your head.

Hopefully, the ideas below give you some more confidence when you set foot in the shop for your first day.

Let’s get started.

Coffee Terminology Explained

There’s a world of terminology to understand, and a lot of it will have to be learned on the job. That said, most of us don’t even know the beginning points of what we’re ordering. We’re going to take a look at the fundamentals so your understanding can have a good foundation.

Note that most drinks, even the fancy-sounding ones, are just combinations of steamed milk and espresso, give or take a little bit of foam.

The most basic one is a laté. A laté contains one part espresso, one part steamed milk. The way that you steam the milk produces a little bit of foam.

That foam is created by air from the steamer entering the milk and producing microbubbles. That foamy substance is referred to as “crema” in a lot of cases.

Crema is a little different from “foam,” though. Foam is lighter and fluffier, whereas crema sits right at the top of the liquid and contains smaller bubbles than foam.

A cappuccino is similar to a late, except that there is a significant amount of foam in it. In fact, a cappuccino is around one part espresso, one part foam, and one part steamed milk.

Additional Ingredients

When you start to add coffee flavor to things and mix the formula up, the process gets a little more complicated.

Again, even though it might sound unbelievable, most coffee drinks are variations on steamed milk, foam, and espresso. In a lot of cases, the difference in those rations across different drinks is very small.

When you add chocolate to a laté, though, you call it a mocha. In some instances, you might use half and half instead of milk for the liquid of the drink. A breve is a laté that contains steamed half and half instead of milk.

Beyond those little nuances, there’s a lot to learn about being a barista. You’ll find, though, that the intimidation factor of French and Italian names isn’t justified.

Once you’re behind the bar and you give everything a shot, everything will start to fall into place.

Want to Learn More About Barista Terminology?

We hope that the coffee terminology explained above was enough to make you feel a little more confident. Knowing that most things contain the same ingredients should help you breathe a little easier before you start your job.

The more you know, the better barista you’ll be, though. We’re here to help. Explore our site for more ideas on getting better at your job and turning it into a passion.


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