Espresso (sometimes mispronounced "expresso") is a type of coffee drink.
Espresso refers first and foremost to the method of brewing coffee, as well as the actual drink that results from it (an espresso shot). All espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. While you might see the terms "espresso beans" or "espresso roast," all that really means is that any variety of coffee beans are roasted in a way that a particular roaster deems to make for better espresso. Usually this means a darker roast or a finer ground. Some roasters, however, prefer a lighter roast for espresso drinks.
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Espresso Drink Definitions
These are the classic espresso drinks you'll increasingly find on many coffee shop menus outside Italy. Some are relatively recent in terms of coffee's history.
- Caffe Americano: a shot of espresso combined with enough hot water to fill a 6-ounce cup.
- Caffe Breve: espresso with steamed half and half.
- Caffe Latte: a double espresso topped with steamed milk and foam to fill.
- Cafe au Lait and Cafe con Leche: espresso with milk, no foam, may include sugar.
- Caffe Mocha: Mocha for short, it's a double espresso with steamed milk, chocolate, and foam.
- Cafe Noisette: espresso with a bit of cream.
- Cappuccino: single espresso with equal parts steamed milk and frothed milk. (Sometimes abbreviated "cap.")
- Dirty Chai: a shot of espresso mixed into chai with steamed milk.
- Espresso con Panna: espresso topped with whipped cream.
- Espresso Macchiato: a single or double espresso topped with a dollop of heated, texturized milk.
- Flat White: a shot of espresso and a double shot of steamed milk, no foam.
- Flavored Latte: a double espresso with steamed milk, foam, and flavoring syrup or powder added.
- Latte Macchiato or Long Macchiato: a half shot or less of espresso and the rest of the cup filled with steamed milk.
- Red Eye: a shot of espresso on top of a cup of brewed coffee.
- Ristretto: a short shot of espresso, just the first 3/4 ounce of an extraction.
- Shot: one ounce of espresso.
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Other Useful Terms to Know When Ordering Espresso
Beyond the drink terms listed above, you'll likely also hear various descriptors being paired with them. These terms further specify how a drink can be made.
- Doppio: two shots of espresso
- Double: twice as much, which can be applied to espresso shots, milk, flavoring, foam, etc.
- Dry: top only with foam, no hot milk.
- Quad: four shots of espresso
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Espresso Machine Parts and Espresso Grinder Parts
Espresso makers and grinders are complex machines with their own sets of jargon. Here are the top terms you'll need to know to operate an espresso machine and a coffee grinder in a coffee house setting:
- Basket: this is where you put the coffee grounds to brew an espresso, which is then attached to the portafilter and locked into the head group.
- Portafilter: holds the basket to the group head during extraction.
- Group Head: the front of the espresso machine where the water is forced through the portafilter and the espresso is extracted.
- Boiler: where the water is heated.
- Conical Burr Grinder: grinds the coffee beans.
- Doser: attached to a coffee grinder, it doses out the right amount of ground coffee into the basket.
- Hopper: the part of the coffee grinder where the beans are held.
- Knock Box: technically an espresso machine accessory, it's where you dispose of the espresso grounds after extraction.
- Tamper (also an accessory): used to pack the grounds into the basket.
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More Espresso Terms
If you've clicked through the links above, you've got all the basics. However, there are a few more espresso terms that will help you understand espresso making and espresso drinking better:
- Barista: the person who makes the espresso.
- Crema: the tan-colored foam on top of a shot of espresso.
- Demitasse: a small cup holding two to three fluid ounces, used for espresso.
- Mouse Tails: the drip of extracted espresso from the portafilter in two streams.
- Puck: the compressed cake of ground coffee through which the hot steam is forced to extract espresso.