Espresso Terms and Definitions

Espresso Lingo and Glossary – Espresso Drinks, Espresso Machine Parts, and Espresso Brewing Terminology

If you are passionate about espresso, and you want to learn more about espresso, you need to know the espresso lingo. If someone mentions an espresso machine part in a context, and you don’t know what that is, then the discussion is pointless, or you’ll have to ask what that part is.

Similarly, if you are talking to a barista who mentions an espresso drink name, is getting a little awkward if you ask them what that drink is.

This dictionary is a collection of espresso related words, and we wanted this to be as comprehensive as possible. This espresso dictionary is part of our comprehensive coffee dictionary, which contains a coffee tasting dictionary, coffee brewing methods glossary, and a general coffee shop lingo dictionary. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Espresso and Milk Coffees and Dictionary Words

Not everybody takes their espresso black. There is an entire world of espresso drinks that are made with just espresso coffee and textured milk. The difference is the amount of espresso added, and the amount of milk and the way we heat and texturize the milk.

Here are some of the words barista use to describe milk in the drinks.

Caramel Macchiato

A shot of espresso topped with hand-made whipped cream and caramel.

Caffé Latte

Caffé Latte, or simply Latte is a soothing beverage composed of three layers: a freshly drawn shot of espresso, milk steamed and poured to fill the cup and finally, a quarter-inch dollop of foamed milk to create a delicate first impression.

Caffé Mocha

Mocha is an espresso drink made with chocolate, or cocoa, and coffee. Most coffee shops prepare it with espresso, and add steamed milk. Sometimes mochas are topped with whipped cream and/or grated chocolate.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage using steamed and foamed milk. Cappuccino can be ordered “dry” for an extra foamy cup or “wet” for a more milky drink.

Flat White

Flat white is a small drink made with espresso and steamed milk. A flat white contains only steamed milk, and it is slightly more diluted than cappuccino.  

Cortado

A cortado is an espresso based beverage that refers to a small espresso and milk combination in equal parts. Most commonly, it consists of a double shot espresso and 2 ounces of steamed or scalded milk.

Skinny or Non-fat

All the milk, hold the fat. Order a skinny Latte if you want skim milk.

No Foam

Don’t like the way the frothed milk on your Latte tickles your nose? Order it “no foam,” and you’ll get only espresso and steamed milk.

Dry

More foam than milk. If you like your Cappuccino really light and airy, order it “dry.”

Extra Foam

Foam keeps your espresso drink hot, so if you’re taking it to go, you might want to order “extra foam.”

Steamer

Want the goodness of a latte but don’t like the taste of coffee? Order a steamer, steamed milk and natural flavors like Vanilla, Hazelnut, Caramel, Almond.

Espresso Words

Affogato

Affogato is a classic Italian dessert, though is considered by many a coffee drink. Affogato is made with a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or gelato. The Italian word affogato means drowned, and it alludes to the way that the ice cream is drowned in espresso.

Double Espresso

Two one fluid ounce servings of straight espresso. This is the standard for Grande, but if you want your tall Latte doubly strong, you’d better ask for the extra shot. “I want a tall double latte please”. (for more about espresso check Wikipedia)

Espresso

E-SPREZ’-SO: The building block of all specialty coffees. Concentrated coffee – “essence”, a special brewing method that uses pressure for extraction, unique among all coffee brewing methods. You can make espresso at home but you need an espresso machine and some training. Espresso is served on its own in a demitasse or even added to espresso drinks. More about what is espresso.

Espresso Shot

Each serving of espresso is composed of three color layers, a dark color with caramel-colored around and topped with the crema – an almost white color. When you have all three your looking at a great shot.

Caffé Americano

An Americano is a coffee drink made with an espresso that has been topped off with hot water in order to tone down the sharpness of the espresso. The result is a cup of full-flavored coffee with the distinct taste of espresso.

Solo – Single espresso

A single shot of espresso. Solo is the Italian word for single, so if in doubt, just say single. A one fluid ounce serving of straight espresso, served alone or with steamed milk in an espresso beverage. The standard for most short and tall espresso drinks.

Pulling an Espresso Shot

Pulling an espresso shot means brewing an espresso shot. The expression pulling a shot comes from the beginnings of the espresso when the machines were lever operated, and the barista had to pull the lever to extract a shot.

Espresso Machine Parts

An espresso machine is made up of several different parts, each of which plays an important role in the coffee-making process. The parts most relevant to making espresso are the boiler, pump, and brew group.

Depending on the machine type, the design, and the technology, there can be other components, with various roles.

Let’s see what are the most important espresso machine components and what their role is in the espresso brewing process.

Boiler

The boiler is responsible for heating water to brewing temperature. On a typical espresso machine, the boiler is filled with water and heated to between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pump

The pump is responsible for providing the water pressure needed to brew espresso. On most machines, the pump is operated by a switch that can be turned on and off. On super-automatic espresso machines, the pump is automatically operated by the embedded microcontroller.

Machines are typically equipped with a vibratory pump, (less expensive), or a rotary pump.

Brew Group

Located on the front of the machine, the brew group, also called grouphead is the final stop for water as it moves through an espresso machine. It transports water out of the machine and into the filter basket.

The grouphead consists of four basic parts: a portafilter, a place for the portafilter to lock into place, a way to activate the pump, and a pathway for the water to move from the boiler to the portafilter.

How many groups you need depends on how many baristas will use the machine, and of course how many cups of coffee you need to produce each day.  Domestic espresso machines are equipped with one grouphead.

Grouphead

Synonym for brew group.

Portafilter

The portafilter is the handle that holds the filter basket in place and locks into the espresso machine before pulling the shot.

Portafilters come in different sizes, to match the grouphead. The 58 mm portafilter is the most common size for commercial espresso machines. Domestic espresso machines will have portafilters of various sizes including: 49 mm, 51 mm, 53 mm, and 58 mm. 

Filter Basket

The filter basket, (or short: basket), is a metallic basket with the bottom perforated. The grounds are placed in the coffee basket during the extraction, and the basket only allows the brewed coffee to pour out, retaining the coffee grounds.

Tamper

The tamper is used to compress the coffee grounds in the filter basket.

Shower Screen

A shower screen, sometimes called group screen is part of the brew group and its purpose is to evenly distribute water over the coffee grounds during brewing. Without a shower screen, water would not be evenly distributed and espresso would not be brewed correctly.

The shower screen is a metallic perforated disk that allows water to evenly flow over the coffee grounds.

Pressure Gauge

The pressure gauge allows the barista to observe the pressure of the water as it moves through the coffee grounds. Most gauges have marked the ideal extraction zone, so that it’s easy to observe when the extraction is out of the ideal range.

The pressure gauge allows the barista to improve the extraction variables in order to achieve a perfect extraction.

Steam Wand

The steam wand is used to texturize milk for making espresso-based drinks, such as latte, cappuccino, or flat white. It uses steam pressure to force hot water through a small nozzle, which creates a fine spray of steam that is forced into the milk.

Although, technically, the steam wand is not used for the espresso making, it is a component that is part of majority of the espresso machine on the market.

Some steam wands are equipped with a pannarello.

Steam Tip

The steam tip is located at the end of the steam wand. Is the piece that pressurizes the steam and disperses it into a splayed pattern, allowing you to texturize and steam milk.

Pannarello

The pannarello is a special steam wand tip that helps to evenly distribute milk and create rich, creamy foam. It is a great tool for beginner baristas, but they can be limiting on the type of textured milk obtained.

Cup Warmer

The cup warmer is very common espresso machine part. It is usually a metallic plate at the top of the equipment and its role is to pre-warm your cups so that espresso does not cool down when poured into cold cups.

There are two types of cup warmers: passive and active. Passive cup warmers use the heat from the boiler’s heating element. Active cup warmers have their own heating element that heats the metallic plate.

PID

The PID is an electronic controller that regulates the temperature of the water in the boiler. This is important because it allows for a more consistent extraction and prevents the espresso from being over-extracted or under-extracted.

The PID uses a special algorithm to calculate the optimum heating. As the boiler’s temperature gets closer to the target temperature, the PID lowers the heating power, so that it doesn’t over heat. Espresso machines without a PID often over heat the boiler, and the barista needs to perform temperature surfing, in order to bring the boiler’s temperature down.

The PID will often have a display that shows the current temperature.

Heat Exchanger

A heat exchanger is a system that allows a single boiler espresso machine to deliver both steam for the milk texturing/steaming, and water for brewing espresso shots.

The temperature for brewing espresso is between 195 and 205 °F. The temperature for steaming milk is 245 – 270 °F. Single boiler machines can only heat water to one temperature at a time.

On cheap domestic espresso machines, ou have to heat the water in order to pull a shot, then wait for the water in the boiler to reach 260 °F in order to produce steam. If you need to pull a shot again after steaming, you have to wait for the boiler to reach the brewing temperature. A large boiler will need to cool down, a small boiler heat back again.

The heat exchanger solves this problem. The heat exchanger is is a copper tube that transfers the heat from the boiler to the brewing line of water.

Steam from the boiler heats the water in the heat exchanger, but does not bring it to a full boil. The brewed water is never in direct contact with the boiler water.

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