Coffee drinks: What’s in a name?

Espresso? Cappuccino? Ristretto … even Java? Ever wonder how your favorite coffee drink got its name? In this blog entry, we uncover the truth behind some of the most famous (and sometimes odd) names in the world of coffee!

Espresso– Café Espresso translates from Italian to pressed out coffee — which makes sense as espresso is brewed by forcing nearly boiling water at high pressure through finely ground coffee (pressed). Another possible origin is from the word “express” as espresso is typically made one at a time & quickly. Actually, the term cafe-express has been in circulation since the late 1800s even before espresso makers came on the scene.

Doppio translates from Italian as double. This is a double shot of espresso.

Ristretto is defined as limited (or restricted) in Italian. A ristretto is an espresso made with half the amount (a limited amount) of water.

Café Americano or simply Americano, consisting of espresso with added boiling water, is a staple in most coffee houses. Some say it acquired prominence during WWII. American soldiers in Italy found the espresso offered quite different than that of the brewed coffee they were accustomed to drinking at home. By adding hot water to their Italian espresso, the drink became much more palatable. 

Java– in the 1800s the main source of coffee was the Island of Java. Hence, drinkers began referring to their steaming mug of morning coffee as a cup of Java!

Cappuccino, (from the Latin Capuitium which means hood), is said to refer to the color of the hoods worn by the Capuchin order monks. The exact color of espresso combined with frothy, foamy milk perfectly matches the hoods worn by these 16th-century Franciscan monks.

Flat white is believed to have originated from people wanting a cappuccino, but without foam (flat rather than aerated).

Latte– the word latte translates from Italian to milk. It is believed that the original order of “caffe latte” (coffee and milk) was, eventually shortened to just latte.

Affogato, which means to drown in Italian, is espresso poured over ice cream, essentially drowning the ice cream in delicious coffee.

Mocha, originally mocha was a type of bean, popular in Europe as early as the 1700s, originating in the port of Mocha in Yemen. Later on, somehow, much like latte, ordering a “Café mocha” or coffee chocolate-flavored latte got shortened to just mocha.

Macchiato translates from Italian to “spotted” or “stained”. Traditionally, an espresso macchiato is a treat composed of one shot of espresso spotted with a dash of frothed milk. The latte macchiato, on the other hand, is composed of a glass approximately 1/3 – 2/3 filled with milk and marked, or stained, with espresso. Espresso is slowly poured into the milk, literally creating a “spot” in the center of the glass.

Would you like to create some of these drinks at home? Click here for some great recipes!


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