Hundreds of years of drinking coffee have, of course, resulted in many different names for that morning cup.
While working as a specialty barista, I came across coffee slang daily.
From just “coffee” to the mysterious “rocket fuel,” I compiled a list of 30 coffee slang words you can use to spice up your vocabulary.
Knowing the terms on this list will help you navigate the ever-changing world of coffee.
Try these out next time you order!
The Classic Terms
The coffee terms in this section are all classics, ranging from centuries-old to recent. These slang words for coffee are all popular and well-known. If you use them, more often than not everyone will know what you’re talking about.
A name for coffee that comes from the Java region in Indonesia, where many coffee beans were produced in the early days of the coffee industry. The Dutch East India Company first introduced coffee trees to Indonesia as early as the 17th century. They created a long and storied relationship between Java and the rest of the world.
While the deep history of coffee is blurred and steeped in folklore, “Mocha” has pretty certain roots in coffee slang. Mocha is a port city in Yemen across the Red Sea from Ethiopia (where it is assumed coffee first came from). Mocha became an important exporter of coffee to Europe throughout the 18th century.
Back in the 1930s, people used Jamocha as a combination of “Java” and “Mocha” to refer to coffee. The two flavor profiles of Java and Mocha coffee made them good partners for making a palatable, easy-to-drink cup. Java has lower acidity and rounded mouthfeel, Mocha has higher acidity and a sweeter taste.
Okay, there’s a lot of debate about why coffee is sometimes called “Joe.” One of the leading theories comes from a United States Navy secretary, Josephus Daniels. In 1913, Josephus outlawed alcohol on ships, leaving coffee the strongest drink in the Navy. Unfortunately, this theory probably isn’t true, and more likely “Joe” is a shortened version of “Jamocha” or “Jamoke.” Boring, I know.
A classic coffee synonym that really just describes the act of making coffee.
- Morning Brew
Another classic, but this time with the added bonus of the time of day many folks partake. Also the name of almost every morning news show.
Yes, yes, I know this is what the Brits call tea, but it can also refer to as a “cup of coffee,” it’s just a short version of “cup of.” Just don’t assume you’ll get coffee if you use “cuppa” with our friends across the pond.
The following words are all juice-based coffee nicknames. Yeah, they all pretty much mean the same thing, but don’t skip over this section!
These terms have some differences and are based on different coffee culture subsets.
- Go Juice
A somewhat confusing term. “Go Juice” either refers to the caffeine content of coffee giving us extra energy or that coffee is a diuretic that makes us have to “go.”
- Bean Juice
So, while coffee technically isn’t a bean (it’s a seed), we still call them beans, and we make “juice” with those beans, so “Bean Juice” it is.
- Jitter Juice
A reference to having too much coffee in too short a time, giving you the caffeine jitters.
- Brain Juice
Yeah, coffee gives us that extra little push to get going and defog our brains in the morning. “I can’t think straight until I’ve had my brain juice.”
More Coffee Slang
There’s still more coffee slang out there.
The terms below might not be used as much as the others on this list, but they still pack a punch!
- High Octane
This is usually used as an adjective when talking about coffee with a lot of caffeine. It can also be used to describe coffee with high acidity.
Another car metaphor! Leaded coffee means caffeinated, while unleaded means decaf coffee. It refers to leaded and unleaded gasoline for cars.
- Liquid Energy
Another reference to the extra jolt coffee brings, similar to calling alcohol, “liquid courage.”
- Rocket Fuel
From cars to space, “Rocket Fuel” is another reference to how coffee gives us that extra boost, like launching a rocket.
- Morning Jolt
Ah yes, another reference to caffeine and the time of day (sensing a theme?). “Morning jolt” is used usually in reference to something other than the coffee itself: “I haven’t had my morning jolt yet, come back when I’ve finished my cuppa.”
- Cupped Lightning
Lightning in a bottle, anyone? “Cupped Lightning,” like “Rocket Fuel,” is used to describe how much caffeine is in a cup: “I drank some cupped lightning this morning, I feel great. Like, it really struck me how caffeinated that coffee was.”
Generally used to describe coffee that is heavy, with a gritty mouthfeel. Maybe you accidentally got some grinds in your cup, turning the coffee to “dirt.” It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
- Worm Dirt
Not exactly related to #18, “worm dirt” tends to refer to the caffeine content and the muddy (spoiler) look of coffee. It refers to the earthy taste that accompanies a lot of batch-brewed coffee.
This refers to the brown and earthy look coffee has in your cup, similar to #19. “Mud” can be used instead of coffee.
Coffee Shop Slang
Every slang term on this list so far has been specific to brewed coffee. But let’s be honest, you probably drink some sort of espresso-based drink every now and then.
Most coffee shops have their own lingo (looking at you, Starbucks), but there are some common terms used by most coffee shops that you should know.
Not only will it make you sound cool with the cute barista, but it’ll also make ordering exactly what you want much easier!
A shortened term for espresso. Often used by baristas tired of three syllables. Back in my barista days, we used “Spro!” as a way to let other baristas know we had an espresso ready for a drink.
Another slang word for espresso, espresso shots are usually 1-2oz, making them a similar size to most shot glasses. We used to measure how busy a day was by how many shots we drank.
A kind of espresso shot that only uses the first ¾ of an espresso. The barista will stop the espresso early to give the coffee a sweeter, lighter taste. Ristretto shots are great for a lighter cappuccino or cortado, something with a little less milk.
Looking for more than just a shot? A doppio is a double shot of espresso. Double-check with your local shop, as many serve a doppio as their standard espresso.
- Flat White
A niche coffee drink popular in Australia, it’s espresso and steamed milk, but no foam. A flat white is similar to black coffee and cream, except made with espresso and milk.
Another way to make a cup of coffee, an Americano is an espresso shot diluted with hot water.
Want a little more milk in your coffee? Or just like the taste of heavy cream or half-and-half? Ordering “breve” with an espresso drink means heavy cream or half-and-half instead of milk.
- Espresso Macchiato
Very different from a Starbucks macchiato. An espresso macchiato, or Cafe Macchiato, is a shot of espresso with a spoonful of steamed milk on top. Macchiato means “marked” or “stained.” Macchiato was used by baristas to differentiate between straight espresso and espresso with some milk.
- Red Eye
Need a bit of an extra jumpstart to your morning? A Red Eye is a reference to the caffeine content of this drink, it’s an espresso shot poured into a cup of black coffee.
Refers to espresso-based drinks that have only foam and very little milk added. A dry cappuccino is one served with extra foam and little to no milk.
Related reading: 75 Funny Coffee Memes To Brighten Up Your Day
Did you know all of these terms already?
Or did you pick up some new favorite slang?
Either way, this list will help you converse with any coffee lover you meet. (And maybe even use it as a crossword clue!)
Coffee is enjoyed by millions of people every day, so there are plenty of words and phrases to try out.
Share this list with someone else who loves coffee and see if they know them all!
If you’re more of a pun person, be sure to check out our extensive list of the best coffee puns!
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