Espresso Jargon Buster – Don’t Let The Weird Wording Stop You!


Any field that you’ve decided to dive in has their own little weird language (jargon) to master. Obviously, if you trying to make an espresso by your own, you will need to know what is the little espresso jargon the community have, so you can properly dive into their conversation and know what they are (the barista and espresso lovers) talking about in their private forums.

When I was looking for the best espresso machines, I have create a small list of jargon to help you understand what it is all about.

Below is the list of jargon/difficult words that you will often find in the description or conversation with Baristas.

BAR: You’ll often heard about this, especially when trying to buy an espresso machine in the store. technically speaking, BAR stands for pressure level. Atmosphere pressure, or sea level pressure. What it has to do on an espresso machine is to brew coffee and generate crema topping. The stronger the pressure, the better the result.

Most experts agreed that to brew an espresso, the machine should have at least 9 BAR of pump pressure, which the exact math is 8.8 atmospheres of pressure or equal to 130 pounds per square inch.

As for the pressure level for most modern espresso machines out there, you don’t really have to afraid about it anymore as you can easily get yourself a machine with 15-bar pump pressure. Even better, they are not as expensive as they were in the past, and the result are excellent as well.

espresso-burr-grinderBurr Coffee Grinder: This one is important if you are the type of coffee lover who dislike coffee pods or capsules. Burr Coffee Grinder is a special grinding tool for grinding fresh roasted coffee beans into a ground coffee with certain level of fineness.

There are two type of grinders: The Blade Grinder and Burr Grinder. Blade-type grinder is cheap, but you won’t be able to adjust the size and tend to take longer when grinding the beans. On the other hand, Burr grinder is more expensive. It’s a grinder that really ‘grind’ the beans, not chopping them with high rotary system. It has two steel conical burrs that spins at low RPM, but it could grind the coffee beans evenly and consistently in a low noise condition. The level of fineness could be adjust manually by separating the two steel conical burr.

Burr coffee grinder is also last longer as it’s using a long lasting material, and often they’ve come with an easy disposable system to dispense the coffee ground to anywhere you like.

espresso-with-cremaCrema: If you don’t know crema, you are not going to know espresso any better. Crema is the holy grail, or the hallmark, the quality assurance of an espresso. No definition of a good espresso can be made if there is no crema in the espresso.

Physically, a crema is the golden brown layer topping the espresso which taste great. The crema is generated thanks to the mixture of several things, such as the CO2 or carbon dioxide from roasted coffee ground, the amount of water, pressure and temperature.

Only machine with 9-BAR pressure or higher is capable of generating such a kind of layer, which is actually a layer of oil and creamy foams that taste a little bit bitter for some.

espresso-demitasse-cupDemitasse: Don’t be scared by the jargon. It’s nothing but a small 3 ounce cup. It’s an cool alias if you want someone look at you and say: “Ah, he knows what he is talking about.”

If you are trying to be more knowledgeable, Demitasse is also called as fincan, fild┼żan, or filxhan in other languages. Trailing down to the history, Demitasse is actually a name coming from French language, which stand for “half cup”.

Demitasse can hold 90 ml (3-ounce type) of water, made with porcelain or white pottery. Experts believes that these two materials will be able to keep the temperature for a longer time than other when properly warmed. It’s important to know that all cup must be warmed before pouring down the espresso shot so that the beverage could be kept in a lukewarm condition, and the taste stay strong for longer duration.

Doser: You can find people use this word on burr grinders. In fact, it’s nothing but a “tool” to measure the ground coffee as you pull the lever on the side of the doser.

It’s tightly related to “Dosage” which refer to the amount of ground coffee needed per shot of espresso.

Filter Basket: Filters are filter. Yep, Not really hard to understand, but in Espresso machine, filter basket is the most critical equipment that you have to use in order to make a perfect espresso. Usually, an espresso machine would come with two type of filters. One is for single shot, and the other is for double shot.

Depend on the brand and model, though. Some espresso machines even comes with more than two, will dual wall and single wall option like the Breville espresso machine.


Various kind of filter baskets

The filter basket will end up inside the portafilter (scroll down more to find the description) where the basket will be filled with ground coffee. This is also where the magic happen when brewing an espresso. The pre-heated water will brew the coffee ground, while the pressure will press the water down through the coffee ground and squeeze out the espresso through a bunch of tiny holes beneath the filter. The liquid will be dripped out from the nozzle and held by the demitasse cup.

Frother: Frother is a tool for making milk froth or milk foam, which is essential for making cappuccino or latte. Milk frother are built-in to most mid-class espresso machines nowadays, some come with a long stainless steel nozzle or some even come with four nozzles.

This milk frother has a special chamber inside the pipe that will mix the hot steam from the machine with the milk (usually stored in a pitch) to form the foam or froth. You can also froth other things like chocolate milk if you think you have a different taste.

espresso-portafilterPortafilter: Is a tool that hold both filter basket and ground coffee in place, and often has it’s personal lock system that you can secure it properly and firmly on the espresso machine. A portafilter always feature a long handle where you can handle it easily, and there is a nozzle underneath the portafilter where you can get the espresso drips.

Most portafilter is made of brass or copper, coated with chrome. The handle itself is often made with plastic, but there is a model that comes with hard wood and bakelite as well.

Pull a Shot: Mostly heard when people are using the old manual espresso maker. You will have to pull a lever to cock a spring in a piston group on an espresso machine if you want to make espresso. And I could say that it’s way too complicated and taking too much time when comparing to the modern semi automatic or super automatic espresso machine.

However, most experts who know what they are doing will love to use the manual way. They said it’s more configurable, you can set however you like, and the taste of the brew is obviously better. However, if you are no expert, it’s quite challenging to pull a good shot of coffee. You’d likely to pull hundreds of shots before you can get one successful espresso shot.

espresso-steam-wandSteam Wand: Strongly related to the frother. Every frothing machine has a steam wand, made with stainless steel and will burst out hot steam. It can be used to provide hot water (on some type of espresso maker), heat up espresso cup (if the espresso have no cup warmer), or making milk froth.

Depend on the machine, there should be a turn knob near the steam wand where you can control the steam valve.

Espresso Shot: Espresso shot is nothing but the brewed espresso. There are two type of shot, single and double. Single shot is 30ml, double shot is 60ml. Most Demitasse can hold 90ml, so it’s depend on what type of drink you want to have.

If it’s cappuccino, a single shot + milk froth will filled the entire demitasse cup to max.

Tamping: When you’ve put the filter, into the portafilter, ground coffee above the filter, then it’s time to tamp the ground coffee into a compact ‘puck’ before brewing the espresso. The processo of compacting the ground coffee is called Tamping.

Some modern semi-automatic machine require user to tamp their ground coffee properly before anything.

Tamper: Is the tool to do the tamping. Some has the shape of a rubber stamp, some looks like a metal dumbbells. But what’s important is the flat face with a matching dimension with the filter where it can actually fit into the filter when it’s empty.


A few of tamping tools with interesting shapes

Some espresso machine has this tool built-in, but an external one is always the better choice as you can adjust the weight you should put into tamping the ground coffee.

Some people prefer to tamp it hard above 25 pound of pressure, but there is also a group of people who love to tamp it lighter. How you tamp the ground coffee will end up with different taste of coffee. So there is a little knowledge here that you should learn properly in order to generate a cup of tasty coffee/espresso.

Thermoblock: This is a heating system. It is called Thermoblock because it has a series of heated metal coils or channels (blocks) in the machine where the water have to swim through these channels. The water will be heated progressively, which will fasten up the water boiling time significantly.

Most espresso machines with Thermoblock are fast when starting up and when making the first cup of espresso, unlike the conventional boiler heating system that users are forced to wait for a while before they can start making the first cup.

E.S.E. Technology: Look for this technology if you are interested on making coffee/espresso with Coffee Pods. E.S.E., which stands for Easy Serving Espresso is a technology for simplifying the preparation of making a good cup of tasty espresso by usin a coffee Pods. Everything is ready, all you need is to fire up the machine, put the coffee pod to the filter/portafilter, press the start button and you are a minute a way to taste the freshly brewed espresso with thick crema.

If you are in the market for a espresso maker, aim for the machine that has this feature for easy brewing.

espresso-coffee-podsCoffee Pods: Coffee Pods is a small package of single-use measure ground coffee. It’s been properly roasted, ground, measured, tamped and sealed inside a two layers of filter paper.

Which mean all the dirty works have been done by default, all you have to do is to brew it with the compatible espresso machine and you are good to go.

Cleaning them up is easier as you don’t have to worry that the ground coffee won’t scattered up as it’s completely sealed inside the pack.

espresso-coffee-capsulesCoffee Capsules: Coffee Capsule is the masterpiece of Nespresso. Similar to coffee pods, the capsule contains nothing but a properly ground roasted coffee, and you are an ‘insert to the nespresso machine’ away from enjoy a cup of tasty beverage.

The plus point of coffee capsule is that Nespresso has made a wide collection of flavors available in their capsule system. There are 16 different coffee drinks that you can enjoy, so not only they are fast for serving a cup of espresso, they are also ‘groovy’ in some way when you’ve got to choose from the capsule collection.

The capsule is color coded and each color represents different taste. Every Nespresso machine that uses the capsule system will come with a range of free capsule as your ‘testing sample’. You can decide which colors are your favorite so you can order it again from Nespresso.

More jargon coming soon and we’ll update this article accordingly. Check out our other espresso articles and guides.

Leave a Reply