35 Fun Coffee Slang Terms: Why Is Coffee Called Joe?

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When you write the word as many times as I do, you desperately need to find other names for coffee.  Fortunately, there is lots of coffee slang, nicknames for coffee, and coffee synonyms to choose from.

I’ve picked some of my favorite coffee terms for this list, and I’ll also dig deeper into a couple of the more interesting names to answer why coffee is called Joe, where names like Java and Mocha came from, and more!

Grab your cup of Joe. brew your bean juice, or pour your sludge — it’s time to have some fun with coffee slang.

Coffee Slang Names

Coffee names from its appearance

A closeup of coffee, showing how its appearance can inspire coffee slang

Not surprisingly, black coffee nicknames often come from its similarity in appearance to oily or dirty liquids. 

  1. Dirt
  2. Mud
  3. Ink
  4. Oil
  5. Sludge
  6. Worm dirt

Energy-driven coffee names

A cup of coffee on a power diagram, illustrating the energy that inspires some coffee names

We drink energy to get us up and running. Even though we’ve since learned that caffeine doesn’t give energy so much as suppress fatigue, the names and reputation of the brew still stand.

  1. Go juice
  1. Jitter juice
  2. Brain juice
  3. High octane
  4. Wakey juice
  5. Morning jolt
  6. Liquid energy
  1. Caffeine infusion
  2. Rocket fuel
  3. Leaded (caffeinated only)
  1. Unleaded (decaf only)
  2. Forty weight
  3. Cupped lightning
  4. Morning fix

Coffee terms based on its acidity

Even low-acid coffees are more acidic than water. Of course, most of the beverages that we drink are, but the flavor of the acid is far more prominent in coffee. Whether you love or hate that acidic goodness, you’ve got to love the coffee lingo it inspires.

  1. Battery acid
  2. Varnish remover

Coffee names that are more literal

Sometimes the best names are right under your nose. These coffee terms are based on the way coffee is made or what it’s made from. Sure, these might not all apply to every cup of coffee, but we use them universally anyway.

  1. Perk
  1. Brew
  2. Cuppa
  3. Bean juice
  4. Hot stuff
  5. Dirty bean water
  6. Café noir
  7. C8H10N4O2 (as a chemist, I have to include this one)
  1. Morning brew

Coffee names that require more explanation

I’ll go into more detail on each of these names in the next sections. Their origins are just not as obvious as the other coffee terms we’ve seen so far.

  1. Cup of Joe
  2. Java
  3. Mocha
  4. Jamocha

Why Is Coffee Called Joe?

The first known printed reference to a cup of coffee as a cup of joe appears in a book from 1936. The true origin of the name, though, has been lost to history. There are four common theories.

  • There was a well-known early 19th-century New York City coffee roaster named Martinson Joe. Cup of Joe may be a reference to his coffee. 
  • Josephus “Joe” Daniels was the Secretary of the Navy that banned alcohol from US naval ships in 1914. His move made coffee the strongest drink on these ships and may have led to the coffee term: a cup of Joe.
  • Joe may be a shortened version of Jamocha (or the related Jamoke), as this was a popular term for coffee in the 1930s.
  • The most boring option, in my opinion, is that a cup of Joe may be a reference to coffee being the drink of the average Joe.

Why Is Coffee Called Java?

The landscape of the island of Java, origin of one of coffee's nicknames

17th-century Dutch traders brought coffee to the Indonesian island of Java. At first, only coffee from that island was referred to as Java. It wasn’t long before Java became a primary supplier of the world’s coffee, leading the name to become linked to the drink itself rather than just beans from that one source. 

Although Sumatran coffee beans may be the most popular Indonesian coffee now, Java has left a much deeper cultural mark on coffee drinkers everywhere.

Why Is Coffee Called Mocha?

The ruins of Mokka, the port city that gave us a popular coffee term

The port of Mocha in Yemen played a critical role in the early days of coffee’s proliferation. Ethiopian coffee beans made their way into Yemen as a somewhat unknown commodity, and Mocha helped the beans rise to worldwide fame, becoming a primary exporter of the plant for several centuries.

Just like Java, Mocha was a name for beans from this region that became largely synonymous with coffee itself.

Times change, though. The port of Mocha is no more. Now, if you order a Mocha in the average coffee shop, you’ll probably get a caffè mocha, a chocolate-flavored latte that has nothing to do with Yemen or the port of Mocha. 

Jamocha = Java + Mocha

In the late 19th century — back when Mocha still just meant coffee — a new word arose: Jamocha. This word was a combination of Java and Mocha and became another slang term for coffee.

As the meaning of Mocha has changed, so has jamocha, which is far more likely to be a chocolate and coffee concoction nowadays instead of just a regular coffee.

Wait! Doesn’t Cuppa Mean Tea Not Coffee?

You are technically correct, which is the best kind of correct. The Brits will likely always reserve that word for tea, but we Americans tend to get British slang wrong. Sometimes, and this is one of those cases, this leads to whole new meanings for words. 

Don’t try to use cuppa to ask for a coffee in Britain or around Dr. Who fans in the US, but you are probably safe otherwise.

Origin of the Word Coffee

The word coffee written in coffee grounds against a background of coffee beans

The name Coffee has been used since about 1582 when the word entered the English language from the Dutch word koffie. You can trace that word further back to the Arabic qahwah which actually refers to a type of wine.

The origin of qahwah is harder to determine. It might trace back to the Kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia, where the coffee bean originates. It could come from the Arab word for a lack of hunger (qahā) or the word for power or energy (quwwa). 

Are There Other Terms for Coffee?

Of course there are! Even within the English language, there is a wide range of slang and colloquial terms for coffee, a real tribute to the popularity of the beverage. And this is not even accounting for all the variants of coffee like espresso.

What I want to know, though, is what the best coffee slang is from other languages. I’d love for some of my international readers to comment below with the best coffee slang from your country or language. Bonus points if you tell me where the name comes from.

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