What is Dirty Coffee? And How to Make It at Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.


Ever heard coffee called rocket fuel or jitter juice? That’s the quirky world of coffee slang for you! Coffee lovers have fun names for their favorite brew, from the simple to the weird, like “dirty coffee.” Dive into this lingo and join the fun!

Dirty coffee is a cool mix of hot espresso and cold milk. When they meet, the espresso gently blends into the milk, creating a deep, tasty flavor. This mix-up also gives it its fun name, thanks to the messy swirl it leaves behind.

Dirty coffee might look a bit messy, but don’t let that fool you – it’s a delicious treat! Wondering what exactly it is and how to make it yourself? Good news: it’s simple, and you don’t need to be a coffee pro to whip up a batch at home. Let’s explore!

What Is Dirty Coffee?

Dirty coffee combines hot espresso and cold, thick milk. The heat and texture difference gently blend them, creating a unique, “smudged” look that inspired its name.

Dirty coffee takes your espresso game up a notch with a strong ounce of espresso. It uses 18 g of coffee grounds instead of the usual 7 g, giving you a deeper, richer flavor without the bitterness.

Making a dirty coffee? You can choose between a double espresso or a ristretto. A ristretto is pulled quicker than espresso, creating a sweeter and more concentrated flavor. It’s a great swap for the double espresso shot in your dirty coffee.

What Does Dirty Coffee Taste Like?

Sipping on dirty coffee is an adventure for your taste buds. The warm espresso hits you first with its tangy, bitter, and sweet caramel notes. Then, out of nowhere, creamy cold milk sweeps in, softening the taste into a smooth, sweet sensation. This mix creates a deliciously unique texture and flavor.

Who Invented Dirty Coffee?

Did you know “dirty coffee” might have first brewed in a Japanese cafe, known as “The Dirty”? It’s a fun mystery, though, because without solid proof, we can’t say for sure who created this unique drink.

Dirty coffee is taking Japan by storm, and the buzz has gone global thanks to social media. This trendy drink is now a must-try for coffee lovers everywhere.

Espresso with Cold Milk

Espresso and milk are the stars in many coffee drinks. The magic lies in how you mix and brew them. Discover the difference between a dirty coffee, latte, and cappuccino by exploring these links: kinds of coffee drinks and latte vs cappuccino.

Dirty coffee vs latte vs cappuccino

Dirty CoffeeLatteCappuccino
AppearanceMessy, stained espresso streaks along the profileConsistent milky coffee profile with a thin layer of milk foam on topDistinct layers of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam
Ingredient order (top to bottom)1. Espresso
2. Milk
1. Milk Foam
2. Espresso and milk mixture
1. Milk Foam
2. Steamed Milk
3. Espresso
Espresso-to-milk ratio No strict recipe1:3 to 1:111:1
Serving temperatureHot and ColdHot or ColdHot or Cold
Milk frotherOptionalRequiredRequired

Dirty Coffee Recipe

What you need

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Pour milk in a cup and refrigerate. The milk should stay in the freezer for 15 minutes before brewing espresso. Doing so allows the milk to cool down without freezing and, in turn, develop a complex and creamy taste in the dirty coffee.
  1. Grind the coffee beans finely. If you grind your coffee beans correctly, the coffee should have a powdery texture close to table salt or granulated white sugar.
  1. Tamp the grounds into the portafilter and pull. For dirty coffee, it’s best to combine strong, concentrated coffee with cold milk. Hence, you may pull for 25 to 30 seconds for a double espresso or 15 seconds for ristretto, a more concentrated espresso.
  1. Add sweeteners to the milk (optional). If you like your coffee extremely sweet, you may add sweeteners like syrup and sugar to the milk. Remember that these additives should also be cold to maintain the milk’s temperature.
  1. Pour espresso over an upside-down spoon and into the milk. The tablespoon blocks espresso from directly mixing into the milk, thereby creating a coffee layer on top.
  1. Take a picture and enjoy. As soon as you finish taking photos for Instagram, drink your dirty coffee right away. Otherwise, espresso would sink in the milk, and you wouldn’t enjoy it the way you’re supposed to!

Can I Make Dirty Coffee without an Espresso Machine?

No espresso machine? No problem! You don’t need one to enjoy a delicious espresso-like drink for your dirty coffee. Let’s explore some easy alternatives that will still give you that rich, bold flavor you’re craving. Check them out!

  • Keurig is an automatic pod-based machine that operates like a drip coffee maker and an espresso machine. It uses K-Cups and less pressure than the required 9 bars for espresso, so Keurig espresso is an imitation of the actual one.
  • Ninja Coffee Maker makes drip coffee concentrate strong enough to rival an espresso. However, the slow brewing process of Ninja espresso means it won’t have the same flavors as a classic espresso.
  • AeroPress is a manual coffee maker which requires pushing a plunger for a minute. These machines can’t handle 9 bars of pressure nor heat water, so you need to tweak your espresso recipe with AeroPress.
  • Moka Pot is a stove-top coffee maker which uses steam buildup to force pressurized water through coffee grounds. Although it resembles an espresso machine, the pressure is not enough for a classic espresso – something the Moka pot and AeroPress have in common. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dirty mean in coffee?

Dirty implies the messy, smudged appearance developed from the slow infusion of hot espresso through the cold milk underneath. Despite the smudged look, the layers and coffee-milk gradients make dirty coffee appealing to the eyes.

What’s the difference between a latte and dirty coffee?

Latte consists of steamed milk mixed with hot espresso and topped with milk foam. These drinks may be hot or cold, depending on the temperature of the ingredients. In contrast, dirty coffee exists in a hot and cold state, with the espresso layer sitting over cold milk.

Dirty Coffee: A Trend Worth Trying

Dirty coffee has taken the internet by storm with its unique look and creative brewing method. It’s surprisingly simple to make and the final cup is perfect for an Instagram snap!

Looking to make your Instagram pop? Check out my nitro cold brew recipe. It’s a tasty treat loved by big coffee shops worldwide. Don’t miss out!


Feeling overwhelmed? Try making a frappe or Frappuccino at home. They’re simpler and more forgiving than other coffee options.

what is dirty coffee

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *