black coffee beans, person's hand pouring coffee into a cup, spoons, and couple of other cups on the table.

The Grammar of Coffee

If you haven’t had your coffee yet, don’t try to write about coffee. Most of the capitalization and spelling conventions surrounding the world’s most beloved bean make sense, but not before you’ve had your cup of joe.Lowercase the names of coffee drinks, such as “latte,” “espresso,” and “affogato.” Because most of these words are embedded enough in the language to be found in Merriam-Webster, you don’t need to italicize them either, even though they are foreign in origin.

Coffee terms associated with nationalities involve an extra level of complexity. Merriam-Webster prefers “French press” and “Italian roast.” But according to The Chicago Manual of Style, “Personal, national, or geographical names, and words derived from such names, are often lowercased when used with a nonliteral meaning.” This suggests that “italian roast” and “french press” are acceptable alternatives. Do capitalize the names of coffees that come from specific regions, such as Colombian or Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

If, for some reason, you need to refer to the coffee plant, use binomial nomenclature. There are two main varieties of coffee, Coffea arabica and Coffea canefora (also called robusta). Most specialty coffee is made from arabica beans.

Finally, coffee-related brands and trademarks should be capped, as should those complicated drinks you can order at Starbucks. From what I can gather from this Starbucks style guide, you should capitalize all five words in “Iced Grande Skinny Hazelnut Latte,” which makes it seem like even more of a mouthful.