What Is A Dirty Coffee? (With Pictures)

Last Updated on May 4, 2022 by John Moretti

The modern world of coffee is full of many wonderful drinks. Baristas are workshopping and developing new drinks all the time, and it feels like a new coffee comes out every week. However, most coffee drinks have been around for a while, but there are just too many to have experienced in one place. If you have never heard of this drink before, this article will explain what a dirty coffee is. 

A dirty coffee is a small espresso-based drink that consists of a double shot of espresso poured over very cold milk. The milk is stored and chilled in the freezer before brewing the drink. The dirty coffee has a unique texture and flavor when compared to other espresso-based drinks. 

There are so many coffee drinks available nowadays, but the best of all is espresso-based drinks. There is a very wide variety of this type of coffee drink, and all of them are delicious. One of the more modern varieties is the dirty coffee. The recipe for this drink is simple, but it tastes completely unique. 

The Dirty Coffee

If you have recently come across something called a dirty coffee and are wondering what it would be, you have come to the right place. This type of coffee drink is relatively unheard of in many regions, but it is quickly becoming a staple in many modern coffee shops.

Photo of dirty coffee in a clear glass beside a cookie placed on a tray

The concept of a dirty drink originates with beverages such as the Dirty Chai Tea, which is a chai tea with a shot of espresso coffee mixed into it. This adds a unique, intense, bold flavor to the drink and adds a kick of caffeine as well. 

This type of drink is referred to as ‘dirty’ because of the way the added espresso makes the drink appear. The dirty chai is muddier and more brown than a regular chai. 

This concept is carried over into the dirty coffee. The dirty coffee is so named due to its appearance after it is assembled, and it is one of the most striking coffee beverages to behold and to taste. 

Let’s answer some of the most asked questions surrounding this modern coffee beverage.

What Is a Dirty Coffee?

Dirty coffee is defined as a double shot of espresso poured over very cold milk or a combination of milk and cream. There are multiple variations of this drink, but this is the core definition.

The size of the dirty coffee varies depending on taste preferences, but this is typically a small drink compared to other espresso and milk drinks.

The milk is not steamed or prepared in any way other than being chilled, which is also unusual for espresso-based coffee drinks. 

Most dirty coffees are prepared in small glasses or double espresso cups to keep the beverage small, or the milk may become too overwhelming.

Why Is It Called A Dirty Coffee?

The dirty coffee is so-called because of the way it looks after it has been assembled. The milk used in this drink is chilled in the freezer to very low temperatures before brewing the coffee.

The milk is kept in a clear glass or mug so that the contents can be clearly seen. When milk is this cold, it becomes viscous and thick, making it significantly less fluid than it would otherwise be.

The viscosity of the cold milk mixes with hot espresso in a very interesting way. When the hot espresso is pulled or poured onto the very cold milk, it does not mix and combine instantly as you may expect.

The thick texture of the milk causes the coffee to spread around the milk and mix in slowly, which gives the milk a streaked-brown appearance.

These streaks of brown espresso in the white milk make it appear ‘dirty,’ which is where the drink gets its name. 

The name also originates from the dirty-style drinks such as the dirty chai, as the milk is ‘dirtied’ with a shot of espresso, adding caffeine to the beverage

What Does A Dirty Coffee Taste Like?

The truth is that a dirty coffee tastes as you would expect it to. The rich, bold espresso contrasts well with the sweet, smooth milk. They combine to create an intense yet gentle flavor combination and mouthfeel.

However, the real interesting characteristic of this drink is the combination of temperatures. 

The very cold milk and the very hot espresso make this drink hot and cold at the same time. The sweet milk yields to the bold coffee, and the hot espresso is the first thing you notice on the palate. This heat very quickly gives way as it is quenched by the ice-cold milk.

The drinking experience of a dirty coffee is simply unlike any other espresso-based drink out there. 

What Is The Best Dirty Coffee Recipe?

The best versions of this drink are made to be small but very well-balanced. With this in mind, the best way to prepare a dirty coffee is to use a ratio of 1:2. One-part espresso and two-parts milk will yield the best flavor and texture balance.

This ratio makes preparing a dirty coffee of various sizes very easy, but if a double shot of espresso is used, the recipe should be 40 – 44 grams of liquid espresso combined with 80 – 90 milliliters of milk. Using less coffee will require less milk and vice versa. 

Is The Dirty Coffee A Drink For You?

The dirty coffee is one of the least well-known espresso drinks out there right now. Not many cafes serve this drink, and you may be wondering if you will enjoy it if you do manage to order it somewhere.

If you enjoy very milky espresso drinks such as a latte or a cappuccino, you are likely to enjoy a dirty coffee. The coffee to milk ratio is similar compared to these drinks in a dirty coffee regarding flavor profile. 

This drink is also typically quite small, so if you prefer very large coffee drinks, this may not be the option for you. 


The dirty coffee is one of the great joys of modern coffee. This drink is unique and exciting, and you have to experience it yourself to fully understand its greatness of it.

The textures combined with the flavors and the temperatures in the dirty coffee make this drink something special. If you have the ability, try this drink for yourself. You may not order any other type of coffee again!