Dirty coffee is popping up more and more in coffee shops around the world today. That’s because of its unique flavor and presentation.

But what the heck is a dirty coffee, by the way?

You’re definitely not the first to ask yourself that question.

Not everyone has heard about it, and even when you think you what this coffee type is all about, you’ll likely see an entirely different version of dirty coffee.

Keep reading to learn what dirty coffee is, how it is different from iced latte, and how to prepare it.

What is Dirty Coffee?

What is Dirty Coffee?

In simple terms, dirty coffee is espresso poured over cold milk.

Typically, it consists of a layer of cold milk (sometimes a mixture of milk and cream) with a shot or ristretto of dark espresso poured on top.

This makes the beautiful messy design that puts the “dirty” in the name.

Another version of the beverage is Fresh Press coffee, although this can be gritty.

Here’s the thing, though.

Any non-coffee beverage with espresso can be referred to as “dirty.” For example, take a plain Chai Latte and dump espresso on it.

You just made a Dirty Chai! The espresso provides an extra kick to your drink.

Let’s get back to dirty coffee.

Now you know that “dirty” doesn’t mean serving coffee in a dirty mug. Of course, you could do that but the result won’t be the same – and really, it is unhygienic!

To get the best out of dirty coffee, it is better to use dark roast coffee. This will provide the most intense flavor to make the drink even more delicious.

Keep in mind that the beverage is meant to be served in clear glasses for consumers to admire the art before taking a sip of the delicious, creamy, sweet coffee.

If you’re wondering what’s so special about the taste and feel of dirty coffee, here’s what makes it different from your old cup of regular joe.

You are getting two different sensations – hot and cold – from the hot and cold layers in the drink. This does not only create a unique mouthfeel, it also gives dirty coffee its special taste.

You will find yourself enjoying the creamy, robust, and hot espresso after your first sip. And all of a sudden, your hot drink becomes ice-cold when you reach the milk.

The milk that follows afterward seems even sweeter than usual after the bitterness of the espresso is gone.

You’ll certainly love the added complexity brought about by the two flavors and temperatures combining in your mouth.

That contrasting feel in the temperature of the drink combined with the sharp difference in the taste of coffee and milk is what makes dirty coffee a one-of-a-kind drink.

You should definitely give it a try!

Unlike many other coffee types, this interesting coffee drink was not invented by Starbucks. Instead, it originated in Tokyo.

Originally, the drink called The Dirty was created by the Japanese coffee house, Bear Pond Espresso.

This coffee maker is known to make thick and syrupy espresso. This contributes to the drink’s rich and creamy taste. 

How is Dirty Coffee Different from Iced Latte?

How is Dirty Coffee Different from Iced Latte?

Often, dirty coffee is mistaken for a latte, but they are completely different.

As a matter of fact, it can be simply said that the major difference between a latte and a dirty coffee is the preparation method.

After all, both latte and dirty coffee are made from espresso and milk.

Dirty coffee is made with steamed milk and topped with a layer of espresso. Latte is similar but made with steamed milk and topped with foamed milk.

If you want to fully understand the differences between these two types of coffee, you need to have a better understanding of how both drinks are made.

Fortunately, this article will cover all of that.

Although dirty coffee and iced latte appear similar, their recipes, preparation methods, and taste are completely different.

Dirty coffee is made with cold milk while latte is made with steaming milk. Even though latte can be served hot or cold, it is made from frothed milk.

Iced lattes are typically mixed or stirred, so they usually have a consistent temperature and no layers, unlike dirty coffee.

Also, because the espresso and milk quickly mix, it is a good idea to drink the coffee quicker than you normally would because the different temperatures of the layers will soon blend to give you a lukewarm drink.

How to Make Dirty Coffee

How to Make Dirty Coffee

Because dirty coffee is a new drink, there is no standard method for making it.

For example, you can choose to use a double shot of espresso or a single shot of ristretto. Either way, it’s your call.

You will enjoy making dirty coffee at home if you haven’t tried it before. It is a very easy drink to make, as long as you have an espresso machine.

If you want to pour the espresso over the milk, either pull the espresso shot into the milk or pull it directly into the espresso cup.

The important thing about dirty coffee is the combination of a hot and cold drink, which makes the layer so important.

It’s easy to prepare if you follow these tips:

  • It is important that both the glass cup and milk are cold.
  • In a cup, add between 4-6 ounces of milk. To create the look of a dirty coffee, use a clear mug as the espresso will float above the milk when you use full-fat milk.
  • You can use any milk of your choice. There are no hard and fast rules here.
  • Remember to pour the espresso over the milk using a spoon. Stir the espresso into the milk with a spoon and pour 1 – 2 shots over it.
  • Make sure the portafilter spout isn’t too far from the milk when you pull the espresso straight over it.
  • Rotating the coffee cup can help the espresso fall evenly onto the milk during brewing.
  • You can also pour the shot slowly with a spoon to create a beautiful layer.

Easy Dirty Coffee Recipe

Easy Dirty Coffee Recipe

Making homemade dirty coffee is pretty straightforward.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Approximately 18 grams of dark roast coffee beans blend beautifully with milk
  • Cold milk, between 4 and 6 ounces

You’ll also need the following equipment:

  • Machine for brewing espresso
  • Cold cup of milk
  • Tablespoon


  1. Place the milk in the glass cup and let it sit in your refrigerator or freezer for 15 minutes before making the coffee.
  2. Make a double espresso shot with your espresso machine. Here’s a general rule of thumb. Aim to make 30ml of espresso liquid from 18 grams of coffee. Although this is a higher espresso concentration than a standard double shot, it is necessary to get the unique taste and mouthfeel of the dirty coffee.
  3. Use an upside-down tablespoon between the espresso and milk as you start to pour the espresso over the milk. The will make the espresso suspend over the milk and not mix with it immediately. The result is a beautiful layer that brings about the name dirty coffee.
  4. Keep in mind that the beautiful layer won’t remain at the top for too long. This is why you should drink the dirty coffee as soon as possible before the layer of coffee sinks into the milk.

There are a couple of things you can do to make your cup of joe even sweeter. 

You can add sugar or syrup before you pour your shot of coffee if you prefer a sweeter cup. Also, you may want to add just about any syrup you prefer, including cinnamon, vanilla, or caramel.

Here’s a little twist to the dirty coffee name:

If you add vanilla to your dirty coffee, you’ll have an entirely new drink called Undertow!

Typically, the vanilla will sit at the bottom of the cup with two shots of espresso at the top.

The beauty of dirty coffee is its layers and the way it combines a hot and cold drink.

For this reason, you shouldn’t stir it before drinking it, or else, it will defeat the entire purpose, to begin with.


This coffee drink is delicious and has a great mouthfeel that is sure to satisfy your taste buds.

Even if you don’t have an espresso machine, you can make dirty coffee at home.

All you have to do is brew a small portion of hot coffee using a Moka pot, French press, or AeroPress.

Fill the chilled glass with chilled milk and gradually pour the hot coffee over it.

Dirty coffee is more unique than other coffee drinks, and it is easy to make so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Who knows, you might even end up creating your own unique and delicious version of the beverage.


Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by Ashok Parmar


My name is Ashok Parmar, and for seven years, I worked as a warehouse manager that strictly dealt with coffee shops all around the United States.

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