Calling all coffee lovers! Have you ever heard of dirty coffee?

If not, it’s about time you jump into the world of this delicious and aromatic drink!

Dirty coffee is a unique way to enjoy your coffee with only two ingredients – milk and espresso. Not only does it create a more robust flavor, but it also helps smooth out any bitter notes as a bonus!

With its delicious and comforting taste, even a die-hard latte drinker can fall in love with this unique type of brew.

In this article, I’ll discuss what dirty coffee is, how it differs from other common espresso drinks, and how to make dirty coffee at home!

Keep reading to learn more about this exciting take on the classic beverage we’ve been drinking for ages.

What is dirty coffee?

Dirty coffee is an espresso drink that consists of a single or double shot of espresso, which is then poured over cold milk and served in a cold glass.

Homemade dirty coffee.

The main reason why people order dirty coffee is to enhance their espresso experience.

The slightly diluted shot creates a full-bodied drink that’s still rich and intense but easier to finish in one sitting.

It differs from other coffee drinks because it’s not as milky and contains significantly less foam than a cappuccino, latte, or flat white.

Which ingredients are needed to make dirty coffee?

There are only two ingredients needed to make dirty coffee at home:

  • Whole milk
  • Espresso coffee
Ingredients used to make dirty coffee at home.

You can add a single or a doppio espresso, depending on the strength you’re looking for.

Usually, a double shot is used for a more robust flavor, but feel free to switch things up or make a variation to the original (more on this further down).

How does dirty coffee taste?

Dirty coffee’s flavor is often compared to dark chocolate, with notes of earthiness, smokey undertones, and subtle sweetness depending on which type of coffee is used.

Its strength is potent yet still smooth since it’s not overly harsh like some espresso-based drinks can be.

You can make this drink in many ways, and each coffee shop will make it with its signature espresso and type of milk.

I’d suggest using whole milk for the full flavor, but you can always order it with your favorite dairy-free alternative.

Why is dirty coffee called dirty?

The name dirty coffee comes from the fact that this drink can look somewhat dirty sometimes, especially as you leave the espresso to mix with the milk over time.

At first, the brewed espresso will gently float on top, which will look quite stunning and is the perfect way to drink it:

Dirty coffee, as seen from above.

However, while slowly sipping on it, the espresso will steep into the milk and start to look quite dirty, hence the name.

Is dirty coffee served hot or cold?

Dirty coffee doesn’t have a set temperature. It’s served slightly hot from the espresso while the milk is cold. The temperature changes every minute you leave the hot espresso to combine with the cold milk.

It’d say dirty coffee is lukewarm initially, and then it’ll turn colder as time passes. Because of the cold glass, the espresso cools instantly so that you won’t have that hot espresso taste you’d typically have.

A cold glass, ready to be used.

If you prefer to drink your dirty coffee iced, you can try an iced latte instead. Have a look below at all the differences between dirty coffee and an iced latte:

How does dirty coffee differ from an iced latte?

The main difference between dirty coffee and an iced latte is the temperature. Dirty coffee is lukewarm in the beginning and will then turn colder. An iced latte is made the same way but has a heavy amount of ice for that refreshing taste and temperature.

There are various ways to make an iced latte at home, but at least half the cup or glass is usually filled with ice cubes.

Dirty coffee has no ice added and will not have that cool and refreshing taste.

The best part about dirty coffee is that the layers will have that beautiful separation, which you usually won’t find in an iced latte.

A side-by-side comparison between dirty coffee and an iced latte.
Dirty coffee on the left. Iced latte on the right

It’s possible, but you’ll have to cold foam your milk first so it looks more like a regular hot latte.

Which coffee beans are best used in this recipe?

There are a ton of coffee beans you can pick when making this dirty coffee.

High-quality Arabica beans are best for a balanced flavor profile as they have a fruity, sweet character that won’t be too overpowering.

I suggest using your favorite espresso beans you usually use. I like to use a darker roast for this drink because it pairs better with cold milk.

Dark roasted coffee beans.

Always go with the freshest coffee beans possible and grind them right before pulling the espresso for that ultimate flavor!

Tip: You can check out the best coffee beans for espresso here if you are still looking for some great options!

How do you make dirty coffee at home?

There are two easy ways to make dirty coffee at home, and each of them will result in the same drink:

  • Directly brew the espresso on top of the cold milk using your espresso machine. You can use the back of a spoon to guide the espresso slowly into the milk.
  • Brew your espresso in a different cup and then slowly pour it into the cold milk. You can also use the back-of-a-spoon technique here.

You can choose one of the above-listed techniques depending on the amount of work you want to do. It’s easier to pull the espresso straight into the milk.

I prefer to brew the espresso into a separate cup, as I found it easier to get the distinct layers.

How do you drink dirty coffee?

You can best drink dirty coffee as soon as it’s served. The separate layers of hot espresso and cold milk make for a unique flavor profile that is worth sipping slowly.

I wouldn’t recommend stirring dirty coffee or using a straw, as this will take away from the beautiful layers.

If you leave the coffee long enough, the espresso will seep into the milk, combining all the flavors by itself.

Now that you know everything about this delicious coffee, it’s time to put it to the test!

Here’s the full dirty coffee recipe:

5-Minute Dirty Coffee

Dirty coffee, ready to drink.

This easy recipe lets you enjoy dirty coffee in just five minutes using your favorite espresso!

Prep Time 3 minutes
Additional Time 2 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  • 1/2 cup (0.12 l) of whole milk
  • Two espresso shots


  1. Start by cooling your serving glass slightly. And make sure your milk is as cold as possible.
  2. Then, brew your espresso shots.
  3. Add cold whole milk to the cooled glass.
  4. Slowly pour the espresso shots into the milk and serve as soon as possible.


Optionally, you can brew the espresso directly into the milk. Let the espresso flow off the back of a spoon to get the unique layers into your dirty coffee.

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Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 73Total Fat: 3.96gSaturated Fat: 2.27gUnsaturated Fat: 0.99gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 49mgCarbohydrates: 5.51gSugar: 6.42gProtein: 3.93g

Dirty coffee variations to try

If you’re looking to give your dirty coffee a unique twist, there are some delicious variations that will make it extra special.

Although not original, here are some of my favorite dirty coffee variations that you can try:

  • Heavy cream – Adding heavy cream to your coffee will result in an incredibly creamy and full-bodied flavor.
  • Add spices for added richness. Top off with a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder for a decadent treat!
  • Use dairy-free milk for a different take on the regular version. My favorites are oat milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. But feel free to try out others for a different flavor.
Oatly oat milk.

As you can see, there are many ways to make dirty coffee at home.

Even though it’s not the original recipe when adding the above-listed options, it’s still a great way to enjoy your coffee!


All in all, making dirty coffee at home can be an enjoyable and easy experience.

Depending on the type of roast you pick and the type of modifications you make to your recipe, it can also be quite a unique drink.

It’s important to remember to enjoy the entire process, from grinding the beans to sipping your dirty coffee.

Starting with fresh beans that have been chosen for their flavor profile is also essential for creating a cup of dirty coffee that will truly hit the spot every single time.

And if you want to try out even more espresso-based drinks, have a look below for some of my favorites!

More espresso-based recipes to try

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