What Is Dirty Coffee?

Every single time we think we heard it all, a new thing comes up and once again makes us wonder what it is. While sometimes these are completely new things, sometimes we haven’t heard of them even though they existed for a long time. 

At the end of the day, it’s a good feeling to be constantly learning, which is why we love reading about the things we don’t know about and share them with you.

Dirty coffee is one of those things that we haven’t heard about until recently, even though it existed for a while, and we have a feeling that you haven’t either. While the name “dirty coffee” sounds uncanny at first, it will make sense when we tell you what it is.

Simply put, dirty coffee is made up of an espresso shot that is poured on top of cold milk. While it’s definitely out of the ordinary, the combination of espresso and cold milk produces a delicious beverage.

It’s also possible to see the word “dirty” being used for different drinks where a non-coffee drink is combined with a shot of espresso, such as dirty chai, which consists of chai tea and espresso.

With that, let’s get down to how you can make a dirty coffee for yourself at home.

How to Make Dirty Coffee?

As long as you have an espresso machine, making a dirty coffee should be rather simple.

  1. Start by pouring cold milk into your cup. Since this drink consists mostly of milk, feel free to add as much milk as you want, as long as you leave enough space for the espresso.
  2. Pull a shot or a double shot of espresso into your cup. You can also use a ristretto shot if you wish to, so the choice is completely down to your preference.
  3. Enjoy!

If you wish, you can replace cold milk with cold half-and-half instead and create a drink that has a creamier mouthfeel. You can also add flavored syrup to your dirty coffee to give it some sweetness if you prefer a sweet coffee experience.

How Does a Dirty Coffee Taste?

You’ll find that the taste of dirty coffee is rather similar to an iced latte as they both contain the same ingredients. While dirty coffee doesn’t contain ice, the presence of ice doesn’t impact the taste of the drink too much anyway.

That being said, since the milk to espresso ratio is usually lower in the case of dirty coffee, you’ll find that a dirty coffee has a taste profile where the taste of coffee is more apparent compared to an iced latte.

If you’ve been looking for a cold, milky coffee drink where you can really taste the coffee, a dirty coffee is something you should try as soon as possible.

What Is an Undertow?

Another drink that you may not have heard of before is an undertow, which is quite similar to a dirty coffee. That being said, an undertow tastes a lot more like coffee compared to a dirty coffee as the amount of coffee is much larger than the amount of milk.

An undertow is prepared by adding flavored syrup to a glass, followed by a small amount of milk, and finally, a shot or double shot of espresso. It is supposed to be drunk in the form of a shot, which is actually quite refreshing.

Just like in the case of dirty coffee, you can replace the espresso shots with ristretto shots and milk with half-and-half if you wish to put a unique twist on the drink.

An interesting fact is that you can actually get an undertow at a Starbucks. Even though it’s not on the menu, an undertow is part of the Starbucks secret menu where they will prepare you one if you ask for it.

While the standard undertow at Starbucks is prepared with vanilla syrup, feel free to ask for the flavored syrup you prefer.

We can definitely recommend trying an undertow out the next time you make your way to a Starbucks.

What is a John Wayne at Starbucks?

A John Wayne is an alternative name for an undertow that is used in certain regions. There is absolutely no difference between a John Wayne and an undertow, so feel free to use the name you wish to.

That being said, undertow is the name that is more commonly known regardless of the region you are in, so it could be helpful to stick to that instead.


Dirty coffee is definitely an interesting take on coffee that is prepared with milk, and we would be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy how it tastes.

If you’re looking for a fresh new drink to add to your coffee repertoire, make sure to try a cup of dirty coffee and see how you like it. As it’s a very simple drink that can be prepared quite quickly, nothing is stopping you from trying it out.

Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!