What Is a Cup of Joe

A cup of Joe is one of the most common nicknames for coffee. Although we like to call our delicious beans all sorts of names, the term cup of Joe sticks into the everyday vocabulary. Even for the best Vietnamese coffee. But who was Joe? Did Jimmy Hendrix sing about him? Make yourself a cup of joe, and let’s find out. If you have company,brew a whole pot of cowboy coffee, and read together!

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Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, besides water and tea. People don’t drink it just at social gatherings or for the taste. It became a form of art, and coffee brewers, pots, and coffee measurement tools became necessary to make a perfect cuppa every time.  Your usual cup of joe is full of health benefits for both your body and mind. Also, nitro coffee has the same health benefits as regular coffee. So, what are the most popular coffee benefits?

Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight, coffee is the right choice. Black coffee, not some whipped cream topped frappuccinos. Coffee increases the level of your stomach acid and helps your digestion go smoothly. Also, it helps cleaning toxins and bacterias from your stomach, liver, and kidneys.


Your daily cup of coffee is full of antioxidants that will slow down the aging process and make you look younger. Some of these coffee’s little helpers are:

  • Hydrocinnamic acid
  • Polyphenol
  • Quinine
  • Cafestol
  • Trigonelline
  • Chlorogenic acid

Burst of Energy

Caffeine is one of the main reasons people drink coffee. When you are tired, just woke up, or need an extra spike of energy during a long day, coffee is there for you! Every type of coffee has caffeine, some more, some less. You can drink decaf espresso even at night, as it has reduced caffeine levels, so it won’t obstruct your sleeping schedule.

Keeps Your Brain Running

Caffeine works as a stimulant for your brain cells. Regularly drinking coffee can decrease the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkison’s disease by up to 65%. The biggest credit for that goes to the phenylindanes, chemical compounds that are released during the roasting process. Dark roasted coffee has the most phenylindanes concentration and will do wonders for your brain health. 

Theories of A ‘Cup of Joe’s’ Origin

Old Sea Dogs

Besides navy blue nuance of color, there’s a theory that the Navy was also responsible for the forging this term. In the jolly 1913, president Wilson promoted Joseph Daniels to be the Navy’s secretaryJoseph gave the first unpopular order was the notorious Order 99, also known as the total prohibition of alcohol on all the Navy’s ships and vessels. Naturally, the sailors were desperate. Given the lack of alcohol, they just had to find something strong to keep them alive, awake, and keen to work. The only choice was coffee. So, they started drinking coffee more than ever.  As the sugar in your coffee can make you feel tired, they preferred drinking it black. 

The mutiny was out of the question, as well as the insolent attitude towards your superiors. So sailors started a private slang. They started calling coffee a cup of Joseph Daniels. That was quickly shortened to a cup of Joe. It gave poor sober sailors at least some form of revenge. 

The hole in this theory was it depicts all the Navy sailors as drunk pirates. In practice, alcohol wasn’t widely used on the Navy vessels at that time. So, the prohibition would have little or no effect. 

Word Merging

Theories of A ‘Cup of Joe’s’ Origin

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Everyone has heard about Java or Mocha coffee. As time passed, these two terms became a synonym for coffee. Jamoke was a common nickname for coffee in the 1930s, as it was a combination of two words, Java and Mocha. So, the explanation might be simple. Joe was just short for Jamoke. And honestly, the term Jamoke was just ridiculous. In the 1931s Reserve Officer’s Manual, we can find an explanation: “Jamoke. Java. Joe. Coffee. Derived from the words Java and Mocha, where originally the best coffee came from”.

Martinson Coffee is Joe’s Coffee

In today’s world, marketing is everything. Look at Coca Cola, for example. Or any other bigger company, for that matter. You want your name to be heard and to become a synonym for your product. That’s just what Joe Martinson already knew, and wanted to make the best of it. Martinson Coffee was founded in 1898 in New York. And Joe, the owner, was quite an interesting guy. In fact, he had so strong personality that his customers started calling his product “Joe’s coffee” or “a cup of Joe.” The term grew popular in the 1930s and expanded worldwide.

‘Joe’ for the Common Guy

The slang term for the common working guy was and still is, the average Joe. So, the cup of joe might just refer to the ordinary man’s drink. The 1940s and 1950s were a time of diner restaurants popping from every corner. So, an ordinary working guy who came there to eat his meal might have just been served with a cup of joe. 

Old Black Joe by Stephen Foster

This theory is a bit hard to grasp. Old Black Joe is a beautiful old song from 1860. Some claim that old Black Joe was just a quick brainstorming. Coffee is black. The refrain goes: “I’m coming, I’m coming.” So it could be that people started referring the coffee to the song. 

However, it’s highly unbelievable. First of all, nowhere in the song has Stephen Foster mentioned coffee or anything alike (like maybe the process of removing caffeine from the beans).  And second, the song, although nice, wasn’t that successful to start a new slang. In the end, the song was released in 1860. And the first appearance of “cup of Joe” slang was around the 1930s. 

Marketing Purpose

Marketing is all about being catchy, unique, and easy to remember. Jamoke got old. Coffee has too much meaning. Cuppa was too British. Ethiopian coffee preserves original flavor, but the term isn’t catchy. So why shouldn’t we call coffee a cup of joe? It’s catchy, has a background story, and easy to remember. Do you think the marketing guys wouldn’t do that? Sure they would. 

A Cup of George

This interesting theory has roots in World War 1. US troops had little time and space for brewing premium French roast coffee, so instead, they were served instant coffee. The company that made the coffee was George Washington Coffee Refining Company. Every soldier had a ration of a cup of George coffee, and they started referring to it as “cup of Geo”, which sounds the same as a cup of Joe. 

Other Slang Terms for Coffee

Other Slang Terms for Coffee

Café Americano

The literal translation would be an American coffee. It’s your usual strong espresso topped with hot water. One of the theories is this slang has roots in the Second World War. Italian and Spain troops looked in wonder what the heck were American troops drinking. Why did they dilute their espresso with hot water? Why don’t they drink espresso or cortado? Oh, right, a cortado is meant to be sipped slowly, just like espresso. And these Americanos were always in a hurry. Thus, Cafe Americano was born. 


In the 17th century, Yemen had a monopoly on coffee production, as being the only world region that could grow coffee. The East India Trading Company, one of the largest companies ever, didn’t like that. So, when the Dutch colonized the tropical island of Java, they started planting coffee trees immediately. Java island was perfect for growing the coffee beans, and Europe was developing a taste for coffee. So, Java became a synonym for coffee. Just like its predecessor, mocha coffee. 


After thorough research, we can proudly claim the term started in the city of Baltimore. However, the origins remain unknown. Baltimore coffee usually means half of the dose is regular coffee, while the other half is decaf. They had to be precise with the half doses. Luckily, scale helps with the precise amount of coffee so that they could make it half and half. It became popular with people that like the taste of the coffee but want to limit their caffeine intake. 

Red-Eye, Black Eye & Green Eye

In this case, it’s all about mixing espressos and drip coffee. This unusual concoction will give you an instant caffeine spike (espresso), and the spike will last longer (drip coffee). 

The red-eye flight is slang for the overnight flying trip from the east coast to the USA west coast. As the trip takes some time, you need a beverage to keep you awake. So, you pour one shot of espresso into a cup of drip coffee. That’s red-eye for you. But sometimes it’s not enough, so you need to pour yourself a black eye. Take two shots of espresso and pour them into your cup of drip coffee. While pouring them, you will destroy the delicious creamy surface of the drip coffee, and a form will appear, resembling the black eye. The black eye is still too week for you? Add three shots of espresso into your drip coffee, and you get a green eye. The green eye will give you cca 280 mg of caffeine in one cup, so be ready to be hyperactive. 

FAQ About a Cup of Joe

FAQ About a Cup of Joe

What is Joe slang for?

The coffee aficionados have not still figured it out. But it can be from:

  • Average working Joe, a common man
  • Navy Secretary Joseph ‘Joe’ Daniels, that withheld the alcohol from the Navy
  • Short from the Jamoke term
  • Joe Martinson, owner of the Martinson Coffee
  • George Washington Coffee Refining Company was hard to pronounce

Is a cup of Joe an idiom?

An idiom is a common phrase that shouldn’t be taken literary. Not every idiom is used all the time, and some have a special meaning. To break it down, you can’t put a person named Joe in a cup. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t make any sense. So, yes, a cup of Joe is an idiom. The hardest part of understanding any idiom is understanding the way it was forged, and the culture it came from. The source of a cup of Joe idiom is still unknown, but we gave you seven theories to think about. 

When was coffee called Joe?

The cup of Joe became popular in the 1930s in the USA. The exact origins of the term are still unknown, but it grew popular. Even today, coffee lovers like to call their coffee a cup of Joe, or a cup of joe. 

What is Jamocha?

Mocha was the first commercially known coffee in the world. It was shipped from Yemen, precisely from the Al Mokha port. Mokka, mokha, and mocha became synonyms for the coffee. Following the same pattern, coffee that grew on the Java island was simply called java. Combining these two popular terms, you get a Jamocha. (Java + Mocha). Today, Jamocha is a popular term for frozen desserts made with coffee and chocolate. 


In the end, it doesn’t matter who Joe was. All it matters is he provided us with the most catchy term for coffee. So thank you, Joe, whoever you are. And now, a word of advice for the end.

Take good care of your beans. Buy them fresh, roast them, and grind them just as much as you need. Get yourself a good espresso machine or a French press so you can enjoy the full taste of your coffee. If you are a fan of Nespresso machines, remember that reusable Nespresso pod isn’t fully sealed ever. So you are wasting a small amount of your coffee every time. Although Nespresso is much easier to manage than the alternatives, you will never achieve that full-body taste that every coffee should have. Come to the dark espresso side. We have cookies!

Photos from: MicEnin / depositphotos.com, KostyaKlimenko / depositphotos.com, EcoPimStudio / depositphotos.com and AndrewTovstyzhenko / depositphotos.com.

Love drinking great coffee? If you want a tasty, freshly roasted bean you can buy online, try something from LifeBoost and thank me later. Click here to check it out and save 50%.