From the Navy to the Cafe: The Surprising History of Why Coffee is Called Joe

by Jeremy Turner on March 28, 2023

Dark Horse Coffee Company - Why Coffee is called a cup of Joe.


As coffee lovers, we often use the term "joe" to refer to our daily cup of java. But have you ever wondered why it's called that? In this blog post, we'll explore the surprising history behind this nickname and delve into why coffee has become such an essential part of our culture. So sit back, grab a fresh brew, and discover the fascinating story behind your favorite morning pick-me-up!

What's in a Name?

When it comes to coffee, the name Joe has become synonymous with a steaming hot cup of java. But why do we call it that? One theory suggests that during World War I, soldiers referred to coffee as "joe" because it was seen as the ordinary and unexciting choice compared to other drinks like brain juice or jitter juice.

Another possible origin story involves Josephus Daniels, the Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. He implemented policies banning alcohol on Navy ships and promoting coffee instead. Some say this is why we started calling coffee "joe." Whether you prefer cold brew or manual brewing methods, there's no denying that a cup of joe has become an integral part of our daily lives - with an interesting history behind its name!

The Origin of the Name Joe

The name 'Joe' may have originated from a cultural influence or tradition. For example, in some countries, the name 'Giuseppe' is commonly shortened to 'Joe'. Additionally, some believe that the term 'jitter juice' was used as slang for coffee during World War I, and this eventually evolved into the more familiar term of ‘joe’.

It's also interesting to explore other languages and cultures that use similar sounding names for coffee. In Spain and Portugal, they refer to coffee as 'café', while in Italy it’s known as ‘espresso’. However, regardless of its origins or what you call it - whether it be java, brain juice or simply plain old joe- one thing remains true: there’s nothing quite like a hot cup (or cold brew) of this delicious caffeine-rich brew to start your day off right!

The Role of the Navy in Popularizing the Term

Sailors and naval officers have long been known for their love of coffee, often consuming multiple cups a day. It's no surprise then that military jargon influenced common language around coffee consumption, including the popularization of the term "joe" to refer to a cup of coffee. Looking at how this came about, we can see that even Josephus Daniels, former Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1921 played his part in promoting the term.

Examining how popular culture portrayed naval characters with their love for joe also helped cement its usage among civilians. From movies and TV shows featuring rugged sailors enjoying a hot brew on deck or sharing cold brews with company on shore leave - it's clear that these fictional legends helped turn "joe" into an everyday word synonymous with our favorite brain juice.


  • Sailors and naval officers consume multiple cups of coffee daily
  • Military jargon influenced common language around coffee consumption
  • Former Secretary of the Navy promoted use
  • Popular culture portrayal solidified usage amongst civilians


Other Theories on the Origin of the Term Joe

Java, Jamoke and G.I. Joe are not the only theories on why coffee is called Joe. Some have suggested that it comes from Josephus Daniels, a former Secretary of the Navy who banned alcohol consumption on ships in 1914, leading to an increase in coffee consumption instead. Others believe that it originated from a manual for soldiers during World War I which referred to coffee as "Joe". Here are some more alternative theories:


  • "Brain Juice" was a slang term used by intellectuals in the 19th century to refer to coffee's stimulating effects on the brain.
  • The word "brewing" originally came from beermaking but started being used for making coffee around the late 18th century.
  • Cold brew has been gaining popularity recently, but its origins can be traced back centuries when Arabic traders brewed and stored their strong concentrate versions of cold brewed coffees known as Qahwa or Kahve.
  • Coffee companies such as Dunkin' Donuts have popularized nicknames like Jitter Juice and Cup o' Joe over time.

While these other theories and in some cases legendary myths may not have gained mainstream traction, they provide interesting insights into how language evolves alongside cultural practices like drinking this beloved beverage we call joe.

Why Coffee is Such an Important Part of Our Culture

For coffee lovers, the word "joe" has become synonymous with their favorite morning beverage. But where did this nickname come from? Surprisingly, it can be traced back to the U.S. Navy in the early 1900s, where coffee was a staple of every sailor's diet. As legend has it, "joe" became an abbreviation for "Josephus Daniels," who served as Secretary of the Navy and famously banned alcohol on all naval ships. With no other options available, sailors turned to coffee as their go-to drink and affectionately began referring to it as "a cup of joe."

Today, coffee is not just a beverage but a cultural phenomenon that brings people together around its rich aroma smells and taste. Whether enjoyed alone or in the company of friends and family, sipping on a cup of joe is more than just satisfying your daily caffeine fix - it's about connecting with others over shared experiences and creating lasting memories.


Why Coffee is Such an Important Part of Our Culture - Dark Horse Coffee Company

The Rituals and Traditions Surrounding Coffee Drinking

Coffee has been a staple beverage across cultures for centuries, and as such, it has developed its own set of rituals and traditions that people around the world have come to cherish. From brewing methods throughout history to famous coffee ceremonies in different cultures, there is no shortage of ways that people have incorporated coffee into their daily lives. Additionally, creating a personal coffee ritual can also add meaning and be a source for a intentional daily routine.

Here are some examples of the various rituals and traditions surrounding coffee drinking:


  • Coffee brewing methods throughout history: from Turkish style brewing using grinds boiled with water in a cezve (a small pot) to modern drip machines or espresso makers.
  • Famous coffee rituals in different cultures: such as Ethiopian’s traditional “coffee ceremony” involving roasting beans over hot coals before grinding them by hand; Japanese tea ceremonies where guests are served matcha based drinks.
  • How to create and trademark your personal coffee ritual: try experimenting with different types of beans or brews, adding personalized touches like whipped cream, mocha or spices.

Whether you prefer your morning cup alone or shared among friends, these traditions demonstrate how central this beloved beverage is for so many individuals worldwide.

Coffee as a Social Connector

Sipping a cup of coffee during business meetings is more than just a caffeine fix, it's also an essential social lubricant. The warm aroma of coffee helps create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere where people can discuss important matters without feeling tense or awkward. Cafés have become important community spaces for this reason, offering the perfect space to catch up with friends or hold work-related discussions over cups of delicious brew.

Coffee has the power to connect people in ways that few other things can match. It's not uncommon for strangers to bond over their shared love of good coffee, using it as a way to break down barriers and start conversations. Whether you're new in town or simply looking to expand your social circle, grabbing a cup of joe at your local café might be just what you need to connect with new people who share similar interests as you do.

The Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee lovers rejoice! Not only does coffee provide an energy boost to get through the day, it also has numerous health benefits. The science behind how caffeine affects the body and brain is complex, but studies have shown that moderate coffee consumption can reduce the risk of several diseases such as Parkinson's disease and liver cancer.

New research on the health benefits of drinking coffee continues to emerge, but it is important to note that moderation is key when consuming caffeine. The recommended safe amount varies from person to person depending on factors like age and weight, but a general guideline is around 400mg per day or about four cups of coffee. So sip your morning cup without guilt knowing you are doing more than just satisfying your cravings!


  • Reduces risk of Parkinson's disease
  • Lowers risk of liver cancer
  • Can improve cognitive function
  • May lower risk for heart disease
  • Contains antioxidants