Guide to Ordering Coffee

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If you go into a coffee shop and ask for a coffee, you’ll most likely be bombarded with a slew of questions as the barista tries to figure out exactly what type of beverage you have in mind. In order to get exactly what you want without wasting anyone’s time, you need to know the basics of ordering coffee.

There is a lot of coffee lingo – much more than most people need to know. However, you should learn some basic coffee vocabulary. Here’s a list of the most commonly used terms:

Americano: espresso and waterBarista: café equivalent of a bar tenderDrip coffee: good, old-fashioned brewed coffeeDry: more foamCafé Au Lait: drip coffee with steamed milkCaffe Breve: espresso and steamed half-n-halfCaffe Latte: espresso and streamed milkCaffe Mocha: espresso, steamed milk, and chocolateCappuccino: espresso and foamed milkEspresso Con Panna: shot of espresso with whipped creamEspresso Macchiato: shot of espresso with a dollop of foamSkinny: made with skim milkSteamer: steamed milk with syrupWet: less foam

Once you have learned the above terms, you should be able to communicate easily with the barista. Of course, each coffee shop has its own special drinks, so you will still need to look at the menu. If there is a line, you should look at the menu and decide what you want before you get to the front of the line. If you fail to do this – maybe you’re talking on your cell phone instead – you will greatly annoy the very busy barista, as well as the other people waiting in line.

If you want a simple, black coffee, ask for a drip coffee; this will eliminate any confusion. Some espresso shops do not offer drip coffee, but do not let this bother you. Simply order an Americano, which tastes almost exactly the same. If you’re at a coffee shop that does serve drip coffee, but you know that the drip coffee isn’t very popular, you should consider ordering an Americano anyway; Americanos are always made fresh, whereas drip coffee sometimes sits there for hours. If you do order drip coffee, check to see if there is more than one type available; many places that serve drip coffee offer a dark roast, a light roast, and a decaffeinated brew. There should be an area with cream, sugar, and artificial sweeteners so that you can fix up your coffee yourself.

If you want a fancy espresso beverage, you do not need to limit yourself to the basic drinks listed above. Instead, you can modify these drinks to get exactly what you want. Adding syrups is one of the most common modifications; most coffee shops have a wide array of syrups, including sugar-free syrups.

No matter what you order, you will need to pick a size. Espresso, Espresso Con Panna, and Espresso Macchiato come in single, double, or triple shots. All other drinks will come in small, medium, and large; some coffee shops also have an extra large. However, most coffee shops do not use the terms “small,” “medium,” and “large;” instead, they have fancy terms that mean the same thing but can cause mass amounts of confusion. The size names should be listed on the menu. If you do not see names, you can specify how many ounces you want: 8, 12, 16, or 20.

Each coffee shop has a different way of determining how many shots are in a drink. Once again, this information should be on the menu. In general, an 8 ounce drink has one shot, a 12 ounce drink has two shots, a 16 ounce drink has two shots, and a 20 ounce drink has three shots. Some coffee shops put two shots of espresso in every drink, regardless of the size. You can request how many shots you want when you place your order.

You can also request decaffeinated espresso. Some people ask for half-caf, meaning that they want one shot of caffeinated espresso and one shot of decaffeinated espresso. If you are morally opposed to decaffeinated espresso but do not want any more caffeine, consider ordering a steamer. Steamers are just like hot chocolates, except they can be made with any syrup, not just chocolate syrup.

Caffe Lattes and Caffe Mochas can be made hot or iced; usually, if you don’t specify, you’ll get a hot beverage. Many coffee shops also offer frozen drinks, often called granitas.

You can also specify which type of milk you want. Most coffee shops carry whole, nonfat, soy, and half-n-half; whole and nonfat can be mixed to create low fat. Unless you specify, you will usually be given whole milk, although some coffee shops will ask what type of milk you want.

Finally, you can state whether you want the drink “for here” or “to go.” Do not say that you want the drink “for here, but in a paper cup;” if you want a paper cup, just ask for it “to go.” The barista doesn’t actually care where you drink your coffee.

Now you need to put all this information together to create your perfect order. At the very minimum, you need to state the exact type of drink you want, the size, and whether you want it “for here” or “to go.” You can also state whether you want extra syrups, a different number of shots, decaffeinated espresso, an iced or frozen drink, or a type of milk other than whole.

It is customary to leave a tip; some people leave a little change, whereas other people leave over a dollar per beverage. How much you leave should be based on the quality of the service, the quality of the beverage, and the type of beverage you ordered; more complicated beverages (for example, a 16 ounce hazelnut and vanilla, half-caf, extra hot, wet latte) callfor a larger tip.

Once you have finished your drink, you should clean up after yourself. Throw away any napkins and disposable cups. If you have a ceramic cup, look for a bin to leave it in or bring it up to the counter. Your barista will love you.

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