Here’s the thing about baristas. A lot of people think that the only thing that they do is make coffee, but they are a lot more than that. They are problem solvers. They understand the idea of how to order coffee and what it takes to make it perfect. They may not know everything about coffee, but they’re pretty darn close!
In this post, we’ll look at how to order coffee the right way when you go to a coffee shop.
Broadly speaking you have three types of drinks to choose from:
- Brewed coffee
- Specialty coffees
- Iced/cold coffee beverages
How to order brewed coffee
1. Decide on a roast and coffee bean
Most coffee shops have a standard menu that rotates seasonally, but it’s always good to know what type of coffee you’re ordering if they don’t indicate this on the menu.
Generally speaking, darker roasts are considered to be more full-bodied, but lighter roasts can also be bold in flavor. Medium roasts are very balanced and have the best of both.
It’s also good to know what type of coffee beans you’re ordering if they don’t indicate this on their menu.
For example, coffee from Brazil will often have very different flavor notes than coffee from El Salvador.
You can ask the barista for recommendations, and they’ll help you find something that matches your taste.
What about decaf?
Some coffee shops will offer decaf versions of their specialty coffees.
2. Decide on a brewing method
There are a lot of different brewing methods, but most coffee shops usually have the following:
- Espresso: These are very concentrated, so they’re great for enjoying on their own.
- Pour-over: These use hot water that’s slowly poured over the ground coffee to produce a brighter cup that has a more balanced flavor than an espresso shot.
- Drip: This is probably what most people think of when you mention brewed coffee in a coffeemaker. It’s very similar to pour-over, except it’s done by machine instead of by hand.
- French press: This is a very popular brewing method. The grounds and hot water sit together for about four minutes before the plunger is pushed down to separate them. French press is usually full-bodied and intense.
- Cold brew: This is very different from brewed coffee because cold brew uses cold water instead of hot water and steeps for much longer to produce a very mellow and refreshing drink.
- Red eye: This is brewed coffee with an extra shot of espresso.
- Green eye: This is brewed coffee with three extra shots of espresso.
3. Add milk and sweeteners if necessary
You can always add milk and sweeteners to your brew if you like.
It’s always best to ask the barista for recommendations about what kind of milk or sweetener to use, too.
If you can tolerate it, brewed coffee is better enjoyed black! However, if you find it too intense, you can add milk to temper the intensity.
Try to avoid sugar as much as possible as it will completely block out the original taste of the coffee!
How to order specialty coffee
Specialty coffees are derivatives of espresso. They all start with an espresso shot in some form. Ask for one of these for a special treat.
Espresso: You can order this without milk, but it’s perfect if you add a little bit of hot frothed milk to liquefy it.
Ristretto: This is a short shot of espresso. Much more intense, but it will be over even more quickly than an espresso!
Lungo: This is an espresso shot that’s pulled for twice as long than usual to produce a slightly milder drink.
Doppio: This is a double shot of espresso. It’s twice the size of an espresso and has more intensity than a normal shot.
Macchiato: This has a “marked” flavor due to the fact that a tiny bit of milk has been poured in the espresso shot. Not to be confused with a Starbucks macchiato, which is basically a latte with syrup flavoring.
Mocha: This has chocolate added to it during or after the brewing process. Some mochas
Cappuccino: This is espresso plus a thick layer of foamed milk on top. If the barista adds chocolate or cinnamon, it may be called a cappuccino con schiuma or cappuccino alla cannella.
Latte: This is espresso plus a lot of hot, frothed milk. It’s similar to a cappuccino, but there’s more milk than foam, so it has a milder flavor profile. If the barista adds chocolate or cinnamon, it may be called a latte con schiuma or latte alla cannella.
Mocha: This is espresso plus chocolate and steamed milk, topped with foamed milk. You can ask for it wet (less foam) or dry (more foam). If the barista adds cinnamon, it may be called a mocha con cannella.
Flat white: This is similar to a latte, but with microfoam instead of frothed milk. It’s named after the way the milk and coffee look when they’re poured together in the cup: Flat, not fluffy like a cappuccino or latte.
How to order iced coffee beverages
Iced coffees will differ from coffee shop to coffee shop. Basically, you have two choices:
Coffee over ice: This is coffee brewed hot then poured over ice. It can be black or with milk and sugar.
Ice blended coffee: This is brewed coffee blended with milk and ice. The milk will make the drink sweeter and thicker. Depending on what you order, there may be flavoring syrups and/or whipped cream.
Most ice-blended coffees at places like Starbucks end up being entire desserts in themselves. They contain a truckload of calories and sugar, so just be aware of what you are getting!
Modifying the coffee to your preferences
Change the milk
You can always ask for different types of milk in your drink. Soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk are the most common alternatives.
Some coffees like mochas actually taste better with plant-based milks, so even if you’re not lactose intolerant or vegan, be adventurous!
Some coffee shops have alternative sweetners like honey and maple syrup, so if you want a sweet coffee but want to cut back on sugar, these are great options to try.
Some coffee shops have sugar-free sweeteners like stevia but those have quite a strong aftertaste.
It’s better to add sweetener after tasting because once you add it, there’s no going back!
I hope this article has helped you learn how to order coffee properly.
Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions and let the barista guide you towards the best drink to try.
If you’re interested in brewing coffee like a barista at home, check out our guide on coffee brewing methods.