I really like coffee. Like good light roast espresso drinks with almond milk are my shit. What I have noticed, is people are missing out on good coffee becuase they’re scared of the fancy Italian words like ‘macchiato’ or ‘cappuccino’. And I know at some coffee shops, if you order a macchiato, you don’t get what Starbucks calls a macchiato. I am here to help.
While Cinci has a pretty weak-sauce selection of coffee, there is opportunity in this city. Plus, here or abroad, if you know what you’re doing when you order a drink, the coffee experience is bomb.
This guide isn’t going to teach you how to order at Starbucks, it’s probably going to rip Starbucks apart, so if you are only interested in the corporation, I won’t be much help. You can explore their drink menu here, on 1912 Pike, their coffee education blog. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and clarifies a lot of the reasons why their menu is WACK.
Ok so first rule of coffee-order-club is confidence. Don’t go in thinking you don’t know what you’re doing, go in knowing what you want, or at least have an idea. It’s in a barista’s job description to answer your questions, and if they’re too rushed or panicked to help you, it’s probably not a well staffed or run shop. Run away from those.
So anyways, confidence: decide pre-entry if you’re in the mood for milky and sweet, or rich and warm. And don’t be afraid to explain exactly what you want to the barista so they can help you figure out the best thing to order. If you like Starbuck’s caramel macchiato, tell them that and they’ll help you order something even better at their shop.
Second rule, sound like you know what you’re saying. Brewed coffee and espresso drinks are different, and knowing what you’re saying makes ordering your drink that much better.
- Brewed Coffee – While espresso is finely ground, and in contact with water for about 30 seconds (to bring out flavor of the beans), a cup of brewed coffee is medium ground, and in contact with water for a lot longer. Espresso also uses pressure to brew, while brewed coffee uses gravity.
- Espresso – 100% shot of concentrated coffee. You can taste a shop in their espresso. Some shops roast their own beans, some shops import, but beans only last so long before they’re no good, so always check for freshness, location, etc. of their beans. When you order an Espresso you sound badass and like you know what you’re about (or just exhausted). No milk. My favorites include Intelligensia, Counter Culture, and Deeper Roots.
- Double / Quad Shot – **ESPRESSO DOES NOT EQUAL BREWED COFFEE. First things first about espresso, most shops pull their espresso in double shots. It’s confusing, but I am informing you now that most shops pull in “double”, Starbucks included. When you order a ‘quad shot’ you’re asking for double (4 shots) the espresso (2×2=4=quad). It’s a lot of concentrated coffee, but most of the time coffee shops do all their drinks with only 2 shots. If you’ve had an espresso drink from Starbucks (latte, macciato, etc.) you’ve been drinking 2 shots.
The basics of espresso drinks are about ratio. All drinks I am talking about have the same amount of coffee, but the amount of milk is what varies:
- Macchiato – 1/2 espresso, 1/2 milk. Hate to burst your bubble, but a Starbucks macchiato is actually a nontraditional macchiato called a Latte Macchiato. Macchiatos are for the bold, it’s a lot of coffee flavor, and it’s a great drink if you’re exhausted, don’t want a lot of milk, and are looking for something that shows off a shop’s espresso. My post-school sleepy drink of choice becuase it wakes me up without weighing you down.
- Cappuccino – 1/3 espresso, 2/3 milk. Usually for the milk, it’s more foam than steamed milk. You call a cappuccino with no foam, and only steamed milk, a “flat white”. The cappuccino is usually my goldilocks in the morning. It’s not too much milk, the espresso isn’t overwhelming, and you can easily add flavors to mix it up.
- Americano – 1/3 espresso, 2/3 hot water. To me, Americanos are like a cup of drip coffee, but they taste better, becuase I think espresso tends to taste better. It’s a watered down shot, and usually if you order this the barista will ask if you need room for cream, like with a regular cup of coffee.
- Latte – AH, the milky-est of drinks, and most of the time, the most fun. 3/4 milk, and 1/4 espresso. You can usually add any flavors to this, and mix it up with the milks and etc. If you have a fun barista, this drink provides for the artstsiest of drinks in terms of latte art using the little but of steamed milk on the top for designs.
- Mocha – Coffee and Chocolate!! A mocha is basically a hot chocolate (steamed milk & chocolate sauce), and a shot of espresso. If you ordered a chocolate latte, you would get a mocha (and a weird look from the barista).
- “Iced” in front of any of these – I have never seen an iced macchiato unless you count Starbucks (who’s iced macchiato is fake news), so when I say iced, I am talking cappuccino, americano, and latte. You take the milk, don’t steam it, the espresso, and cold brew it (I am not sure how to do this, but you can cold brew a lot of stuff in the coffee world), or the water, and leave it cold, and pour it all over ice. My drink of choice anywhere? Iced latte: cold brew espresso, milk, and ice.
Ready to test your skills?
Quad shot caramel cappucino? caramel sauce, 4 shots, and 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 foam milk. Iced vanilla latte? Ice, vanilla flavor, double shot of cold brew espresso, 3/4 milk.
Step three? Enjoy! If you’re not into coffee, most stores offer steamers, which are the drinks without the shot of espresso. Also, hot chocolate, smoothies, muffins, and sodas are common in coffee shops so you can fake it until you make it! Remember, have the confidence to just ask!