Coffee Shop Terminology Defined

Posted on Thu, Jul 10, 2014


We are safe and happy inside of our home brewing delicious coffee in our Keurig brewers.  We know how it works, we know our favorites but, someday, we need to go outside of our comfort zones, leave the house, perhaps visit a coffee shop and attempt to place an order.  

I know darn well that I can not be the only one who at one point felt sheer panic while waiting in line at the neighborhood watering hole.  The menu boards are huge, the writing is small, the names don't make sense, sometimes the sizes are in a foreign language...and worst yet, the baristas are incredibly intimidating.

I am here to help.  With a little bit of knowledge, your next visit to the coffee house will be stress free!

There are a few key coffee drinks that are standard at most establishments.  Knowing what they are will help you sail through the ordering process and actually enjoy what you end up with.

Latte- Espresso topped with steamed milk.  If you like coffee with a lot of cream, this is right up your alley.  You can add flavor as well for a bit of sweetness and request different dairy options. If you enjoy vanilla flavor  and are watching your calories for example, order a non fat vanilla latte. 

Cappuccino- Similar to a latte with the addition of frothed milk.  To be precise a cappuccino should contain 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 frothed milk.  The same latte ordering options apply.

Espresso- A very dark, strong coffee usually served in shot size quantities. 

Chai- Spicy black tea.  One of the most popular coffee house drinks is a chai latte.  Chai latte is a strong brewed tea with the addition of steamed milk.  You will want to be specific when placing your order whether you want simple chai tea or a chai latte.  

Macchiato- Shot of espresso topped with a dollop of steamed milk foam.

Con Panna- Shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.

Americano- Hot water with one or more shots of espresso.

Breve- Latte made with steamed half and half.

Cafe Au Lait- Half coffee (not espresso), half steamed milk, can be flavored as well. 

Steamer- Flavored latte minus the espresso.

In addition when visiting a coffee house there are a few unwritten etiquette rules that you should follow:

1) Be confident.  If you appear weak the baristas will eat you alive. 

2) Order quickly and efficiently.  Know what you are going to order by the time you get to the front of the line.

3) Don't ask questions, simple things like do you have soy milk are acceptable but,  avoid questions such as what is an espresso?

4) After you place your order, step aside and let the next person begin theirs.

5) Never, ever say "Don't you have just plain coffee?",  of course they do and believe me they have heard that sarcasm a million times.

6) Tip. Baristas work hard and get paid very little, award their talents.

7) Last but, not least no matter what you do, do not even think about approaching the counter while you are talking on your cell phone.  

I hope this helps make your next outing a little more enjoyable! If it doesn t go well just head home to your old faithful Keurig and brew yourself your favorite!

Additional information:

  • Prefer to make coffee at home?  You can make coffee house favorites quickly and easily in your own home with our coffee recipes.
  • Ever wonder how to use a french press?  Click here for step by step instructions.
  • Interested in drip style brewing?  Learn how to use a coffee dripper here.

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Topics: All about coffee

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