For a majority of millennials, wine bars are intimidating. With hundreds of label names you can’t pronounce and an expectation to know whether you’ll enjoy the $14 glass of Bordeaux you just ordered, being well-versed in the art of fine wine does not come natural to most people. Along that same vein, to many people, walking into a coffee shop can feel just as intimidating. For those of you who can tell whether the shot of espresso you ordered this morning was over extracted, it’s safe to say you can skip this explanatory blog post. However, if you’re someone who still doesn’t quite understand the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, allow us to enlighten you in the hopes that you discover your next favorite drink.
For the most part, the drinks you see on a typical cafe menu board are going to vary based on the amount of milk added to the espresso, the temperature, and the size of the beverage. To start, you have your basic espresso shot. This can be a single shot, double, triple...you get the picture. However, if you order an espresso, don’t expect to receive a warm beverage you can sip on for the next thirty minutes on your walk to work in the nippy fall air. Espresso is typically served in a short espresso cup with a fine layer of crema (coffee oils) on top and meant to be drank quickly.
If you need a little cream to cut the bitterness of an espresso, a macchiato might be the drink for you. Macchiatos are similar to espresso in that they are short in nature, but have a splash of foamed milk. As a note, CWJ serves espresso macchiatos, but you might see a latte macchiato on other menus, which is essentially the inverse of an espresso macchiato - it comes in a much larger portion with a base of steamed milk topped with espresso.
Moving along the milk to espresso ratio spectrum, another drink you often see on cafe menus is the cortado, which is essentially a shot of espresso with a bit more steamed milk than a macchiato, resulting in a hotter final beverage. Because of the amount of milk added, cortados are also served in a larger glass, and where macchiato’s originated from Italy, cortados are a staple of Spanish culture.
Probably one of the most recognized coffee drink is the cappuccino. Still relatively short in nature, the cappuccino is typically made with double the amount of steamed milk and a thick layer of foamed milk. Very similar in preparation style is the latte, which contains the highest milk to espresso ratio - upwards of 5:1! The amount and type of steamed milk used in lattes allows baristas to truly create the best designs when pouring the milk, hence the term, “Latte Art.”
Though it may seem that every coffee drink is some combination of milk and espresso, there are a couple other alternatives we feature at CWJ that are crowd favorites and typically found in any coffee shop. The Americano is probably the best option for health conscious consumers, as this drink is made with a shot of espresso and several parts hot water. It’s also a great option for those who love the taste of espresso, but also want a beverage that can last a bit longer.
The last drink to highlight, and probably the most indulgent is the mocha. Not surprisingly, this drink starts off with espresso and milk, but depending on where you go, will also serve up a heaping amount of melted down chocolate and/or chocolate syrup. Not to mention, a mocha is usually topped off with whipped cream.
In deciding what drink to order, consider how indulgent you want your coffee drink to be. Is it a cheat day treat or a beverage you’re hoping to add minimal value to your day’s calorie count? Also consider what temperature you want your drink to be. We broke down some of the typical hot coffee drinks, but many of these can also be made iced. Lastly, remember to consider the purpose of your order (ex. coffee over leisure conversation or grab and go) when deciding how much time you want to spend drinking your beverage. Though this list is not all encompassing of the coffee beverages out there, it is a great start for coffee novices to understand in their quest to discover their go-to joe for any occasion.