What Did I Just Order? Part 1

latte art

We’ve all either seen it or experienced it; you walk into a coffee shop, stand at the counter, and are utterly overwhelmed with the menu. The cashier impatiently answers your questions which range from, “what’s the difference between a cappuccino and a latte?” to, “Where are the frappuccinos?” What exactly does all that gibberish mean, and does it really matter? Never fear, we at Cup to Cup are going to hold your hand and walk you through a typical coffee shop menu. We’ll explain the composition of most drinks and give you other helpful tidbits of information. By the end of this you’ll be maneuvering around that colorful chalkboard in no time.

So let’s look at the drinks. I’ll start by saying that I’m giving you a general explanation of drinks and what they typically consist of. I should warn you that shops often take liberties with drink definitions which can sometimes be confusing, but most don’t deviate too far from their original meaning.

Espresso An espresso is a small, concentrated coffee beverage. One “shot” of espresso is usually somewhere between 1 and 1.5 ounces. It is ground very finely, compacted, and brewed quickly.

While a well pulled shot of espresso can be quite tasty, many people find it much to strong to be drunk by itself. To offset the punch you in the face strength of espresso, it is often diluted with another liquid. As a side note, remember it’s pronounced espresso. Notice there is no x, please keep it that way.

Americano An Americano is a shot (or shots depending on the size of the drink) of espresso diluted with hot water. While to some this may seem somewhat untantilizing to the taste buds, others find it quite delicious, comparing it to a good strong cup of regular coffee.

Cappuccino Oh cappuccino, you are so delicious! A cappuccino is traditionally a drink of thirds; One third espresso, one third steamed milk, one third foamed milk though that’s hardly considered a hard and fast rule anymore. Still, a good coffee shop will adhere to the idea that a cappuccino is still meant to showcase the flavor of espresso without diluting it too much and serve you a drink with those general proportions (usually a tad more milk and a tad less foam) in a cup usually no larger than 6oz.

Here’s where things can get confusing. I just gave you all this good information about what a cappuccino is made of, but most coffee shops will sell you a cappuccino in sizes of 12 oz, 16 oz, and 20 oz. Now, those of you who are math savvy have figured out that the smallest size there (12 oz) is twice as large as the max size I mentioned earlier (6 oz). Even if  you put two full shots in that 12 oz. (most shops put one) you’re still  way off proportion.

So if it isn’t a cappuccino, then what is it? Really, it’s a latte with extra foam. What’s a latte you ask? We’ll talk about that next time, along with other things like macchiato (another tricky one), breve, espresso con panna, and more!

One last note on cappuccinos. Despite what has been advertised, the drink you get out of the machine at the gas station is NOT a cappuccino. It never will be. When you go to a coffee house and order a cappuccino, it will not taste like what you get out of the machine at the gas station. It never should. That is all. Peace.

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3 Responses to What Did I Just Order? Part 1

  1. Jmpingspyder says:

    I’d like a grande triple skinny mocha latte on a free pour and um, go ahead and light its tail on fire.

  2. Brendon says:

    That picture looks awfully familiar. Is that the &cafe in Antigua, across from Cafe Barista on the NW corner of the Central Park? I lived in Antigua for most of the summer, and worked at Finca la Azotea. Most days I got a double cappuccino from there to start the day. Did you meet Fernando?

  3. cuptocup says:

    That’s exactly where it is. Good eye! I didn’t meet Fernando. I didn’t actually work there, they just let me go behind and make a few drinks.

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