“What’s in That?” An Illustrated Guide To Ordering Coffee

So you never have to feel clueless again

These days, ordering some java from a coffee shop doesn’t mean ordering just coffee. You’re usually picking from a variety of coffee-infused beverages — like lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, mochas, and americanos.

But, how do you tell the difference between them? What separates a latte from a mocha? Well, I’ve decided to break it down and get to the bottom of this coffee mystery so that the next time you order at Starbucks, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for.

Espresso (“The Caffeine-Filled Slap”)

Oh, no. It’s been a terrible morning — your alarm clock didn’t go off, you didn’t have any clean laundry, and you know you’re going to be late for work. You need some caffeine quick — but you don’t have time to enjoy an entire cup of joe. Enter: the espresso.

The espresso is the foundation for a lot of different coffee drinks, but its also great by itself. Its typically made by forcing pressurized water through ground-up coffee beans. What you end up with is a small, concentrated shot of coffee — usually containing around 30 ml of caffeine.

If you’re looking to seek the benefits of caffeine without all the hassle of milk and sugar, an espresso is the way to go. You can gulp it down quickly, and get on with your day. (And, if you’re really jonesing for an energy boost, a double espresso has twice the caffeine content.)

Cappuccino (“The Equalist”)

In need of a little morning pick-me-up? Or maybe an afternoon boost to fight off the urge to take a nap? The cappuccino is an excellent choice. With equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foam, you’re getting a little bit of everything in this one. It’s perfect if you need a little stimulation, but aren’t looking to bounce off the walls.

Latte (“The Coffee Cow”)

Lattes are all about milk. When you order a latte, you’re getting a shot of espresso with tons of milk and foam on top. Depending on where you get it from, some places may add sugar to it as well.

Coffee shops like Starbucks have made a fortune by adding flavoring to lattes. In addition to the espresso, milk, and foam, they add flavorings like pumpkin spice, eggnog, or gingerbread. When people order pumpkin spice lattes or gingerbread lattes — they’re really paying for the flavoring. (There may also be different spices included in the drink — like cinnamon — but this varies from place to place.)

Mocha (“The Chocolate Lover”)

Who doesn’t want a little sweetness in their life? Mochas are perfect for anybody looking to combine their two loves: chocolate and coffee.

The set-up is simple: a shot of espresso, milk, melted chocolate and whipped cream. Like the latte, the mocha also has variations that include flavorings — like caramel or white chocolate mochas.

Macchiato (“The Chameleon”)

Macchiatos are low-maintenance — they don’t need all the bells and whistles. With a shot of espresso and milk foam, you’re good to go. Some variations of the macchiato — especially flavored macchiatos — will also contain a large amount of steamed milk too.

Although fairly simple, you can dress the macchiato up any way you want — with caramel, chocolate or vanilla.

Americano (“The Water Boy”)

Love espresso but can’t handle the bitter taste? The Americano is right up your alley. Its typically made by combining two shots of espresso with a lot of filtered, hot water. The result is a strong cup of coffee that lacks the bitterness of straight espresso.

Red Eye and Black Eye (“The All-Nighters”)

You’ve just spent the entire night awake, finishing that paper. Now, you’ve got to head into class or work without toppling over from exhaustion. Introducing: the Red Eye.

This drink is all about the caffeine content: it’s made by adding a shot of espresso to regular coffee for a maximum energy boost.

If you still don’t think the Red Eye will keep you awake, you can always upgrade to the Black Eye — regular coffee with two shots of espresso added in. (If your heart starts palpitating halfway through, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Congrats! You’re now a certified coffee-orderer. Feel free to head to the nearest coffee shop, and order as many lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos as you want. (Just don’t drink them all at once.)

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats. pricelindy@gmail.com

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