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Coffee house menus, decoded

Jan. 10, 2018
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Are you stuck in a rut of ordering the same drink from your favorite coffee shop? Here is a quick decoded version of a coffee drink menu for those of us who aren’t fluent in latte lingo.

First, let’s take a look at our two basic units: espresso and coffee. Both espresso and coffee are made from the same roasted beans. The difference between the drinks comes from their preparation.

Coffee: A machine pours hot water over beans ground to medium coarseness. The mixture is then filtered into a coffeepot or cup and ready to be enjoyed. 8 fluid ounces typically provide about 90 mg of caffeine.

Espresso: Espresso is a one-ounce (single) or two-ounce (double) “shot” of black coffee made with finely ground beans and hot water under high pressure. Espresso is more caffeine-dense than standard drip coffee. Espresso has three sections: the creamy top layer, or crema; the middle layer, or body; and the dark bottom layer, or heart. One espresso shot has about 65 mg of caffeine.

Both coffee and espresso can be drunk alone or made into more complex beverages. Many of these drinks have foamed or steamed milk. Dairy milk is most commonly used (whole, 2%, 1% or skim), but non-dairy options such as soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk can be used as well.

So: what exactly is in your staple Starbucks order? Read on to find out!

Americano: Watered-down espresso. Similar to drinking a standard cup of drip coffee, only with the flavor of espresso. This drink is not prepared with any milk.

Cappuccino: Equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Think bubbly and foamy. A “wet” cappuccino has more steamed milk and a “dry” cappuccino has more milk foam.

Latte: A staple drink. Espresso with steamed milk poured on top, resulting in a creamy, milky flavor. Little to no foam.

Macchiato: Equal parts espresso and milk foam. Essentially a cappuccino without steamed milk.

Café au Lait: Equal parts coffee (not espresso!) and steamed milk.

Flat White: One-third espresso and two-thirds frothed milk. A creamy, velvety espresso flavor.

Breve: Espresso with steamed half and half and milk foam.

Red Eye: Brewed coffee with a shot of espresso. This drink is not prepared with any milk.

Mocha: Any of the above drinks with chocolate syrup or hot chocolate added.