How to Sound Smart at a Coffee Shop

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Last week, I offered a guide to the oft-puzzling variety of drinks available on your local coffee shop menu. However, the secret language of baristas doesn’t stop there. Here are ten more terms that will help you order exactly what you want at your coffee bar of choice.

  1. Skinny – In the olden days, this term meant “made with nonfat milk.” Recently, Starbucks has promoted this term as meaning both nonfat and sweet-but-sugar-free. This was important for me to learn because I have an extremely low digestive tolerance for sugar substitutes. Do you know what they do? My advice is to be specific–say nonfat or sugar-free or both.
  2. Wet/Dry – If you order your drink wet, that means you want less milk froth and more steamed milk. Dry means you want more milk froth and less steamed milk. Generally, this term is used with cappuccinos, but can also be used with macchiatos.
  3. Affogato – Italian for “drowned,” this term communicates that you want a shot of espresso poured on the dessert you’re ordering.
  4. Barista – Italian for “bar tender,” this is the technical term for the person serving your coffee.
  5. Ristretto – Traditionally, this is the term for espresso made by pushing the same amount of water through ground espresso beans faster than usual. It results in a sweeter shot with less caffeine. It is generally less than one fluid ounce. I didn’t enjoy espresso until I tried a ristretto shot. The more automated the espresso machine is, however, the less likely you’ll get a true ristretto shot. Many coffee shops just run less water through the grounds.
  6. Steamer – Don’t want coffee? Don’t want tea? Don’t want hot chocolate? But want something hot? A steamer might be the answer. Choose any of the flavors your coffee shop offers and they’ll steam some flavored milk for you.
  7. Red Eye or Depth Charge or…. – There are so many names for coffee with a shot of espresso on top. Unless your cafe has a name for this drink on their menu, do your barista a favor and just order “coffee with a shot of espresso in it.”
  8. Cuban – You might have to explain this one if you order it. It’s commonly used as the term for espresso brewed with raw sugar.
  9. Italian Soda – If you don’t want iced coffee or iced tea, many coffee shops offer Italian sodas. You’ll be able to choose from any flavor the coffee shop offers, and they’ll mix it with club soda to create a custom-flavored soda.
  10. Tall – This is used, almost universally, as the name for a small drink at a coffee shop. Don’t worry. The irony isn’t lost on your barista. You don’t have to explain to him or her why it’s silly.

Has coffee-lingo ever thrown you for a loop?

Visit Oh Amanda for more Top Ten Tuesday.


3 thoughts on “How to Sound Smart at a Coffee Shop

  1. Oh man! I needed this post! So enlightening! I grew up in Seattle and always thought of myself as a Starbucks junky, but I didn’t know half of these terms (or should I say, the real meaning of half of these terms?) Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Coffee Shop Drinks You Should Know « Mrs. Dexter

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