Coffee Drinks Declassified

Coffee is a beverage that is universally rejoiced. There are so many different ways to roast, brew and enjoy it, making it a truly versatile drink. One thing that stays the same though, are the typical coffee shop staples such as lattes, cappuccinos and café au lait’s. They sound familiar, but not everyone knows what these titles entail. Here’s the scoop on just a few drinks that one could order in any coffeehouse.

written by Danielle Pauly

Espresso – everyone agrees that espresso is prepared the same way: finely ground, tightly packed coffee beans shot through with highly pressurized scalding water. But the type of bean, the machine that is used to create the espresso, etc. varies from artist to artist, creating different flavors and accents. Good espresso is generally thick in consistency and has a bit of crema (the light tan foam atop the espresso shot).

Latte – the makings of a good latte begins with eight ounces of steamed milk, utterly creamy in texture. Foam should be almost nonexistent, unlike in other drinks. Two to four shots of espresso, decaf or caffeinated, maybe a little flavoring and a bit of latte art done by the barista, and presto — the latte is ready to enjoy.

Café au lait – for all the grandeur of its name, a café au lait is simply half coffee, half steamed milk (hold the froth) and no espresso. That’s it. A café au lait is often mistaken for being a latte with more milk. This, however, isn’t possible because a latte is all milk with a just bit of espresso thrown in at the end.

Cappuccino – a cappuccino is a pretty balanced drink made with espresso shots, an equal amount of frothed milk and topped with dollops of foam. They can be ordered “wet” or “dry”— a wet cappuccino has more creamy milk than foam, and a dry cappuccino has more foam than milk. If one orders a standard cappuccino with no specifications, the barista will typically make a cappuccino somewhere in between.

Espresso Macchiato – despite sugary creations such as Starbucks caramel and hazelnut variety, this drink is not typically sweet. A true espresso macchiato is simply a shot of espresso topped with a small amount of foamed milk to “mark” the espresso.

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