Ever had trouble knowing exactly what coffee drink you want? There seems to be a multitude of options and maybe you don’t know what each one is. Here’s the different types of coffee drinks, and how they’re made, brought to you by a real barista (that’s me!).

We’ll start simple: let’s talk plain coffee!

What’s the difference between a dark roast and a light roast? Contrary to what people might think, a light roast actually has MORE caffeine than a dark roast. This phenomenon has less to do with the roasting process and more to do with the fact that lighter roasted beans are smaller than their darker counter parts and therefore there are more beans per cup of coffee, therefore more caffeine! Although in professional coffee shops the baristas weigh the beans, so you’re getting more or less the same amount of caffeine in the light and dark blends. Darker roasts are bolder in flavor, so if you ask for the ‘strongest’ blend, you’ll be getting the darkest roast available.

Espresso is our next topic of choice!

Espresso is made by pushing very hot water through finely ground beans, and it comes out as a sort of coffee concentrate. A double shot of Espresso generally has 80 milligrams of caffeine, where a 12 oz cup of drip coffee usually has around 120 milligrams of caffeine. Espresso is the basis for many of the other drinks that we’ll be covering. Keep in mind that Espresso is a lot more bitter than a regular cup of coffee.

The Red-Eye – This drink is a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso on top! In the coffee shop I work in it’s one shot for a tall (small) or grande (medium) cup of coffee (12 oz. an 16 oz.) and two shots of espresso in a Mondo (large) Red-eye (20 oz.). The amount of espresso will vary from shop to shop, but generally it is one shot of espresso in a coffee.

Latte – A latte is an espresso based drink with milk in it! To make a latte, the barista pulls (usually a double shot) of espresso and steams the milk at the same time. A traditional latte will have whole milk, but usually shops will also have skim and a variety of other non-dairy options. If you’ve ever heard someone ordering a ‘skinny’ latte, they’re asking for skim milk! Once the espresso has finished pouring from the espresso machine and the milk is steamed, the barista will pour the milk slowly into the cup, so they don’t break the ‘crema’ which is a thin golden layer that should be on top of the espresso. When the cup is almost full, some baristas will stop pouring and then go in for a pour that makes the famous latte art that’s seen so much on instagram! Making latte art is not an easy task and takes lots of practice, but it’s really cool and fun! (Here’s a link to a video on how to make latte art for beginners!).

Cappuccino- A cappuccino is similar to a latte but it has less steamed milk and more foam in the drink! In my barista experience the pour is also slightly different. Instead of a smooth milk pour, the pitcher of milk and foam are poured with a couple of quick wrist movements, kind of splashing the milk and foam onto the espresso. This is to ensure that there are equal parts milk and foam in the cappuccino.

Mocha (Or Mocha latte) – A mocha is the same as a latte, but with chocolate in the steamed milk! (Yum!)

Macchiato – Remember that time you or someone you know ordered a caramel macchiato at starbucks? Surprise! That’s not actually a traditional macchiato, the starbucks version is actually a latte! A traditional macchiato is an espresso with just a dollop of steamed milk. Most of the time the espresso will be poured first and then some steamed milk dolloped on top with a spoon.

Cafe Au Lait – A Cafe au lait is a drink with half coffee and half steamed milk of choice. ‘Cafe’ is coffee in french and “au lait” means ‘with milk’!

‘Poor man’s’ Mocha (or Chocolate cafe au lait) – This drink is just half hot chocolate and half coffee!

We’ve covered all of the basics of coffee drinks! Many times coffee shops will have flavor syrups you can add into drinks and there are usually lots of milk choices. Now go out and get caffeinated!

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