How To Order Coffee Like A Pro!

We may earn affiliate fees for purchases using our links (at no additional cost to you). Learn More.

How to order coffee? A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in helping you to confidently order coffee like a pro!

It might be useful to know that there’s no terribly wrong way to ask for coffee. What’s the worst that can happen? Coffee by any other name is still coffee, right?

The primary ingredient in most coffee beverages is espresso! Not brewed coffee. Not French Pressed or Poured Over. Espresso. Let’s take a look at the basics that are behind your coffee order.

SEE ALSO: Best Coffee Gifts

Espresso Is The Root Of Most Coffee Beverages

Take notice of the spelling; it’s eSpresso, not eXpresso. Asking for expresso won’t get you thrown out of a coffee house but it will mark you as a newbie with limited coffee lingo. And, we’re going for PRO here! Espresso is the root of all lattes, cappuccinos and more.

So, what’s espresso?  Contrary to what many coffee lovers believe, it’s not the name of a coffee roast or a special coffee bean. Espresso can be made by fine-grinding any coffee bean. It’s typically made by grinding dark roasts for a more full-bodied consistency and flavor.

Hot water is pushed through the fine coffee grounds with a blast of pressure. This produces a potent, concentrated coffee.

The thick layer of golden foam that looks sort of like a caramel froth that’s floating on the top is a naturally occurring and aesthetically delightful bonus called crema. That’s spelled Mmmm.

The crema actually serves a purpose, other than looking awesome. This foamy lid helps to keep the flavor and the aroma in full force in your drink. The crema should last for the entire length of your coffee session. If it dissipates sooner, it either wasn’t made properly or you likely lingered over it just a little too long.

How To Order Espresso

Espresso Ristretto (literally, restricted espresso) is a very concentrated short shot (less than 1 oz.). It’s considered by most coffee aficionados to be the ‘true espresso.’

Double Espresso Ristretto will get you a short double shot (about 1.5 ozs.).

Espresso Lungo is a long shot that delivers just a tad more espresso. It’s not enough to be considered a double shot (doppio), or even a short double shot, but it’s still enough to deliver an extra amount of caffeine.

espresso order

You get the idea. Just be aware that ordering espressos this way will probably result in a confused look from the staff in most American coffee houses. If you’re in the mood to sound like an espresso expert, go for it!

If your main objective is to enjoy a fresh cup of java your way, keep it simple by using ‘short’ or ‘long’ when you want a little less or more of the ordered size.

Simply asking for an espresso in most restaurants or coffee shops will get you nearly double the intended one-ounce shot automatically, by default.

Why? Most commercial espresso machines are designed to only process double shots. The pouring can be split to create two single-shot espressos at the same time.

But, if the pour isn’t split, the double goes into one serving. Of course, not all espresso machines are made alike. However, there’s a better than fair chance that you’ll get at least 1.25 ozs and closer to 1.75 ozs of espresso in most places that serve it.

At some coffee houses, like Starbucks, the pour is much more precise. It’s more likely that you’ll get what you ask for. In these coffee shops, order your espresso by the number of shots (1-4) or by the equivalent tag (Single/Solo – Double/Doppio – Triple – Quad).

Espresso Becomes A Latte & More

Americano – This consists of one or more shots of espresso poured into a cup and followed by filling the cup with hot water. Ordering by the number of shots lets you control the caffeine content and the intensity of the flavor. One shot Americano is as diluted as you can get it.

This version of the espresso was concocted in Italy during WWII for the American soldiers who just couldn’t adapt to espresso. They wanted ‘American’ coffee and this was the closest they could get to it.

Latte – In lieu of adding hot water to the espresso, warm milk is added. The ratio used more often is 3:1 – three parts milk to one part espresso. This provides the base for iced coffees and those made with flavored syrups. A Mocha, for instance, is basically a latte with chocolate syrup added.

Macchiato – When you want less milk and a more intense coffee flavor, this might be your perfect cup of tea…uhm…coffee. It’s an espresso with just a touch (marking) of steamed milk. When prepared in the more traditional way, a little cream. Think of it as a marked espresso to make it easier to remember. Macchiato is Italian for ‘marked.’

There are variations on this coffee beverage, depending on where you place an order. In some coffee houses, the macchiato is formed in the reverse order. A splash of hot, frothy milk is put into a cup and the espresso is added to ‘mark’ the milk! At Starbucks, the macchiato is more like a latte that has been inverted; expect a cup of warm milk with a shot (or shots) of espresso added.

Cappuccino – If latte (espresso with warm milk) and macchiato (espresso with a touch of steamed milk) could mate, this would be the offspring. It starts with espresso in a cup, and it’s then filled with steamed milk. Look for a distinct frothy layer floating on the top.

Milk Foam (or Froth) 101

The milky foam is created by aerating milk with hot steam from a steam wand. It does more than make the coffee more attractive. It adds measurable nutritional value by releasing proteins from the milk.

SEE ALSO: Best Milk Frother​

Milk Foam

This process happens easier and faster when there’s little to no fat content in the milk. Using a steam wand on skim milk or soy milk develops a thick, rich foam on top of the milk.

And, yes, a higher fat content produces a leaner foam. Using heavy cream or whole milk will result in a very thin layer of foam.

So, which is better? Well, ideally, small foamy bubbles in a thin layer made from low-fat milk.

Hmm. Sounds tricky? It’s a little harder to make with skim milk but it’s definitely worth the effort. This ‘microfoam’ consists of bubbles that are too tiny to be seen! But, your palate will know the difference!

The texture of microfoam has been described as silky or velvety. As a plus, this type of foam melds completely with the espresso when it’s properly poured and makes it a more enjoyable coffee experience.

And, for decorating the top of your espresso with those attractive foamy designs, it can’t be beat!

Go ahead and experiment with the types of milk and the ratios to espresso to sample the foam and flavor results. It’s a great way to come up with the recipe for a cappuccino that’s suited to your tastes on a more personal level.

Try A New Temperature​

Steaming the milk releases the simple sugars from the carbs and produces a sweeter taste. If the milk is heated too much, the sweetness factor actually drops off.

If you typically order your cappuccino ‘extra hot,’ try it a little cooler the next time and experience the difference.

What’s the difference between a wet cappuccino and a dry cappuccino?

It’s the foam to milk ratio. Really! A wet cappuccino has more milk than foam; a dry cappuccino has more foam than milk. Like most all coffee beverages, details like this are all about personal preference in taste.

However, don’t be surprised if you don’t always get what you’re expecting. In some coffee shops, ordering a dry cappuccino will result in an espresso with foam but totally sans milk and a wet cappuccino will be served with steamed milk and absolutely zero foam!

What Does Skinny Mean?​

Adding this word when ordering a coffee beverage will get you a coffee made with skim milk. In Starbucks, it will also result in sugar-free syrups being used!

Ordering Coffee Is Not The Same Everywhere

Even learning how to order coffee like a pro leaves the door open for surprises. Coffee lingo is constantly evolving. Don’t let it throw you if your request doesn’t seem to fit into a particular location or coffee shop.

It’s okay. The coffee menu and language can differ greatly even in your own local vicinity. For some coffee shops, it’s all tied in with branding. The same order that you place at Dunkin’ Donuts might seem out of touch at Starbucks.

Similarly, placing an order in Oshkosh might not be on a par with placing an order in Miami – or across the pond! Ordering a cup of latte in some countries will get you nothing more than a cup of steamed milk. Yes, steamed milk…no coffee!

The various locales around the world sometimes have their own indigenous brews.

31 Coffees Around The World Infographic

Cheap Flights published an infographic highlighting 31 coffees from around the world, much to the delight of coffee-seeking globe trotters!

Light Roast Vs Dark Roast: Which Has More Caffeine?

Oh, yes! This question has been debated without end…until now? Of course, the correct answer is dark roast! Wait…uhm…it’s a light roast! There are passionate coffee lovers standing on both sides of this one and refusing to budge!

SEE ALSO: Types Of Coffee Roasts​

How can anyone believe the lighter roasts have more caffeine? It seems to defy all logic, as the stronger, more intense flavor should be indicative of higher caffeine content, right? But, darker roasts are roasted longer and lose much of their boosting power in the process, right? Well, no… and, no.

Fully addressed in a blog by Scribblers Coffee Company, the debate may now be ended, once and for all. According to these coffee roasting experts, there’s very little difference between the actual caffeine content of the roasted beans, whether light or dark.

However, there is a considerable difference when measuring the caffeine by weight and by volume! The size and weight of the coffee beans change during the roasting process. The darker roasts are roasted longer to achieve the dark color; this results in lighter, larger beans.

All this really means is that darker roasted coffees have greater volume and require more scoops (grounds by weight) for brewing to get the rich, bold cup of energizing java that you want. So, fewer scoops of a lighter roast or a few added scoops of a dark roast will level the caffeine field. Debate over?

Robusta Vs Arabica

This comparison is very simple. Never, ever walk into a coffee shop and order Robusta. Please, just don’t do it.

Robusta is a high-yield, very inferior coffee. It’s extremely bland and it’s most often used for manufacturing instant coffees and affordable coffee blends. On its own, it’s nearly tasteless. Whatever taste can be picked up is far from satisfactory.

However, these bitter coffee beans happen to have about double the caffeine content of Arabica coffee beans. So, they’re in demand to be blended with Arabica.

This merge brings us inexpensive ground coffee that has a decent caffeine kick and a rich flavor. Select a dark roast blend for the best results.

Arabica is used for nearly 75% of the world’s coffee. It’s in high demand because it’s far superior to Robusta. It’s the earliest known coffee trea to be cultivated.

One of the best Arabica coffees is the heirloom variety known as Bourbon; the supply is very limited and the demand is very high and very exclusive.

It’s A Coffee Order!

Now that you have some of the basics, the rest is mostly a matter of paying attention to the in-house coffee menu and noting the current promotions, limited-time brews or house specialties.

You can also see the coffee house’s usual terms for the various serving sizes. Although, ordering a small, medium, large or extra-large will still do the job, too!

Keep in mind that baristas are considered coffee experts and they’re usually happy to share what they’ve learned. Plan a visit during off-peak hours if you want in-depth answers. Learn about the brewing methods they have available and how each delivers a unique coffee experience.

Remember – you’re placing a coffee order. It’s not a life or death moment.

Confidence builds with repetitive use of the terms as you get to know them. The most frequent visitor to any coffee house had to learn the same basic coffee terms at the start, just like you! Learning has never been so tasty.

A latte here…a mocha there…and you’ll soon be giving your order like a pro.