How to order coffee without sounding like a tool

Categories: Coffee

Portola.jpg
Zaida Dedolph
Cortado? Macchiato? Learning the language can be a huge barrier to new coffee drinkers.

I worked in the specialty coffee world for almost a decade before retiring to the blogosphere. If there's one thing I learned during that time, it's that there is a massive language barrier between cafes and coffee drinkers. As with any other industry, coffee comes with its own vocabulary of terms -- many of which have been modified or mangled as the industry itself has changed. Here's a brief introduction for the bewildered.

See also:
10 reasons why your barista hates you

The Basics:
Brewed Coffee is the black or brown liquid that many people have in mind when they think of coffee. If you want the basic deal, this is what you should ask for.

Brewed coffee can be prepared a billion ways, and many shops offer an array of different brewing methods. Pour-over brewing is just what it sounds like: Hot water is steadily poured over a "bed" of coffee grounds, some beautiful chemical mumbojumbo happens, and you wind up with a cup of coffee. Pour-over brewers generally utilize some type of filter (usually paper). The filter traps a lot of little coffee particles, which means the resultant cup is generally clean and articulate.

If you want a heftier, fuller-bodied cup of coffee, ask if your favorite shop offers any immersion brew methods. The most mainstream of the immersion brewers is the French press, but an immersion brew is any method of brewing coffee wherein coffee grounds are steeped in water for a period of time (generally four to five minutes). The grounds are then filtered out, generally by a mesh screen of some kind. This screen traps the bigger particles but lets more of the little ones through than, say, a paper filter would. Immersion-brewed cups have big, fat bodies and usually have a somewhat viscous, oily mouthfeel.

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Zaida Dedolph
Espresso is small but mighty, and is a building block for a number of other coffee drinks.

Espresso is a method of brewing coffee by the application of pressure. Espresso is a tiny little drink (less than two ounces) with a huge set of jargon-y terms to be conquered. It can be excellent on its own, but espresso also serves as the base of a number of other espresso drinks.

A lot of people panic when they look at a cafe menu and gravitate toward an Americano without really knowing what it is. This drink is the whiskey soda of the coffee world: Espresso plus water equals an Americano. If you're new to coffee and want to ease into exploring espresso, Americanos are a great place to start. You'll taste all the flavors of the coffee, but spread out a little bit so they're easier to interpret.

I like to break down coffee flavor traits into three basic categories for new drinkers. By this, I don't mean flavor additives, but rather inherent qualities that a coffee naturally possesses. These are in no way comprehensive, but they can help ease communication between barista and customer.

As a general rule, try to stay away from using terms like "bold" or "robust." These terms are vague, and don't give a barista much information about your preferences. Instead, talk about body: Do you want something full-bodied or a little less so?

If you like a tangy, fun coffee, ask your barista for something bright, fruity, or juicy. "Bright" is how coffee folk describe cups that are pleasantly acidic, but not overwhelmingly so.

If you want a coffee with candy-bar like qualities (think milk chocolate, peanut butter, caramel), ask for a sweet, balanced, full-bodied cup.

If you want a hefty coffee with a big, fat body, you have a few options. Ask for something dark chocolatey, earthy, or natural-processed. We'll talk about processing a different day, but naturally processed coffees have a tendency toward rich, concentrated, red wine-type flavors.


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30 comments
tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Typical wussy article. You want the very best cup of coffee? McDonald's. And it's far less than a dollar. One refill. Have it at McDs Uptown and immerse yourself in a seedy adventure/thriller of a coffee sipping/good eating experience. Cast of characters right our of a modern day film noir! There's bag man, Johnny the panhandler, Loren the gambler, the Mexicans, the old timer Breakfast Buddies--Marilyn, Jim, Nadine, Jenny, Marcus, Kathy and Snowball.

neutralica
neutralica

oh lord, this is going to bring out the hate in people

Ken Merwin
Ken Merwin

People still think that over-priced coffee served by want to be artists and college students is cool? Bwahahaha!

Angel Andrews
Angel Andrews

The person that wrote this article is the one that sounds like the tool!!! Give me a depth charge with an extra shot or Turkish coffee. If you need to bastardize your coffee with fru-fru flavor crap, you're not a real coffee lover...

Danny McCusker
Danny McCusker

Usually you sound more like a tool if you order a bunch of other stuff instead of saying, "black."

Amy Murphy
Amy Murphy

Coffee, black, with sugar. There, done.

Joel O'Brien
Joel O'Brien

I was young. I didn't realize that the stories were actually true.

Ballzakk Määs
Ballzakk Määs

Bro you were working in Edina. Why are you surprised by any of that?

Ballzakk Määs
Ballzakk Määs

How about you just give me whatever the fuck I order, even if it's incorrectly, take my money, take my dollar tip, and shut the fuck up and be happy to serve the next customer. I wanna just drink whatever looks best on the menu at the time I don't need to pretend I'm some know it all brew brat.

Valorie Woodhull
Valorie Woodhull

How hard is it to say I'll have a coffee? LOL who got paid to write this drivel?????

Joel O'Brien
Joel O'Brien

I worked at the Caribou in Edina years ago and those dumb Edina twats actually wanted their fucking splenda stirred in for them. And they would flip a damn shit if we were out of herbal tea: "WHAT?! I guess I will take green. It has some caffeine, BUT I GUESS IT WILL HAVE TO DO!"

Erick Thomas
Erick Thomas

Or you know just order a fucking cup of coffee and skip all the stupid frills and fancy shit.

swag
swag

With 10,000 identical articles to this already on the Internet, did we really need #10,001?

Chris Porto
Chris Porto

City pages. Always bringing the hard hitting stories. Keep up that solid journalism.

SmokeyThrobinson Robinson
SmokeyThrobinson Robinson

Shouldn't the important thing be to just NOT be tool? Step one: Don't be tool when living your life. Done.

Randall Baxter
Randall Baxter

throwing away good money..I make a delicious cup of coffee at home for maybe 10 cents a cup..

henk.tobias0
henk.tobias0 topcommenter

Cold Press! You forgot Cold Press.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Coffeehouses are for pussies, wussies and yuppy spandex bikers with computers and no jobs. 


$7 for a cup of coffee is for fools.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Only drooling fools eat at some place where sheeple pay tips.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Tea has TWICE the caffeine of coffee. And it is compost.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

At Uptown McDs for far less than a dollar, if you are an oldster.

jpinmn
jpinmn

you're surprised by a mag where ⅓ of it's pages are escort ads?

henk.tobias0
henk.tobias0 topcommenter

Do tools know they are tools? Can a tool live their life without being a tool if they don't know they are tools? Are tools born tools or do they learn to be tools? If they are born tools can we blame them for being tools? If it is learned can articles that tell them not to sound like tools assist them in becoming non-tools?

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