Published: March 30, 2016

EspressoThe other day, I was waiting in line at a coffee shop. It was almost my turn to order, but then the person in front of me said something that sent chills down my spine, “I’m not sure what the different types of drinks are, what do you suggest?” Now I don’t deem myself as a coffee snob particularly, however, I am a firm believer in the idea that if you’re in line at a coffee shop in Boulder, you should know the difference between an americano and a cappuccino, and know which one you want before it’s your turn to order. If I’ve left you sitting here thinking “Hey, I don’t know the differences!”, worry not. I have taken it on as my civic duty to give the run-down on the basic coffee drinks, their composition, and when to drink them.

Coffee vs. Espresso: To start of easily, we can go over the difference between getting a coffee, and getting an espresso. Coffee (as many are aware), is made by running hot water through ground coffee beans to give the drink that flavor we all know and love. Alternatively, espresso is made by shooting a small amount of hot steam through more finely ground coffee beans. The result is a very concentrated “shot” of coffee instead, which many enjoy for the richer flavor. So, if you ask for an espresso, they will give you this small shot of concentrated coffee—if you’d rather have a larger amount and be awake for hours, ask for a doppio, two shots of espresso in one glass!

Cafe au Lait: This glorified version of the coffee you make at home is perfect for if you don’t want anything ‘fancy’, but still want a tasty drink. The cafe au lait is made just by taking coffee, but topping it off with steamed milk instead of cold milk.

Mocha: This 'adult hot chocolate' is for the sweet tooth in all of us. Made out of 1 part espresso, 1 part hot chocolate, and 1 part steamed milk.

Latte: For if you like milk… This drink is made with with 5 parts steamed milk, 1 part espresso, and is topped off with a coating of milk foam. I generally suggest this drink to people who want to try coffee, but don’t like the bitter taste.

Americano: For when I want an espresso, but want to spend more than 25 seconds drinking it. The americano is made of 1 part espresso, and is topped off with 2 parts water, making for a longer drink with the same flavor.

Macchiato: I honestly can’t see much practicality behind this drink. It’s essentially a shot or two of espresso, with a dollop of foamed milk placed on top.

Cappuccino: My personal favorite. I always view the cappuccino as the social coffee drink, the one that you can sit at the coffee shop for an hour with whilst socializing. Made of 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk, and 1 part milk foam, the cappuccino is the drink that’s most popular with milk foam art, making it fun to have, and tasty to drink.

I hope that this introduction to coffee has been didactic, and I hope that next time you’re at a coffee shop, you won’t be stumbling over which drink to get, but instead remember the wise words I have instilled upon you, leading you to a much easier decision to make.




Benjamin Rains