For coffee cravers, trying new drinks poses an adventure of taste and caffeinated bliss. But for non-coffee drinkers, trying to order can be intimidating. One shot or two? Latte or cappuccino? Dark roast? What’s that? Now you no longer have to find your perfect match through trial and error runs to the coffee shop.
Read on to unravel our ultimate guide to coffee.
If you like cold drinks, here’s your first pit-stop to coffee discovery. “For first-time coffee drinkers, I recommend an iced coffee with cream [or milk] and sugar,” coffee fan and Instagram blogger (@coffeebae97) Vivian Nguyen said. “Iced coffee won’t be so ‘bitter’ for new drinkers because it is a lot weaker than cold brew or espresso. For example, an iced caramel (or vanilla) iced coffee would be the perfect first coffee drink!” The overall taste of ice coffee relies solely on the bean and roasting process. Most popular coffee chains, like Starbucks and Dunkin’, typically use Arabica coffee beans in their iced and hot drinks.
The roast of choice determines how you like your drink served. If you prefer a more robust flavor, go for a darker roast. If a lighter taste soothes your taste buds, go for a medium or blonde blend. Just make sure you ask your barista to stir your drink to blend in all those fantastic flavors!
The OG: hot coffee. If you drink coffee now, you can probably recall a distinct memory of sipping your mom or dad’s morning cup of joe while at a diner in your youth. If not, you’re missing out.
“A real coffee drinker drinks black coffee NO milk, NO sugar. I love to taste the natural notes on a good coffee. If I cannot drink it just black then it’s not good coffee,” Ohmies Coffee Bar and Studio’s Lisa Fernandez said. “The method that is fresh is a pour over method a little time consuming but worth the wait. Otherwise drip coffee (regular brewed) is definitely my to go.” Good hot coffee requires nothing more than some cream and sugar. If you’re feeling fancy, add a flavor. French vanilla perhaps? On a cold fall morning, one sip of a piping hot brew is like easing into a warm hug with a bit of a kick towards the end. Just the thing to kick you into gear early in the day.
For newbie coffee drinkers wanting to slowly ease themselves into a caffeinated craze, try sipping on a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Served both iced and hot, the semi-caffeinated beverage offers a small pep in your step to start your day. However, new coffee drinkers should be aware of the several methods of decaffeinating which could convert you to regular blends. Unfortunately, coffee beans do not naturally pop off the bush decaffeinated. They must go through one of several processes. Currently, three methods of removing caffeine from regular coffee beans exist: chemical solvent, liquid carbon dioxide and plain water, according to Consumer Reports. Although no proof of health complications by decaf coffee have been found, if you tend to monitor what you consume and want to avoid unnecessary chemicals, maybe try regular coffee to start your day.
The hidden gem of coffee blends: dark roast. Dark roast gets a bad rep for seeming to be more bitter than regular coffee. However, unknown to most coffee drinkers, dark roast actually holds more robust flavor and less caffeine. Beans that are roasted longer contain less caffeine because the beans become less dense (less mass, equals less actual coffee). So, if you’re into the coffee flavor and want less caffeine, ditch the regular degular beans. Convert to dark roast!
One difference separates regular cold brew from iced coffee: steeped versus brewed. Iced coffee is brewed and diluted to be served over ice. Cold brew is steeped overnight and contains more actual coffee. The ground dark roast coffee (yes, cold brew is just steeped dark roast) is put into a filter and then into a pitcher of water to steep in the fridge overnight. The next morning, the pitcher, now filled with cold brew extract, must be diluted with cold water. Bada-bing-bada-boom, you now have cold brew! And no, you cannot serve it warm.It’s cold brew.
Fun fact: latte means milk in Italian which translates to the actual build of the drink. Served both hot and iced, the latte holds the smallest espresso induced punch. “To a first-time coffee drinker, I would say start with a latte as it has lots of milk and the taste is not as strong,” Chef and Owner of Lokal Coffee & Co. Jorge Arriola said. “I would also always encourage to not use sugar and enjoy some of the flavors that prevail through the milk.” Usually small-sized lattes are served with one shot of espresso and the number of shots increases with the size. Most of the drink contains your choice of dairy (anything but cream). We’re talking 75 percent dairy, so lactose-intolerant folks need to take a step back. Substitutes are possible, like oat milk or almond milk. Just make sure not to ask for cream (you’ll get sick!).
Macchiatos are for the seasoned coffee professional: someone who has become numb to regular coffee and has upgraded from the latte. “Macchiato is Italian for ‘spotted’ or ‘marked’. Therefore, a macchiato is a very simple Italian style of coffee with just espresso and a ‘mark’ of steamed milk and foam,” Home Coffee curator David Ennis said. “I make my macchiatos with equal portions of espresso to milk. For example, a 2oz double espresso would get 2oz total of steamed milk and foam.” Served with espresso over milk, the macchiato’s aesthetically pleasing build means it’s a layered drink. So please do not yell at your barista for not stirring your macchiato. It’s not meant to be stirred.
Foam. Lots and lots of foam. Same amount of espresso as a latte but with enough foam to last a lifetime. The one difference between and cappuccino and a latte depends on the amount of milk. While lattes contain mostly milk, cappuccinos are steamed to hold equal parts milk, espresso and foam (going a bit heavier on the foam though). Creating a fluffy cloud of froth before you get hit with smooth espresso, cappuccinos are *chef’s kiss* perfect.
For the fearless or those seeking out an all-nighter, americanos do the job. Commonly served black, the americano contains two shots of espresso and water. Nothing else. Just espresso and water. Served hot or iced with the possibility of adding some cream and sugar (depending on the coffee shop). If you plan to order such a drink, one often mistaken for jet fuel, mentally prepare yourself for the withdrawal to come afterwards. Godspeed (literally).
Shots of Espresso
Quick and easy solution to calm that need for speed. A shot off espresso holds no secret ingredient. Simply, espresso. A single shot does the trick for most seasoned caffeine drinkers. Two or more shots means it’s going to be a long day. “If I was going to need to be up all night studying I would probably go with a dirty chai,” San Diego Instagram blogger (@coffeeclubgirls) Chelsea Dewaal said. “This is a powerhouse drink for taking in knowledge for longer periods of time. . . and the dirty part would be a shot of espresso which is sure to give you that extra kick that will help you get through the night and strengthens long term memory.” On the positive side of shots, each one comes in a cute cup. Fun sized coffee!
Flat whites differ everywhere you go. The overall understanding of the mutant drink relies on the amount of milk and espresso used. Unlike the latte and cappuccino, the flat white has practically no foam, hence its name. At a typical coffee bar, the flat white is served in a smaller cup than a latte and contains two shots of espresso, but a thicker texture of milk than that found in a latte. Confusing but nonetheless delicious!
Café Au Lait
Not a huge fan of espresso but love the frothy taste of steamed milk? Check out the café au lait. Served hot with the same froth of a latte but now featuring the rich flavor of dark roast coffee. Yes, dark roast coffee. Not espresso? That’s right! Combining the best of both worlds without the jittery buzz of regular coffee or espresso.
Make way for the first drink most coffee drinkers fell in love with. We’re talking Frappes, Frappuccino’s and Frozen Coffees. These drinks toe the line between ice cream and actual coffee. Creamy and delicious on a hot summer day and even more refreshing in the middle of winter. These whipped cream-topped creations often tie in with the basic girl stereotype, but they never fail to brighten your mood. The best part for those who don’t particularly like the taste of coffee, you can barely taste the coffee in blended drinks. Order up!