How to make sense of coffee shop menus

Regardless of whether you’re new to the world of espresso drinks or a seasoned caffeine head, deciphering the menu at a coffee shop can be pretty overwhelming. I worked as a barista for three years and even I find myself a little befuddled when gazing at all the various combinations at my local espresso bar.

Well, if you find yourself struggling to figure out the difference between a latte and an au lait, this guide is for you! Here’s a simple breakdown of all the major beverages you’re likely to find at a coffee shop.



This is exactly what it sounds like, a single shot of espresso. Espresso is a highly concentrated coffee that is the result of forcing steam through finely ground darkly roasted beans.




A double shot of espresso.

Lungo (Long) Shot



This is a shot of espresso that is brewed for longer and with more water. Lungs shots are less strong but more bitter than regular espresso.

Ristretto (Short) Shot



A shot of espresso that is brewed for the same amount of time as an espresso but using less water and a finer grind. A ristretto is sweeter and more concentrated than a regular espresso shot.




A shot of espresso with a small amount of foamed milk on top. Not to be confused with a Caramel Macchiato.

Café Noisette



Similar to a macchiato but with a small amount of milk added.

Café Romano



This drink is fairly rare and it’s unlikely that you will see it on many coffee shop menus. A cafe romano is a shot of espresso with a lemon slice or twist added.

Espresso Con Panna



A shot of espresso topped with a dollop of whipped cream.




The most decadent of the bunch, this is a scoop of ice cream topped with a shot of espresso.

Americano (or Café Americano)



A shot of espresso combined with hot water. The resulting drink is similar to a regular cup of coffee, however, the espresso taste is unmistakable. The name Americano is based on the — probably apocryphal — story of American GI’s during World War II mixing espresso with hot water in order to make a drink similar to the filter coffee to which they were accustomed.

Café Au Lait



The nature of this beverage changes depending on whether you order it in the United States or Europe. In the United States, a Café Au Lait is equal parts filter coffee and steamed milk. In Europe, it’s common for the filter coffee to be substituted with espresso.

Red Eye



A filter coffee with a shot of espresso added. Some coffee shops may not be aware of this term but will probably be okay with preparing one.

Black Eye



Similar to a Red Eye, this drink combines a cup of coffee with a double (doppio) shot of espresso. The truly brave could order a Dead Eye which contains three shots of espresso.




A single or double espresso shot topped with an equal mix of steamed milk and foam. The foamy milk is often free-poured into the cup. Variations include a Dry Cappuccino with contains a higher ratio of foam and a wet cappuccino which contains a higher ratio of milk.

Café Latte



Similar in concept to a cappuccino, a latte involves a single or double shot of espresso topped with steamed milk and a small dollop of foam on the top. It’s entirely possible that you will encounter various flavored variants of the regular latte such as a vanilla latte. These are for the most part regular lattes with the addition of flavored syrups.

Café Mocha



This is essentially a latte with the addition of chocolate, usually in the form of a syrup. Mocha’s are often topped with whipped cream.

Café Breve



Depending on the establishment, this is either a latte or a cappuccino made with half and half instead of milk.

Flat White



This drink originated in Australia but has started to gain popularity in the United States. A flat white is very similar to a latte but with very subtle differences. A flat white consists of a single shot of espresso topped with a steamed mixture of milk and foam. This results in a drink with a stronger flavor than a latte and with a creamier texture.


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