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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.

Espresso

 

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.

Doppio

 

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A double shot of espresso.

Lungo (Long) Shot

 

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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

 

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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.

Macchiato

 

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

Café Noisette

 

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

Café Romano

 

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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

 

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

Affogato

 

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

Americano (or Café Americano)

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

Cappuccino

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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

Flat White

 

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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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