Hot Bean Water: The Grind pt. II

For the UAS Whalesong
Brace yourselves: it’s time to talk about coffee some more. I know we discussed some of the different methods of making coffee last issue, but something I wanted to discuss but didn’t get to was the different types of coffee you can make or order. I’ve been ordering coffee for years now, and even I am still not certain what the difference is between a latte and a mocha – so, for both your edification and my own, I have chosen to compile a small guide to the average café coffee menu. Now neither of us will have to worry that the barista is secretly judging us.
Drip coffee – This is hot, black, and bitter coffee that the barista keeps in a thermos-y type carafe at the front of the counter somewhere. It’s the cheapest kind of coffee you can get, because that’s all it is – coffee. You can add sugar and creamer yourself, assuming it’s provided (it usually is). Drip coffee is good to get if you are in a hurry and just need that caffeine kick to get you through your 3 PM class. I also see a lot of people in plaid and men with well-trimmed beards getting drip coffee. I suspect they’re largely art or outdoor sciences majors. It could be argued that these people are also English majors, but I find that the English majors I hang out with would rather be late for their fancier coffee than simply getting drip and going. Frequent orderers of drip coffee are also notorious for having their own mug to put it in – sometimes a travel mug, but more often than not I see them with an actual mug that they just brought from their kitchen, I guess? Ambitious.
Americano – This is what I ordered all the time this past summer when I was in Europe and couldn’t speak any foreign languages well enough to get my usual complicated coffee orders. An Americano is basically slightly fancier drip coffee with a different flavor; it’s a couple shots of espresso (very strong black coffee, which can be made at home with a special tiny extra-concentrated coffee maker) with hot water added. While I’m no barista, I’ve been told that an Americano is the coffee-est coffee you can get. It’s gritty like a 1920s P.I., but with that little bit of café class that comes from ordering an “American with an O on the end” instead of “hot bean water.” No one goes “out for coffee” with a friend and gets drip coffee – but if you can’t stomach any form of caffeine that isn’t as dark as the universal void, order an Americano.
Cappuccino – A cappuccino contains espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam, theoretically in an equal 1:1:1 ratio. This is coffee for people who want the caffeine kick but not the bite of straight coffee. It is also coffee for people who want to put their drink on Instagram, since if you get it in a nice porcelain cup at your café it looks very nice (especially if you can frame it against, like, a rain-drizzled window or something).
Latte – From what I can tell, a latte differs minimally from a cappuccino. If you order a latte, you’re basically getting a cappuccino with way less to no foam; however, depending on the café you’re at, this can be worth it because if you get a barista who’s good with milk pouring and a spoon you get latte art! Which is even more Instagram-worthy than a steamy cappuccino on a rainy day.
Macchiato – Prepare to be underwhelmed – a macchiato and a latte have the exact same ingredients, just switched. In a latte, the espresso is put in first and the milk second; in a macchiato, they put in milk and then the espresso. So basically, a macchiato is a milkier drink with less coffee (frequently not even an entire shot of espresso is used) and a little more foam than a latte. Also, I guess maybe it sounds a little bit cooler to order a macchiato? I will offer that I think iced macchiatos are pretty good, and preferable to warm ones – but we’re headed into winter, so try that out at your own risk.
Mocha – Usually a latte (coffee + milk + foam), but with chocolate added. White chocolate mocha, anyone? Also, for a little extra money and flavor, I find it spices the drink up if you ask the barista to add a couple shots of your favorite kind of coffee syrup  (Just be sure to enunciate – I once threw a barista into a panic because he thought I’d asked for ten shots of strawberry syrup. Which, while it is something I wouldn’t put past myself, I didn’t actually ask for).
Cafe au Lait – I would recommend just making this yourself at home instead of buying it, unless you really like it and want to spend money on one. It’s literally just coffee with warm milk. It’s not even espresso; it’s just strong-brewed coffee with hot milk poured on top of it.
Chai Latte – I tried one of these at the Rookery one day and it changed my life. I ordered chai lattes all the time after that. Then, one day this past summer, I made chai tea, added milk, and was shocked to discover that it tasted exactly like what I’d been shelling out $6 for all that time. I imagine it depends on the coffee establishment, but a chai latte is generally just hot or steamed milk flavored with the tea (or a spiced tea concentrate mix, maybe? I’ve only made it at home but I bet there’s a fancier way to do it). If you want the caffeine boost, be sure to clarify that you want a dirty chai latte – that’s a chai latte with a shot or two of   espresso. And if you’re lucky, like I was the first time I got a latte, your barista will draw a little leaf in the milk! (I’m a sucker for coffee art, in case you couldn’t tell.)
Frappuccino – I think you can only find these at Starbucks. They’re basically coffee shakes – a delicious blend of coffee, milk, and ice, though I would be sure to ask what flavors include coffee if you want to be sure of a caffeine boost.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just about that. There’s plenty of coffee in the world, and I have given you the knowledge you need to try the basics and sort out what works best for you. But of course, if you’re a poor college student trying to save your $5/day for food instead of a fancy beverage, you can always just brew your own black coffee at home over vanilla ice cream. It’s the best of both worlds – sugar and caffeine – plus, you get ice cream. What’s not to love?

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