How to Order Coffee Without Pissing Off Your Barista

A classic latte with a “tulip” latte art design in the milk foam. Photo by Nechama Anolik

It’s like being privy to an invisible world — do you know what I mean, when you end up on the customer end of an industry you’ve worked in? While all of the other cus- tomers are just going about their customer business, you notice all of the little things that must be so annoying for the staff, or aren’t happening right. It’s invisible to every- one else — but you’re tuned into the specific frequency of that industry. This happens to me every time I go to a coffee shop.

Somehow, my major professional ac- complishment over 22 years is becoming a barista. My parents are thrilled. But anyways, I cringe along with the barista when someone asks if a mocha has any coffee in it. I freeze along with them when a macchiato is or- dered, and hope with the staff that they know the drink they just ordered is 2 ounces. So,

I decided it was time to clue the public in to our little weird coffee world. Here are some tips, tricks and nerdy coffee intel so that you can confidently order your coffee of choice without pissing off your barista. Maybe youcan even go from annoying your barista to impressing them with your coffee knowledge!

To start off, let’s get some etiquette clear. Baristaing is a cute job. I know it,

you know it, everyone knows it. A cheerful stranger making you a life-saving drink? We get it! It’s a job where your customers tend to flirt. And we get it! We really do. But let me be clear, on behalf of cute baristas every-where: if you flirt with us, you have to leave a decent tip. We don’t like to be flirted with on the clock for 30 cents.

Which leads us into more of how to talk to your barista. Don’t use that Starbucks lingo with us. Do NOT ask us how something on our menu compares to a Starbucks drink you have in mind. Starbucks is fast food from a corporate chain, not your hometown cozy coffee shop. This is not to say that you can’t take coffee seriously and also enjoy Star- bucks. But coffee shop and Starbucks are not

synonyms! Jeez! Come on, guys. Respect the industry.

Following this topic of how to talk to your barista, let’s talk about ordering. Noth- ing is better than someone who comes up

to the counter and orders a coffee like they know what they’re doing. Ordering swiftly and precisely makes us like you. “Hi, can I have a small Americano with oat milk please? Thank you!” This is so much better than slowly revealing what size, what milk, etc. to us. Just say it all in one sentence. Try it in

the mirror beforehand if you’re the kind of person who gets stage fright when they order.

Look, we know that a lot of custom- ers won’t even notice that the espresso in their cappuccino is extracted just right, and won’t care that they get the perfect layer of microfoam on top. And that’s disheartening. Why artfully craft the perfect coffee drink for someone who won’t notice that we artfully crafted them a perfect drink? At the end of the day, baristaing in a professional setting is an art that people spend years learning and perfecting. We’d like to have our art respect- ed.

Using key words like “short,” “dry,” or “natural process” give us hints that you’re one of us — of the coffee nerd world. We are so excited that you are here! But short of be- ing a full-blown coffee snob — because, we get it, the lifestyle isn’t for everyone — we really just do appreciate it when a customer

has a basic knowledge of how espresso drinks work, industry standards and what’s in each drink. So, here is a cheat sheet of the espres- so-based drinks you’ll find at your typical coffee shop so that you can impress your favorite barista next time you order!

12-16 oz: The Latte – The biggest, the milkiest of them all. A shot of espresso with steamed milk poured over it, in a 1:12 ratio of espresso to milk.

12-16 oz: The Mocha – Simply a choco- latey latte. A shot of espresso with choco- late sauce stirred into it, and steamed milk poured on top.

8 oz: The Flat White – A personal favorite. It’s like a short latte, but if you want, you can steam the milk to be really flat and un-foamy. It’s sweet and full of the flavor of the espresso, with a 1:8 ratio of espresso to milk.

8 oz: The Cappuccino – The modern cappuccino is an 8 oz drink that’s poured

like a short latte, without extra milk foam. However, the traditional cappuccino keeps the same 1:8 ratios of espresso to milk, but boasts a foamier milk layer. The way to let your barista know that you’d like your cap- puccino done the old-fashioned way is to ask for it “dry”, i.e. with less milk density, versus the modern “wet” cappuccino. Be warned, though, latte art can’t be done on a tradition- al dry cappuccino because of how foamy the milk on top is. Hence the modern cappuccino method.

3-4 oz: The Cortado – With equal parts espresso and steamed milk, a cortado is a great way to taste the flavors of an espresso in a milky drink. It’s a short drink, about 4 ounces, but it’s delicious and packs a punch. Great for when you don’t want 12 ounces of milk in your tummy.

2 oz: The Macchiato – A macchiato is the shortest espresso drink available. It’s just a shot of espresso with a dollop of milk foam scooped onto the top. In Italian, mac- chiato means “stained”, like the espresso is “stained” with a scoop of foam.