Who knew that one of the most popular drinks in the world could be so complicated to order? When it comes to light roast or dark roast, caramel this and vanilla that, and what with each coffee shop having a different definition of what a macchiato is, you never really know what you’re getting yourself into.

These are the basics to all the coffee questions that keep you up at night.

Black coffee

Photo by Alex Weiner

If you like to keep it simple, this is for you. It’s pretty standard at most coffee shops, but black coffee varies in the type of coffee bean used and how it’s brewed. The darker the roast, the less caffeine. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine. Sounds contradicting, but it’s true. Some of the fancier places might use a pour over or french press method to brew your cup, but it’ll taste the same, unless you’re a coffee aficionado.



Photo courtesy of storiesforsupper.wordpress.com

This packs the biggest punch of caffeine for a small, 1 oz. shot. This is what’s used in most milk-based drinks. If you want an even more pungent shot of espresso, go for what’s called a ristretto.


Photo by Gabby Phi

A shot of espresso in steamed milk, with just a little milk foam on top. Typically, the larger the size you order, the more shots. Most places have flavored syrups for their lattes, such as chocolate for a mocha. Try it iced this spring (if spring EVER comes…).



Photo courtesy of photo-dictionary.com

A shot of espresso, a small amount of steamed milk and a lot of foam. It’s one of my personal favorites. You get the strong espresso flavor, without all the added heaviness of a latte. Perfection.

Cafe au lait 


Photo courtesy of vanhoutte.com

If espresso’s not your thing, but you want a milky drink, this is for you. Coffee with steamed milk. (Cafe con leche, for you Spaniards out there…)

Caffe Americano

Photo courtesy of coffee-heads.com

Espresso and hot water. You get the espresso flavor, but in coffee size sans milk.



Photo courtesy of clubantietam.com

A traditional macchiato is a shot of espresso with a dollop of foam on top, but if you order a macchiato at Starbucks, you’ll basically be getting the opposite. Expect a caramel, sugary latte sort of thing.

Red eye
Well, I haven’t tried this yet, but considering the difference between the amount of caffeine I consume on a daily basis and the amount of caffeine I need to consume on a daily basis in order to not act like a psycho, I probably should. Expect a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso. Pure caffeine bliss.



Photo courtesy of italianchef.com

If you want a dessert drink you could go for a Frappucino…or this much classier option. Vanilla ice cream with espresso poured on top. The heat of the espresso starts to melt the ice cream, and you get this hot-cold, milky-sweet mixture that is to die for. Try it.

Here’s to getting caffeinated and not having the barista stare at you while you try to figure out what the hell to order. Cheers.


Photo from dailyinfographic.com


More good stuff here: