In a city that’s always moving, caffeine is the lifeblood of many Austinites. Coffee culture is huge in our city. College students in particular can be seen studying or hanging out in one of the many coffee shops scattered throughout the city.

Still, coffee shop menus can be difficult to navigate and even harder to decipher. Between the liquid desserts masquerading as coffee drinks and unpronounceable Italian names, here are a few of the most common and classic drinks you’ll find at any café.


Espresso is the base of most drinks: everything from your caramel frap to your vanilla latte usually contains a shot of espresso, which is produced by forcing hot water under high pressure through compact coffee grinds. A shot of this stuff is a mere two fluid ounces and contains almost as much caffeine as a regular cup of Joe. Be forewarned though- an espresso also has twice as much flavor.


In this coffee, the espresso is diluted with hot water to the consistency of regular coffee but with a very different flavor. Is this a good or bad thing? You be the judge.


Lattes contain a lot of steamed milk and a little espresso in proportion. They can be flavored using a variety of syrups (vanilla, hazelnut and raspberry to name a few) and are generally less harsh for the coffee drinker who wants more sweet and less bitter.

Vanilla Latte at Vintage Heart

Photo by Gabby Phi


The caramel macchiato that I find myself regularly ordering at Starbucks is a misnomer for this drink. A real macchiato is a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk so that the resulting drink is no bigger than the size of your fist.


A cappuccino is like the younger sister to the latte and the big brother to the macchiato. It contains espresso with milk that is steamed and frothed more than a macchiato, but less than a latte.


This drink is a type of latte that blends chocolate syrup, steamed milk and espresso. What finishes the chocolaty goodness off? A dollop (or two) of whipped cream.


Photo by Gabby Phi

Now just practice saying, caramel macchiato, please?, and you’ll be a coffee connoisseur in no time.