A Guide to the Café Drink Menu

Aloha All.

I was asked recently about the difference between certain items on the café menu and although it may be outside of our usual discussion, certainly a deeper understanding of what makes a certain coffee drink unique falls into the general category of the “Art of Making Coffee”.

So as to up your overall understanding of things coffee and to give you a general guide to the cafe menu, I give you a brief description of many of the most popular coffee drinks available at your local café. You can also re-create these at home!

A couple of quick definitions. When we talk about steamed milk and foam, understand that as we put the steam wand into milk and aerate it the heavier portion (the steamed milk) is still a liquid and poured into the beverage and the lighter portion (foam or micro foam) is spooned onto the coffee.

Popular Brewed Coffee Drinks 

These are brewed through a traditional extraction like a drip maker a French press, a pour-over, aero-press or percolator.

Black Coffee
Many people order black coffee and add cream and/or sugar to it.

Café Au Lait
Half brewed coffee and half warm milk.

Iced Coffee
Brewed coffee poured on ice.

Irish Coffee
1 (6oz) cup of brewed coffee, a tablespoon of brown sugar, a 1.5oz shot of Irish Whiskey topped with whipped cream.

Espresso Based Coffee Drinks on the Café menu

Latte
A very popular cafe drink, the Latte is a shot of espresso (1.25oz) and 3-5oz of steamed milk topped with micro foam. Usually served in a glass tumbler.

Cappuccino
A cappuccino is very similar to a latte except it is traditionally served in a cup with more foam and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Ratios are usually 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 micro foam.

Americano
1/3 espresso shot and 2/3 hot water.

Espresso
This is the (1.25oz) pull from the espresso machine. It makes one shot of espresso usually with a bit of crema on top, either drunk black or used as a base for all of the other café drinks.

Doppio
Often called a double shot, this is a double shot of espresso. (2.5oz)

Cortado
½ espresso and ½ steamed milk

Macchiato
2/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk topped with foam.

Mocha
A shot of espresso into which is melted chocolate syrup or real chocolate, topped with steamed milk and a bit of micro foam.

Ristretto
This is half the water of an espresso shot with the same amount of grounds and usually very strong.

Flat White
1/3 espresso shot, 2/3 steamed milk topped with micro foam.

Affogato
A small scoop of vanilla (or other) ice cream drowned in a shot of espresso.

There is certainly a lot to remember here, but I encourage you when you visit a café next to go ahead and try something new. Over time, you can experience all of these drinks and find your favorite!

Happy sipping!

About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), a part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.

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