Do you ever find yourself at a McDonald’s, Starbucks, Caribou, or other coffeemonger and find yourself asking “what’s the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?” Well, to be honest very, very little. It seems as though the general rule of thumb is the more exotic it sounds, the more they’ll charge you for it. I spent three years as a barista at a pretentious little cafe where a grilled cheese ran for about 4 bucks. Yeah, one of those places. So of the very few culinary topics I’m qualified to talk about, this would be one of them. Now, enjoy a short field guide to your favorite overpriced caffeinated beverages.
American Coffee (AKA Americano): This is your standard coffee that comes out of a coffee pot. This is essentially coffee beans, steeped and filtered. The flavor is lighter than European methods of preparation and a lot of potential for flavor is lost. This should be incredibly cheap to make which is why places like Starbucks and Caribou are still in business.
French Press: A French press uses the same ground coffee as a drip pot, however a French press won’t filter out the oils that give coffee it’s richness and flavor. A french press is often a good investment for someone who drinks coffee on a daily basis. It’s hard to find in a cafe. If you’re planning on going the whole nine yards I would also recommend investing in a high-quality coffee grinder as well as whole beans. Coffee beans should be used within a few days of purchasing them and stored in a low-light, air-tight environment until they are ready to be used.
Latte: Lattes are made using espresso rather than your standard coffee bean. They typically consist of one to two shots of espresso followed by steamed milk and an optional shot of flavor. Whole milk will produce the most foam while skim milk is a good deal healthier. Espresso is far more bitter than regular coffee beans so a flavor shot is recommended.
Chai Latte: It is virtually impossible to order a chai latte with your masculinity intact. However, I find that chai lattes are delicious and relatively healthy. This is essentially chai tea and steamed milk. If you are health conscious, check with the barista to make sure the latte is made with real chai tea and not a chai tea syrup/powder which may be sugared up a bit. This is a rich drink but not in the same way or to the same degree as coffee. Chai has a almost cinnamon-ish, creamy taste to it which is pretty awesome.
Mocha: Now we’re getting into the realm of candy land. Mocha is similar to a latte but includes some form of chocolate. A cup of mocha is typically thicker and frothier than a latte and in many chain coffee shops, can be configured to include more calories than a quarter-pounder with cheese.
Cappuccino: This is the drink they show in those photos where people draw things on top of the coffee. Cappuccinos are ALL about foam. The milk is super steamed and full of air so quite a bit of your drink is just a fluffy pile of foam. This is the coffee equivalent to when the pop machine gives you like three-quarters foam and one-quarter drink. This drink is coy. Unless you really enjoy playing with foam, you’re really not getting anything (or paying for anything) spectacular.
Macchiato: A macchiato will get you chazzed up like Tony Montana. It’s just espresso and a drop of milk. Traditionally, a thin layer of foam is added to the top of the drink to indicate that there is, in fact, milk in there. But with nothing to dilute the espresso, this drink will have you buzzing for hours on end. It’s very rare to see a straight up macchiato in the wild without a ton of sugary add-ins to cut the bitterness of the espresso.
Italian Soda: While this is not coffee, it is a drink that pops up in cafes everywhere and nobody really has any idea as to what it is. Let me just clarify this for you. Italian soda is F$%KING TERRIBLE!!! It is just carbonated water and flavor syrup. If you pay a cent above $1.50 for this Godawful beverage, rob the store. I condone it.
Well, there you have it. The next time you walk into a coffee shop, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.
I’ll be feeding you seconds in no time~