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A Coffee Drink Breakdown From A Local Barista

If you’re familiar with the feeling of confusion when stepping into a new coffee shop, you’ve come to the right place. I have worked as a barista in local coffee shops for two and a half years. Prior to beginning my work, I hadn’t known about coffee at all; in fact, my go-to order was a frappuccino. There is nothing wrong with that drink, but I quickly learned that there was so much more to coffee. If you are curious about what drink to order next or what the process is like, read on! 



Almost every drink is based off of a simple recipe. For example, a hot, skim milk, salted caramel, half-caf latte is, in theory, based off only a latte. 


Espresso: hot water forced through finely ground coffee beans (this is much stronger than coffee). 

Light Roast: more caffeine than a darker roast. Light roast coffee has more acidity, which typically gives it an herbal taste.

Dark Roast: less caffeine. Dark roasts are roasted for longer, giving the coffee a chocolatey flavor.

Cold Brew: coffee beans that have been soaked in room temperature water for a long period of time.

Steamed milk: milk that has been steamed at a high temperature. 

Mocha: chocolate syrup, espresso and milk.  



These are some of the typical drinks of of which every other drink can be based. 


Hot Latte: espresso and steamed milk. Typically, a small latte will have a single shot of espresso (one ounce). A large can have up to three shots. Once the shots of espresso are poured into the cup, it is topped off with steamed milk. 

Iced Latte: espresso and cold milk. Following the same measurements of espresso, the drink is then topped off with cold milk and ice. 

Cappuccino: espresso, steamed milk and foam. Here, the same rules of a latte are applied. The difference is that the milk is steamed in a way that creates foam to top the drink off. 

Iced coffee: a light or dark roast coffee cooled with ice. 

Traditional Macchiato: a single shot of espresso with a splash of milk added

*Starbucks* Macchiato: an upside down latte. These macchiato’s are created by pouring the milk in first, followed by espresso on top. 



A short breakdown of some common specialty drinks. 


Iced Caramel Macchiato: caramel flavoring, espresso and milk. The caramel syrup and milk are added to the cup first, followed by ice and an espresso shot on top. 

Iced Vanilla Latte: vanilla flavoring, espresso and milk. The espresso shot is added to the cup followed by the vanilla. The drink is then topped off with milk and ice. 

Hot Pumpkin Spice Latte: pumpkin spice flavoring, espresso and steamed milk. The espresso shot and flavoring are added to the cup. The drink is then topped with steamed milk. 

Hot White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha: white chocolate sauce, peppermint syrup, espresso and steamed milk. The white chocolate sauce, peppermint syrup and espresso are added to the cup, followed by steamed milk. 


Did you notice that most drinks are just the basics, with added flavors? It’s as simple as that! You can always add alternative milks or combine flavors if your coffee shop offers those options. Most coffee shops have different ways of combining the ingredients, but what’s in the drink rarely changes. Need help ordering? Start with the basic drink you want and then let the barista know if you want any additional flavorings or milks. 


Happy ordering! 

Anna Birk

Ohio U '23

Anna Birk is a third year journalism news and information student at the E.W Scripps School of Journalism. Anna is a Promise Scholar, writer for HerCampus OU and Copy Editor for VARIANT Magazine. In her personal life, she is an avid lover of coffee, sustainable fashion and music. She loves learning new styling tips to help the environment and economy. Check out her Pinterest or Instagram (@annaebirk) or personal twitter account - @theannabirk!
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