Cortado, macchiato, single origin, specialty coffee, third wave coffee? These terms are thrown around like a football tossed by Tim Tebow, and the average person has no chance catching them. I won’t be tackling all of this terminology in one post (I promise, this is the last football reference), but I will cover a few of them, and more as we move along.
Entering a new coffee shop that Yelp, or your caffeine addicted friend refers you to can be a sensory overloading experience with all that is going on in a coffee shop, and the intentions of wanting to fit in weighing on your shoulders. How often are we put on the hot seat, wanting to try something new, but not sure what these beverages are, but not wanting to sound ignorant, resulting in us saying “I’ll just have a coffee”? Let’s put some things to rest. Baristas are friendly. Yes, yes they are. They are there to serve, help, and educate you. If a barista doesn’t look like they want to answer your questions, or if you ask a question and they can’t answer it, then walk out of the shop.
I want to talk about my favorite espresso based drinks, and typically when I will order them. I don’t want to get into too much detail regarding espresso, because that would be a thesis in itself. I will talk in generalities for a moment. A cortado is typically a 4-5 oz beverage with 2 oz of espresso, and 2-3 oz of steamed and texturized milk. Texturized milk has the formation of microbubbles that provides a luscious mouthfeel, and a wonderful sheen that can be seen in the milk pitcher. Just looking at the ratio of a cortado, when done right, it is beautifully rich, subtly sweet, and well balanced. It’s not easy to do, but in the hands of a master, it is my favorite coffee beverage. A cortado is a drink that is quickly consumed. Don’t let it sit for 10-30 minutes. Get at it. Finish that cup in 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This is my go-to when I want to be in and out of a shop.
When I’m meeting with a friend, or hanging out in a coffee shop with my wife, I typically will order a cappuccino. I know that I will be occupying a seat for a while, and when I’m with someone else who has ordered a drink with more volume, I don’t want to just sit around with an empty cortado cup, so I will go with a cappuccino. This is becoming common knowledge, but for those that are new to specialty coffee, a cappuccino is typically a 5-8 oz beverage with about 2-3 oz of espresso and 3-5 oz of steamed and texturized milk. A latte is a giant milk bomb, but a good way to be introduced to the complexities of espresso. It is the same amount of coffee as a cortado, and cappuccino, but with 6+ ounces of milk. These ratios follow specialty coffee standards, and what you will generally see in coffee shops today. Now you are a little more equipped to order like a coffee junky, and again, don’t be afraid to talk to your baristas.