How to order coffee

How to order coffee

It just seems so not-cool to ask the barista what is t on the menu and risk getting the ‘duhh’ look.

Thank to Starbucks, holding a cup printed with green mermaid logo has translated into style, coolness and status no matter where you are.

For most of us who grow up drinking coffee off packets or getting kopi from kopitiam, standing in front of a never ending coffee menu board seems like a daunting scenario.

We are in a huge dilemma where we think ristretto sounds exotic but we don’t want to spend big bucks getting something we don’t like. Sometimes we are shy to ask the barista and risk getting the ‘don’t you know’ look.

So, how to order coffee like a pro?

First, get this right: Coffee≠espresso

Espresso is a type (or subset) of coffee brewed under super high pressure (9 bar) using an espresso machine which yield about 30 ml of extraction with 7–10g of coffee for a single shot.

Basically, all coffees in our standard cafe start with an espresso base.

Espresso – On its own, it is strong, flavourful, sharp and slightly acidic if extracted correctly. Espresso needs to be consumed quickly while its hot to enjoy the full flavour.

Long black/Americano – Espresso with water. This is a diluted version of espresso with more volume, a good choice when you prefer milder black coffee.

The difference between a long black and Americano lies in crema. To make a long black, espresso is extracted straight into hot water while retaining its crema. An Americano is made by adding hot water into espresso.

Ristretto – Espresso with half the extraction hence half the volume. Think half sized espresso. It is sweeter than standard espresso without the bitter end. Coffee connoisseurs claim a ristretto reveals the skilfulness of barista who prepares it.

They say given good beans, good roaster, good machine and good barista, coffee is best enjoyed black to experience the flavour of origin. So if you are ordering coffee to impress, take this into consideration.

Quote to sound pro: Once you go black (coffee), you never go back.

Caffe latte – Direct translation from Italian means coffee (espresso) with milk. This is the safest choice of milk coffee with moderate amount of foam — smooth and easy coffee.

Cappucino – Espresso with milk plus extra thick foam. A traditional Italian cappuccino consist of equal part of espresso, milk and milk foam. This is for those who like foamy and creamy coffee.

Flat white – Espresso with milk and very very little foam. Rumour has it that it originated from the down under (New Zealand or Aussie) just to satisfy demand of people who do not like milk foam in coffee.

Piccolo latte –Basically a mini latte, where there is same amount of espresso but lesser milk. If you like stronger coffee but not as strong as espresso, this is awesome!

Macchiato – Means ‘stained’ in Italian. It is an espresso with a dollop of milk foam that form the white stain, giving a slight sweetness to a strong espresso.

Caramel Macchiato – Pure invention by Starbucks. More detail explaination on the myth of macchiato here.

Caffe Con Panna – Espresso topped with whipped cream. Rich and luscious.

Café Mocha – Espresso with milk and chocolate powder or chocolate sauce. When coffee meets chocolate, you get the best of both world.

Feel free to explore addition of syrup flavouring, chocolate chips or candy in your coffee. Yoy have the freedom to indulge and get creative with your coffee concoction.

Get an iced coffee or ice blended coffee, there is a reason Starbucks Frappuccino becomes our guilty pleasure.

Go for extra espresso shot in your caffeine fix.

Order any coffee that you like but go for decaf coffee beans. You can find more information about Swiss Water Decaf process here.

Recap — Basically, first, decide if you want black or milk coffee, then the volume/strength of coffee (amount of water/milk added to espresso), afterthat comes the sweetness (addition of syrup/sugar/chocolate), whether you need extra shot or decaf; and depending on your mood and weather, decide if you want to get hot or cool down.

How to order coffee

At the end of the day, we consume coffee for the beauty of moment that it brings, for the connections that it builds, and the goodness that it creates. Just appreciate the cuppa and explore!

Don’t know how to order coffee? Just pick one and pay. Easy.

How to order coffee

Learning how to order coffee at Starbucks can be tricky, and if you think that ordering coffee at Starbucks is confusing, you are not alone. Starbucks is often a very busy place, and things move quickly as the baristas (their employees) try to serve customers as efficiently as possible. Orders are generally taken at one of the cash registers, although someone might offer to “get your drink order started” before you even reach the front of the line. You will be asked for your first name, which you should state clearly. Your name will immediately be written on your drink cup and called out later at the “Pick Up” end of the counter when your drink is ready. Don’t be offended if they spell your name incorrectly; they often misspell native speakers’ names as well! People who have unique or hard-to-spell names will sometimes use an easy “Starbucks” name when ordering, like Mike or Amy.

Starbucks’ ordering process is made complicated by the fact that they use terms to describe drink size that are not used by other coffee vendors. Their terms for size are, from smallest to largest: Tall, Grande, Venti, and (for some cold drinks) Trenta although if you order a small, medium, large, or extra-large drink, they will still understand you.

Ordering Basic Coffee

For ordering basic coffee, beyond specifying the size you want, you will need to tell the server whether you want regular or decaffeinated coffee. If you do not say decaf, they will assume that you want regular. If you intend to add cream or milk to your coffee, say with room for cream, or simply, with room. Some servers automatically leave room; if you want a full cup, say no room. The basic coffee served is a medium roast coffee called Pike Place, but Starbucks offers other varieties as well. Read the list of roasts above the counter ahead of time, because they may not ask you which you would like. Finally, if you are very particular about the freshness of your coffee, you can ask before you order, “When was the coffee brewed?” If it has been a long while, they may offer to make a fresh batch; you will have to wait a few minutes for this new batch to brew. Once you have your coffee, you will find milk, cream (marked “half and half”), and sweeteners on a nearby counter.

When you order, say the size you want first, then give the name of the drink, and finally add the special instructions last.

Example basic coffee order:
“I would like a tall decaf coffee with room.”

Ordering Specialty Hot Coffee Drinks

There are several specialty hot coffee drinks available at Starbucks, including espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. The last three of these can be customized according to the fat content of the milk and the number of shots of espresso used, and whether or not they contain caffeine. Specify the milk fat content by saying whole, low fat (2%), or skinny (non-fat). Customize how much espresso is used in your drink by asking for a single, double, or tripple shot. Tall drinks are typically made with one shot, and grande and venti sizes are typically made with two shots. So, if you ask for one of these drinks without making any specifications, your drink will be likely made with whole milk and the typical shot of espresso containing caffeine.

Example specialty hot coffee drink order:
“I would like a tall skinny latte with a double shot.”

Ordering a Frappuccino®:

Starbucks offers a number of their own blended cold coffee drinks, which they call Frappuccinos®. Any of these flavored specially drinks can be customized in the same ways as the specialty hot coffee drinks. Be aware, however, that Starbucks adds the word “light” to the name of the cold drinks that are made with non-fat milk, e.g. “Caramel Frappuccino® Light.” See the sign above the serving counter for a list of the varieties that are offered.

Example Frappuccino® order:
“I would like a grande decaf Mocha Frappuccino® Light.”

This lesson on How to Order Coffee in English has been updated and a video has been added.
It was originally posted in January 2016.

This lesson may seem like something so simple and silly but I’ll be honest with you—it’s close to my heart.

Eight years ago I had a new one-on-one English student. We met in a local coffee shop for our first class and I immediately noticed that her English level was quite high. I was impressed.

But she couldn’t order a coffee. She was completely stuck and too nervous. Her English level was high but she couldn’t speak.

After a couple of classes, we met at the coffee shop again. This time, she ordered a coffee for the first time.

She cried. I did too.

That’s right. It’s the small things.

Then a few months ago, I had a Fluency School student tell me how excited she was because, after her classes with me, she could finally order a coffee after living in the United States for more than a year. It made my heart explode. With happiness.

It’s the small things that make us so angry, embarrassed, and frustrated.

But it’s also the small things that makes us feel like we can do anything we want.

I believe you can have the freedom to say what you want in English. And I want you to feel the joy that happens when you can do something you really want (something really simple) in English. Without stress. Without fear.

So here’s how to order coffee in English like a native.

Learn to order coffee in English like it’s no big deal.

Lesson by Annemarie

Tips on How to Order Coffee in English Easily

In the video lesson, I shared common phrases and expressions we use to order coffee in English… from the moment you walk in the door of a coffee shop to the moment you leave.

Here’s a summary plus some additional helpful language.

Common Menu Items

Here are some common drink items you’ll see on a menu at coffee shops.

  • Americano: espresso with extra hot water added
  • Cafe au Lait: brewed coffee with steamed (hot) milk
  • Cappuccino: espresso with steamed (hot) milk and foam
  • Chai: tea with milk, spices and sugar
  • Decaf: decaffeinated coffee
  • Doppio or Double: two shots of espresso
  • Half-Caff: 1/2 regular coffee, 1/2 decaffeinated coffee
  • Latte: espresso with steamed (hot) milk
  • Macchiato: espresso with a very small amount of steamed (hot) milk
  • Mocha: a latte with a little chocolate
  • Pour Over or Brewed Coffee: hot water poured over ground coffee
  • Iced: cold, with ice (common in the summer months)
  • Matcha latte: steamed milk with match (green tea) powder

Milk & Flavor Choices

When you order your coffee (or tea) drink, you may be asked what kind of milk you’d like, whether you’d like any sugar, or a flavored syrup. Here are common choices:

  • Whole milk (full fat milk)
  • 2% milk (lowfat milk)
  • Skinny or skim (non-fat milk)
  • Soy milk (milk made from soy beans)
  • Almond milk (milk made from almonds)
  • Vanilla syrup
  • Hazelnut syrup
  • Mocha (chocolate)

Coffee & Espresso Sizes

  • Small (tall)
  • Medium (grande)
  • Larger (venti)
  • 1 shot
  • 2 shots
  • 3 shots

Common Questions You’ll Hear

  • Next in line, please.
  • Who’s next?
  • I can help who’s next.
  • Can I help whoever’s next? Hi, there. What can I get you?
  • What are you having?
  • What’ll it be? (This is another way to ask what you would like to order.)
  • What would you like?
  • What can I do for you?
  • Would you like milk or cream?
  • Do you take milk or cream?
  • Any sugar or flavors?
  • Is that for here or to go?

Example Phrases for How to Order Coffee in English

  • I’d like a coffee to go. (I want just a regular coffee – no milk or sugar – to take with me out of the coffee shop.)
  • Can I get a cafe latte for here please? (I want to stay here in the coffee shop to drink my latte.)
  • I’ll have a skinny cappuccino. (A cappuccino with nonfat milk.)
  • I’d like a half-caff with soy milk and no sugar please. (half-caff = half caffeinated, half decaffeinated coffee)

What to Say When You’re Feeling Nervous or You Can’t Decide

If you are feeling nervous because it is busy, there are too many options, or you just don’t know what to say, here some common phrases you can use:

  • I’m sorry, I’m not ready yet. Please help someone else.
  • I’m sorry, I need an extra moment.
  • Here. You go ahead. I’m not ready to order yet. (Talking to another customer.)
  • I’m still trying to decide. You go ahead. (Talking to another customer.)

With those phrases, you can take extra time to think, calm down, and prepare what you want to say.

Sample Dialogues of What You Might Here in a Coffee Shop

Based on the language you learned in the video lesson, here are two dialogues to highlight what you’ll hear and what you should say when ordering a coffee in English.

Sample Dialogue One:

Barista: Hi – what can I get for you?

You: I’d like a medium mocha with 2% please.

Barista: Sure. What’s your name?

You: Sarah. S-a-r-a-h.

Barista: Great. That’s $3.50 please. It will be ready in a just a moment.

You: Thanks.

(a few minutes later)

Barista (loudly): Sarah – medium mocha with 2%?

You: That’s me! Thanks. (pick up your coffee and go)

Sample Dialogue Two:

Barista: Hi there – how are you today?

You: Fine, thanks. You? Can I get a double shot soy latte?

Barista: Sure. Do want a tall or grande?

You: Just a tall.

Barista. Alright. A tall double shot soy latte. That’s $4.30.

You: Here you are.

Barista: Thanks. It will be just a minute.

You: Great, thank you.

And finally, just for fun…

If you’re a real coffee connoisseur or you love coffee culture, here are some fun links:

After you’ve watched the video and reviewed the language you need to order coffee in English, I’d love to hear from you!

In fact, I have two challenge questions for you today.

  1. What’s your coffee drink of choice? Or, if you hate coffee, what is your drink preference?
  2. I’d love to hear about your experience at coffee shops in an English-speaking country. What differences have you noticed?

You can share with me and get feedback in the comments below. It’s also a great place to learn from others in the Confident English Community.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

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“What coffee should I get?” is probably one of life’s greatest questions. The world of coffee, with its endless variations and Italian terminology, can be overwhelming for some. Fret not – here’s a beginner’s guide on how to order coffee, for your next cafe hopping experience.

How to order coffeeImage Credit: avif id

1. Espresso – welcome to the dark side

The quintessential Italian hero and the blank canvas on which all other specialty drinks are built upon, the espresso has become synonymous with the idea of coffee. It is made by forcing hot water under extremely high pressure through coffee grounds, resulting in a dark and concentrated shot. Variations include a lungo or a ristretto.

Espresso fans may look out for crema – the distinct, all important froth sitting atop each pulled shot that imparts a new dimension of texture and flavour. Expect to enjoy a strong beverage packed with subtle flavours in your next single or double shot.

2. Caffe Latte – smooth and milky

“Coffee and milk” is what Caffe Latte means in Italian. You typically take a double shot of espresso and top it with steamed milk in the ratio of 1 to 3. The drink is then finished off with a thin layer of microfoam. What results is a milky beverage with a smooth mouthfeel.

Lattes are savoured on its own without the need for added sweeteners. If done right, the natural sweetness from the steamed milk should shine through and complement the intense espresso.

3. Cappuccino – balanced flavour with delicious microfoam

Dominating the second-wave coffee movement, the cappuccino has become a well-known cafe staple. It is believed to have originated in the coffee houses of 19th century Vienna, where coffee and milk were mixed until its colour resembled the robes of the Capuchin (yes, those monkeys were named after them) monks.

Each serving is made slightly differently from cafe to cafe. Generally, you can expect roughly one part each of espresso and steamed milk, with a generous amount of microfoam – the star of the show. Some places sprinkle chocolate over top to pay tribute to its traditional origins.

Taste wise, the cappuccino boasts the perfect balance between milk and coffee, and is a nice drink to start with if you’re new to the world of espresso beverages. Nothing beats the virgin experience of sipping delectably smooth microfoam – gets me everytime.

4. Flat White – seriously elegant, no frills

It is of no wonder that the flat white is Australia’s pride and joy. As a straightforward yet absolutely delightful beverage, the flat white emerged alongside the third-wave coffee movement and continues to be a popular drink amongst specialty coffee aficionados.

If you’re not into microfoam, the flat white would be a great choice. A double shot of espresso is topped with steamed milk and finished off with a very thin layer of microfoam.

As its name suggests, the flat white has way less microfoam than a cappuccino. It resembles a latte in terms of mouthfeel, owing to the steamed milk, but has that more pronounced coffee flavour.

5. Caffe Mocha – perfect for chocolate lovers

Coffee and chocolate – one of the world’s most wonderful flavour combinations. The duo is made perfect in the form of a caffe mocha. Commonly touted as the chocolate counterpart of the caffe latte, the drink is named after the city of Mocha in Yemen, a hotspot in the early coffee trade.

Akin to the cappuccino, you get a distinctive layer of microfoam on top. What sets it apart is that the drink itself is much sweeter owing to the addition of chocolate or chocolate syrup.

If you’re particular about sweetness levels, feel free to ask your barista for more, less or dark chocolate.

6. Caffe Americano – hits you in the feels

If steamed milk is simply not your cup of tea (or coffee), opt for a caffe americano, an iconic milk-free espresso beverage. The drink is commonly believed to have originated from American G.I.s in Italy who diluted their espressos to prolong their cups of coffee.

The caffe americano is prepared by simply adding hot water to a double shot of espresso. It is enjoyed as a low-calorie option worldwide.

6. Long Black – Americano’s finer cousin

The long black consists of similar ingredients as the americano, with the key difference being the order in which these components are put together. The espresso is poured over hot water in the case of the long black.

Expect the long black to taste stronger than the americano, due to the smaller volume of water used. The crema is also more noticeable due to the reverse order of preparation.

8. Macchiato –

Good things come in small sizes, just like the macchiato. Take a single or double shot of espresso and “mark” it with a dash of microfoam (macchiato means ‘marked’ in Italian).

The microfoam subtly counteracts the harshness of the espresso shot, elevating the drink to a whole new level. This drink is an ideal perk for those who want an espresso shot without its full blown bitterness and intensity.

Specialty Cold Brew – ultra caffeine boost sans acidic punch

The cold-brew probably bags the “best newcomer” award in the realm of specialty coffee. This brewing method is now a cult favourite, as it produces a strong cup of coffee without retaining the typical acidity of hot brewed coffees.

The beverage is prepared by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature or cold water over an extended period of time (12-24 hours). This gentle and slow extraction process results in an end product packed with coffee flavour yet gentle on the taste buds.

If you’re not a fan of espresso-based drinks, the cold-brew might be a good choice for a similar (or even stronger) caffeine fix.

How to Order Coffee

From your cappuccinos to your flat whites, this handy guide explains it all. Don’t be afraid to ask your friendly baristas for recommendations. The endless world of espresso beverages awaits you!

When you’re craving a cup of joe, the menu at Starbucks may seem overwhelming. It doesn’t even use the word “regular” to describe any one size or blend. But you can get a simple, basic cup of coffee – equivalent to what your neighborhood shop might call a regular – once you crack Starbucks’ terminology.

Originally, Starbucks offered two drink sizes: short and tall. In the years since, the company has dropped the short option from its menus, making tall – somewhat confusingly – the smallest menu option. The company also added larger sizes: grande, venti and trenta.

But while short is no longer printed on in-store menus, you can still order a coffee in this size – Starbucks even lists this size as an option on its website.

Here’s the breakdown in sizes for hot drinks:

  • Short: 8 ounces
  • Tall: 12 ounces
  • Grande: 16 ounces
  • Venti: 20 ounces

For cold drinks, the venti option is 24 ounces, and a trenta is 30 ounces.

Start By Picking What Size Cup You’d Like

It’s up to you to determine which Starbucks size is “regular” for you. While 1 cup equals 8 ounces, the industry standard for a single serving of coffee is 6 ounces — but many folks regularly drink 12 or 16 ounces at a time. When in doubt, order a tall coffee.

Medium Roast Vs. Dark Roast: You Decide

Here’s where things get a little complicated. The typical Starbucks has at least two kinds of hot coffee available at any time. Pike Place Roast is their standard coffee option – it’s a medium roast that’s brewed all day – so it’s the Starbucks equivalent to a “regular” flavor of coffee.

Your store may also have a dark roast option. Hot coffee is typically brewed right behind the cash registers, and the machines feature signs displaying the types of coffee that are ready.

You also have the option of decaf Pike. It’s not brewed all day at all Starbucks stores, but if your store doesn’t have any ready to go, staff will make you some fresh as long as you’re willing to wait.

Ask Your Barista For Samples If You’re Still Unsure

Ask the employee at the cash register to sample the brewed coffees if you’re unfamiliar with them. They are trained to help you ensure you get the best drink possible.

When in Doubt, Try “The Clover”

Your local store may also offer the option of ordering a cup of joe brewed with the Clover. This machine is used to brew single servings of coffee, with the intention of making the best possible cup. You’ll have to wait a few minutes to get your drink, and you’ll pay more for it than for a cup of Pike. But you’ll also have a broader choice of beans to choose from. The barista can help you choose.

So now you know the options and you’re ready to order. You can ask for a sample or discuss your Clover options with the barista working the cash register, or simply place an order; for instance, ask for “a short dark roast” or “a tall decaf Pike.”

If you want room to add milk or sugar, add “with room” to the end of your order. Look for a station stocked with silver pitchers and sweeteners, add any sugar or milk you want and go on your way.

A Guide to Ordering Espresso Drinks

How to order coffee

Getty Images / agrobacter

If you’re new to espresso, the abundance of options and jargon on your local coffee house menu may be overwhelming. This guide will help you place espresso orders with confidence and explore the exciting world of espresso. Learn about all of the drinks you can make from this single, strong shot of coffee.

What Is Espresso?

Espresso (ess-PRESS-oh) is a full-flavored, concentrated form of coffee that is served in shots. Espresso is made by forcing pressurized hot water through very finely ground coffee beans. This process is called pulling a shot.

Unlike most coffees, espressos have crema, a flavorful and aromatic reddish-brown froth made when air bubbles combine with fine-ground coffee’s soluble oils. The strong presence of crema indicates a quality well-ground coffee and a skilled barista (professional coffee maker).

Crema and espresso’s quick extraction process gives espresso a long full-flavor aftertaste and reduces caffeine content to lower than that in drip.

  • Each shot of espresso is about one ounce.
  • Many shops choose to only offer double espressos (two shots, also called a doppio) for quality control issues.
  • Other coffeehouses also offer single shots and lungos (long extractions).

Regardless of the size, espressos are usually poured into a demitasse (a small, two- to four-ounce cup).

How to order coffee

Ways to Order Espresso

Use these terms for the most common espresso-only drinks:

  • Shot: One serving of espresso (about one ounce) prepared at normal strength.
  • Doppio (DOH-pee-OH): Doppio is Italian for double and it means that you want a double shot of espresso. It’s the standard espresso size in many coffeehouses.
  • Caffé Americano: A shot of espresso combined with enough hot water to fill a six-ounce cup. The Americano was supposedly invented by European baristas for American soldiers during World War II to replicate Americans’ preferred drip-style coffee. It’s popular on its own after dinner in Italy. In the U.S., many consume it with milk and/or sugar throughout the day.
  • Lungo (LOON-goh): A “long” pull (extraction) of espresso made with the same amount of finely ground coffee and twice the water of a normal shot. A single serving is about two ounces. It may sound similar to a Café Americano, but its unique processing results in a different flavor. It has less of a strong taste because it is made with more water. It also has more bitterness because the extraction process takes longer and pulls more bitterness out of the grounds. If over-extracted, it tastes bitter and metallic.
  • Red-eye: A cup of filtered coffee with one shot of espresso. It’s sometimes called a “Hammerhead” or “Shot in the Dark.” Variations include the “Black Eye,” which is made with two shots of espresso and the “Dead Eye,” which is made with three shots.
  • Ristretto (ree-STREH-toe): A smaller, more concentrated serving of espresso. A ristretto has a more intense flavor and body and less bitterness. It may be ordered as a single (about 0.75 ounces) or a double (about 1.5 ounces).

What Is a Caffé Latte?

Caffé latte (kah-FAY LAH-tay) recipes vary widely. A general definition of this popular drink is a double espresso in the base of a preheated mug or cup, topped with steamed milk to fill and garnished with froth or latte art.

Latte means “milk” in Italian, so generally, the milk flavor is more dominant in this beverage than other espresso-based beverages. A two-to-one ratio of milk to espresso is common.

While the Italian word for coffee is caffé, you will also see the French and Spanish café. Luckily, they are pronounced similarly: (kah-FAY).

Popular Caffé Latte Variations

Use these terms to order your espresso with milk.

  • Café au lait or café con leche: The phrases au lait (oh LEY) and con leche (kon LECH-ey) mean “with milk” in French and Spanish (respectively). These drinks are variations on the Italian caffé latte. The milk remains in the same two-to-one ratio. Sugar may be added and is usually automatically included in a café con leche.
  • Caffé mocha or mocha latte (kah-FAY MOH-kuh): In the coffee shop, mocha often refers to chocolate and the café mocha (or mocha latte) is a very popular drink. It is a variant of café latte made with white, milk, or dark chocolate syrup and milk or powder. It is often topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, or other sweet additives.
  • Flavored latte: A café latte with flavoring syrup or powder added. Popular flavors include vanilla, peppermint, Irish crème, caramel, cinnamon, almond, hazelnut, toffee, buttered rum, orange, and raspberry. Flavored lattes may be topped with whipped cream or other toppings.

What Is a Cappuccino?

A traditional Italian cappuccino (KAH-poo-CHEE-noh) is a single espresso shot topped with equal parts steamed and frothed milk (in a ratio of one-to-one-to-one). It is served in a four-to-six-ounce preheated bowl-shaped cup.

Many in the American market have adapted this recipe, incorporating more steamed and frothed milk, while keeping the espresso quantities the same unless otherwise specified. The foam that tops a cappuccino acts as a natural insulator, keeping the drink warmer longer.

More Espresso and Milk Drinks

You will also see these terms and can use them to order your favorites:

Le café à la française

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How to order coffee

If you think ordering coffee in a French café or bar is the same as back home, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Ask for un café and you’ll be presented with a tiny cup of espresso, and if you then request milk, you’re likely to get a dirty look or sigh of exasperation. What’s the problem?

Le Café Français

In France, un café, which may also be called un petit café, un café simple, un café noir, un petit noir, un café express, or un express, is an espresso: a tiny cup of strong black coffee. That’s what the French drink, so that’s what the simple word café refers to.

Many visitors to France, however, prefer a large cup of filtered, relatively weak coffee, which in France is known as un café américain or un café filtre.

If you like the taste but not the strength of espresso, order un café allongé and you’ll get an espresso in a large cup which you can dilute with hot water.

On the other hand, if you’d like something even stronger than espresso, ask for un café serré.

In the unlikely event that you find a place serving iced coffee, it will be called café glacé.

For decaffeinated coffee, add the word déca to your order: un café déca, un café américain déca, etc.

Du Lait, S’il Vous Plaît

If you want milk, you have to order it with the coffee:

  • un café au lait, un café crème, un crème – espresso with hot milk (large cup)
  • un cappuccino – espresso with foamed milk (large cup)
  • un café noisette, une noisette – espresso with a dash of milk or a spoonful of foam (small cup)

Et Du Sucre?

You don’t need to ask for sugar — if it’s not already on the bar or table, it will arrive with your coffee, in little envelopes or cubes. (If it’s the latter, you can do like the French and faire un canard: dip a sugar cube in your coffee, wait a moment for it to turn brown, and then eat it.)

Coffee Notes

At breakfast, the French like to dip croissants and day-old baguettes into café crème – indeed, that’s why it comes in such a large cup or even a bowl. But breakfast is the only meal at which coffee is consumed (1) with milk and (2) with food. The French drink un express after lunch and dinner, which means after—not with—dessert.

French coffee is not meant to be consumed on the street, so there’s no takeaway. But if you’re in a hurry, drink your petit café standing up at the bar, rather than sitting at a table. You’ll be rubbing elbows with locals, and you’ll save money to boot. (Some cafés have three different prices: bar, indoor table, and outdoor table.)

Un café liégeois is not a drink, but rather a dessert: a coffee ice cream sundae. (You’re also likely to encounter un chocolat liégeois.)

Other Hot Drinks

  • un chocolat – hot chocolate
  • un thé – black tea
  • un thé vert – green tea
  • une tisane, une infusion – herbal tea

In the mood for something different? This article has an extensive list of other drinks and their French pronunciations.

How to order coffee

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Here’s what you need to know before you order a cup of joe in Land Down Under.

I t took me three days to order a coffee after I landed in Melbourne. My usual style of caffeine intake is very American—medium-roast drip, black, and straight to the veins if possible. In a city known for its discerning café culture, asking a seasoned barista to explain a flat white felt more mortifying than succumbing to jet lag and dozing off in the middle of a restaurant or bar or conversation.

On day four, I met up with old Australian friends for brunch in Richmond, an eastern suburb heaving with succulent-adorned restaurants and hip cafés. In the midst of settling into our table, a harried waiter asked for our coffee order. Crap. I fumbled with a menu and attempted to decipher terms like “long black,” “short black,” and just plain “white,” while the rest of the table casually asked for extra-hot skinny caps.

All too soon it was my turn. “Uh. I don’t know what any of this means.” Defeat, admitted.

“How about a flat white?” one of my dining-mates swiftly suggested. “It’s an Australian classic.” I nodded, he nodded, the waiter nodded, and that was that. My first coffee-ordering experience, about as embarrassing as I imagined it would be.

The beauty of Australian espresso drinks is not only in their careful creation but also their adaptability.

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At least, to me it was. My companions were quick to reassure. Drip coffee, they said, the kind that flows from insulated carafes as freely as water in most American restaurants, is rarely found in Australia. Instead, coffee Down Under is primarily espresso-based and made to order. And while independent coffee shops typically reign supreme, even the menus at local chains focus on espresso and offer the option to drink from an actual mug. As I sipped my creamy $4.50 coffee, the heat drained from my cheeks and I began to understand that the difference wasn’t just in price and name but also in culture. We ordered one more round, then another, and spent several hours chatting, nursing our drinks and picking at our avocado-adorned breakfasts.

After more than a month, I finally gained some confidence and figured out my order (skinny cap, extra shot). Getting over jet lag helped (a bit), but so did standing in line at bustling coffee shops and simply listening. That being said, here are a few things I wish I had known about coffee in Australia before that first, awkwardly ordered flat white.

How to order coffee

General Tips
Don’t just ask for a coffee. Start by stating whether or not the drink is for takeaway, then the size, then the style. Specificity is key—the beauty of Australian espresso drinks is not only in their careful creation but also their adaptability. Locals are unafraid to ask for customization: strong or weak, a dollop of foam, sweetened, and topped up with milk are all common requests. Alternative milks are popular, and most cafes carry soy or almond for nondairy drinkers. Ordering something “skinny,” as in most places, gets you skim milk instead of full fat.

After perfecting your order, prepare to hang out for a few minutes. Baristas have to measure and pull espresso, steam and froth milk, and create a signature swirl for you, plus a half dozen or so other eager coffee drinkers. Don’t fret; a good flat white, cap, or long black is worth the wait and the coinage.

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

How to order coffee

This is where the ristretto becomes Australian. Invented in Melbourne (though Sydneysiders claim it as their own) a magic is steamed milk poured over a double ristretto, served in a 6-ounce cup. Generally, only Melburnian baristas are familiar with this term.

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