Coffee For Dummies: 6 Traditional Coffee Drinks You Should Know

It’s 2 pm on a Tuesday. You drank the last of your Rootless Coffee 3 hours ago and you’re in desperate need of caffeine. I get it, I remember the days when I didn’t have hundreds of pounds of fresh roasted coffee within a few feet of my office. So you sneak to the elevator, high tail it to your favorite local coffee shop, and place your order, “I’ll have a cold brew with a splash of oat milk, please.” You get your coffee, take a sip, and BAM - you’re you again. Suddenly the day doesn’t suck (as much). 

That’s all wonderful but now to the point of this little blog: Have you ever asked yourself why you always order the same 2-3 drinks? Is it possible the drinks with funny sounding Italian names that mean something different here than they do at the green mermaid place are a bit….. intimidating? You aren’t alone and I’m here to help! Below is a sorta comprehensive guide on standard espresso drinks and how to avoid the pretentious barista giving you the stink eye for daring to ask a question. 

Espresso - Seems easy BUT espresso is often confused with a dark roast profile when in reality, it’s a brewing method. Espresso is coffee that has been extracted at high pressure to create a concentrated dose of liquid heaven. The Rootless crew has found that medium roasts produce the best espresso. Also keep in mind that most shops serve a double shot (2 oz) as their standard espresso.

Macchiato - Here’s where the green mermaid bastards really made a mess: A macchiato is espresso (see above) with a dash of foamed milk. The foamed milk will slightly mellow out the intense flavor of the espresso without detracting from it. 

Cortado - A Cortado is equal parts espresso (2 oz) and equal parts steamed milk (2 oz) This is a great place to start if your goal is to end up a straight espresso / black coffee lunatic like me. 

Cappuccino - A classic drink that is quite wonderful. A traditional capp is 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Most modern shops make a cappuccino with 2 oz espresso and 4 oz of steamed milk. 

Flat White - We’re moving into the “these drinks are the same, just with more milk” phase of the list. A Flat White is 2 oz espresso and 6 oz steamed milk. This is the first drink on this list that I would recommend adding any amount of flavor to. The drinks above are really designed to highlight the star of the show, the espresso. Most specialty coffee roasters go through an exhaustive process to get their espresso blend juuuust right. Give it a shot (HA) and you’ll be surprised how many unique flavors you’ll taste in espresso forward drinks. 

Latte - Arguably the most popular drink at all US coffee shops. Traditionally, a latte is 2 oz espresso and 10 oz steamed milk. This will change from shop to shop based on the sizes offered. You can get this hot or iced and typically this is where people go all out on adding flavors. Pro Tip: If you are going for a gargantuan 20 or 24 oz latte, ask your barista how many shots of espresso the drink will contain. Anything over 16 oz should have more espresso and if you have any health condition where excessive caffeine should be avoided, you’ll want to keep that in mind. 

And that covers nearly every espresso drink you’ll find on the menu at your local shop. Of course more exist, but you are now equipped to order a macchiato and give that pretentious barista the stink eye when they ask if you, "know what a traditional macchiato is?” Yes Brayden, I know what it is.