Suggestions for a coffee-related drink I might like?
January 1, 2014 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I would like to get some kind of coffee-related drink, but I'm not sure what I'd like. I like Kahlua & milk, and chocolate things, but when I've tried black coffee I haven't liked it. I will be heading to a Starbucks in the morning so please give me an idea of what I could order there.

I find myself on a nice winter holiday in Seattle, and I would like to expand my drink repertoire. So I am looking to find some sort of tasty coffee thing I could get at Starbucks, but I'm not sure what all the variations are that are available. I also don't like the black coffee I've tried. It's just too strong and bitter for me.

I like hot chocolate but I'd like to maybe get something that has the coffee elements I like in Kahlua with perhaps some kind of cream or milk involved as well (anything but skim, really). I can't afford Starbucks frequently so it's okay if your suggestion is rich and calorie-filled, since I am looking for just a once-in-awhile treat.

Yes, I have thought about asking a barista for suggestions, but I don't want to hold up the line going "uhhhh, I can't decide, I'll have to think about it". Also I figure among you kind people there are multiple baristas.

So what are your suggestions? I am eager to try something new.
posted by marble to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might want to try a macchiato.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:12 PM on January 1, 2014

For chocolatey-milky: a mocha. For just milky and sweet, a latte with some sort of flavor syrup, like vanilla or hazelnut.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:12 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you lived where Tim Hortons exists, I'd tell you to get their cafe mocha. It's literally half hot chocolate and half black coffee with whipped cream on top. It's a great gateway coffee drink if you like hot chocolate.

The Starbucks cafe mocha is espresso with "bittersweet mocha sauce" and whipped cream, so it may not be as tasty for the hot chocolate drinker, but you could give it a try. The whipped cream might help.

The macchiatos don't come with whipped cream but I've actually never tried a macchiato so here's the description for the caramel one: "Freshly steamed milk with vanilla-flavored syrup, marked with espresso and finished with caramel sauce."

I find Starbucks drinks generally require liking coffee though. They don't have great things for non-coffee fans, IMO.

I'd honestly just look at their website. Not sure suggestions here would be any better than that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:20 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd just go for a mocha to start as well. You can get a flavor in those too--raspberry or peppermint maybe. Also as you suggest, whole or 2% milk is much better tasting than skim.

Not to be that guy, but...since you're in Seattle, practically any other place is better than Starbucks. It might not matter so much in a mocha with whipped cream and syrups and all, but their coffee is terrible.
posted by sevenless at 7:23 PM on January 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Have you looked at their menu? You can't go wrong if you want chocolate + coffee and order a mocha but if you want to get fancy, you could get a peppermint, white chocolate or even salted caramel mocha. If you're concerned about calories, you could get a skinny mocha but sometimes the "skinny" syrups taste like chemicals, in my opinion.
posted by kat518 at 7:24 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You'll probably enjoy a latte with a flavored syrup or a mocha. A mocha latte is espresso plus chocolate plus steamed milk, while a latte is just espresso with steamed milk (and optional flavored syrup). Apparently, a macchiato at Starbucks is steamed milk plus vanilla syrup plus a little espresso, so it will taste fen less of coffee than a latte and therefore would also be a good thing for you to start with (although note that at most non-Starbucks coffee places, a macchiato is espresso with just a dab of foam or milk on top).

Starbucks also has a bunch of seasonal flavored drinks that are generally super sweet and milky. A gingerbread or pumpkin spice latte could also be a good option.

Signed, a barista :)
posted by MadamM at 7:26 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nothing the mocha. Maybe a peppermint mocha. Order it "for here" and you'll get it in a real mug- it's prettier!
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 7:35 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mocha is what you want.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:36 PM on January 1, 2014

Four Words: White Chocolate Raspberry Mocha

At Starbucks it's made with white chocolate syrup (instead of white chocolate flavor) so it's amazingly creamy. It also cuts down on the coffee flavor. It's super sweet though with the raspberry so you can cut that out or try a different flavor. Seriously. It's heaven. TRUST ME!
posted by Crystalinne at 7:37 PM on January 1, 2014

Best answer: A mocha latte.

Consists of a shot of espresso, lots of steamed milk, and chocolate syrup. I promise you will only taste the barest hint of a coffee flavor in this beverage. They will ask if you want whipped cream; throw caution to the wind and say yes, as this will cause your drink to taste even less like coffee.

Unlike a macchiato, this will result in a hot wintertime beverage that at least hints at being coffee-adjacent, so you can start to see if you like coffee at all. If you enjoy this and think you might like something that tastes a bit more like coffee, get just a regular latte next time. Other flavored lattes like Vanilla or Pumpkin Spice might also be up your alley, depending on how much you like sweets.

A macchiato or a frappucino is going to be much more like a milkshake and much less like a coffee. (Though tbh I love a plain coffee frappucino with whipped cream in the summer.)
posted by Sara C. at 7:38 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Caramel macchiatos were the gateway coffee that got me hooked at twelve years old.
posted by town of cats at 8:04 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

But perhaps the thing that you didn't like about coffee is unconnected to chocolate? Starbucks probably won't help you, but there many rich teas that stroke the "dark and tasty" receptors. Russian Caravan with whole milk and a little sugar; Prague black tea with chocolate shavings; black tea or rooibos chai: all provide a nice complex blend without the stomach challenging oily coffee zap.

kinda tea nut here, so I guess I am that woman.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:07 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

nth the White Chocolate Mocha for a non-coffee drinker -- this was the gateway drink for a co-worker of mine four years ago when he was anything but a coffee drinker.

Be forewarned, it is pretty sweet.

We used to consume (soy) peppermint mochas with great aplomb. However, we all found the chocolate to be a bit overwhelming and everyone began requesting one less pump of the chocolate in whatever we were drinking.

If Caramel Brulee is still an offering, you might try that. This used to be our favorite seasonal! (Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread were in the rotation -- I guess we are highly seasonal people.)

Also something to consider: the short(8oz) and tall (12oz) drinks will have one shot of coffee; grande (16oz) and venti (20 oz) will have two. A grande with one shot will have more of a milk/flavor and less coffee taste if you want to ease yourself into it.

Do enjoy your stay in Seattle!
posted by Mysterious Trousers at 8:12 PM on January 1, 2014

I rather like the chai tea latte, which does not contain coffee but is available at Starbucks. Apparently they even have a chocolate version.
posted by that girl at 8:26 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

White chocolate mochas are really sweet but tasty, IIRC. I love chocolate and coffee but really dislike Starbucks' regular mochas; ymmv, but I think the chocolate flavor is very artificial. Agreed that you should avoid the "skinny" lattes; I find the chemical aftertaste gross, and I am a diet soda drinker. Maybe try something like a hazelnut or caramel macchiato, or a cinnamon dolce latte, if the flavors are available. I think the vanilla is kind of bleh and ditto on eggnog/gingerbread, if that's still in season. Hope you enjoy!
posted by mlle valentine at 8:27 PM on January 1, 2014

I do like mocha for sure but will go against the prevailing thought here and second that girl's suggestion of chai. I generally get it iced no matter the weather, but the sweetness and spiciness together make for a great hot drink in cold weather.
posted by zoinks at 8:49 PM on January 1, 2014

Also, for whatever it's worth, despite having been a barista and "professionally" tasting world class black coffee and espresso as part of my job, I strongly prefer my coffee in dairified form. And yet I love coffee.

Have you tried just... coffee with milk in it, and maybe sugar? Frankly I'm no fan of Starbucks' default drip coffee blend, but just because you dislike black coffee doesn't mean you don't like coffee.

At Starbucks, I would still probably opt for a latte, just because you're treating yourself and neither the cost nor the calorie count is important to you in this situation. And, like I said, their drip coffee is nothing to write home about.

Away from Starbucks, if you think you don't like coffee but want to explore whether you could like it, I would recommend:

- cold brew iced coffee (I take mine with milk and try not to think about the fact that I'm basically drinking milk over ice which is weird.)

- pour over hot coffee rather than drip, with whole milk or half-and-half

- a classic latte is a thing of beauty and wonder. The milk, if steamed properly, will deflect all of that harsh strong coffee flavor. Steaming the milk breaks down its sugars, giving the overall drink a sweet, mild flavor.

- cafe au lait. Not quite as nice as a latte, but will do in a pinch. This is a great way to make coffee if you have access to a moka pot or French press.

- if you have a choice at all, go for a medium or lighter roast rather than "French Roast" or the like. I thought I disliked black coffee, but it turned out I really only dislike black dark roast coffee.

- If you have access to a good espresso where you live, you may want to try a shot of espresso by itself. If done properly, the flavor is complex and not "strong" or bitter or sour at all. If you don't enjoy it, also try a caffe macchiato, which is a shot of espresso with just a dot of steamed milk. In Trieste, Italy, they serve espresso with whipped cream, which really needs to catch on here in the US.
posted by Sara C. at 9:17 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another non-coffee drinker here. In anticipation of warm weather: mocha frappuccino with or without whipped cream.

Also, in non-chain coffee shops, I've asked the staff for the "closest thing to Starbuck's x" if I'm not sure what I want.

Really, coffee terminology is a mystery to non-coffee drinkers.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:24 PM on January 1, 2014

Dirty chai: chai latte with a shot of espresso. Still sweet and creamy with a mellow taste of coffee. And it's just fun to say. (Barista knowledge of the term may vary.)
posted by book 'em dano at 9:28 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have no Starbucks recommendations, I can't stand their coffee unless I'm desperate. (And then I resort to a mocha, in hopes the chocolate drowns the taste...)

... but sometime when you swing by a Dutch Bros, try the iced kicker. It fits the Kahlua & creme to a T. (No clue, either, if there's a Starbucks version.)
posted by stormyteal at 11:07 PM on January 1, 2014

Along with Sara C., I'd recommend a cold brew. It doesn't have near the bitterness of regular coffee.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:23 PM on January 1, 2014

The white chocolate mocha is like the polar opposite of the mocha (which is a go-to for me). If you like really sweet hot chocolate, the white chocolate mocha is good; it's got an extreme creaminess to it that could come off as cloying if you don't have a sweet tooth. It was on the very edge for me. A normal mocha on the other hand is bitter enough that I will sometimes add some sweetener. And yes - these are very much "sometimes treats."

I do also like a classic latte, but if you're going to ease into coffee drinking, and you like a really sweet hot chocolate, try that white chocolate mocha.
posted by graymouser at 3:16 AM on January 2, 2014

You don't like coffee, so come to terms with it and order hot chocolate!
posted by oceanjesse at 4:14 AM on January 2, 2014

Warning: a Starbucks macchiato is nothing like an indie coffee shop's macchiato, which is more like an espresso.

I got into coffee through mochas and still drink them. Last time I was in the US I became marginally obsessed with the Starbucks salted caramel mocha. Not sure if they're still doing that. UK Starbucks is horrible.
posted by corvine at 4:57 AM on January 2, 2014

I'm still working on getting to like coffee ASIDE from flavored lattes, but for the flavored lattes, my gateway was the hazelnut mocha. The three flavors play off each other quite well, and the hazelnut syrup sweetens it up compared to a normal mocha. It tastes a bit like a cup full of liquid nutella but it is amazing for an occasional treat.
posted by Sequence at 5:01 AM on January 2, 2014

If you're in Seattle, you really should try one of the other places and not Starbucks -- especially since you mentioned not liking bitter black coffee. Starbucks coffee has a very burnt, bitter taste. And there is amazing coffee here in Seattle.

Anyway, try a latte or just pick whichever flavor you like best from the available flavors and syrups. Salted caramel mocha, peppermint mocha, etc.

Also, try a salted caramel hot chocolate. Yum! It doesn't matter if it's not officially "on the menu." If they have the ingredients they will make it.

"In Trieste, Italy, they serve espresso with whipped cream, which really needs to catch on here in the US."

My favorite "special treat" coffee is a shot of good espresso in an espresso cup that is then topped off with heavy cream. It's good hot, it's good cold -- it kind of tastes like melted coffee ice cream.
posted by litlnemo at 6:18 AM on January 2, 2014

In New England by RI you can try Autocrat coffee syrup. We put it in milk. It's great and delicious.
posted by lasamana at 8:06 AM on January 2, 2014

Response by poster: Okay, I ended up going with a mocha latte and it is delicious! I like the suggestion for peppermint to try as well. Thanks very much for the ideas, I have plenty of tasty things to try now.
posted by marble at 11:02 AM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I find peppermint and other mint-flavored coffee drinks are the only ones that harmonize well with sugar substitutes / zero-calorie sweeteners, which I don't normally like too much, at the concentration equivalent to the sweetening in your usual American retail coffee drink.
posted by XMLicious at 11:31 AM on January 2, 2014

If you like them, and you feel mentally ready and semi-pro, like me, you can just toss off, "Grande SKVL, please." 120 calories of delicious something that doesn't taste like coffee at all, skinny vanilla latte.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:42 AM on January 2, 2014

The white chocolate mocha and mocha latte were great suggestions. Before I got into coffee I had almost daily venti mochas (white chocolate was way to sweet for me). But I would have it with half and half and only 3 pumps of chocolate instead of the usual 5 (5 is way too chocolatey for me. Reminds me of a blended brownie). The fact that each drink was over 500 calories and 5 bucks plus eventually broke me of the habit.

I find Starbucks drinks generally require liking coffee though. They don't have great things for non-coffee fans, IMO.

I could not disagree with this more. It's the complete opposite. Starbucks works best for people that don't like coffee, and have very little interest in coffee. The great majority of what they sell is sugary drinks loaded with syrups and only the faintest of coffee taste. I promise that most people that head to Starbucks don't even think of it as getting coffee. Put the best cup of black coffee available in front of them and they'll turn up their nose. And I'm not a coffee snob. Starbucks serves a purpose and gives their customers exactly what they want. But that has almost nothing to do with actual coffee. It's milkshakes with a little caffeine added.

On a related note OP, I'm not sure what black coffee you've had, and it very well might be that you don't have a taste for it. But don't base it on Starbucks black coffee. You would be doing yourself a great disservice. A 25 dollar aeropress and fresh beans would give you black coffee worlds better than what you can get at Starbucks.
posted by justgary at 3:45 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

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