Coffee, Please!
March 30, 2004 5:30 AM   Subscribe

How to order a normal coffee......

all i want when i go to a cafe is a coffee with milk , maybe i'm a bit daft but when i just ask for 'a coffee' im asked to supply some sort of thesis on which kind of coffee i'd like.
Is it an espresso , is it a capucino , is the milk warm , is the milk semi skimmed etc etc .
Please can anybody supply me with the correct expression for a standard coffee with normal full fat milk so i dont have to be quizzed ever again.
I've probably found my own answer here but i'd appreciate a concise term that i can use.
posted by sgt.serenity to Food & Drink (57 answers total)
 
Specify "drip". "I'll take a drip with cream". Or if you pour your own cream, then ask for a "drip with room".
posted by vito90 at 5:43 AM on March 30, 2004


What does the order board say at your local coffee merchant? That's likely the best place to start.

For fancy places, I name the bean. "Regular Columbian, bit of milk" works for me, since they don't normally do espressos or lattes that way. Or surrender to the madness and order an "au lait", which should be half espresso, half steamed milk and tastes most like a plain cup of coffee for three times the price. But hey, you're getting foam!

(Officially, in Canada, the correct term for standard coffee is double-double, by the way.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2004


Barista! One cup o' Joe - Black!

Actually, I usually just say something to the effect, "A regular cup of (drip) coffee, whatever your lighter roast is (Maybe they have several brews made), with room for cream please. (Your cream choices are usually located on a bar in the somewhere.)

Though its possible that you want the darker roast, whatever your predilection may be. Voicing your roast preference, however, adds that tiny bit of allure to the coffee sophist you desire to be.
posted by jazzkat11 at 5:48 AM on March 30, 2004


In Canada, you're looking for a large double. Of course, no one orders that, everyone's gets a large double-double (cream and sugar). In my experience, a "medium coffee with cream" will get you what you want most of the time---except for Starbucks, of course, where they expect you to use their particular brand of infantilized Newspeak.
posted by bonehead at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2004


It's different everywhere, but... I use "coffee" in restaurants, "light, no sugar" in delis and carts, and "regular coffee" or "americano" at a coffeehouse or chain (where you pour your own milk/cream) here. I've said "milk coffee" in London, and "melange" in Vienna, and "cafe creme" in Paris, etc.
Saying "regular coffee" or "drip" seems to work as a response to all the questions for me, especially at a place that has a hundred options.
posted by amberglow at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2004


In New York and Boston, a "regular" coffee is normal drip with milk and one sugar, except at the pretentious coffee houses, where they take it to mean a cup of drip.
I hate all the Starbucks nonsense ("latte" is a real Italian word used in cafes, but all that other "vente" pseudo-euro crap gets right up my nose) and I just ask for a "medium coffee, black" That usually gets me the brew of the day and the childish satisfaction of having bucked the system.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:13 AM on March 30, 2004


order an "au lait", which should be half espresso, half steamed milk

In my experience (American raised in the Midwest), a cafe au lait is half drip coffee and half steamed milk. A half espresso/half steamed milk would be an inordinately strong latte.

In NYC, asking for a "coffee regular" will get you some watered-down drip coffee with milk and sugar. But it comes in a cute cup.
posted by turaho at 6:16 AM on March 30, 2004


Sometimes you can ask for a house coffee, leave room for cream please, or a house coffee with cream. Then you get to act like you know, but still get a regular old cup of coffee with cream, or with room to add your own.

I have the biggest problem with the various sizes. Grande is a small? Huh? I've taken to ordering by the ounce, and avoiding all cutesy catch phrases, ie, 12-oz decaf skim milk latte, please. That way I don't have to remember how all the different damn coffee shops name their wares.
posted by jennyb at 6:25 AM on March 30, 2004


"Small coffee." I always order that at Starbucks, for, as CunningLinguist says, the childish satisfaction of having bucked the system.
We're such rebels, CunningLinguist and I.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:46 AM on March 30, 2004


I like This method.
posted by bondcliff at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2004


Fuck em. Order your damn coffee the way you want. I order mine as a "medium coffee of the day" even though the place I frequent calls them "grande." Coffee is egalitarian, not something to hold your little finger out when you gulp it down.
posted by terrapin at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2004


At Peet's Coffee in San Francisco, you'd ask for a "smarge" ("small coffee in a large cup").
posted by kirkaracha at 6:52 AM on March 30, 2004


The latte/au lait issue is a continuing source of confusion in (eastern) Canada. A latte is the traditional italian-type foamed-milk on an espresso drink, while an au lait is served as two pots, one brewed coffee, one warm milk, which is then mixed by the customer half each. A cafè au lait is usually served in a large bowl rather than a cup. This caused a significant amount of confusion when the italian-style coffee houses appeared in the early 90's.
posted by bonehead at 7:03 AM on March 30, 2004


"Coffee" works for me 99.99% of the time, no matter where I go to get it, as I prefer to add my own cold milk.

"smarge" works at Peet's, but not anywhere else. (And now that they've changed the names of sizes so that the old "Large" is a medium, they actually give you a "small coffee in a medium cup")
posted by majick at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2004


Ask for the coffee of the day, or drip coffee. Ask for room if you want cream - you usually have to serve yourself in that respect. If you want a cafe au lait, that is usually (in the States) a coffee of the day with steamed milk.

Industry standard on sizing for specialty coffee is short (8oz) tall (12oz.) and grande (16oz). Most Americans want something bigger though, hence the Starbucks Venti (20oz, means "twenty" in Italian) or the common "lungo" or "largo". Naming of sizes over 16oz. will usually not be consistent from cafe to cafe.

If someone looks at you funny when you ask for a small, medium or large, then they are rude. I am a barista, among other things, and I am more than happy to make someone a medium coffee. You don't have to know the lingo.
posted by annathea at 7:27 AM on March 30, 2004


The phrase "roomy joe" works in central New Jersey, as far as I know.
posted by Prospero at 7:34 AM on March 30, 2004


In the US, do your coffee drinking at Waffle House with the truck drivers or Krispy Kreme with the cops. Perfectly good rotgut coffee, no effete snobs.
posted by jfuller at 7:35 AM on March 30, 2004


In Baltimore, you would order a regular. In Indianapolis, you'd order "a plain coffee with milk." I'm betting "a plain coffee with milk" will work most anywhere.
posted by headspace at 7:36 AM on March 30, 2004


In New York and Boston, a "regular" coffee is normal drip with milk and one sugar, except at the pretentious coffee houses, where they take it to mean a cup of drip.

and

In NYC, asking for a "coffee regular" will get you some watered-down drip coffee with milk and sugar.

This is not consistently true in New York City, at all.

New York City is a great testing lab, given the varied roots of its citizens, the large sample sizes possible, and the preference for stimulants. I tend to drink my coffee black with sugar, when I drink it, and it wasn't long after I arrived here eleven years ago that I noticed discrepancies in what constitutes a "regular" coffee and what constitutes a "black" coffee. This is in diners and restaurants, and from the bagel-and-donut vendors. I've been keeping mental note of the differences.

A regular coffee is any of these, in rough order of frequency:
--caffeinated coffee with whitener and two sugars
--caffeinated coffee with whitener and one sugar
--caffeinated coffee with whitener
--nothing but caffeinated coffee

A black coffee is, in rough order of frequency:
--nothing but caffeinated coffee
--caffeinated coffee with sugar
--caffeinated coffee with room at the top so you can add your own whitener

The fun part is where the "black" and "regular" coffees overlap.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:38 AM on March 30, 2004


"Regular" is a blurry definition, even here in NYC. I get a "small regular" from the place by my office in the morning, which has milk but no sugar. When at a new place, I tend to break it down as follows:

- Size
- "Milk"/"Black"
- "One sugar"/"No sugar"

So, my coffee would be "small, milk, no sugar".

Salon recently had an amusing piece on Starbuck's "marketing effort" to "educate" its customers on how to "properly" order their drinks. Kiss my Venti ass, Starbuck's, and give me a cup of coffee.
posted by mkultra at 7:39 AM on March 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


"Regular" is not blurry in Massachusetts. I blame Dunkin' Donuts.
posted by trharlan at 7:42 AM on March 30, 2004


A latte is the traditional italian-type foamed-milk on an espresso drink

Nope, not traditional and not even Italian. If you ask for a "latte" in Italy, many baristas will take you literally for a joke, and serve you a glass of milk. Latte, or "cafe latte" is a purely US invention AFAIK. That's not to say that there isn't a time and a place for them.
posted by bifter at 8:14 AM on March 30, 2004


(Officially, in Canada, the correct term for standard coffee is double-double, by the way.)

Also a "regular"; if you order using that at Tim Horton's, you get a double-double. It's a wonderfully simple set-up. "Extra-large double-cream" gets me just that. I don't even have to say the word "coffee".

And if I feel like getting descriptive, I go to Starbucks.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:15 AM on March 30, 2004


I have never laughed so hard as the day I overheard some poor tourist shmuck trying to order a cappuccino with Starbuckspeak. Venti cappuccino indeed.
posted by romakimmy at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2004


Follow up: If "latte" is a US invention, what would I order in Italy to get a similar combination of steamed milk and espresso? I don't think I could go on living if an Italian barista took me literally for a joke. (that's only partially sarcastic, too.)
posted by jennyb at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2004


You'd probably get a narky look but the drink that you want if you ask for a cafe latte. They can be terrible snobs, Italian baristas. The other favourite trick is to refuse point-blank to allow you any milk other than the teeniest smidgen of foam (ie a macchiato) at all after breakfast time.

Yeah, terrible snobs, but great coffee.
posted by bifter at 8:35 AM on March 30, 2004


When I moved to Seattle from rural Massachusetts in 1990 I was in no way prepared for the coffee linguistics I would need to learn in order to get what you described. I had previously worked in a coffee shop where you ordered it "regular" if you wanted coffee with creamer, "coffee with milk" if you wanted milk specifically, and "black" if you wanted nothing but coffee in your cup. The first cafe I went to in Seattle I tried the "black coffee" routine and the barista said "Americano?" Thinking perhaps she hadn't heard me, I asked again "Huh? just a black coffee." She looked at me as if I was a bit soft in the head and said "Americano?" I said, no just drip coffee. I then received a lecure about how an Americano is just like coffee and it was as close as I could get to drip coffee there since they didn't sell drip coffee [slightly wrinkled nose at this point], just espresso drinks. I finally got to the point -- when I worked at an Internet cafe with free fruity espresso drinks -- where I could order a "triple short vanilla soy mocha with whip" with almost no sense of irony. Now I'm in Vermont where asking for a latte pegs you as being from New York most places, and I get my coffee either at home or at the gas station where I don't have to ask for it at all, just pour it myself.
posted by jessamyn at 8:36 AM on March 30, 2004


Off Topic: Bondcliff - Outstanding link, neverheard of Lore Brand. Thanks
posted by mojohand at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2004


What the hell was I thinking? Yes, "au lait" uses regular coffee, not espresso. Gaaah. I have to explain that to just about every coffee shop I enter. The servers think I'm just mispronouncing "latte" somehow. Chalk it up to not enough caffeine in the system yet...

DrJohnEvans, I wouldn't be too comfortable ordering a "regular" at a Tim's. I worked there many, many years ago, and unless you were one of my regular customers I'd have no idea what a "regular" meant to you. And I don't think it's changed that much since then. You would not believe how snarky some people are when you're between them and their fix. And some are downright particular about their orders, even in a regular Joe shop like Tim's.

Then again, now that Tim's trucks their doughnuts in from 2000 kilometres away (Always Fresh my ass), I don't go there much anymore.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2004


From what I understand, if you order "cafe" in Europe, you'll get an espresso. You have to specify "cafe au lait" to get "normal" coffee with milk... I usually order capuccino anyway.
posted by swank6 at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2004


Cappuccino that is.
posted by swank6 at 8:56 AM on March 30, 2004


bifter- I can't speak for Italy specifically, but no one drinks lattes in France. You can get an espresso, café au lait (espresso with milk), café américane (watered down espresso), or cappucino (with foamed milk, also called a café crème). Also, no one drinks "large" coffee drinks. Remember before Starbuck's rolled out "Venti"-sized stuff?
posted by mkultra at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2004


The only place I've had a problem is in Israel, where "black coffee" (in English or Hebrew, IIRC) gets you the extra-concentrated Turkish stuff.
posted by callmejay at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2004


Follow up: If "latte" is a US invention, what would I order in Italy to get a similar combination of steamed milk and espresso? I don't think I could go on living if an Italian barista took me literally for a joke. (that's only partially sarcastic, too.)

I'd say it's a macchiato.
posted by amberglow at 10:28 AM on March 30, 2004


To sum up, don't ask for a "regular" if you want to put the cream & sugar in yourself. And if you're in Rhode Island, never say "please," especially if you're elderly and cantankerous. The Dunkin Donuts people don't have the patience for such pleasantries.

Another New England tip: Ask for the number of creams (one squirt from the dispenser) or number of sugars (teaspoons) that you want. Dunkin Donuts has an unusally optimistic presumption that you want three of each in your small coffee.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:34 AM on March 30, 2004


If "latte" is a US invention, what would I order in Italy to get a similar combination of steamed milk and espresso?

I'd say it's a macchiato.



well, almost.
you have to remind that in Italy there's a big difference between "macchiatos".
there's caffè macchiato and there's latte macchiato. latte macchiato, in some regions, is known as "caffelatte".

weird, I know.

there's also a "marocchino" (ie moroccan),

anyway:

Italian Coffee Vocabulary List

* caffè (espresso)—a small cup of very strong coffee, i.e., espresso
* caffè Americano—American-style coffee, but stronger; weaker than espresso and served in a large cup
* caffè corretto—coffee "corrected" with a shot of grappa, cognac, or other spirit
* caffè doppio—double espresso
* caffè freddo—iced coffee
* caffè Hag—decaffeinated coffee
* caffè latte—hot milk mixed with coffee and served in a glass for breakfast
* caffè macchiato—espresso "stained" with a drop of steamed milk: small version of a cappuccino
* caffè marocchino—espresso with a dash of hot milk and cacao powder
* caffè stretto—espresso with less water; rocket fuel!
* cappuccino—espresso infused with steamed milk and drunk in the morning, but never after lunch or dinner
* granita di caffè con panna—frozen, iced beverage (similar to a slush, but ice shavings make it authentic) and topped with whipped cream
posted by matteo at 10:54 AM on March 30, 2004


My rule of thumb, when looking for a decent but inexpensive coffee in a place that has an espresso machine: order Americano.

For no sensible reason whatsoever, they'll sell you an espresso shot diluted with water, to which you can then add cream and sugar, for half the price of an espresso shot tainted with foamed milk.

Espresso coffee is infinitely better than drip coffee, so it's a win-win: drip coffee style with espresso taste.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:45 AM on March 30, 2004


I'd also like to point out a few things:

- espresso is not merely "strong coffee." It is a specific quantity of coffee that is extracted under a specific temperature and pressure to a specific volume over a specific time period: generally, 45ml@90c@10bar over 25s using 8g powder-ground espresso-roast coffee.

- this results in a viscous dark liquid with a head of golden foam that exhibits the downward bubbling roil of a "Guinness" beer; this foam will settle but not disappear over the next minute or two.

- espresso brewing extracts the volatile oils and flavour compounds far more efficiently and with better taste than other preparation methods.

- that said, bad espresso is really bad, far worse than a bad drip.

- espresso shots contain less caffeine than drip coffee. Also, the darker the roast, the lower the caffeine content.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:57 AM on March 30, 2004


Officially, in Canada, the correct term for standard coffee is double-double, by the way

Not really. "Standard" coffee is one cream, one sugar (adjusted for the size of the cup, of course), which is a "regular", "double-double" (mmm...Timmy's) is double the standard amount of cream and sugar...hence the "double", and the "double". ;)

I agree with the suggestion to ask for a "plain coffee with milk only", most anyone could understand that.
posted by biscotti at 12:19 PM on March 30, 2004


wow.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:55 PM on March 30, 2004


espresso shots contain less caffeine than drip coffee. Also, the darker the roast, the lower the caffeine content.

In addition, I've heard that caffeine accumulates significantly in coffee as it sits there after being brewed, which is why you shouldn't drink old coffee. When it's freshly-brewed, the caffeine is at its lowest. Is this true?
posted by swank6 at 1:30 PM on March 30, 2004


Wow indeed. If asking for what sgt.serenity is looking for, I would ask for a Flat White or, for a normal cup of black coffee, a Long Black. I have never run across the bunch of self-important snobs that seem to exist out in the wider world.
posted by dg at 2:41 PM on March 30, 2004



* caffè (espresso)—a small cup of very strong coffee, i.e., espresso
* caffè Americano—American-style coffee, but stronger; weaker than espresso and served in a large cup
* caffè corretto—coffee "corrected" with a shot of grappa, cognac, or other spirit
* caffè doppio—double espresso
[snip...]

I changed my mind, I want a double vodka. Leave the bottle.
posted by jfuller at 2:45 PM on March 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


don't forget verkeerd (my spelling might be off) in Holland--like a cafe au lait, but smaller. (it means reversed as in more milk than coffee, and you can do a cool hand signal for it too) : >
posted by amberglow at 3:45 PM on March 30, 2004


I fail to understand how caffeine could "accumulate" in the coffee. If it didn't come out as the water passed through it, it isn't there.

sgt.serenity is asking about coffee at cafes. By this I presume he means "we don't serve drip." He should be asking for an Americano, which will be very much like drip, but tastier.

If they do serve drip, asking for an "cuppa coffee" should do the trick.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:40 PM on March 30, 2004


I DO ask for coffee and then am confronted by an enraged waitress who sighs , places her hands on her hips and asks me what kind of coffee i want as though i'm five years old.
(im nearly six actually and this is at favorit in tollcross)
Im Scottish , i'm male , i'm working class , i'm the proud owner of a broken nose and a black leather jacket, do I LOOK LIKE i want a decaf latte ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2004


More fun with tourists: the look on the loud and obnoxious American frat boys' faces when, after insisting on ordering "six caffes please" in a cafe off the Corso in Rome, they got six espressos, which is what the Italians call a caffe. They had apparently never seen cups that small.


Also, a macchiato is an espresso "marked" by a dollop of milk. A latte macchiato, I believe, is milk "marked" by a dollop of espresso.


Shall we get into the capuchin monks and why it's called cappucino now?
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:32 PM on March 30, 2004


Please do (Seriously)!
posted by Utilitaritron at 8:02 PM on March 30, 2004


Try "Coffee, black and bitter," sgt. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 PM on March 30, 2004


Wait! We've only discussed espresso and drip! What about Presspots? :) (which is what i use to make all my coffee at home)
posted by vacapinta at 9:28 PM on March 30, 2004


WOW. Five Fresh Fish, coffee scientist?
posted by th3ph17 at 9:51 PM on March 30, 2004


Im Scottish , i'm male , i'm working class , i'm the proud owner of a broken nose and a black leather jacket, do I LOOK LIKE i want a decaf latte ?
Just ask for white coffee then, when the inevitable sneer comes, grab him/her by the front of their shirt and snarl in your best Scottish voice "Just give me the fucking coffee before I kill someone" That should get the message through.
posted by dg at 11:10 PM on March 30, 2004


Also, a macchiato is an espresso "marked" by a dollop of milk. A latte macchiato, I believe, is milk "marked" by a dollop of espresso

That is correct, - though to be technically, marked with steamed milk. though some places want you to specify "an "espresso macchiato" or "cafe macchiato" - the "default" macchiato is espresso.

If "latte" is a US invention, what would I order in Italy to get a similar combination of steamed milk and espresso?

I'd say it's a macchiato.


Not really - a macchiatto is going to be a lot smaller and more concentrated.

They do serve lattes in Italy, but it's considered a breakfast drink. Therefore, a lot of cafes may not consider it "on the menu" if they're not places that serve breakfast. Or it may confuse someone if you were ordering it in the afternoon or evening - though I doubt many places would snub you outright for it. The Italian chart above defines cafe latte as coffee with milk, but it's definitely espresso with milk in Italy. Not many places serve or even have the equipment for regular, brewed coffee.

If you couldn't get a latte, I think the closest thing would be a cappuccino ordered with whatever the Italian equivalent of "wet" in the U.S. - which is a cappuccino that's heavy on the steamed milk.
"Dry" means light on the milk. I'd imagine the Italians have equivalent terms.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:31 AM on March 31, 2004


An Italian cappuccino is a third steamed milk, a third foamed milk and a third espresso. In Italy, the proportions are not generally a matter for debate (like a Martini!) in my experience. That's not to say that they wouldn't make you a drink with more or less milk if you asked, but I doubt they have terms like "wet" and "dry" that are reflective of heavy demand for customised coffee drinks from patrons.

Hey - a thought! I wonder if Sgt. Serenity is sitting there, eyes popping, seething with impotent and apoplectic rage at the unwelcome direction his thread about not-posh coffee has gone... :-p
posted by bifter at 3:26 AM on March 31, 2004


a macchiato is an espresso "marked"

"marked", OK, but literally "macchiato" means "stained"
posted by matteo at 5:45 AM on March 31, 2004


no , not at all , i'm pleasantly surprised so many people have replied and am eagerly awaiting hearing about the capuchins hand in the cappucino !
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:41 AM on March 31, 2004


capuchins hand in the cappucino !

sounds a bit un-hygenic.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:37 AM on March 31, 2004


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