Other "beginner" coffee drinks?
May 28, 2007 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Starbucks mocha... mmm... what next?

I'm not a big coffee drinker, but I loves me some mocha goodness. I've tried peppermint and orange mochas as well. Peppermint mocha is good. The orange one tastes like a mocha with an orange creme popsicle melted in it. Not so good.

Anyway, are there any other "beginner" (or even "intermediate") coffee / espresso drinks, preferably with chocolate or something else that eases the coffee flavor?
posted by blahtsk to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Iced coffee with lots of cream tastes like coffee ice cream. Yum.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:28 PM on May 28, 2007

There's this awesome frozen thing... Chocolate Brownie Frappachino. Very nice for summer.
posted by Many bubbles at 8:33 PM on May 28, 2007

Yeah, I drink iced coffee even in the winters, heavy on the milk -- you can add lots of sugar, too, but I don't think it needs it.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:34 PM on May 28, 2007

Thai iced coffee!
posted by milarepa at 8:34 PM on May 28, 2007

Talk to your barista. If they're decent, they'll know what to ask to find you a decent drink, just as a good bartender will. In my experience, indie shops are generally much better at this, and are way less likely to roll their eyes and scoff. They also don't tend to repeat your order back up in a made-up language. YMMV.

Also, are you trying to get into "coffee drinks," or "coffee?"
posted by onedarkride at 8:41 PM on May 28, 2007

vanilla latte? actually, if you want something that tastes like coffee ice cream, get a latte (iced if you like) with a shot of vanilla syrup and a shot of hazelnut. it's sooo sweet but pretty tasty.
posted by kendrak at 8:42 PM on May 28, 2007

Definitely second the Thai (or Vietnamese) iced coffee: thick, rich coffee laden with sweetened condensed milk.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:45 PM on May 28, 2007

milarepa has it, although I prefer the Vietamese version myself - depending on where you go it could be one in the same, but I'm thinking of the kind with condensed milk. Anyhow, the one I'm familiar with is easy to make at home. All you need is coffee with chicory (like French Market coffee), sweetened condensed milk, and ice. If you can't get the little filter contraption, just do strong drip coffee.
posted by cabingirl at 8:45 PM on May 28, 2007

Iced Americanos with no cream, but a shot of syrup -- mocha's nice, but amaretto or raspberry are yummy too -- are great summer drinks. They're more hardcore on the coffee drink scale than mochas, but experimenting with different combos of flavourings helps to balance the stronger coffee taste. Same goes for espresso con panna (a shot or two of espresso with a dollop of whipped cream on top) with syrup or chocolate shavings.
posted by thisjax at 8:52 PM on May 28, 2007

coffee + banana!
posted by crabintheocean at 8:56 PM on May 28, 2007

Seconding the vanilla latte. I usually get it with fewer vanilla shots so it's not so sweet. Other favorites of mine are blackberry lattes (Believe it or not... they're YUMMY! And nobody seems to make them but me.) and if you mix some vanilla syrup with some caramel syrup you get a CREME BRULEE latte! Oh DAMN that stuff is good too. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:57 PM on May 28, 2007

The vanilla late has no chocolate. As an intermediate, I'd suggest the White Mocha which has vanilla, chocolate, and white mocha. It absolutely rocks over ice, though it tastes very bad if the white chocolate sits too long. It's advertised more around Christmas and may not be on the menu this time of year, but any barista should know how to make it.

If you like the taste of espresso, I'd highly suggest adding shots of espresso to a mocha frappacino on a hot summer night (or morning depending on your caffeine tolerance) for that extra kick of yumminess.

The chocolate brownie frap has no coffee in it. Basic starbucks frap terminolgy: If it's on the Creme (Double Chocolate Chip and Strawberries & Cream come to mind) part of the menu, it's base is a white-powdery substance and has no coffee or espresso. It's the other fraps which do. This is an important distinction most customers, in my experience, didn't realize.

A basic mocha is very easy to make at home. Chocolate syrup, some milk, and coffee will get you pretty close. Obviously, if you have an espresso machine, you can use espresso.
posted by jmd82 at 9:01 PM on May 28, 2007

A really well-prepared cappuccino (NOT FROM STARBUCKS!) will be a revelation to you. With perfectly drawn espresso and milk that has been transformed into silken microfoam- not made into the soap-suds crap that Starbucks farts out for their cappos- it's perfection in a cup. A 5- to 6-ounce cup. This is a drink that both "beginners" and confirmed coffee geeks can love. I have had many people over who tell me how much they "are addicted to Starbucks," or, God help them, how they "LOVE Tim Hortons," and I've made them- I've begged them to let me make them- a real cappuccino with espresso from freshly ground beans from small-batch roasters (Intelligentsia, Hines, 49th Parallel, whatever I bought over the weekend) and that silken foamed milk I just mentioned, done with my very user-friendly Elektra lever machine- and they always, always love it. It's not about being a noob or an expert- nobody who likes coffee can resist a proper cappo, but too few people have had one.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:03 PM on May 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

A really well-prepared cappuccino (NOT FROM STARBUCKS!) will be a revelation to you.
//I know it's not your intend, but please, lets not turn this into another STARBUCKS SUCKS, NO IT DOESN'T thread.
posted by jmd82 at 9:09 PM on May 28, 2007

Sorry, my point is that most chains, including Starbucks, don't prepare cappuccinos correctly. I'd paint Second Cup and Gloria Jean's with the same brush but OP didn't mention them.

A good cappo, I wanted to say, is a revelation that will please the coffee aficionado and the neophyte!
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:12 PM on May 28, 2007

I think you reached the mountain top with mocha, venti 3 pump for me. Mmm. 5 pumps makes it taste like a liquid brownie. Not good.

And ignore the starbuck snobs. If it taste good to you, screw 'em.
posted by justgary at 9:14 PM on May 28, 2007

I used to enjoy butterscotch mochas occasionally (as a barrista, with an array of torani at my fingertips). But you can't make them with sweet chocolate or they're overpowering. Same with Cafe Borgias- they need to be made with real orange juice and bittersweet chocolate. Orange syrup, as you so rightly pointed out, is Not So Good. Mint mochas with fresh mint, and cherry mochas with real cherry flavor are also the bomb. Ditto Mexican mochas made with Ibarraand a teeny bit of almond extract. I fear that you'll have to look further afield than Starbuck's though, or bring your own fixin's ready to go in your own mug. The cafe' I worked at had most of these things (real oranges, Ibarra) but I don't know where you live or what cafes are like in your area.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2007

Can you just admit you don't like coffee and have a nice cup of hot chocolate? Seems easier than asking for a coffee drink that doesn't taste like coffee.
posted by voxpop at 9:54 PM on May 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

That giant starbucks size (venti?) caramel macchiato. So goood.
posted by oxford blue at 10:33 PM on May 28, 2007

The baristas who care at any coffee joint, including the big chains, can turn out a perfect cappuccino. I have trouble getting some of the local places to understand simple orders, so it's not a big chain vs. local issue. I work for B&N, and my manager used to work for Starbucks, and we try very hard to coach on proper milk steaming/foaming techniques, and some people either never get it or don't give a crud. We try to keep them off the bar, but most of the other places I've been around here don't make the effort (then, this is Fairbanks, land of 1000 little Drive-Thru Coffee Huts, so I'm sure there's plenty of good and bad baristas around).

To answer the OP, if you're at Starbucks (or B&N, which uses Starbucks coffees and syrups and bar recipes), I agree about the orange mocha--I think the orange was developed for that creamsicle flavor, and it doesn't go with coffee. It's awesome in an italian cream soda. If you're lovin' the mocha syrup, try a raspberry mocha. It's almost as good as the peppermint mocha. You might also like a cinnamon mocha for something a little different. I don't, I'm allergic to cinnamon, but they're big around the holidays (as well as a Cinnamon Spice Mocha, the same thing with less mocha for a stronger cinnamon taste). Your barista should be willing to mix a pump of syrup with an ounce of milk in a sample cup so you can try any flavor you think you might like, too.

The next base flavor to try might be the white chocolate mocha (or possibly the dulce de leche). It's good by itself but not as strongly-flavored as the bar mocha, so if you have it with any other flavors, the other flavor comes out more strongly. The dulce de leche is a seasonal flavor and is supposed to be a milk caramel, but to me tastes like the white mocha with a little caramel essence.

Don't feel bad if you really aren't fond of the coffee flavor. There are plenty of alternatives, and no one is going to think less of you for ordering a flavored chai or hot chocolate or hot tea or steamer.
posted by Cricket at 10:49 PM on May 28, 2007

Mocha au lait. It's pronounced "oh lay."
posted by thehmmhmm at 10:49 PM on May 28, 2007

No chocolate in this one, but it's good and the flavors are rich and complex.

Get a double-shot of espresso and add cold half & half to it, about half as much cream as coffee.

If the coffee's any good, the cream will kill a lot of the acid that makes coffee bitter, and add that wonderful fatty mouth-feel that comes from lots of dairy fat. The espresso itself should have a rich but unsweet chocolate flavor.
posted by lekvar at 10:57 PM on May 28, 2007

Ok, I remember hearing some baristas trashing the Starbucks orange mocha, so I'm avoiding it... the banana-flavored stuff they had a while back was also kind of gross. But, elsewhere, I've had a mocha arancia, with a bit of orange peel, that was very good.

The other seasonal Starbucks drinks are pretty decent, the pumpkin and the cinnamon and the dulce de leche ones.

Butterscotch lattes are very tasty but not necessarily easy to find. The place where I had those discontinued it; apparently the butterscotch was too costly.
posted by furiousthought at 11:17 PM on May 28, 2007

Try raspberry mochas. Also, try hazelnut soy lattes. To get from a beginner level to intermediate, when you order these drinks, increase the amount of espresso in them and/or decrease the amount of syrup. Now when I get hazelnut soy lattes, my preferred level is three shots of espresso and half a shot of hazelnut. (but that might be more intermediate-advanced. I am not sure. I also like just plain coffee and espresso)
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 11:26 PM on May 28, 2007

If you're at Starbucks:

When you order a mocha, you're getting a latte (1/1/2 shots of espresso [for tall/grande/venti respectively]) with 3/4/5 pumps of chocolate (again, t/g/v) and whipped cream. When you order a peppermint/orange/rasperry/whatever mocha, you're getting the 3/4/5 pumps of chocolate plus 3/4/5 pumps of <second syrup>.

There are several other popular drinks that use this general formula (espresso + milk + syrup); I recommend experimenting. Just ask for a <syrup> latte - vanilla lattes are probably the most popular popular, but there's also plenty of other stuff (hazelnut's my personal favorite).

Tell your barista some time that you like mochas, but are looking for a change; they love to help people find their new favorite. I bet you'd like a caramel macchiato (milk, espresso, vanilla syrup and the thick caramel sauce) or a white mocha (which, at Starbucks, doesn't have dark chocolate or vanilla).
posted by puddleglum at 12:33 AM on May 29, 2007

Warning: If you get a caramel macchiato at Starbucks, you're going to get a strong hit of coffee in the first few sips unless you stir it; it's a layered drink, with the shots marking the foam and sitting mostly on top of everything but the caramel sauce.

If you really want to do this up, you could get yourself an inexpensive espresso maker/steamer and learn to steam milk yourself (I'd recommend getting a thermometer for this) and experiment with whatever syrups or sweet flavors you have on hand--you can make a pretty decent sweet latte with a tablespoon of condensed milk or butterscotch/caramel sauce (the kind that comes in jars near the ice cream in the supermarket). It's fairly easy to find the flavors you like, and you can get bottles of Torani syrups for less than the cost of a single coffee drink at most coffee shops.
posted by Cricket at 12:52 AM on May 29, 2007

Yeah, ordering this kind of Starbucks I-can't-believe-it-is-coffee milkshake-style stuff is a bit pointless, a consequence of the funny stigma society attaches to people who don't like coffee. I'm with voxpop here.

Disclaimer: I have been known to drink mocha frappucinos with loadsa cream and chocolate sauce, and drink coffee liqueur, and eat chocolates with a coffee flavour centre. But I certainly don't think I'm eating/drinking coffee when I do this, just enjoying something slightly coffee-flavoured.
posted by reklaw at 3:14 AM on May 29, 2007

(For the haters: as soon as you tell me where I can get heavily caffeinated hot chocolate, I'll stop drinking froofroo barely-coffee drinks!)

Anyway, I'm with you, blahtsk. I'm not a huge coffee fan -- I never drink regular unless I'm driving while very tired or if it's after a huge, good meal. At Starbucks, I actually don't like their mocha -- I find it very bitter. So here are my recommendations:

Panera Bread's mocha is much sweeter, though not overpoweringly so. It tastes like coffee + hot chocolate. Any of their drinks with mocha are pretty good. I like their coffee taste, too. You can try experimenting there a little bit.

At Starbucks, I stay away from the mocha. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Pumpkin Spice Latte they have in the fall (though warning -- it's pretty sweet). Dulce de leche, one they had recently, was okay. I love chocolate + orange though I agree their recent orange mocha is pretty gross. The toffee nut latte is a good intermediate step -- I don't think those syrups are quite as sweet, and that one tastes more like coffee, but it's got a little hint of sweetness that helps a lot. All winter I drank cinnamon dulce lattes that were pretty good; similar to pumpkin spice, it's pretty sweet, but you don't have the mocha in there so you still taste a lot of coffee.

At my favorite coffee place in Columbus, Ohio (where I grew up), which had very good chocolate for their drinks, I loved the cherry mocha and the raspberry mocha.
posted by olinerd at 4:09 AM on May 29, 2007

Ignore the coffee snobs, blahtsk. Everyone starts somewhere.

The thing about Starbucks mocha syrup is that it's only semisweet, so you actually may have more of a tolerance for espresso than you might think (since the main objection is usually its bitterness).

If you're looking for a neat flavour combination with mocha, try an Almond Mocha, or a Hazelnut Mocha (though you may find the latter too sweet). A caramel latte is a good choice too; it's sweet (you can ask them to use less syrup if you prefer) but espresso has caramel-y notes and therefore the pairing works well. (Also, you may want to try that at an indie shop, or ask Starbucks to use their caramel sauce instead of syrup... Starbucks' caramel syrup isn't that great.)

If you're looking to get more serious about coffee in general, what might help is to ask your local Starbucks when (or your indie shop if and when) they do coffee tastings, which are like wine tastings. If they're not busy, it wouldn't surprise me if they did one right there for you -- we did that all the time. What they'll do is make a french press of coffee (a method which preserves the flavour of the coffee best) and pair it with some sort of food item that helps to bring out the various notes in the coffee. For example, my favourite pairing for beginners was Guatemela, which is a lighter-tasting coffee with notes of cocoa, and something chocolate (we used chocolate covered cherries in our tastings). Done properly, it really helps you discern the subtleties in the coffee, and then you can escalate your coffee wisdom from there.
posted by AV at 4:27 AM on May 29, 2007

White mocha.

I'm like you in the I don't enjoy very strong coffee and I like it sweet. Caramel Machiatto, as already mentioned, is also a good "beginner's" drink.
posted by sophist at 5:11 AM on May 29, 2007

My favorite is sometimes called the "Black and White" mocha, which contains half of the usual amount of regular mocha and white mocha syrups. So a Starbucks grande would have two pumps of mocha syrup and two pumps of white mocha, two shots of espresso, and whipped cream. And try all the other proportions of the two syrups together to see what's the right spot for you. The sweetness of the white mocha is perfect for the rich cocoa flavor of the mocha.

puddleglum's hint about the drink recipes is important because if you don't specify the number of pumps Starbucks will usually double up on the syrup if you order something like a mint mocha, peppermint mocha or raspberry mocha. It get too sweet very quickly. If you like a regular mocha, start trying one or two additional pumps of the other flavors that sound good to you in there. Raspberry, mint, peppermint (seasonally), hazelnut, caramel, and vanilla are good try. Another nice combination is a mocha with the caramel sauce (used in the caramel machiatto and caramel frappuccino) drizzled on the whipped cream. Don't be afraid to try the orange flavor again in smaller quantities, a one or two pump orange mocha is pretty good in my book.

And don't be afraid to ask for a specific formula for your beverage. While coffee snobs disparage Starbuck's coffee drinks, they don't have much bad to say about their customer service. They generally take good care of you and help you find a drink that you like. If you order a specific number of pumps, they'll make however you want.
posted by peeedro at 5:54 AM on May 29, 2007

At least a couple people have mentioned raspberry mocha. Unfortunately your local starbucks might not have them right now. They're getting a new raspberry syrup soon, and whatever they have in stock of the old stuff is all they've got until the new stuff rolls out.

Vanilla latte is also a good basic choice. And you should be able to get it just about anywhere, and it will taste pretty much the same. Even a mocha will taste different from place to place depending on what type of chocolate they use and how much sugar is in it. BTW, a caramel macchiato at starbucks is basically a vanilla latte with caramel sauce on top. Also, be careful ordering that anywhere else, as a "macchiatto" is generally just shots of espresso with a dollop of foam. Most places will probably be able to tell if what you mean is a starbucks caramel macchatto though.

I really recommend the Cinnamon Dolce Latte from Starbucks. It tastes like french toast and coffee. Sounds weird, I know, but it's delicious. They also have sugar free.

Frozen coffee drinks are also a good choice. Frappuccinos at starbucks. Most other places have their versions too, even the local shops.

Nthing ignoring those who tell you getting sweetened coffee is pointless. Some people need (well, want really really badly) caffeine but don't like plain coffee so much. Others really do like the taste of sweetened coffee. How many people do you know who insist that chocolate is best when it is strictly unadulterated by sugar and other flavors? Coffee is the same way. It can taste damn good with some sweetness and other flavors mixed in. And for some people it can taste fine all by itself.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:25 AM on May 29, 2007

Can someone please explain to me wtf constitutes an "intermediate" or even "expert" coffee drink? In my book, those are "coffee with milk or sugar" and "black coffee".

This is a serious question.

As for practical advice- Coffee is bitter, and Starbucks makes particularly bitter coffee (perhaps as an incentive to get you to buy those high-margin extra flavorings). Most locations seem to have a lighter brew that you won't get if you just as for "coffee". Here's my recommendation: ask for the lighter coffee, with steamed milk and a single shot of something, which you can play around with. You won't need as much extra flavoring to balance out the bitterness.
posted by mkultra at 7:26 AM on May 29, 2007

Thanks, everyone, for the great suggestions.
posted by blahtsk at 8:14 AM on May 29, 2007

I had to train myself to like coffee, as well. In the years before Starbucks took over the world. So, the less fancy (and hey! less expensive) option is, a lighter roast coffee (less bitter) with plenty of half-and-half (which cuts the bitterness), and a little sugar.

Even when I can't add my own stuff, I can tell almost any coffee preparer "extra-light" and pretty much get the amount of half-and-half I'm looking for.

I just can't bring myself to pay Starbucks prices more than once in a great while, so I stick to deli coffee.
posted by timepiece at 8:24 AM on May 29, 2007

I noticed you wrote that you are a beginning coffee drinker looking for intermediate drinks. Does that mean your goal is to eventually reach some sort of expert level? Im not sure what an expert level would contain. My goal would have been to be able to taste the coffee itself and not so much the foof.

Personally I started off a huge fan of mochas of all types. White Chocolate is definitely a huge favorite of mine still! Then a friend of mine opened my eyes to the fact that my venti white chocolate mocha had about 600 calories in it. Which is approximately 2 mcdonalds cheeseburgers worth! Holy crap..

So the next day I went to work and started drinking my coffee black :P At first it was pretty gross and I could only drink half a cup for about a week. Now I love my coffee black over any other way. It lets you truly appreciate the flavor of the coffee and is alot better for you.
posted by Tinen at 9:03 AM on May 29, 2007

A wonderful dessert is affogato - a tall thin glass with three little scoops of vanilla ice cream (golf-ball sized). Pour a hot espresso over it. It's like three desserts in one - at the top, ice cream with hot coffee sauce. In the middle, coffee ice cream and at the bottom a delicious milky, vanilla coffee drink.

If it's not on the menu, it's an easy dessert to request and is a nice way to end the meal if your friends are ordering coffee but you want something 'lighter'.
posted by essexjan at 1:17 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

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