Some Espresso & Coffee Drinks (The ones that do and don’t matter to baristas)

Blake Richard Verdoorn

When I started getting into coffee at the age of eleven, I didn’t know what went into those caffeinated drinks. All I knew was that a mocha had lots of chocolate and lattes were just milk and espresso. But now that I have aged about ten years and I am now a  barista (officially now! I started my bar training yesterday at the coffee shop I work at), I can tell you what drinks actually matter and taste just amazing, and the ones that don’t. With the help of author Ruth Brown and her book Coffee Nerd, here are some drinks that matter a lot to baristas and ones that matter little.

 

Drinks that matter to baristas

A shot (or more) of espresso: This is literally THE most important espresso drink ever because it’s in every espresso drink ever, and let me tell you, it tastes amazing. It is the bread and butter of baristas (next to regular coffee beans). Now, in Brown’s book, she says that the espresso shot is like a straight shot of whiskey, and is “not for the faint of heart.” This drink is kind of bitter because it is straight espresso beans, but it will give you the boost that you’ve been looking for! To make this drink you must get some finely grounded espresso beans, pack it as tightly as possible, put it through the espresso machine which shoots hot water through the tight, compacted grounds and boom, you have the espresso shot! Enjoy your couple hours of being hyper!

 

Macchiatos: This is my favorite espresso drink ever because visually it is cool looking (I like how the espresso drips into the coffee as well as the syrup that is put on top) and it just tastes amazing. As a barista, I feel as if this is one of the easiest drinks that we could make. To make a macchiato, you steam milk to about 140 degrees, pour it into the cup with vanilla syrup at the bottom, pour the shot(s) of espresso on top and make a cross-hatch pattern of caramel sauce on top. I honestly like to put pumpkin in mine because I am a pumpkin lover and enthusiast, and it just tastes like fall.

 

Drinks that are just meh to baristas

Mochas: Now, don’t get me wrong, mochas are good but are they really that important. I mean, if you really think about it, mochas are just hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. I love chocolate as much as the next person in line, but I will not order a mocha just because I don’t want to just drink hot chocolate. ORDER SOMETHING ADVENTUROUS!

Chai Tea Latte: Okay, I’m not the one for this drink…like at all. There’s not even a shot of espresso in this drink. So, I don’t know what business it has at a coffee shop let alone the world of coffee. When I make this drink, I get sad because there are so many awesome drink choices to choose from other than a chai tea latte. To make this drink, you just need to steam milk and chai tea together and boom, it’s just as underwhelming as a mocha!

 

What is your favorite type of espresso drink? Did your favorite make the list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding the RIGHT coffee shop

Now, I know what you’re thinking right now: “Who are you to tell me how to find the right coffee shop?  That Starbucks down the road is perfect for my coffee shop needs!” I’m not dissing on Starbucks because I go and study there sometimes; however, I think you should expand your coffee shop journey to other places. I think I’m pretty credible to know the RIGHT type of coffee shop because I have been to so many coffee shops in my life to the point where you would think I have a problem and I’m a barista. So, I would like to think I know a lot about finding a good coffee shop. Sure, I’ve had my share fair of terrible coffee shops in my life, but I’ve also had my fair share of amazing coffee shop visits.

Now that you know my credibility in this subject area is decent, let me tell you what to avoid at all costs! These are the coffee shop details that will turn-off even the most stubborn of hipsters.

  1. If they spell espresso like “expresso,” avoid it; they clearly don’t know what they are talking about if they can’t even spell the word right.
  2. How syrups did you count when you walked in? 25? Yeah, they only rely on syrups to make their coffee good, not the actual espresso/coffee or the milk they steam it with.
  3. Awe, that’s cute! The coffee shop has super adorable names! AVOID IT!! Do you really want to tell your friends you’re drinking the “Whole Latte Love?” Yeah, no. Just avoid it.
  4. They have a television and the television is showing your favorite NBC or CBS show. Coffee shops are not for you to watch tv, they are for: conversations, studying and drinking coffee. If you want to watch tv that’s not in your house, go to Bdubs.
  5. If there is a guy with a guitar and he only plays either Paramore covers or Jason Mraz covers, do NOT proceed to go in. If you want real entertainment, go to a concert or see a live band.

There are so many other signs to look out for, but I feel that these are the biggest no-nos for a coffee shop.

Now that you know some of the things to look out for when trying to avoid a coffee shop, let’s look at some of the things you want in a coffee shop.

  1. The pastries are from local bakeries, which is why they always taste better and cost $8 for a treat. You know they are delicious because of the fact that they are from local bakeries.
  2. If they have music playing from either a vinyl player or on a cassette tape, they probably have good taste in music. Usually, when I go into coffee shops, I hear songs by The Head and The Heart, Vance Joy, the Lumineers or bands like this. I always feel that this music is very suitable for coffee shops. Also – if there is some jazz playing, that is always a good sign that it is a good coffee shop.
  3. The shop offers a number of different brewing styles for your coffee. This just means that they know more than just making a mocha or vanilla latte. And these drinks are more coffee than milk, which is something I personally like a lot.
  4. The baristas know where the coffee beans come from and they know what kind of notes and aromas of each different bean. When baristas can only answer what syrups are in a vanilla latte, they don’t sound intelligent on the subject of actual coffee at all. Like a barista should know that a coffee bean from Colombia tastes like caramel and nuts!
  5. Decorations are a key thing to me, honestly. If a coffee shop doesn’t have a wooden, rustic look with a fireplace in the middle, I’m not down to go to it. Okay, the fireplace is a little extreme, but my favorite coffee shops have the nice fireplace. But if you have a coffee shop that looks like a video game cafe, then you best bet that I’m not going to go there.

These and many more elements are what I think go into coffee shops. I’m just one barista that has only been to a million or so coffee shops in my life. There are a lot of other elements that I look for in a coffee shop, but these five are my absolute favorite and mean the most to me.

Brown, Ruth. Coffee Nerd: How to Have Your Coffee and Drink It Too. Avon, Mass., Adams Media, 2015.