What to Order at a Coffee Shop: Lattes, Pour Overs, Cold Brew, and More
Walking into a coffee shop without knowing what to order can be overwhelming, especially those that serve classic coffee drinks like a cortado. Consider this your personal guide to find your signature drink, whether you enjoy the taste of espresso or prefer a sweet, creamy treat.
You’re Looking for Something Creamy: Latte
Lattes are one or two shots of espresso with steamed milk, and is the perfect drink for someone who enjoys coffee, but doesn’t like it black. The milk brings out the notes in the espresso without an overpowering bitterness. You can order lattes hot or iced.
Many coffee shops have sugar-based syrups available that pair well with espresso and milk. Vanilla is a classic, though a mocha, a latte with chocolate, is also a go-to. Specialty coffee shops often make their syrups in-house for a distinct flavor profile.
That’s great, but can I order it with decaf? Yes! Coffee shops very often have a decaf espresso available so you can still enjoy a latte without the buzz.
Mix It Up: Request non-dairy milk like soy or almond. Some coffee shops are even using oat or hemp milk for those who can’t tolerate soy or tree nuts.
You’re Looking for Something Refreshing: Cold Brew
You can tell a lot about a coffee shop by its cold brew, and it’s the perfect refreshing drink on a hot day.
Cold brew is simply coffee that is brewed cold over 12 to 24 hours, which results in a smooth taste with less acidity. This makes cold brew different from iced coffee, which is brewed iced then chilled.
Cold brew is made with regular coffee, so it will have caffeine. For an iced decaf coffee, we recommend an Americano.
Mix It Up: Some coffee shops offer nitro cold brew, which is cold brew infused with nitrogen. It’s served from a keg, and has a rich head similar to Guinness beer.
You’re Looking for Coffee with a Twist: Americano
An Americano is espresso and hot water, and it’s more delicious than it may seem. Americanos offer a stronger taste than coffee because of the difference in taste between espresso and coffee.
Espresso is brewed by forcing hot water through tightly packed, finely ground, and dark roasted coffee beans. Coffee is brewed without this pressure, and is typically not roasted as dark as espresso. This results in a drink with the deep espresso flavor with a similar strength to brewed coffee.
Decaf Americanos are an alternative if a shop is out of their decaf coffee. It’s also a way to order an iced coffee if the shop doesn’t offer decaf cold brew.
Mix It Up: Add a splash of milk if you prefer slightly creamy coffee.
You’re Looking for Something Unique: The Featured Drink
One of our favorite ways to enjoy a new coffee shop is by trying their featured drink. Typically a seasonal offering, these drinks blend espresso, milk, and a flavor profile unique to the shop. Expect fruity, iced drinks in the summer, and complex yet robust drinks in the fall and winter.
These are often on the coffee shop’s menu board, but don’t be afraid to ask your barista. They love sharing about their process and how these drinks are made, and can help answer any questions you have.
Like lattes, these featured drinks can be made with decaf espresso.
Mix it Up: While featured drinks are typically created from a set recipe, you can request non-dairy milk without significantly altering the flavor profile so you can still experience their signature seasonal drinks.
You’re Looking for a Classic: Pour Over
Pour over coffee is a classic that’s experiencing a comeback for many new coffee enthusiasts. This brewing method offers a difference you can taste – literally. By pouring the hot water slowly over the coffee grounds, the barista can bring out the tasting notes you want in the perfect cup of coffee.
While some coffee shops make their iced coffee with the pour over method, most offer cold brew or iced Americanos instead.
Some shops don’t offer decaf pour overs; in that case we recommend a decaf Americano.
No need to mix up a classic! When enjoying specialty coffees, the tasting notes in the coffee provide and exceptional flavor on its own.
You’re Looking for Something Small: Cortado
Cortados are a Spanish-origin coffee drink that consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. This means the drink is just a few ounces for the ideal small treat.
The milk is steamed, but not frothy like a cappuccino. A cortado has a stronger espresso flavor than a latte, thanks to its equal ratio. The subtle flavor of the milk supports the espresso’s tasting notes for a balanced drink.
Cortados can be made with decaf espresso for the same great taste without the sleepless night.
Mix It Up: While dairy milk steams more precisely than non-dairy milks, it is possible to get a cortado with almond, hemp, or other milk alternatives.
You’re Looking for a Lighter Coffee Experience: Café Au Lait
A café au lait is a perfect choice for a lighter coffee experience. With equal parts coffee and steamed milk, you can have the same creamy coffee experience as a latte, without the richness.
Café au laits are also different from adding milk to coffee. Because the milk is steamed, your coffee will stay hot. Adding the same amount of cold milk to hot coffee will decrease the temperature too much.
Want it with decaf? As long as the coffee shop brews decaf coffee, they can create a decaf café au lait.
Mix It Up: Add vanilla syrup for a lighter vanilla latte.
Choosing Your Perfect Coffee Beverage
We hope this guide has helped you find new drinks to try, whatever your coffee preference. If you’re still unsure of what you would like, talk with your barista or leave a comment below. We would love to share our coffee knowledge to help you find your perfect drink, whether it’s a seasonal latte or a pour over made with their new house blend.