Day 175: Demystifying coffee beverages

Today’s inane image of the day:

My tower of empty Starbucks cups… [and yes, I decided to hop onto the Instagram bandwagon to spruce up my photos a bit].

Soon after I transferred to the University of Michigan I decided to get a job at a coffeeshop. I won’t say which one because I didn’t have the most positive experience there and things could have gotten better since I last visited. Anyway, I learned a lot about the different kinds of coffee beverages [it was a lot of fun making up new ones too] and thought that I’d share some of my knowledge. Here’s a run down:

Brewed coffee
The classic coffee beverage that pretty much everyone knows how to make. There’s not much to say on this…

Iced coffee
We used to use double the coffee grounds when we made the base for our brewed coffee, then just poured it over ice. So keep that in mind if you ever get iced coffee without the ice… it’ll really pack a kick!

Red eye
It’s called a “red eye” for a reason — there’s an added kick of espresso included with your brewed coffee. I personally cannot handle how strong this beverage is, but I had a regular customer come in every morning and order a large quad red eye [4 shots of espresso + 20 oz of coffee]… that adds up to a lot of caffeine.

These are are like an “upgrade” on brewed coffee — it is just hot water with espresso shots. I haven’t tried an Americano before, but now that I think of it, I might have to… by using espresso the coffee is fresher [plus I like the taste of espresso better]. I’ll let you guys know how this goes…

Café au lait (or Caffè Misto)
For individuals who have sensitive stomachs and cannot handle black coffee first thing in the morning, this is the solution — coffee with steamed milk. I used to love the vanilla soy milk at the coffeeshop I worked at and often made myself a soy café au lait [most coffeeshops use vanilla soy milk so keep that in mind if you’re trying to cut back on sugar or calories!].

This used to be my beverage of choice — espresso with steamed milk. When I first started frequenting Starbucks, I always got a tall nonfat vanilla latte. Well, that was a number of years ago when I could afford extra calories and sugar in my diet… so I gradually cut back on the number of pumps of vanilla then finally one day just cut the vanilla altogether. Now I enjoy the way lattes taste without the extra add-ins.

A Mocha is essentially a latte with chocolate sauce. Most coffeeshops get creative here since you can add a variety of different flavors [mmm peppermint mocha…] and mask the coffee flavor completely, allowing for quite a marketable product.

Iced latte
Still my beverage of choice in the summer — you start with ice, add milk then put the espresso over it. For anyone in warmer climates… this is the best way to cut milk calories out of your diet because you end up using less milk to make this [woohoo for ice!].

This is my current beverage of choice — espresso with half steamed milk and half foamed milk. I started getting cappuccinos when I wanted to find places to cut back on calories — although it doesn’t make a huge difference, baristas usually don’t use much milk to make a cappuccino which translates into a stronger coffee taste and less calories. I think this is the lowest calorie option my stomach can handle first thing in the morning!

I’ve never had one of these, but it’s espresso with foamed milk. Not sure why people enjoy macchiatos [it definitely is a European thing]… but I guess if you get a barista that really takes the time to foam the milk well then this could be a fun beverage [when you foam the milk you’re supposed to minimize the number of bubbles and get it to almost a whipped cream consistency… I was quite proud of my milk-foaming skills].

[FYI — the Starbucks Caramel Macchiato is essentially a caramel latte…]

Tea latte
This doesn’t actually have any coffee in it, but I loved making these — it’s just hot tea topped off with steamed milk. The most popular kind is a chai tea latte, but I’ve found that most places use too sweet of a base so I generally try to avoid them [unless it’s for dessert… then I ask for less chai mix]. My favorite thing to make was a soy earl gray tea latte with a little bit of almond flavor — it’s amazing!

Caffeine content
I think it’s important to know that the caffeine content in a 12 oz brewed coffee  [~250 mg] is significantly more than a 12 oz latte with 1 shot of espresso [~75 mg]. While it is true that espresso has more caffeine when you compare the same volume of liquid [say 1 oz of brewed coffee vs 1 oz of espresso], but usually you don’t drink 12 oz of pure espresso. So, the next time someone notes that you’re ingesting a lot of caffeine in your venti latte, tell them that it has much less caffeine than a tall coffee [~150 mg — keep in mind that a venti latte only has 2 shots of espresso in it!].

I think I covered all the major ones… let me know if i missed anything you were curious about!