As a barista, I’ve seen every type of customer come in. The flustered newcomer, the seasoned pro, the habitual order, the sugar queen, and the too-tired-to-talk-just-give-it-to-me-black. If any of these speak to your last coffee shop visit, let me help you expand your horizons of the bean world in becoming a connoisseur of your caffeine intake.
First, let’s cover your standard roast of coffee.
There are three classifications of coffee beans: dark, medium, and blonde. This does not mean there are three different flavors. Actually, there are many complex and different profiles of flavor from earthy and herbal blends, to citrus, and so on. These different flavor nodes are important to take note of because the acidity is more prominent in some than others, and just like how you like different spices on your food, you’ll tend to like particular nodes of flavor in your coffee. So tasting a variety and finding the comfort zone will be your friend through this journey. These nodes can even be enhanced or become richer by pairing the coffee with certain foods. Ask your barista for their recommendation for the full experience when you start to feel comfortable with it.
Before you dive into exploring those flavor profiles and pairing, let’s return to those basic roast that we started on earlier.
Blonde roast is the lightest roast of coffee and often times is the easiest to handle if you don’t particularly like the taste of coffee. It has less of a bite and is packed with more caffeine due to the bean-to-water ratio that is used to activate its flavor. Due to the low temperature and quick way these beans are roasted, it provides more acidity in its genuine flavor profile, but most people just take note of its mild taste that doesn’t stick with you. The darker your roast gets, the less acidity it has and more of that bitter taste that lingers. A medium roast will provide more of a well-balanced flavor and a dark roast will be your strongest taste-wise, but lowest in caffeine.
While ordering a cup of basic plain coffee at a good coffee shop, you can normally request three different types of brewed methods.
Drip brew is freshly brewed coffee from the large urn behind your barista. It is bulk made and normally brewed every 15 minutes by the demand of the store. The next would be a pour-over method; it takes roughly about three minutes to brew and the cup is made fresh through a cone system. This is popular for decaf, due to the lack of demand in most stores for this brew. Lastly, my favorite is a clover brew or personal brew. With this method, you can choose any bag of beans including the reserved and just pay for the cup. It gives you the richest flavor because of the amount of coffee that is required to make just one cup. Wanting more than just black coffee? You can add any kind of milk or syrups to any of these methods.
Many people enjoy drinking espresso-based beverages.
This method is different from drip coffee and the pour-over method from how the water is received by the bean. This method forces the water through the beans extracting the flavor with a force, while pour-over uses gravity and skill of your barista to extract the flavor, and a drip will use an immersion system that soaks all of the beans to the precise amount of time then brew through a drip-method of release. The caffeine intake of an espresso beverage is not higher than your average cup of coffee but can be increased by adding extra shots of espresso if need be. Most of your espresso-based based beverages will be made at a bar of some sort and have a recipe that can always be customized to your liking.
There are two kinds of people that tend to go with an espresso beverage and they counteract each other in very strong ways.
The coffee drinker that doesn’t like the taste of coffee and the coffee drinker that needs something much stronger taste-wise. No shame in either game. If you are the one that wants it to taste like some delicious dessert, I recommend you try any specialty latte (your choice milk/espresso/syrup/ whip cream sometimes), frappuccino (frap roast/milk/syrup/ candy or fruit additive/whip cream sometimes) or a caramel macchiato (espresso poured into your choice of milk with caramel syrup and vanilla syrup). Caramel macchiatos are my favorite and it’s easy to enjoy year-round iced or warm.
If you are the one that needs it strong, then I recommend you try an americano (water and espresso), a flat white (frothed milk and espresso), cappuccino (espresso with foamed milk up top) or espresso macchiato (espresso shot with a scoop of foam). A fun one to order if you are willing to drink it fast is an undertow. It’s a small amount of milk with your choice syrup and two shots slowly poured on top. This drink is meant to be taken like a shot and when made correctly, you will get both a cold and warm sensation from the fresh espresso layer being separate from the sweet milk.
There are still so many more drinks to explore on such diverse menus.
From the teas to the cold brews, to the refreshers, and lemonades. Yet for this portion of conquering your coffee shop, I challenge you to explore what we’ve talked about so far. Don’t be afraid to give the coffee part of your coffee shop a chance. Take a deeper look into understanding your personal palette. Question which roast you like best, the flavor nodes, and the brew method. Do you prefer immersion? Pour-over? Espresso? Blonde? Dark? Medium?
We just opened up a passport for your coffee connoisseur journey. I hope you enjoy exploring those menus next time you stop in for that caffeine intake.