Orange coffeeEver wandered into a coffee shop and stared at the menu far too long trying to guess what these terms could possibly mean. “Macchiato”? “Cappuccino”? “Latte”? It’s all coffee, right? Sure, it’s all coffee, but nowadays coffee is prepared in countless different ways. If you have ever wanted to try something new, but don’t out of fear that your drink will be some nasty disaster, then read further. I have outlined several beverages on most every menu and exactly what they’re comprised of.

Espresso – Shorts of espresso are simply a certain blend of coffee chosen to deliver a bold flavor. It is brewed in a pressurized portafilter, offering a small, potent amount of coffee. Good espresso has golden brown crema on top.

Cappuccino – Thanks to gas stations everywhere, people often assume that this drink is sugary and comes from a machine. An actual cappuccino is shots of espresso, followed by a little steamed milk, and then topped off with a lot of velvety foam. A good pour can deliver thick rich foam. It’s all in the pour.

Latte – Similar to a cappuccino, a latte is merely shots of espresso, a good amount of steamed milk, and topped off with a little foam. These are easy to add any number of flavors to, but vanilla always works out nicely.

Macchiato – Served in a demitasse (or very tiny coffee cup), this drink is basically a cappuccino but with far less foam. Once again it begins with espresso and is topped of with foam. Hint: Good foam doesn’t have soapy-looking bubbles in it. Well-steamed milk has a sheen, like chrome.

Cold-Blended Coffee – Although Starbucks has the copyright on that drink that rhymes with cappuccino, most every coffee house a type of cold-blended coffee. Typically toddy is used in these drinks. Toddy is extremely potent cold-brewed coffee, so that when ice and sugar are added, it still retains that delicious coffee taste.

Café au Lait – This excellent drink is just your average cup of coffee finished off with steamed milk instead of cold milk. In an effort to make all this more confusing, Starbucks calls this drink the “Caffe Misto.”