Seven Things You Should Never Order in a Coffee Shop

During my five years on bar I’ve heard some bizarre requests. As a barista, it’s my firm conviction that my responsibility to provide hospitality trumps my own preferences. Would I put two Splendas in my coffee? Never. Will I put two Splendas in your coffee if you prefer? Happily.

That being said, there are a few common orders that are objectively wrong. If you value your reputation or have any common decency, you’ll stop ordering these immediately. I write this not to order-shame anyone, but to improve your life and the lives of baristas everywhere. 

Half Caf Espresso Drinks

There’s nothing wrong with decaf. Increasingly, quality-minded coffee roasters are putting out better and better decaffeinated coffee. But half caf espresso is a horrible idea. Sure, you may be getting half the caffeine, but you’re getting none of the flavor. Essentially, you’re asking the barista to mix coffee from two different espresso grinders in the same portafilter. The problem is the grounds are going to be different sizes and extract at different rates. The smaller particles are going to over-saturate, giving bitter flavors to the cup while the larger ones aren’t going to be saturated enough, resulting in an overly acidic shot. Suffice it to say, when you mix two different sizes of coffee grounds in the same portafilter, bad things happen.  If you’re looking for a half-caf espresso drink, try a classic single shot cappuccino.

Madcap Coffee Grand Rapids logo cup

“For Here, in a To-Go Cup”

Sometime you have to take your coffee to go. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re going to be sticking around the café, don’t ask for a paper cup. Every time someone chooses paper over ceramic not only is an actual tree being cut down, but an angel loses its wings. Imagine going to a nice restaurant and asking for your entrée in a styrofoam take away box. That’s essentially what you’re doing.

“Medium Coffee in a Large Cup”

Your integrity is worth more than fifty cents. You want a large coffee with extra room.

“Espresso Over Ice” plus “free” Milk

There’s nothing wrong with pouring espresso over ice. There is something wrong with ordering an espresso over ice, asking for a larger cup, and filling it to the brim with the cream on the condiment bar. That’s an iced breve latte and it costs $6, not $2.50.

“No-Foam Latte”

This isn’t the 90s. With the exception of a few international chains, nobody scoops foam on top with a spoon anymore. A properly steamed latte has very tight micro bubbles incorporated into the entire milk. Asking for a latte without foam means you’re asking the barista to completely disregard everything they’ve learned about steaming milk and just put hot milk in your espresso. You might as well use a microwave.

Espresso To-Go

Even the largest double shots weigh in at less than three ounces. That espresso takes a maximum of two sips to finish. Order it to-go and you’ll be throwing away your empty paper cup in the trash can by the door. Trust us, it will taste better in a demitasse anyway.

White Mochas

Just kidding. Order as many white mochas as you want.

15 thoughts on “Seven Things You Should Never Order in a Coffee Shop

  1. Appreciate the above points … Thanks! (And look! Italics in a web site text field, that’s cool and unuasual – not being sarcastic.) Just a couple of reactions: 1) I really like your point about ordering coffee to-go and then drinking it in the shop. This is my No. 1 pet peeve when drinking coffee at a Starbucks. Of all of the fast food chains (sorry, that’s kind of how I think of SB.) SB can afford to pay extra to have counter staff wash dishes. I drink SB because we don’t really have any mico-roasters in the area and at least once a week I go to a coffe shop, often Starbucks, order a large coffee drink and read a write for a long time. I don’t want to drink my coffee, while sitting in the cafe, in a paper f!#king cup … I feel better now, thanks for indulging me. I remember a time when SB would use dishes for in-store orders and paper for to-go orders, and I remember when they stopped doing that to save money. WTF! A final note on this first point – The SB I often go to will ask if my order is to go or not and as already explained, my order is often for-here. So, what this particular store will do is, make my Venti latte and serve it in a cup and then serve my cheese cake slice on a ceremic plate. Scream. 2) (And I confess ahead of time – Yes, I’m an old fart.) With all of the other insightful don’ts you’ve offered, you none-the-less ablsolve coffee drinkers, nay, coffee makers, of any guilt for offering and subsequently consuming White Mochas? These kinds of coffee “drinks”, which amount to liquid candy bars, are better left to, well, Starbucks and other mass-producers of junk food. Don’t you think?

  2. I’ll just bring my own mug for espresso to-go! Yes, it drives me crazy too but I like to sip on mine ❤️

  3. Can you explain the price difference between the $2.50 espresso shot on ice and the $6 iced latte? I get that there’s more milk, but if you’re giving it away for free for hot coffee but then charging the price of a gallon of milk for a latte, I can see why it would drive people to look for a more economical (albeit slightly less ethical) alternative. It sounds like you’re price gouging the latte drinkers to subsidize the condiment bar.

    1. Great question! Like any industry, there are golden ratios that make a business work. For espresso drinks that’s usually 4-5 times your cost of goods. That may seem like a high mark up but by the time you factor in labor, rent, etc, most coffee shops are only profiting 10% of net sales, and that’s a successful cafe! (It’s actually a pretty horrible business model). So if you add 50 cents worth of milk to a drink, the shop needs add 2.50 to the price in order to actually turn a profit. As far as condiment stands go, The milk isn’t actually “free” for the drip coffee- it’s built into the price of the drink. This may not be entirely fair to customers who drink black coffee, bust the cost of drip coffee is accounting for average condiment usage. I do agree it’s a mixed message for consumers- which is why I think while service coffee shops are the way of the future.

      1. Except is isn’t 50 cents worth of milk, it’s 5 cents worth of milk. And I’m pretty sure it’s less because Starbucks doesn’t pay what I pay for milk. It’s probably two cents for them.

    2. IKR! I am happy to order my espresso over ice and I fill it to the brim with whole milk. That used to be called a double shot over ice and it cost $.250 and I was happy to pay. They even shook it up to create some nice bubbles. Then when Starbucks dropped it from the menu and they added up the prices separately, it went up to 4 1/2 dollars and they didn’t shake it over the Ice anymore either.

      I keep my milk under 4 ounces which is what Starbucks ask you to do so I am doing nothing wrong. but charging four dollars for 4 ounces of milk is criminal .

      Honestly the guy wrote this article sounds more like a jerk then a coffee educator. Keep your snobicles in your pants buddy .

      And yeah I order a medium coffee and a large cup because that’s the exact amount that I like to keep for cream so why would I pay $.50 for something I’m not drinking it’s not about the money that’s the amount of room that I need. Every time I asked for extra room I end up pouring out coffee into the trash and THAT is something you should never do.

      To the owners of this website, the author of this article and your decision to publish it just ruined any credibility to me that this website might have .

  4. Your analogy of eating out of a styrofoam box in a nice restaurant is spot on. Like Mr Peabody above, I only have access to Starbucks nearby and I must say that even though there may not be much science behind it, coffee does taste much better in a ceramic mug than it does from a paper cup. Maybe it’s just the experience of it.

  5. I’m going to own the “No-Foam Latte.” When I started drinking coffee seriously in grad school at a regional chain, I felt like they couldn’t get it right. Their foam was more bubbly – kind of a strange texture thing, so I started drinking no foam. I got over it a few years ago, so don’t hold it against me. The other ones that bother me are all temperature related: asking for an espresso drink extra hot causes that kind of weird textured/crusty head on the drink, also asking for any espresso drink “with a few ice cubes.” Just no. If you want a cooler drink, get the milk steamed to like 130-140, but don’t take the edge off by pitching some frozen water into the mix and watering down the flavor.

  6. If someone wants a latte with no foam, doesn’t that basically mean they want a flat white? (._.;) Proves there’s a market for them outside Australia and New Zealand. (I definitely prefer them to lattes–the Kiwi version, preferably. Flat whites just sit better in my stomach than lattes do for some reason.)

    Also, yay, I can still drink white mochas! (^^;;;) (As long as that means it’s a white chocolate mocha, right?) They taste so much better than the crap regular mochas I’ve had from various places. Yeah, some places make them great, but so many places I’ve tried seem to use crap chocolate where it ends up tasting more like the cardboard-tasting hot chocolates from Starbucks. *angry glare* If I wanted to drink a SB-quality hot chocolate I’d just support them instead of local cafés and coffee shops…

  7. If I’m ordering and paying money for a liquid drink why would I be okay with 3/4 of a cup of foam? If I paid for a liquid drink why should I be content getti g ripped off receiving a cup of essentially flavored air?

    1. Well, for one, a 20 oz cup costs more than a 16 oz. The costs of goods that a coffee shop uses to calculate their prices include the cup. If you want a larger, more expensive cup, you should be prepared to pay for it, especially if you’re shopping at a small, family-owned business.

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