Your Guide to Ordering Espresso-based Coffee

Disclaimer: This post is written largely with hot coffees in mind. If you’re someone who always orders iced coffees, do note that you’re missing out on the wafting aromas and inviting warmth of typical hot beverages. Otherwise, enjoy the post!

Here’s a somewhat embarrassing fact about me. When I was first exposed to the world of coffee, I had zero idea what anything on the menu meant. Seriously, I didn’t even know what “espresso” was.

Looking back, it’s pretty laughable. I had absolutely no knowledge about coffee. Mind you, I was about twenty then. Don’t laugh okay, I’m a late bloomer 😌

That is why I have total empathy towards anyone who dares to clarify “What’s the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?”.

The only condition is, if you’re not sure, just ask! Friendly reminder to pleaaaase not hold up the queue by spending 1 whole minute staring at the menu, not knowing what to order.

That’s what this series of posts are for! To help you order the right drink that suits your taste buds best.

Today, we’re gonna be learning about non-milk-based espresso drinks vs. milk-based ones.

On the Generation menu, non-milk-based orders would be the Espresso and the Long Black. As the name of this category suggests, these 2 drinks do not contain milk.

The milk-based espresso drinks include the Cappuccino, Flat White, Latte and Mocha, Dirty Matcha and Spanish Latte.

I know I know, there are several technical definitions of these beverages out there in the interwebs.

And I’m sure we coffee nerds absolutely LOVE them.

But if I may, I’d like to propose a simpler way to look at it. A more functional way to get the most out of your coffee experience.

So stop fussing over how many grams of coffee ground or how many ounces of milk go into your drink -- which is, well, the barista’s job, your job is to enjoy the coffee. Instead, pay attention to what makes that cup of coffee more enjoyable, for you.

Here are some helpful questions to consider when making your choice.

Are you lactose intolerant?

Arguably the most important yet least mentioned question to ask when ordering your coffee.

Most people feel like if they’re lactose intolerant, their choices are instantly limited to non-milk-based drinks, but that’s not really not the case!

If you are indeed lactose intolerant, don’t be disappointed. You can always opt for non-dairy milk instead. At Generation, we offer oat milk as a delicious alternative.

Now you don’t have to let it stop you from enjoying the creamy goodness of your favourite milk-based coffee.

What do you enjoy most about drinking coffee?

Think about what it is about your daily coffee that makes you excited. Is it the taste? The aroma? Or the texture of every sip?

If your answer is “I’m just here for the caffeine.” well that makes it simple. Non-milk-based coffees are your definite go-to. If you love the rich dark taste of saturated caffeine, an espresso will likely be your best friend. Otherwise, you’ll never go wrong with a more balanced and smooth long black.

Also, a long black will allow you to savour the tasting notes of the coffee more clearly as compared to milk-based options. So the next time you’re cafe-hopping and your goal is to taste different coffees, consider ordering a small long black at each place you visit!

If it’s the texture of your drink that you enjoy, look no further than the milk-based options. The joy of adding perfectly foamed milk to coffee is that it adds this dimension of texture that water (main brewing medium) cannot. Not only that, milk also adds a subtle sweetness to already aromatic espresso, altogether providing an entirely distinct and delicious taste to the coffee.

Which leads us to the next question...

Do you like foam

I think a quick way to think about this is whether you like cotton candy or not. You know, that fluffiness and airiness you feel when you eat cotton candy? If you enjoy that, you’ll probably enjoy foamy milk too.

If this is you, you will absolutely love a nice hot mug of cappuccino.
The generous layer of milk foam atop a cappuccino definitely elevates the texture of your coffee, and also provides an enjoyable experience as you slowly sip on the drink.

Some people really like the foamy goodness of the cappuccino.

Some don’t.

And if you’re in the “no foam” camp, consider opting for a latte. This is a very balanced drink (in terms of milk foam and liquid milk) which is equally tasty. You’ll get just the right amount of foam to give you that distinct specialty coffee experience, yet not too much of it to the point of overwhelm. Literally the best of both worlds!

Typically a latte will have about 1cm to 1.5cm of foam at the top of the cup. If this is still too much foam for you, the flat white will be perfect for you. Out of all the milk-based coffees, this drink is topped with the least amount of foam. So you don’t have to worry about your coffee tasting “airy” or too light.

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Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’ll have an easier time ordering your coffee.

In closing, here’s the simplest way to think about it.

If you’re here for the tasting notes, get a non-milk-based coffee.

If you like the sweetness of milk in your coffee, get a latte. Or, if you are a fan of milk foam, go ahead and order a cappuccino for that light airy goodness!

Lastly, don’t be afraid to be adventurous! I know it feels comforting to always order the same drink as your go-to. Try to switch it up sometime, to allow your tastebuds a novel experience. Who knows, you might just stumble across your next favourite drink.