In coffee-obsessed Seattle, you can run the gamut between a basic cup of joe or a carefully pulled espresso that will please any snob. As the home of the modern coffee shop experience, Seattle set the bar for coffee, and it's not surprising how much jargon imprints itself on the experience. But given the fact that we in Seattle generally have high expectations for a good cup of coffee, it's still surprising that many coffee drinkers don't know the difference between traditional drinks, such as a Cortado or a Cappuccino. Or a Macchiato. And now the people at Starbucks are again up to their shenanigans with inventing a drink that is already driving baristas batty. They're calling it the Latte Macchiato and it's not really a latte or a macchiato. It's basically steamed milk topped with espresso. Starbucks even released an app to demystify their drinks. We're here to add to your coffee ordering vernacular and here is a rundown on coffee drinks so when you visit your neighborhood independent coffee shops you'll know how to sound like you know what you're talking about.
Affogato: You'll often see an affogato as part of a dessert menu at restaurants and sometimes at coffee shops as it's just espresso poured over ice cream or gelato. And it's delightful. I like how MiiR Coffee in Fremont serves theirs; they separate the espresso from the ice cream so that you can mix at your leisure. I like to allow the espresso to chill a bit before pouring it over the cold dessert.
Cold Brew: Cold brew is a process of steeping coffee grounds with hot water and letting it sit for a chunk of time. This extraction produces coffee with lower acidity and a good punch of caffeine. You can make it yourself at home, but the key to any good coffee is consistent grind size and coffee shops employ fancypants grinders for just this sort of thing to optimize the drink they're making.
Cortado: This is my coffee drink of choice. Smaller than a latte, but larger than a Macchiato, the cortado is about four ounces of espresso hit with just a bit of steamed milk. Any barista worth their beans should be able to make this for you. Slate Coffee Roasters in Pioneer Square, Ballard, and the U-District serve up a fine cortado.
Flat White: Another confusing coffee term. So much so, that Bon Appetit spent a few thousand words trying to make sense of it. The Flat White is a term that originated in Australia for a coffee drink with a little bit of microfoamed milk; not quite steamed milk and not quite milk foam. It's smoother with a sweet and creamy texture. The flat white is the favored drink of Hugh Jackman, so if you ever find yourself in the company of Wolverine, you can talk about Flat Whites.
Gibraltar: This is basically what baristas and coffee nerds in San Francisco call a Cortado. The name of the drink is after the glass of the same name. So yeah, if you're in the Bay Area, ask for a gibraltar. Anywhere else, ask for a cortado.
Macchiato: A macchiato is espresso marked with a little bit of foamed milk. But as we've gone over a few times, Starbucks circumvented the word by adding caramel to it and making the caramel macchiato. Know the difference. The macchiato is a diminutive drink that highlights the beans and the skill of the barista. Fremont's Milstead & Co makes a damn fine macchiato.
Nitrous Oxide Cold Brew: Take cold brew but now serve it out of a tap as nitrous oxide injects itself into the beverage to result in a smoother and creamier texture. Even noted food nerd Alton Brown is a fan. Locally, nitrous oxide cold brew is available at Anchors Down in Ballard.
Pour Over: When you see pour over on the menu, you're in for a straightforward, elegant, and clean coffee experience. You'll know if your shop offers pour over by the stands that are on the counters. The stands come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and often have a steampunk aesthetic to them. Have no fear, as a pour over is basically drip coffee, but so much better.
Ristretto: While the folks at Espresso Vivace have been doing the ristretto for ages, Starbucks has been recently adding the term to some of their drinks. It's basically a denser, creamier, and thicker shot of espresso. So now more drinkers are aware of the word. But there is some confusion behind it as not all baristas will do it and there is some nuance in pulling a ristretto versus a typical espresso.