How to order barista coffee like an expert

9 Dec 2021


Become an espresso expert or cappuccino connoisseur with our quick guide to the coffee shop menu

For the uninitiated, the world of barista coffee is filled with strange names and drinks that seem identical at first glance.

Picture this: your friend wants to meet at a coffee shop, and you’re queueing up for drinks. You check the menu, but it shows you a lot of complicated Italian coffee names and little in the way of explanation. Before you know it, the barista is asking for your order and the queue behind you isn’t getting any shorter.

The pressure is on to choose a drink… but ordering barista coffee doesn’t need to be intimidating!

With a little knowledge in advance, you can skip the embarrassment and go straight to ordering like an expert. For those who are just dipping their toes into the rich world of barista coffee, here’s a quick guide to help you on your way.

Barista serving a customer

How do you like your coffee?

With such an array of options available, it might be helpful to think about your taste preferences and reason for ordering coffee.

Intense and energising


The humble espresso is where it all begins. Pressurised water is forced through coffee grounds at close to boiling point to create a very intense brew in a very short amount of time. Most barista coffees use a double espresso as a base. They can add milk, cream, or water to dilute the strength.

One thing to note: many people call it an ‘expresso’. You’ll be understood if you say this, but to order like a real expert, try to avoid that sneaky ‘x’!

Why order it? An espresso is perfect for those who like a strong coffee with an intense flavour that really packs a punch. 


A shot of espresso topped off with hot water, the Americano is the espresso bar’s answer to American-style drip coffee. You can take it black, or add your own milk or sugar — your coffee, exactly as you like it.

Why order it? If you like good, strong coffee without the frills, you can’t go wrong with an Americano.


Pronounced with a hard “k” sound, the macchiato is an espresso with a dash of foamed milk added — the smallest amount on this list. This balances the acidity and strong taste of the espresso, but still leaves the drink with a bit of a kick to it.

Why order it? If you want strong coffee with a kick, but want a drop of milk to cut through the acidity, the macchiato is a great choice.

Macchiato: an espresso with a drop of hot frothed milk

Smooth and frothy


Perhaps the most popular drink on this list, a latte starts with an espresso. The barista adds steamed milk, then a layer of foamed milk on top. The white of the foam and brown of the coffee can be used to create the iconic patterns of latte art.

The biggest benefit of a latte is its variations — you can find gingerbread, caramel, chai, or even matcha flavours.

Why order it? For a sweet, milky drink with the option to customise with lots of different flavours.


Originally an Austrian drink whose name references the hoods of Capuchin friars, the cappuccino has gone through a drastic evolution since its start in Vienna. Nowadays, what you’ll get is similar to a latte, but smaller and with a bigger layer of foam.

It sometimes comes with latte art, but chocolate power on top is more common — prepare to be asked whether you want it or not!

Why order it? If you’re looking for a milder coffee with a lot of foam but want something smaller than a latte, a cappuccino is a great choice.

Flat white

The flat white came into being in Australia and New Zealand as a variant on textured milk with espresso and made its way into the UK in the mid-2000s. It has a thinner layer of foam than both the latte and cappuccino, along with no froth. All the same delicious coffee, but less milk for a stronger flavour.

The latte, cappuccino, and flat white all have a lot of similarities. But which one should you go for?

Our verdict: for a stronger flavour, go for a flat white. For customisation, a latte is a great choice. And for floaty, frothy milk, cappuccino could be the one for you.

Barista pouring hot milk into coffee

With chocolate, please!


At Hotel Chocolat, chocolate is our passion — so we couldn’t possibly go without mentioning mocha! Comprised of four layers, a mocha is made up of a shot of espresso, some chocolate (often cocoa powder), steamed milk, and topped off with a layer of foamed milk. Some places even offer marshmallows on top for extra sweetness.

Chocolate and coffee complement each other well, so it’s no surprise that these two flavours work together perfectly in this deliciously smooth drink. Our Chocolate Latte Sachets offer a beautifully balanced combination of coffee and cacao — soothing yet uplifting, without too much sugar.

Why order it? For a coffee pick-me-up with a dash of chocolate indulgence to it, a mocha has everything you need.


The café menu doesn’t stop there! Many cafés also offer decaf coffee, as well as alternatives to cow’s milk for your vegan or lactose-free coffee. Soya milk is often available and may be offered for no extra charge, but some cafés also stock oat, coconut, or almond milk for a little bit extra.

And if hot drinks aren’t your thing, why not see if iced coffee is on the menu? Many cafés now offer iced coffee — all the flavour of coffee, but with added refreshment.

And there you have it! With this in mind, you can step up to the counter and order your favourite brew like a true coffee connoisseur.

Why are barista coffee names Italian?

Coffee drinking originated in the Arabian Peninsula, so why are almost all the names of the drinks Italian?

The answer to that lies in the history of the espresso. The first patent for an espresso machine was granted to Angelo Moriondo, and since then many of the revolutionary steps in the life of the machine were made by Italian inventors and engineers. Italian coffee culture and espresso bars made their way to the US and the UK, where ‘Italian coffee’ came to mean ‘authentic coffee’ ever since.

Although this convention makes the names slightly harder to pick up, once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be ordering your coffee like a pro — and experiencing a bit of the history of this popular drink while you’re at it.

Selection of barista coffee drinks

Can I make barista coffee at home?

The good news is, you don’t need to go all the way to a cafe to try barista coffee. In fact, you can have it as local as it gets — homemade! There are many different ways you can make coffee from the comfort of your kitchen, but if you want to make barista coffee at home, an espresso machine is the way to go.

Some espresso machines come with their own steamers, but when it comes to steaming milk at home, the Velvetiser is no slouch, heating it to just the right temperature and consistency for coffee. It’s the perfect way to get your frothy fix outside of the coffee shop.

Our personal favourite way to make barista coffee at home is with a coffee pod machine, such as our upcoming Podster. Barista-quality drinks every time — with just one press of a button. You can pair it with our Rabot Estate Coffee to bring the barista experience right to your home.