How Not to Order Espresso

Categories: Kaffee Klatsch


As a barista in Brooklyn, I deal with all breeds of customers: the genuinely inquisitive, the indecisive, the stubborn. Then there are others -- the worst -- and they're much easier to spot. They always begin with a question: "What's the roast date of your beans?"

It's an innocent enough question. Nobody wants to drink crusty espresso, but no self-respecting café (or hands-on roaster) would even allow those dusty beans into a grinder. So the question seems important, and it is, but for a different reason: It's the type of question that reveals a customer as one who might self-identify at dinner parties, proudly, as a "coffee snob." The type of customer who will then loudly ask at least one of the following questions:

"You're using a blend? What are the different regions in there?"

"I like a brighter-tasting espresso. How would you describe yours?"

"Are you dialed in to your machine? When was it last serviced?"

"I was in France, and they pull their shots for about 65 seconds, and then dip a croissant in it. Kind of like a cookie in milk. Can you do that for me? Do you have twice-baked croissants?"

"I want my espresso iced, but can you pull the shot into a centimeter of water, just to save the espresso from souring? Also, do you have almond milk?"

For these customers, going to a café is about testing baristas' ability to bullshit rather than about enjoying a cup of coffee. And that's expected. We baristas, especially those of us with four-year degrees in things like philosophy, created this snobbery in an attempt to artificially elevate our profession beyond just pushing buttons and drawing Rosettas. I'm fine with entertaining the questions at a cupping, or when we're slow, but not on a Sunday morning when there's a dozen poor folks just trying to buy a takeaway drip coffee.

So, if you're after an espresso, or are particularly fussy about your coffee, here's what to do. Ask the roast date, sure. Ask how many shots come in your drink. Ask what kind of milk we have. Ask about decaf. Ask to see cup sizes. Be specific. Don't expect me to read your mind. If I get your drink wrong, be nice about it. I'll make you a new one. We all make mistakes.

Just don't come in asking if our espresso's flavor profile is baggy, or if it finishes well, or if it has notes of Concord grapes. If you want to taste a grape, go eat a fucking grape. Just order your drink, and be happy. If you're happy, then I'm happy. Especially if you tip me a dollar or more. Then we can discuss what kind of dung was used in the fertilizer way over in Africa, and how that translates into a nutty flavor. Really, I'll talk about anything for a dollar. Any barista will.

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Lulu Black
Lulu Black

Mike Jacobs and Dee Jacobs hope you don't have to deal with this


You just made my day! I'm a customer who never asks these questions because of two reasons: 1) If I'm at a coffee house, I have probably been there before and know what to expect. 2) If I really want a 'coffee orgasm' I can do that myself at home on my own machine with my own darn beans. So why don't these people do that. Your comments made my day not so much because you are absolutely right, but more because there are people out there who are absolutely wrong -- and don't get it. We know you're out there people, and your not the caffeinated elite -- you're ass-holes. Get over it.


I don't have this problem as I only frequent cafes that serve Moka D'Oro.  It's a coffee that sits very well with my temperamental stomach.


Firstly, as a coffee snob from Melbourne (Australia) I am amazed that the words "Brooklyn" and "barista" go together. Now, having got that phenomenon all I want to say is ... "well done, you". And, especially well done if your beans are sourced through one of the fair trade scheme. That way your African or Latin suppliers can be happy too.


The irony being that the commit level is really just an espresso. No second mortgage required.