You step into the café feeling fatigued, yet weirdly confident in spending $4 to $7 on a modernized morning beverage. While debating between an Americano, latte, cappuccino or drip, it hits you that it may be time to think outside the familiar coffeehouse. While we applaud how much of a challenge that can be when you fall on the wrong side of the caffeinated divide, it may be worth your while.
You glance up at the board once more, your gaze landing on a … pour-over? Aren’t all coffee drinks, like poured over? What’s that mean, exactly?
1. The Pour-Over
First of all, above the din of all this honky-tonk coffee talk, you need to know the basics: coffee beans are the fermented seeds of a cherry-like shrub. They have nuanced, sweet, fruit-like flavors that were, until now, historically diluted by careless coffee processes of yore.
More careful methods of formulating coffee drinks, such as pour-overs, are meant to expose the underbelly of this tasty bean and allow its light, fruity flavors to shine.
This Japanese technique of hand-controlling a thin stream of water over a concentrated area for several minutes – as opposed to drip coffee, which floods the filter full of grounds and allows a willy-nilly nasal drip of coffee. The result? Tastier coffee with more complex flavors, by all non-neophyte accounts.
2. The Gibraltar
Invented by energy-starved Blue Bottle employees in San Francisco, the Gibraltar is so-named after the glass they typically serve it in, the 4 oz. Libbey “Gibraltar” tumbler.
Created as a way for the Blue Bottle workers to get a quick caffeine fix, the drink consists of two shots of espresso and a tiny bit of milk, just enough to cool down the espresso and render it into a palatable shot.
Not as romantic as an origin story about an intrepid explorer bringing coffee to a Moorish outcropping in the sea, but alas, we can’t have it all.
3. The Cortado
Popular in Spain, Portugal, Norway, and Latin America, a cortado is an espresso “cut” with a small amount of steamed milk – in a ratio of 1.1 to 1.2 added after the espresso is poured.
Cortado is the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar: to cut. In Cuba, it is often served in a special cortado glass with a metal wire base and a metal ring handle. This one is essentially the same drink as a Gibraltar, and if both are on the menu, the cortado might boast a longer espresso pull.
4. Flat White
Especially popular in Australia, a flat white is an espresso topped with less steamed milk than a latte, yet a fair bit more than the humdingers above. In Australia, it features a single shot of espresso whereas just across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, it’s a double shot.
The steamed milk is the “microfoam” variety, which boasts fine bubbles and a velvety consistency: more frothy than a latte, less frothy than a cappuccino. It’s the Goldilocks of Froth.
Why is it called a “white”? Because, in New Zealand, coffee without milk is referred to as “black” and coffee with any milk is referred to as a “white” coffee. The “flat” arguably comes from the final solution of foam consistency.
5. The Guillermo
Espresso poured over a couple slices of lime is a Guillermo. It is sometimes served over ice and with a bit of milk to sweeten the pot. The double acidity of the lime and the coffee works pretty well.
The origins of the drink are unclear, but we like to imagine it all stemmed from a little Spanish fellow with a mustache and a penchant for herringbone trousers that had a lime farm and a grand idea as to how to implement a daily use for his household’s redundancy of the tiny green fruits.
We hope you now feel more confident sallying forth into the great unknown known of the coffee sphere. Try a new drink, order with aplomb, and maybe even impress a barista with your insider knowledge.
(jk: they shall never be impressed, it’s in their handbook).