How To Order Your Coffee Like A Barista

Bovaconti Coffee in Fountain Square

Courtney Thompson knows that walking into a specialty coffee shop can be intimidating. The 26-year-old partner and head roaster at Certain Feelings, a roastery and cafe soon to open in the Garage Food Hall at Bottleworks, has seen it too many times to count: customers overwhelmed by a seemingly endless, globe-spanning selection of lattes, Americanos, cortados, Hondurans, and Ethiopian pour-overs.

Her advice? “Just go into the local coffee shop and talk with a barista,” Thompson says. “You shouldn’t ever feel afraid to do that. I start by asking people what they typically enjoy, or even where they usually go, and that’s a pretty good place to start. Even if it’s not the exact thing that you’re familiar with, we can usually find something that’s at least in that vein.”

One of Thompson’s former customers, a curious newbie, ended up becoming a barista. Maybe you won’t make it that far, but there’s plenty you can do to think like a barista the next time you pop into your neighborhood coffee shop. To start, there’s the barista’s drink of choice: the humble espresso shot, unassuming yet packed with complex flavor when done right. “A lot of our die-hard baristas are big espresso drinkers, so sometimes it feels like it when people come up and order just a shot, they’re sort of saying, ‘Show me your cards,’” Thompson says. 

If you’re just looking to show gratitude for your favorite coffee-stained-apron–wearers? First, if the line is slammed on a busy Sunday morning, avoid the time-consuming pour-over. “That can be tough, because as soon as you get more than one or two, it really sort of pushes your line back,” Thompson says. And for a “do” to that “don’t,” it’s pretty simple: Just tip well. “Pretty much anything is appreciated,” Thompson says. “Still, 20 percent is what you’re hoping for.”