Food & Drinks, Lifestyle

Does Your Local Barista Secretly Hate You? Here’s What Not To Order At A Coffee Shop

what not to order at a coffee shop

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s spring editorial intern Megan Pavek. Find her on Instagram at @megan.pavek. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

Coffee shops are the perfect community spaces for gathering, sharing ideas and enjoying specialty drinks. Providing a comforting retreat to customers who are lured inside with the promise of caffeine, delicious bakery smells and soothing music. Often the ideal spot to enjoy a good book, get some work done, or catch up with a loved one, many of us jump at the opportunity to visit our favorite coffee shop. However, there’s a dark side to this magic; behind the glossy, customer-service exterior, it’s entirely plausible that your local barista hates you.

Banding together online, united by the consistent customer faux pas they have endured time and again, cafe workers are fed up. Do them a favor and learn what not to order at a coffee shop. Additionally, we’ve compiled the following tips for general etiquette and and assurance that your next barista interaction will be a pleasant one for all parties involved.

Coffee Shop Barista GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Basics

One of the biggest blunders that customers make is ordering a drink without fully understanding what it is. Of course there are certain distinctions and ways each drink is made, impacting which variations are appropriate to request. By having a basic knowledge of standard espresso drinks, you can avoid embarrassing yourself by ordering a nonsense beverage.

Let’s begin with a rundown of one of the most standard coffee orders; the latte. A latte is made using espresso and steamed milk, with a small layer of milk foam on top. That foam is used to create the latte art we all love and adore. Think of a cortado as a smaller latte, made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

Other staple drinks include drip coffee and americanos. Drip coffee is the standard brewed coffee we’re likely all familiar with, and an americano is an espresso diluted with hot water. Americanos typically have a bolder flavor, but drip coffee tends to have more caffeine, depending on the shop of course.

There seems to be a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding cappuccinos and flat whites. Consisting of espresso and milk foam, the only difference between a cappuccino and a latte is that a cappuccino has more foam. You may order one either “wet” or “dry” translating into either “less foam and more steamed milk” or “extra foam and less steamed milk.”

Now that you know the main distinction of a cappuccino is more foam, you can understand how ridiculous it is when a customer orders a “cappucino with no foam.” Surprisingly, this happens more often than you would think! 

The traditional flat white hails from Australia and falls between the size of a standard latte and cortado, named after the flat white layer of microfoam that is signature to creating this drink. Not every coffee shop offers a flat white, so if you don’t see it on the menu, simply don’t order it. If you do, you will likely get a latte instead. According to Food & Wine, size matters when ordering a flat white and by ordering a larger drink you will offset the carefully crafted ratio, resulting in a beverage much more similar to a latte.

Blue Bottle Ugh GIF by Julieee Logan - Find & Share on GIPHY

In summary, the distinction between many coffee drinks lies in how the milk is steamed and how much foam is used. Armed with this knowledge, do yourself and every barista out there a favor by refraining from ordering an iced cappuccino or an iced flat white as these drinks require steamed milk used for a hot drink.

How Starbucks Ruined The Macchiato

A traditional macchiato is an espresso with a dollop of foam, resulting in a small drink that is typically 3 ounces. If you go to any local coffee shop and order a macchiato, this is what you will likely receive. In contrast, Starbucks has marketed an entire line of flavored macchiatos that can be ordered in all flavors and sizes, creating confusion for consumers. Some shops will offer their own take on a “starbucks” macchiato and give you a version of a latte that is layered differently.

Pro tip- if you’re at a coffee shop and the macchiato is cheaper than a latte, it’s safe to assume that it’s the traditional form of the drink. If you’re looking for a starbucks version, you can ask for a latte with flavored drizzle on top instead. Most places will make an icced macchiato without holding any grudges. Just know that the whole point of this drink is layering the espresso and milk, so when when you mix it you are entirely defeating the purpose and now have a latte instead.

Coffee Shop Etiquette


using tiktok to unpack all the horror which was my old barista job 😂🫶 #barista #baristalife #baristaproblems #baristatok #retail #retailproblems

♬ original sound – siani💫

Now that we’ve covered the basics and the Starbucks macchiato dilemma, it’s time to delve into the world of etiquette. Adding on to what not to order at a coffee shop, please be ready when you’re ordering and clarify any substitutions. Most shops have a default size and milk they use for each drink, so if you don’t specify that you would like a larger size with oat milk, you’re going to be extremely disappointed.

Additionally, please don’t order a drink and then walk away to not pay attention when the drink is ready and your name is called. Baristas are usually busy and have better things to do than personally track you down and make sure that you receive your drink. The cherry on top of this situation is when the customer gets upset that their drink is cold.

Maybe you’re local barista may secretly hate you, maybe they don’t. The truth is, it’s part of their job to provide a certain level of customer service so you may never know. What you can control is your coffee orders and interactions. Apply some of this advice to your next visit and please remember to treat all cafe workers with kindness. We’re all just trying to get through the day together with hopes of cultivating good coffee and a sense of community!

Feel more confident going to the coffee shop now? We hope this article helped! Let us know in the comments below!

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