The thing about Joe

Coffee for beginners 101

Kathy Mifflin makes an iced mocha at Java Jolt on campus.

Kathy Mifflin makes an iced mocha at Java Jolt on campus.

photo by amy beck

Despite dabbling a bit in high school, college is where many people learn to start drinking coffee. While it’s nothing to fear—in fact, many find coffee one of the best reasons to wake up—you may need to ease into it.

A common way to start is to add enough cream and sugar to make a cup of black coffee palatable. Over time, you’ll likely require less of these additions. And it needn’t even be cream and sugar; try it with skim or soy milk with honey, Splenda, agave syrup or raw sugar, among other options.

That was an obvious one. For more, we asked some campus baristas for their professional opinions.

At Bibo 3 off Record Street, the menu above the counter offers chais, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, americanos …

“There’s a whole culture of coffee lingo,” says Bibo barista Jen Graham. “I feel like it’s intimidating.”

Abigail Allen, also a Bibo barista, agrees. “The kids who come in here stare at the menu like it’s a foreign language.” She says to just ask for help if you need it.

That said, knowing some coffee terminology comes in handy. Here are some basic ones:

Espresso: a highly caffeinated extraction of ground coffee and the basis for specialty coffee drinks.

Latte: Espresso with steamed milk.

Cappucino: Equal proportions of espresso, milk and foam.

Americano: Espresso and water.

Macchiato: Espresso with a dollop of foam.

Specialty drinks can pack a buzz but also calories and are a kick to the wallet.

photo by amy beck

Mocha: Like a hot chocolate latte.

Specialty drinks are a nice introduction to coffee because they’re often milky, and with syrup additions like hazelnut, Irish cream, mint, caramel and more, they go down easy.

If you just want a little caffeine kick, a chai latte is actually tea-based but tastes like pumpkin pie in a cup. You could even add a shot of espresso to it for a “dirty chai.”

“Stick with lattes,” is Graham’s advice for beginners. “Pick a flavor you like, put it in a latte, and it’ll probably be good.”

It’s also good to remember that specialty drinks typically contain hundreds more calories and can cost two or three times as much as a cup of regular coffee, so you may want to make them an occasional treat rather than a daily habit.

Another word of warning: Don’t overdo it. When you have too many shots of tequila too fast, you feel bad … very bad. When you have too many cups of coffee you feel, well not as bad as too much tequila, but pretty crappy. You’ll feel shaky, jittery, and like espresso is the only thing running through your veins.

“Too much can make you feel nauseous,” says Graham.

Kathy Mifflin is a barista at Java Jolt in front of the Getchell building. “If they don’t have a lot of experience with coffee, get a single shot of espresso” in your drink, she says, rather than, say, a typical double-shot latte. “Go gradual with caffeine because some are real sensitive to it, and others like it nice and strong.”

To help counteract the effects of too much coffee, Allen and Graham advise drinking plenty of water and eating something along with it.

Beginners should also note that there are forms of tiredness even coffee can’t fix. Sometimes, you should really just go to bed.