“Can I Get a uhhhhhhh…..”

Kix Patterson
Feb 14, 2017 · 3 min read

The world of coffee drinks can be hard to master. “Espresso, Ristretto, Cappuccino, what does that even mean?” you may ask. Today, I want to dive into the 4 most commonly confused coffee drinks. This is based off of common confusion at the coffee shop where I work and may vary by area.

Latte vs Cappuccino

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a latte as “a type of coffee made with espresso and hot steamed milk, milkier than a cappuccino.” While this does not seem helpful to someone searching for the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, a visual description into these drinks may be more helpful. Lattes contain a 50–50 mix of steamed milk and foam on top. Cappuccinos, on the other hand, have a 30–70 mix of steamed milk to foam. The extra foam of a cappuccino allows the drinker to experience the espresso with less milk to cover the taste.

One of my recent Instagram posts of a timelapsed latte.

Local Barista Ashley completing a Molten Chocolate Latte.

Is a Frappuccino (or Similar Variation) Available Hot?

Our friends over at Starbucks coined a term specifically for their version of a blended coffee beverage, Frappuccino. Frappuccino comes from the root word frappe. Frappe is a common setting on most blenders, which is a descriptor of the blended ice. This form of blended ice allows the drinker to consume the ice, which provides a cold, refreshing drink. These may contain thickening agents to hold the perfect consistency throughout the drinking experience. Many customers confuse the term Cappuccino and Frappuccino because of their similarities in naming, however, they share very little in common.

Barista Ashley returns, this time preparing a Frappuccino Beverage.

“Do You Want That Hot, Iced or Blended?”

The most common response to this question is, “Uhhhh, what the difference between iced and blended?” An iced drink is simply the cold version of most hot lattes, but with cold milk instead of steamed milk. Iced drinks include iced lattes, iced coffee, and iced teas. Due to the mixing difficulties of syrups in cold milk, many iced beverages may include extra espresso and flavor pumps. As discussed above, a blended beverage (Frappuccino) is an iced drink that is blended on a frappe setting.

Barista Ashley (left) prepares an iced caramel macchiato. Manager Katie (right) prepares an iced coffee.

“Ree-stret-toe? What is that?!”

A secret that most people have never even heard of, is the idea that you can adjust your espresso pull time to change the flavor. Pull time is how long water flows through the espresso grounds. Most shots of espresso are pulled for 18 to 21 seconds, which gives the bold and smooth taste of espresso that you might expect. Ristretto shots are pulled for 12–16 seconds, providing a sweeter and less abrasive taste to espresso (my personal favorite!) The long shot, known to Italians as Caffe Allongé, has a pull time of 22–28 seconds and uses twice as much water as the average shot. Taste quality for these shots can be hit-or-miss, but allows the drinker to experience the entire profile of the bean.


Thanks to the U of M Starbucks Location (Store #19344) for allowing me to capture you “workin’ it!” Hopefully, this article helps you understand coffee drinks and the strange terms that come along with them! Please share this post to spread the education to others!

Heart You All!

Kix P.

Kix Patterson

Written by

I am a 20-something living in Memphis. I post mostly about the coffee culture I’m involved in. I’m truly addicted to caffeine. Follow me everywhere: @ItsKixP

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