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Miffed by Coffee Elitist Barista

  • Bryn Dec 7, 2009 05:04 AM
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Am I expecting too much?

I went to a nice coffee place in town, not fancier than your average cafe and I asked for a dry Cappuccino, because last time I got what I would consider a latte. I was then told that they don't "texturize" their milk there. So I said then can I have more foam than milk? I was told by the perky little barista "Just try it and see what you think."

So I ended up with a Latte with wet foam so they can do their little design on the top. I did not want a latte, I don't like them that much. When I go to an Italian Cafe I don't have to ask for a dry Cappuccino its dry enough. I doubt I'm going back there (there is a supermarket cafe that serves a local roaster down the block), but Did I have unreal expectations? That I should get the drink that I wanted?

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  1. Go back only if you were irked.

    1. No, your expectations were fine. The barista just didn't know what they were doing. You should have given the drink back and told her you think you got a latte and if you had wanted a latte you would have ordered a latte.

      1. I usually find that simply requesting less milk works. Most cappuccino is too milky for my tastes, but trying to specify foam vs no foam, etc, hasn't worked for me.

        But if it were me I probably would've returned it. She said, "Just try it and see what you think." You did, and you thought it wasn't good -- she should've made you a new one.

        1. You didn't get what you asked for and were invited to "just try it and see what you think." You tried it and did not think much of it. Therefore you had every right to go back, politely explain that you tried it and didn't like it, and ask for what you ordered or for your money back.

          1. a latte and cappuccino are not differentiated by "dry" or "wet" foam.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jaykayen

              This is true, but in many U.S. establishments the two are almost interchangeable, except the "latte" has no foam. This is why, if I want a cappuccino, I almost always ask for "less milk." Either way they're going to give me a lot of foam, but as long as the espresso beneath it is not too milky I don't care.

              I've even had servers warn me something along the lines of, "Well, okay, but you know the cup won't be full!" I have to reassure them that I don't want a full cup, I want a strong cappuccino! Sometimes I've even just given up and ordered espresso with steamed milk on the side. This gets funny looks but whatever.

            2. I had the same type of experience before. I had been to the same place a couple times and the lattes were always way too sweet. I told the barista that I wanted less syrup this time because it's too much for me. She then went on to tell me WHY they make it the way they do, made it the same way as always, then handed it to me. I was less argumentative back then, sadly. I remember walking outside, tossing it in the garbage and being irked that i just wasted $4. Never went back.

              Nowadays, I have no tolerance for being argued with over simple requests. Coffee drinkers usually know what they like. I know that there is a fancy or "authentic" way to make things, but what's the point if people don't like it?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Azizeh

                Latte with syrup??? Bleh. Should only be sweet if the customer adds sweetening agent...

                1. re: Azizeh

                  <<Coffee drinkers usually know what they like. I know that there is a fancy or "authentic" way to make things, but what's the point if people don't like it?>>

                  Exactly, Azizeh. Well said.

                  My coffee-related life is uncomplicated, because I love and drink coffee one way--as coffee--black, no sugar. And it had better be hot, or I'm demanding a re-do.

                  But I get your point, because I like meat "well done". So does hubby. The grief we get over that! I don't care if the steak cartel tells us we're suppose to like it rare or medium rare or dripping blood or alternating internal flashing spirals of lime green and citron yellow. Maybe all the experts say a particular cut of meat is most flavorful and most tender when it's seared on the outside and a rosy pink inside. If we don't like it, we don't like it.

                  Eaters (and drinkers) of the world, unite. It's our dime.

                  1. re: Azizeh

                    Why would they put anything sweet in a latte???????????

                  2. I feel your pain. I've been having such a hard time finding a decent cappuccino lately. Foam that disappears in 5 minutes seems to be everywhere, when what I want is a thick stable foam that I have to almost spoon out of the cup, and lasts. What are the magic words to use to ask for the kind of foam I want?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: babette feasts

                      Different types of milk foam differently. Skim or fat free produces better foam. Whole milk produces less.
                      The foam should be tamped down before being skimmed (not poured) into the cup.

                      When someone orders cappuccino from me I always ask wet (1/4 milk - 3/4 foam) or dry (all foam), milk choice (fat free, 2%, whole, or soy) and how many shots. Most people seem to be confused and don't know what I'm asking (re wet/dry).

                    2. Alright thanks everyone! I have a tendency to be a bit of a female dog sometimes so I thought I'd double check.

                      1. I have the very same problem with ordering and receiving a legitimate cappucino. I tried ordering 'dry' have now resorted to ordering a macciato. I have to say, very few baristas I have encountered know what a macciato is. The second most basic italian coffee beverage! At my local Peets, I almost got into an argument with one of the baristas over this. Plan C is now ordering an espresso with a little foam on top.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: sdnativa

                          As soon as you start ordering an espresso with a little foam on top, they'll all be saying, "Oh, you mean a macchiato?"

                          1. re: visciole

                            That's because that's what a macchiato is.

                            Too often espresso drinks in the US are not true to the Italian definition of the drink.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              Yes, I understood that. Sdnativa above complained that very few baristas s/he's encountered know what a macchiato is; I just remarked, jokingly, that the minute one starts ordering by saying "an espresso with a little foam," they will all magically know what it is, and correct you.

                              1. re: visciole

                                Ha! exactly. welcome to my world. when I tried to solve the 'capuccino dilemma' by just trying to order a 'macchiato', more often than not the barista assumed I wanted caramel or some kind of syrup mixed into it. ] :-O
                                No wonder I long ago invested in a decent machine for my home!

                                1. re: visciole

                                  Gotcha

                                  1. re: visciole

                                    The thing is that many people walk into a coffee shop ordering a macchiato and mean the bastardized Caramel Macchiato made famous by Starbucks (which contains vanilla syrup and caramel sauce in a latte macchiato). Baristas walk a fine line between deciphering what someone wants and embarassing/insulting a customer, especially where I'm from, Seattle, where people are somewhat crazy about their coffee.
                                    Macchiato just means 'mark' in italian, so It might help to distinguish that you want an espresso macchiato (espresso marked w/ foam), not a latte macchiato (latte marked with espresso).

                            2. The whole point of espresso is that each drink is made specifically for each customer. So the fact that they won't steam the milk the way you prefer makes me think they resteam milk for their customers. Which is gross, IMO.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: soypower

                                No you can see them clearly, but they like doing those latte art things and I don't really care if my coffee is art as long as it is what I want.

                                Also they pour the foam in, which I disagree with as well. Scoop! I like that airy milk!

                              2. You weren't served by a "Coffee elitist barista"

                                A person of that description would have had the vocabulary and chops to make your drink. However, untrained is the rule rather than the exception.

                                Tell them that the pretty little rosettes that they learned to poor don't belong on every drink they might have to serve.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Brandon Nelson

                                  What I dream about telling elitist baristas:
                                  "Your lovely foam 'art' only looks good on Guinness foam just before last call so please just give me the *%$*@# what I asked for."

                                  What I really do:
                                  Give a dirty look and walk out. Then go to a deli and get a regular coffee 'cause I get tired of dealing with the fancy-schmancy PITAs at the coffee place when all I really want at 6:30 AM is a cup of coffee.

                                  Can you tell I got a bad cup of Joe this morning??

                                  1. re: iluvcookies

                                    If you know that regular deli coffee is what you'd rather have, then why don't you go to the deli in the first place?

                                    There are a lot of ways to make coffee and I get that people like what they like, but why go to the schmancy place at all if its not what you like?

                                    1. re: AuRevoirOeuf

                                      I was having a bad day and the newly hired barista was trying to upsell me to some foamy drink at 6:30 am. Generally I get a good cup and no problems.
                                      This was just a vent....

                                2. Milk Foam is detailed very precisely, the reason we have "wet" cappuccino milk foam is because you are adding milk to bring out sweetness in the espresso shot. As to the "dry" cappuccino, I personally see it as more of a dirty drink. It is not delicately processed or well done, its simple and forms odd flavors in the coffee. When you heavily foam milk it separates the water to whey protein in the the milk. In that you are bring low/dirty level flavors out in the coffee. If you are in a Artisan cafe, don't insult the Barista by asking for something not on the menu. Essentially they are giving you a Rolls Royce and your are complaining and asking for a Ford Focus. You don't go into starbucks and ask for a wet cappuccino do you? Let the experts give you the best, and if you want a stronger coffee order a macchiato.

                                  1. Without attempting to judge the result, since I did not experience it, I have to say that my sympathies are with the barista. The whole "wet/dry" thing is bogus, as it does not begin to describe the nuanced blend in a real cappuccino. There is no such thing as a "dry" cappuccino. A "dry" cappuccino is simply an improperly made cappuccino.

                                    There are very few places in my experience where you can get a properly made cappuccino, and it certainly isn't possible to get one from someone who asks you how you want it. The only place I will order a cappuccino is Caffè Greco in North Beach (SF). I just ask for a cappuccino. No "wet or dry." No "for here or to go." Usually no "single or double." And certainly no nonsense about what kind of milk to use. I get a perfectly made single cappuccino in a china cup of the proper size and shape, every time.

                                    Call me elitest. I don't care.

                                    1. A few days back me and DH went to a cafe. We ordered to Mocha and I asked mine to have double shots. DH went to restroom while the coffee was being served. When I asked which one is the stronger one. The server showed the one placed at my husband's place. I said that was for me. He switched but said "But mam this is the one with 2 shots" I simply nodded. Then he turned back again and said "are you sure you want the stronger one?"

                                      How am I supposed to react to that?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: raisa

                                        You just say "yes, I'm quite sure," and leave it at that. It was annoying and condescending, but small potatoes. Not worth getting into an argument about, in my opinion. Pick your battles, unless you want to be battling all the time.

                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          I totally agree with you. They are everywhere.

                                        2. re: raisa

                                          we were out of town and dh stopped in at the local coffee shop and placed *our normal coffee order.* which is on the stronger side... the barista's eyes widened and she blurted: "are you a musician?" dh replied "no, i'm a chef."
                                          apparently that explained everything for her.... lol :)

                                        3. A latte is espresso plus double the amount in volume of milk, steamed.
                                          A cappucino is an espresso plus an equal amount of milk steamed to create a foamy top.
                                          A cappucino senza schiuma is a cappucino without the foamy top.
                                          I've never heard of a "dry" cappucino, personally, and I've never ordered that at a bar in Italy. i fear if I ordered that, I'd get a shot of espresso. Must be a regional thing?
                                          In any event, you should have the drink you want, but maybe ordering a cappucino without the foam on top might be more clear?
                                          :)

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: freia

                                            Gee, you mean a "latte" isn't a beverage that bears some resemblance to a coffee-ish-flavored artificially flavored creamer-type almond-raspberry-fake chocolate sweetened-to-death abomination?

                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              LOLOLOL I'll have a double nofun skinny pumpkin pie latte to go please? And make that a Grande...LOLOLOL

                                              1. re: freia

                                                Ha!

                                            2. re: freia

                                              In a jumbo 64-oz. size1

                                              1. re: freia

                                                I think the wet/dry cappuccino thing has evolved out of coffee shops (I blame Starbucks) making essentially a foamy latte and calling it a cappuccino. Those of us who don't want a quart of foamy milk then learned to ask for it dry, i.e. with less milk. My definition of cappuccino is equal parts espresso, milk, foam, with dry having more foam and less milk, wet vice versa. Either way, a cappuccino is not a 12++ ounce drink. I once stopped in at Peet's for a cappuccino, and the barista asked me a few questions, then said, 'so a trad capp?' (meaning 'traditional' cappuccino). Why yes, if I didn't want a cappuccino, I wouldn't order one! It struck me as funny and sad that we have so bastardized traditional espresso drink definitions that there is a need to inquire whether a person ordering a cappuccino actually wants a cappuccino or if they really want a foamy latte but feel cooler ordering a grande cappuccino. Ugh, this is why I'm glad I get free coffee at work.

                                                Do you have a way of ordering to ensure that you get a stiff, stable foam? I like a cappuccino where the foam lasts for a while, and find it really disappointing to get one where the foam dissipates by the time I'm halfway back to my car. Does foam have another wet/dry spectrum, does it have to do with the fat content of the milk, or do we just have a lot of mediocre baristas? I've essentially given up on ordering cappuccinos.

                                              2. But clearly, they DO texturize their milk there, as wet foam, so they can make nice designs in it which virtually disappear after the first good gulp. That would have annoyed me.
                                                So, did you tell her what you thought?
                                                I'd go back one more time and try again. ONE TIME< ONLY.

                                                1. I am wondering why you returned?

                                                  1. When I want less milk in my cap, I ask for a short pour. The milk remains the same, I just receive less. It works for me.

                                                    1. "Sure, you charge five bucks for a cup of coffee. It's putting out the tip jar that takes REAL guts."

                                                      http://budlight.whipnet.com/mp3/Bud%2...