Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to make a copycat Starbucks Frappuccino and Test Your Coffee IQ with Cleo Coyle

Pop Quiz
What is a barista? 

a) a lawyer from England
b) someone who prepares alcoholic beverages 
c) a fashionable garment
d) a person who loves burritos
e) someone who prepares coffee drinks

A major coffee company asked 2,000 Americans this very question. As the author of a series of mysteries set in a landmark coffee shop, I was naturally interested in the results. So how did they do?

11% reported that a barista was a lawyer from England. 

7% thought it was someone who prepares alcoholic beverages. 

6% said it was a fashionable garment. 

1% reported that it was a person who loves burritos. 

41% said they did not know. 

34% got it right.

All of you hardworking baristas out there should not be disheartened. Two out of three people probably can’t tell you the difference between a neurologist and a podiatrist, either. But, hey, that’s where books can help. 

Slang, of course, is an important part of any novel’s setting, whether it's cop jargon or medical terminology, and I always enjoy reading a story in which the author is teaching me something new about a culture or region. 

For our Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, which feature the ghost of a hard-boiled PI, my husband and I researched the patois used by gumshoes of the Black Mask era. For the Coffeehouse Mysteries, however, we made like our ghostly detective (Jack) and haunted coffeehouses. 

For those of you who enjoy coffeehouse culture already, you can test your java IQ with my glossary below. For those who don’t have a clue what the difference is between a "dry" cappuccino and a "skinny" latte, my list of terms will give you a head start on some basics and an easy recipe that you can make in your own kitchen. May you...

Drink (and read) with joy!
~ Cleo

Some Basic 
Coffeehouse Terms
from Cleo

Shot–a single serving of espresso, often in a small cup called a demitasse.

Doppio espresso–two shots of espresso; “Doppio” in Italian literally means double.

Espresso–An Italian word that literally means “express,” the term refers to a method for making coffee. Espresso usually starts with a darkly roasted coffee (an “Italian” or “espresso” roast), which is ground very fine and packed tightly into the “portafilter” handle of an espresso machine. A small amount of very hot water is forced through these packed grounds at a high pressure. The contact time between the water and the coffee is very short, about 25 seconds. When an espresso is made correctly, you should see a reddish-brown “crema” at the top of your cup. This coffee foam is the single most important thing to look for in a well-made espresso. It tells you the oils in the coffee have been released and suspended in the liquid. (If you’re in France, you might hear customers ordering “café noir,” which is what they call a single shot of espresso.)

Latte–(“lat” for short.) All Italian-style drinks in a gourmet coffeehouse start with at least one shot of espresso, and the latte is no exception. Short for “café latte,” this is the most popular drink served in American coffeehouses. It’s made by adding steamed or hot milk to one or more espresso shots. Americans top their lattes with foam. Italians do not.

Cappuccino–(“cap” for short.) Like a latte, this drink starts with espresso, but much more foamed milk is added than you’ll find in a latte.

Dry (or foamy)–as in “I’d like a dry cap.” Dry means you’d like more foamed milk in your drink.

Wet (or flat)–as in “I’d like a wet cap.” Wet means you’d like less foam in your cappuccino and more steamed milk instead.

Mocha–chocolate variation of a latte

Vanilla latte–when you add vanilla syrup to a plain latte

Caramel latte–when you add caramel syrup to a plain latte

And so on: Many more variations can be made to the latte by adding different flavored syrups. The above flavors are the most popular. Others commonly found in American coffeehouses include hazelnut, almond, raspberry, Irish crème, peppermint, cinnamon, and Valencia orange. 

Steamers–a drink of steamed milk using flavored syrup and no espresso.
More fun coffeehouse terms include:

Red eye–aka Speed Ball, Depth Charge, Shot in the Dark, Café M.F. This drink works on the same principal as a boilermaker. It’s a shot of espresso dumped into a cup of brewed coffee. When you really need that caffeine buzz, this is your drink.

Why bother–a decaf espresso, as in: “One ‘why bother,’ please!”

Harmless–a drink made with decaf espresso and skim milk.

Skinny–coffeehouse jargon for requesting skim milk in your drink instead of whole.

Breve–as in “I’d like a breve latte or I’d like a breve cap.” This means that you would like half-and-half instead of whole milk in your drink.

Pull–as in “short pull” of espresso or “I pulled a doppio espresso for him.” Espresso machines once had handles, which the barista pulled to begin the process of forcing the water, under high pressure, through the espresso. The term stuck, even though modern coffeehouse espresso machines no longer function the same way.

Ristretto–In Italian, ristretto literally means “restricted,” and that’s a good way to think about a restricted, or short shot of espresso. It’s made with less than the usual amount of water, essentially stopped or pulled short. (You might also hear the term “short pull.” This produces an even more intense flavor than a regular espresso shot.)

And, finally...

You can be your own barista
with this frosty, refreshing 
recipe for a copycat "Frap"...
coffeehouse slang for
Frappuccino, of course!

To download this recipe
in a PDF document that you
can print, save, or share, click here.

Cleo Coyle's
Chilly Copycat "Frap"


Makes one 8-ounce serving

1/3 cup coffee (4 coffee ice cubes)
1/3 cup milk (low fat is fine)
2 teaspoons sugar (or more if you like your drinks sweeter)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (makes a mochaccino)
whipped cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS: Fill an ice cube tray with leftover coffee and freeze. Place four of your coffee ice cubes in a blender. Add milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and (optional) cocoa for a mochaccino. Pulse the blender to chop the coffee cubes into fine particles. You can create an icy drink with small chips (like a frozen margarita) or run the blender full speed until the mixture is completely liquefied yet still cold and frothy. To finish, pour this frosty refresher into a glass mug and top with whipped cream.

Drink with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 
To learn more, click here. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.


  1. very interesting and informative...I knew some of the terms but not all. Love my coffee! And I love the Coffee House mysteries.

    1. Aw, thanks for the nice note, and I hope you continue to enjoy the books!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Since we are flirting with highs in the upper 80s, this is perfect! Thanks, yet again.

  3. Perfect for the hot weather, Cleo. I love my coffee and I will really enjoy this.

    Thank you!

  4. I'm happy to see I knew all the terms....but then my daughter is a barista so I guess I should:)

  5. Important terms to know. I love a good barista. :) Thanks, Cleo!

    Daryl / Avery

  6. Oh yum!!! Perfect recipe for a summer day, a good book and a lawn chair! Now I'll just need a piggy bank to stash all the extra money I'll be saving by making my own :-) Thanks, Cleo!

  7. Thanks for the translation of the terms. I can never remember the exact terms. I always explain what I want and they say -- sure, an xyz, like everyone should know! Beautiful photos, Cleo!


  8. Thanks for the helpful info! =)
    Your recipe sounds delicious!