COFFEE: What the Eff Are You Drinking?

As a barista and coffee addict, I witness several occasions leading me to believe the world wants to be educated on that liquid crack they consume every morning.

Often times, people head into my place of employment feeling specific and ask for a triple soy Cuban style sugar free vanilla latte. After discussing the subject with customers and friends, I can confidently assume hardly anyone knows what any of that truly means.

I knew next to nothing about O.C.D. (Obsessive Coffee Disorder) before becoming a barista. Now that I’m thoroughly educated and addicted, I’ve become somewhat of a coffee snob, something I’m dealing with and am not proud of. To us up-to-10-cups-a-day people, coffee and espresso drinks represent more than an afternoon pick me up, or a liquid smack in the face. It’s a true art form (that also tastes delicious as long as you know what to order and where).

Lucky for us, the Iowa City/Coralville area offers a multitude of coffee shops with various options: the good, the bad and the overpriced. I’m here to tell you what’s exactly in those paper cups you blindly consume every morning and where to get the best ones.


java house coffee

Best place to get one: The Java House, 211 E. Washington Street, Iowa City

Contrary to popular belief, coffee and espresso are different things. Coffee is what you make at home in your Keurig or French press every morning. Most stores offer one or a few house blends of coffee. Espresso is what comes in those “designer” drinks most chain coffee shops offer such as lattes, mochas, macchiatos, etc.

Coffee comes black, but cream and sugar may be added depending on your sweet tooth. The lighter the roast of coffee, the more caffeine it contains.

Espresso contains more caffeine, but usually comes in smaller amounts. You order a cup of coffee vs. ordering a shot of espresso, which is usually around one to two ounces depending on where you go.

Definitely try Java House’s organic Sumatra. They offers three house blends, but rotate a featured organic and “Conversation” coffee almost every day. They make their coffee on a pour-over brew bar, which means a fresh cup every time.

Iced Coffee

bread garden iced coffee

Best place to get one: Bread Garden Market, 225 S. Linn Street, Iowa City

Yes, I thought it deserved its own category. Iced coffee refreshes you not only during the warmer months, but it also doesn’t rely on time for your enjoyment. If you want to be able to sip on something slowly throughout work or class, iced coffee is the way to go. Some like to add cream and sugar as you would to hot coffee.

Shops usually do either an iced coffee or a cold brew. Iced coffee is simply regular hot coffee, which is then cooled down. Cold brew coffee is made cold, usually twice as caffeinated as regular coffee and smoother than iced coffee.

Not only does Bread Garden offer a cold brew, but they also have coffee ice cubes – meaning your drink won’t get too watery while you sip. Another recommendation for those feeling adventurous: their new Vietnamese iced coffee, a sweeter version of the classic drink.


waterstreet cappuccino

Best place to get one: Waterstreet Coffee Bar, 925 E. Second Avenue, Coralville

A cappuccino comes with a single shot of espresso topped with steamed milk and a good amount of milk foam, the bubbles that form at the top of the liquid when milk is steamed. They’re usually around five to six ounces.

Waterstreet opened only a few years ago and offers many classic espresso drinks. Zach, the barista, recommended he make me a cappuccino. Along with the friendly and cool atmosphere, the drink was absolutely gorgeous (and delicious).


fair grounds mocha

Best place to get one: Fair Grounds Coffeehouse, 345 S. Dubuque Street, Iowa City

In a nutshell, a mocha is a few shots of espresso and steamed chocolate milk or a chocolate-flavored latte. Establishments usually use a cocoa powder or chocolate syrup. Sizes vary similar to lattes, but usually come from eight to 16 ounces.

Unlike most coffee shops, Fair Grounds makes their own mocha concentrate that’s completely vegan, similar to most other things on their menu. This ensures a satisfying chocolate flavor that isn’t overly sweet.


prairie lights cortado

Best place to get one: Prairie Lights Café, 15 S. Dubuque Street, Iowa City

If you want something easier to drink and more concentrated, a cortado is a quick and satisfying caffeine fix. Cortados are a shot of espresso cut with a small amount of steamed milk. The drink comes around five to six ounces.

It seems as though many people forget about Prairie Lights Bookstore’s café on the top floor – a great place to grab a cortado and a good read.


caffe crema latte

Best place to get one: Caffe Crema, 411 Second Street, Coralville

Seemingly one of the most popular among young people, a latte consists of a shot of espresso and steamed milk. Sizes vary all over the country (and the world). Lattes may be served hot or iced and most establishments add different flavors to create signature lattes on their menu, such as Starbuck’s new smoked butterscotch latte or The Java House’s sugar cookie latte. This drink is also the canvas for the coveted latte art. So next time you choose to order one, stop and appreciate the beauty!

Notice the foam rosetta design the barista beautifully created. The temperature and size were also perfect according to my standards.

Under my standards, these are the go-to places for my go-to drinks. However, taste is subjective, so go explore the caffeinated world on your own. Now that you’re a coffee pro, it might be time for you to join the addicts. Just maybe keep your bank account in the back of your mind.

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