,,Can I have milk on the side?”…

Hello Everyone!

Today, I want to focus on something, that most baristas have problem with.
Those drinks, that always were a big question mark for all of Us.
We have always been asking ourselves: ,,Do they actually like coffee?”.


As a coffee lover with full meaning of that word, I will not put milk into filter coffee,
or sugar into espresso, but… I had to understand that there are millions of people who would.

Now, You can adjust Your menu. You can just remove, let’s say, ,,Mocha”, You can remove Latte Macchiato, but can You say ,,No” when customer asks for milk to black coffee?
Many might not agree with me on this one, but I strongly believe, no, You can not.
The ancient coffee houses, had no choices. There was only: ,,coffee”. They didn’t have any syrups or extra flavorings, yet. They came later, We have learnt that You can mix, we have learnt that coffee will not be bitter if You pour milk into it,  and here is the big one. Why do We drink coffee? Is it for caffeine? Well, maybe, mostly, people say that. I don’t feel addicted at all, I don’t need caffeine to wake up, I can stop drinking coffee for a week, and I won’t die (of course it is just me). Why then? Here is my theory. Celebration… We celebrate everything. We like to have something we can repeat every day, we eat our ,,corn flakes”, we do lie to ourselves, that they are so healthy, well, not as fruit salad isn’t it. But still, We know this picture: Typical morning, family wakes up, mom is calling everyone to the kitchen, family gather together, everyone grabs huge box of cereals… It is easy to repeat that, as well as it is easy to repeat our morning coffee routine. There are coffee shops literally everywhere…
Now, How many times have You seen customer actually tasting coffee before putting milk or sugar into the coffee? I have seen few situations like that. The reason is, they already have. They have tasted coffee few years back, and it was horrible. We were giving our customers reason to put this milk and sugar in (we, or our baristas from 20 years ago). Coffee was bitter, if it wasn’t, it was sour. Why would You not enjoy Your morning because of that, if You can celebrate tasty drink… We have to respect that.
There are few drinks that are very popular for it’s ,,not being good”, in baristas opinion.

I have asked 20 people from all around the world, to taste them and score them according to:
– Sweetness
– Balance
– Coffee flavor intensity
– Mouthfeel
– Overall
We have scored them from 1 – 5 where:
– 1 is bad
– 2 is acceptable
– 3 is good
– 4 is very good
– 5 is excellent
Everyone has been asked to be fair and objective, not picking personal favorites, or scoring down drinks that might be against his/her believes.
Why did we do that? To understand… understand why do people order those drinks.
For each of drink, we have used 8oz size of a cup, double espresso, 30g of chocolate (for Mocha).
Drinks that we scored were:
– Americano with milk
– Soy latte
– Mocha
– Dry cappuccino
– Espresso with spoon of sugar


I have also asked few of my friends, that I know, drink those drinks, what is the reason they pick them.
They answers were clearly astonishing.
8 people who put milk into Americano, said, they do it, because coffee is to hot! That is quite a surprising reason for me. 6 people choosing dry cappuccino, said, that usual cappuccino is to ,,watery” (wet), and it is just like a latte. 10 people who put sugar into their espressos, said, that without it is just really not enjoyable, to aggressive, to sour, to bitter.

Our tasting results, showed me, what is special about each of a drink.
Here is how it looked like:

Americano with milk:
– Sweetness: 1.4
– Balance: 1.7
– Coffee flavor intensity: 2.3
– Mouthfeel: 1.7
– Overall: 1.7

Soy latte:
– Sweetness: 2.3
– Balance: 2.1
– Coffee flavor intensity: 2.4
– Mouthfeel: 2.8
– Overall: 2.4

– Sweetness: 4.1
– Balance: 3.4
– Coffee flavor intensity: 2.3
– Mouthfeel: 3.0
– Overall: 3.6

Dry cappuccino:
– Sweetness: 1.6
– Balance: 1.3
– Coffee flavor intensity: 2.6
– Mouthfeel: 1.5
– Overall: 1.9

Espresso with spoon of sugar:
– Sweetness: 3.0
– Balance: 1.8
– Coffee flavor intensity: 2.1
– Mouthfeel: 2.4
– Overall: 2.4

Now We can clearly see, what is special about those drinks. People choose:

Americano with milk for coffee flavor intensity;

Soy latte for mouthfeel;

Mocha for sweetness;

Dry cappuccino for coffee flavor intensity;

Espresso with spoon of sugar for sweetness;

From overall, the worst is Americano with milk, the best Mocha, Mocha also won completely (I am not surprised).
Interestingly, none of those drinks score highest in balance. What we can see is that people want something that has ,,strong coffee flavor” but is sweet as well. Sounds pretty good for You right?
Isn’t it how would You describe most of Your espressos? ,,Nice and smooth, sweet and full of flavor”.
Well, as You can see, something isn’t working yet, even if it is sweet for You, it isn’t for customer…

My point is not, to give up and give customers whatever they want, which is actually difficult, not to, because of well known Starbucks all time rule ,,always say yes” (I have worked for Starbucks in Poland for 3 months and totally experienced that).  No, but also, not to push and force them to drink something they don’t want nor enjoy.
My point is, we still have to educate our guests, but until they will get there, let’s not make their morning celebration unenjoyable, because we will lose them for some other place. We can tell customer, ,, in a month You will drink Americano, just black, I will put one gram less every day for You, and after a month You will get used to coffee flavor as it is”. That way, we still give customers, whatever they want, but with that, we can progress with our education…

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