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5 Common Myths and Misconceptions in the Coffee Shop

Brewing and serving coffee can be complicated. As a result, a lot of myths and misconceptions can float around as to how coffee is prepared and consumed. This article examines 5 key misconceptions or myths related to coffee and sets the record straight.

  1. Milk Temperature

If you’ve ever taken a sip of a latte and thought it tasted a bit cooler than your drip coffee at home, you’re completely correct. Lattes and other milk drinks will never be as hot as drip or filter coffee, because milk can only be heated up to a certain temperature before burning and spoiling. At Coffee Lab, for example, we brew our pour overs at 207℉ to help maximize extraction and taste. Milk, however, is best poured into espresso between 139℉ and 149℉. When heated above these temperatures, the milk fats become scorched, developing a sulphurous smell and taste. If you really want an extra hot latte, try it with soy or oat milk, as these plant-based substitutes can be heated to higher temperatures while still preserving flavor.

  1. Dark roasts have more caffeine

Intuitively, it makes sense: darker roasts are stronger and therefore have a higher caffeine content. Some even claim that the reverse is true: lighter roasts have more caffeine as less is “burned off” in the roasting process. Sadly, neither is true: caffeine is relatively consistent across roasting styles. There is some truth to a cup of light roast having more caffeine than the same volume of dark roast, as light roast beans are denser than dark roast ones. So, if you’re measuring coffee by the scoop, light roasts will have more caffeine than dark roasts. However, this variation is minimal and will have very little impact on your daily caffeine consumption.

  1. Macchiato Size

The “Caramel Macchiato” has become synonymous with the large, milky drinks served at a certain unnamed coffee chain. Traditional macchiatos, however, are almost unrecognizable when compared to this sugary manifestation. The Caffe Macchiato originated as a way to sneak in an extra espresso in the afternoon. As cappuccinos are strictly for the morning, a macchiato isn’t as strong as a plain espresso, but still packs a punch. Some baristas will put a few teaspoons of milk foam on top of the espresso, at Coffee Lab we add milk foam on a small layer of steamed milk, making a 2:1 ratio of coffee to milk. Basically, what we'll serve you is a 4oz beverage. If you want that large milky drink caramel macchiatos have come to represent, a large caramel latte might get the job done.

  1. A Flat White is just an Australian Latte

If you’ve ever been to Australia or New Zealand, or have heard read about coffee culture down under for a second, you might have come across the Flat White. While less popular in the United States, the Flat White is the drink of choice for Aussies and Kiwis. Flat Whites originated as a less foamy – or flatter – alternative to the cappuccino, and have since become increasingly popular in third-wave coffee shops. A Flat White usually contains two shots of espresso, and then about 4 oz of very thinly textured milk. A latte, by contrast, is usually served in 12-16 oz sizes and has a sizeable layer of foam at the top, though less than a cappuccino.

  1. Decaf Coffee has no Caffeine

Decaf coffee can seem like a great way to sneak in that third cup of the day without feeling guilty about your caffeine intake. However, decaf coffee does in fact contain small amounts of caffeine, as it’s almost impossible to remove all the caffeine from coffee. Decaf coffee is made by soaking the beans in a chemical solution before roasting to break down caffeine molecules. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average cup 8 oz of regular coffee contains 95-200mg of caffeine, while a decaf cup has between 2-15mg. However, for the majority of people, this level of caffeine is unlikely to have any noticeable effects. Maybe don’t have that decaf cup right before bed, but you can stay guilt-free during the day.


Leo Sainati

Student at Northwestern University

Specialty Coffee Barista at Coffee Lab Evanston

Coffee Lab Blogger

Writing Intern at Ignitus Digital Evanston


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