While everyone's getting daffy for daffodils, we're over here getting crazy for coffee—okay, so it doesn't have to be spring for us to get crazy for coffee. That said, there are certain drinks that smack of the season, and we're facing down the unpredictable spring weather (warm one minute! cold the next!) with a nice mix of hot and iced caffeinated drinks to regulate our delicate body temperature–to-comfort ratio.
Truth be told, I hate spring: It's too in-between for me. Not quite iced-coffee weather, but often too warm for all that heavy cappuccino nonsense. Thankfully there are a couple in-betweenies on the café menu, too, to help us through these rough first days.
Slightly cooler than its larger and milkier cousin the caffe latte, an espresso cortado is kind of the perfect balance of coffee and lightly textured steamed milk, typically a 1:1 ratio, often served in a glass without a handle—hence the milder temp. A transitional drink, just like the spring season itself: Not too big, not too heavy. Just a little bit warm and a little bit sweet for those brisk blue mornings.
Not quite ready to go whole hog on the huge batches of iced coffee? Every once in a while, on those rare 60°-plus spring days, you can throw an iced Americano into your weekly coffee diet for a nice, refreshing compromise. Because they're made to order, you can feel the day out a little bit before adding or eliminating the "iced" part to the ticket at the last second.
Ideally, the iced version of this diluted-espresso drink is a kind of flip-flop of its hot counterpart. When enjoying a warm one, you'd want to add a fresh double espresso on top of the hot water to preserve the crema; if there's ice involved, however, I like to add cold water (say, 4 to 6 ounces) on top of the coffee, and then top the glass off with ice for maximum chill.
Not a menu item at many cafés, a sidecar can sometimes be arranged if you happen to know your barista pretty well, and he or she is into doing a little something special for a regular. The drink is a double shot split among two demitasse cups: One left as is, and the other finished with a dollop of textured steamed milk to make an espresso macchiato. The idea is to explore the flavor of an espresso coffee on its own, and also see how it might stand up to a skosh of dairy—it's an especially great way to get to know a single-origin coffee that might be new to you and/or to the person pulling the shots. (As with any off-menu item, though, don't be a bozo about it: If you ask and the barista is all, "Um...," don't stress the point.)
Have any other spring coffee favorites? Lay 'em on me!
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.