How To Order A Coffee In Australia

How To Order A Coffee In Australia Image | East Coast Tours Australia

This one goes out to all of those travellers who are totally bamboozled from the moment they step foot in an Australian coffee shop. However, with our awesome local coffee culture and specialty brews, skip the Starbucks and head to a local cafe instead! We’ll step you through the difference between a latte, long mac, long black and everything in between, making sure that you and your barista speak the same language! So, grab your keep cup and let’s get caffeinated… one double-shot oat flat white coming right up!

The most common coffees in Australia

Stick with these orders, and any barista will understand what you want.

  • Flat white

Espresso, steamed milk with little foam. Velvety, ‘wet-paint’ milk, served in a cup and saucer.

A great option if you like milky coffee without as much foam as a latte or cappuccino and a classic Australian order! 

  • Cappuccino

(Often called a “cap”)

Espresso, steamed milk with a lot of foam. Served with chocolate powder on top in a cup and saucer.

  • Latte

Espresso, steamed milk with a moderate amount of foam (more than a flat white, less than a cappuccino). Often served in a glass.

The difference between a latte and flat white is very minor; literally a few millimetres of foam and cup choice.

  • Long black 

Double-shot espresso topped off with 80-degree water. Should have an intact crema layer on the surface. Served in a cup and saucer.

This is the closest coffee order to an Americano for any US travellers or a cafe lungo for Italians.

  • Piccolo

Espresso shot and steamed milk. Served in a little 4.5 oz glass.

Ask for a double espresso if you want two shots for a stronger piccolo. This double pic order is probably the easiest way to have a “cortado” resembling drink in Australia for those Spanish travellers!

  • Espresso

Lone espresso shots are served in a short cup and saucer. Should have a nice layer of golden crema on top.

Espresso is espresso wherever you are in the world, so lucky you if this is your go-to order!

  • Iced latte

Espresso, cold milk, ice. Can add syrup or sugar on request. Served in a tall glass.

  • Macchiato

(Often called a “short mac” or “long mac”)

An espresso shot with a tiny splash of steamed milk and a dollop of foam. Served in a short 4.5 oz glass or cup.

As for a long macchiato to receive two shots, and a short macchiato to receive one.

  • Mocha 

An espresso shot, chocolate syrup and steamed milk. Served with chocolate powder on top in a cup or mug.

  • Chai latte

Sweet chai tea powder or syrup with steamed milk. This has a mild cinnamon, cardamon and vanilla flavour usually. Served in a cup or mug, usually with cinnamon on top.

If you're looking for a chai tea (brewed with water or milk), make sure to ask, as most coffee shops stock a sweet powder or syrup and will offer this as default. This is a no-caffeine drink.

A flat white coffee with latte art on a menu

How to ask for a strong coffee

In general most coffees will have one shot for a small, and two shots for a large. If you want a strong coffee, ask for an "extra shot." As for fancy coffee lingo, it's super normal to jazz up your order, so asking for an extra shot, alternative milks and syrups are a normal occurrence in Australia!

What about non-dairy milk?

Oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, skim milk, lactose-free milk and syrups (vanilla, hazelnut and caramel) are common on-hand options at most coffee shops and restaurants. Often they will cost an extra 50 cents - $1 each. Coconut milk, macadamia milk, hemp milk and pea protein milk are kind of fun unusual milks that you may come across in some cafes. Alt milks are also becoming progressively more common, with heaps of non-vegans making the switch to oat milk, which is a super creamy way to get your coffee fix without the dairy!

To dine in or takeaway?

Remember to clarify whether you're dining in or taking away your brew, as both cultures are pretty common even in nicer cafes that have a sit-down vibe. If you are taking away, it's super acceptable and encouraged to bring a reusable cup with you to save the single-use takeaway plastic.

A slection of coffees on the table, one cappucino two chai lattes

How to order iced coffee in Australia

While the hot weather may not seem like good “coffee” weather, Australians have really adapted and overcome our sweltering days. Iced lattes, iced coffees and cold brews are super popular options during the summer, and even winter, and they don’t necessarily have to be super-sweet milkshake-type drinks either! So here’s the difference between the common cold coffees Down Under.

  • Iced latte

Two shots of espresso coffee, ice and cold milk. Not sweet unless you ask for syrup or sugar. Served in a tall glass.

  • Iced long black

Two shots of espresso, cold water and ice. Not sweet unless you ask for syrup or sugar. Served in a tall glass.

  • Iced coffee

Two shots of coffee, ice cream, ice and cold milk (sometimes with whipped cream). Sweet and served in a tall glass.

  • Frappe

Coffee, ice cream, ice and cold milk blended. Served with whipped cream on top in a tall glass.

  • Cold brew

Black coffee brewed filter-style, milk can often be added.

Often iced coffees are served in 12 oz / 16 oz coffee cups or plastic cups for takeaway option.

  • Iced mocha

Espresso, chocolate syrup, cold milk and ice. Sometimes served with ice cream and whipped cream - ask your barista.

  • Iced chai

Chai powder or syrup, cold milk and ice. Served in a tall glass with cinnamon.

Two women with takeaway drinks in Surfers Paradise

Less common but known orders

You may encounter or prefer these options, and sound like a real local - especially if you ask for a magic in the streets of Melbourne, Australia's coffee capital!

  • Magic 

A double ristretto shot and steamed milk. Served in a slightly smaller 6 oz glass.

Sort of the gourmet medium between a latte and piccolo, a magic has the smoothest part of a double shot (double ristretto) and a little less milk. It makes for a stronger coffee and some awesome flavours. However, not all cafes offer magics, and will often advertise it on the menu if they do.

  • “Low tide”

Simply means 3/4 full, for people that want less milk and a stronger coffee flavour. Honestly calling this "low tide" a bit extra, and you'll probably cause more confusion if you ask for it. But, just so you know!

  • Ristretto

The sweetest part of an espresso shot, and slightly shorter than a full shot. A ristretto is usually the first 3/4, and can either be programmed into the espresso machine or manually pulled early by your barista. 

You can ask for a single or double ristretto, similar to an espresso, or ask for your latte to have a ristretto. While it's not so common, most good baristas will understand and give you that sweet nectar!

  • Dirty chai

An espresso shot mixed with sweet chai tea powder or syrup with steamed milk. Served in a cup or mug, usually with cinnamon on top.

  • Turmeric / beetroot / matcha latte

A sweetened powdered mix (either turmeric, beetroot or matcha) with steamed milk.

These health food options hit the market about 10 years ago and have been taken up, particularly in trendy areas like Byron Bay, Noosa and the Gold Coast. If you're looking for a no or low-caffeine option and want to try something new, go for it! 

A selection of four latte drinks in all colours

How to order an Americano in Australia

Unlike in American coffee shops, there is often no drip or “pot” of coffee on the go. Most orders are prepared espresso-style on a machine. To order an “americano” coffee in Australia, which is essentially black medium-strength coffee, ask for a long black. This is usually two shots of espresso topped off with water. You can ask for any type of milk on the side if you’re dining in, or with a dash of milk if you’re taking it away.

As an exception to the “no drip coffee rule”, sometimes specialty cafes or roasteries will have a pot of filter coffee on the go, however, it is usually a single-origin style of bean. You really shouldn’t have most single-origin brews with milk, as they are often roasted and made to accentuate certain fruity, light flavours. While single-origin filter coffee totally delicious order for those who enjoy a flavorful black cup, it may surprise you! So, if you’re after a standard “coffee” flavour that will mimic that of your Americano back home, stick with the long black!

A woman behind an espresso machine

Australian coffee culture in a nutshell

The Australian culture of coffee is an awesome splice of European machines and local speciality roasteries. There are definitely more small, locally-owned cafes than chains, and these smaller cafes more often than not dabble in specialty coffee. And, while you can find some Starbucks and Merlo’s, they are often in the cities or more populated areas. If you’re after some coffee-nerd-with-a-curly-moustache type brews, you will find an abundance of local roasteries and cafes that specialise in delicious single-origins and alternative brewing styles! So, ditch the venti soy frappuccinos and support local, delicious coffee in Australia - you'll get the hang of ordering in no time!

A girl with red hair with a takeaway coffee by the beach

Can't wait to sip post-surf flat whites by the beach? Plan your trip to Australia and experience our epic coffee culture!

And let's not forget about our amazing brunch options! For more info on the best cafes in Australia, check out our where to eat guide.

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