Ordering Coffee in Australia

When I live in Australia 41 years ago the drink of choice was tea – typically with a little milk added.  Those of us who wanted coffee got instant coffee and it came in black and white – without or with milk. 

Today, Australia’s coffee culture is greater than in the US and a myriad of options exist for ordering espresso coffee.  No one offers drip coffee – unless you are at a banquet function.  Every restaurant, café and snack shop has an espresso machine and are happy to sell you at a high price ($AU3.50 to $AU4.50) the well-known cappuccino and latte. 

A side note — Drinks now cost those of us using US dollars 14% more than when I arrived 10 weeks ago as the $AU is now equal in value to the $US for the first time in history.

Cappuccino always come with chocolate on top and a latte always comes in a glass.  If you ask for a decaf cappuccino, they cover only half of the top in chocolate (didn’t get a photo of that as I already put out $15.00 for my sample of coffees).

But you can also order a flat white, long black, short black and a long pour.  A flat white is espresso coffee with steamed milk.  Ah, but isn’t that the same as a latte I hear you say.  When I asked a waiter about the difference between a latte and flat white, I got the flippant answer, “the latte comes in a glass” — which is true.  The flat white appears to be the modern manifestation of what used to be “taking your coffee white.”  There is slightly less steamed milk in a flat white compared to a latte — and as little foam as possible on top.


  A long black is the drink most like drip coffee in the US and is the same as an americano (espresso with hot water added). A short black is a single shot of espresso coffee – what we call an espresso in the US.

Of course, if you know me I need to enjoy my drink with an appropriate sweet. 

I did not drink all of the coffees – only the cappuccino – but I did eat all of the sweet.

I have to thank cicada, a very nice, up-scale restaurant in the CBD (the abbreviation for “Central Business District” — what we call “downtown” in the US) for preparing the drinks and sweet for my taste test. 

I almost got in trouble during my coffee photo shoot.  As I took a picture of the restaurant sign and customers, the hostess came over to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the restaurant.  They were worried about culinary spies coming to steal their “tricks of the trade.”  What else would I be doing by ordering five different coffee drinks and then photographing them.  Once she heard my accent and I told her about my blog post, she let me go.  I wonder what the penalty is for doing culinary espionage?

If you come to Australia, note that the coffee is not as dark roasted, so tastes weak compare to the same coffee drink in the US.  I always have to have an extra shot and a long pour — this is when they let more water percolate though the coffee before adding the milk (i.e. a regular shot is 30ml of water run through the coffee while a long pour runs up to 60ml through the coffee).

Of course this only takes care of the type of coffee, not the size.  Usually there is just regular and large, with the regular coming in a cup and the large in a mug.  Often the server will just ask “cup or mug?”  The restaurant at the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, QLD – yes there is a museum entirely dedicated to this one song — formalized the difference and offers cappuccinos and mugacinnos — plus my favorite the skinicinno if you want nonfat milk.  I’m sure you could also order a skinimugacinno.

The trip to Outback QLD highlighted Australian ingenuity when it came to preparing coffee.  On the way back from the dinosaur dig, we stopped in Tambo (population 599) at Fannie Mae’s – yes, I met the real Fannie Mae.  Her establishment seemed to have anything you could want (all in the front half of her house) – clothes, maps, medicine, candy, gasoline, food.  Not seeing an espresso machine, we asked if she could make a cappuccino.   “Why, of course” she quickly replied.  She then proceeded to:

  • Heat whole milk in the microwave
  • Froth nonfat milk in her “soda shop” milkshake blender
  • Heat the foamed nonfat milk in the microwave
  • Pour the whole milk into a cup, add instant coffee and stir well
  • Top it off with the foamed nonfat milk
  • 10 points for ingenuity, 0 points for taste

 After much experimentation on different coffee drinks in Australia, I’ve shifted from my typical drink in the US (a double, tall, nonfat, wet, Cappuccino) to:

 “I’d like a large, long pour, skinny cappuccino, with an extra shot for take away.”

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3 Responses to Ordering Coffee in Australia

  1. Karen says:

    Ok, Dennis, I followed all of the Australian coffee story, but got stuck at the very end…what is a “wet” cappucino???

    LASER Advisory coming up this Tuesday–it won’t be the same without you.


  2. Angie says:

    Dennis sent up the river for coffee espionage. hahahahaha…

    How many friends did you make giving away all the coffee you didn’t drink for that photo shoot? 🙂

  3. Cary says:

    It’s remarkable how cultural ideas spread and them morph—recognizable but just different enough to signal a cultural difference. I’ll think of you tomorrow when I order my usual “8 oz cap.”

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