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Skinny, strong and hot: the Melbourne coffee scene

Skinny, strong and hot: the Melbourne coffee scene

If nothing else, Melbourne will turn you into a coffee snob. I’ve never been someone who “needs” a coffee in the morning: my mom doesn’t drink caffeine, so I’ve always thought it’s more of a mental block than an actual physical need. I did fall prey to the Starbucks claim in high school and college, enjoying my vanilla latte more as an accessory as I walked to class and the indie music selection as the background noise while I studied.

Latte at DiBella Coffee Roasting Warehouse, Melbourne, Australia

But in Melbourne, people take their coffee very seriously. They don’t mess around with sweetening syrups or fancy-schmancy names: it’s simply high-quality coffee made by talented baristas. I’m forever in awe at just how creamy and frothy they can make mere milk. You don’t need Starbucks gimmicks with coffee like this.

However, Melbourne has its own lingo for ordering your favorite caffeine fix. Here’s a bit of a guide to the long and short of it:

Short black (also known as an espresso, un café): A single shot of strong black coffee, ideally with a thick reddish-brown foam, crema, floating on top, and served in a small demitasse cup. I was obsessed with these in France–it’s the perfect way to end a meal, and it’s the cheapest way to secure a spot in a cafe for an afternoon.

Long black (also known as a normal coffee in America, un Américain): Double shot of espresso pulled over hot water.

Perfect latte froth at Cafe Racer, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia

Latte: A latte is a shot of espresso that has been poured into a long glass and filled with steamed milk. It’s then topped off with foamed milk. While it tends to be a much smaller quantity than even a tall Starbucks, I find it’s just enough.

Flat white: A flat white is very similar to a latte, but generally has a little less froth. Plus, a flat white is served in a ceramic cup, usually of the same volume as a latte glass.

Cappucino (the Cap): Made with espresso, hot milk and milk foam with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top.

Long Macchiato or Long Mac: A double shot of espresso with a small amount of milk floated on top.

Short Macchiato or Short Mac: A short black served in a small glass or demitasse cup, with a smudge of foam on top.

Dibella Coffee Roasting Warehouse, Melbourne, Australia

Skinny: Made with low- or non-fat milk.

Strong: Extra bit of espresso.

Hot: Most coffee will be served tepid as not to scald the milk, but you can request it hot.

How many sugars: If you order takeaway, they’ll ask how many sugars you want mixed in. If not, you’ll be able to mix in your own sugar at the table.

Skinny latte at Cafe Racer, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia

My favorite cafes:

Café Racer: Right around the corner from my apartment and directly across the street from the water, Café Racer is my favorite place to spend a sunny Saturday. The coffee is unbelievable, although I think the real value is how well they froth their milk. There’s a magazine rack–mostly full of cycling magazines, although there is always a copy of the latest InStyle!–that day’s newspaper, an outside terrace and a sunshine-filled window bar. Follow them on Twitter and receive a free coffee–that’s social media at its best!

DiBella Coffee Roasting Warehouse: This is for the serious coffee aficianado–or the Queen Vic market shopper who needs a quick pick-me-up. There are a few varieties of coffee

Market Café (Prahran): Right down the street from where I work, this family-run cafe is quickly becoming like a second home. They know my order by heart, we chat about our days and sometimes they slip me a free biscotti. The coffee is pretty darn good, too.

Note: Since a skinny latte with two sugars is my drink of choice, that’s unfortunately the only thing I have photos of!

What has your favorite coffee experience been, in Melbourne or elsewhere?

  • Anonymous

    I think the biggest difference is that American coffee is often drip brew or filtered! It would be hard for me to go back to that after getting used to espresso-based 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I’ve definitely gotten hooked on coffee in Melbourne–I rarely drank it at home!

  • Anonymous

    Happy to give plenty more recommendations!!! I’ve had nothing but excellent cafe experiences!

  • The long black is called an Americano here in the US. It’s different than drip coffee, which is (usually) a lighter roast than espresso. I won’t go into the particulars, because it’s mind boggling. There’s also a shot in the dark (one shot of espresso in drip coffee) or a red eye (three shots of espresso in drip) which are VERY strong.

    ~Emily, your former neighborhood Starbucks barista 😉

  • Anonymous

    Interesting! I really want to work as a barista at some point so that I can learn all the ins and outs of it–as well as to make perfectly steamed and frothy milk!

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  • Jeeni

    Thank you for this well written post and the lovely pictures. I absolutely love the long black coffee made in Australia! I discovered it while visiting Adelaide and do not want to drink anything else. I have a small 2-cup Krupps espresso machine but i can’t figure out how to get the foam on top of the long black. Does anyone know?

  • camorose

    Whenever I’ve seen them being made, they just froth the milk as if for a latte and then scoop off the foamy bit and plop it on top of the long black or espresso. You’ll definitely need a milk steamer for that effect!

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  • Metaxia Kladis

    Hey! I just landed here and found your blog by googling “how to order coffee in Melbourne”. The best part was when I reached the favorite cafés part, cause I live right upstairs from the racer! Thanks for the tips, I am off to order my strong latte.

  • camorose

    Hooray hooray! Enjoy!

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