The 10 Worst Drinks I've Had To Make As A Barista

Recounting the lattes, matchas, and half-caff beverages of my nightmares.

All right, maybe "the worst drinks" sounds harsh. Taste is subjective, right? Yet while personal preferences are one thing, as a barista with over four years of experience, I'll attest that some drinks just don't make any sense. Blending certain ingredients together isn't always necessary, and the wrong combination can make a beverage objectively worse than it has to be. Here are some of the worst drinks I've made in my time behind the counter.

Hot drip coffee with ice cubes

Every so often (more like every day) a customer will attempt to order a drink that defeats its own purpose. As a barista, you've got to tend to the customer's needs, even if it feels like you're working backwards. Ordering a hot drip coffee and asking for ice cubes simply... doesn't work. Though the intention is to make the coffee a little less hot, the ice melts almost instantly, and now you've got more water in your (still pretty hot) coffee. There are better ways to enjoy a perfectly warm coffee, from adding some milk to simply waiting for the drink to cool down a bit.

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Half caffeinated drinks

You might think that one easy way to cut back on caffeine is to order an espresso drink with a single shot instead of the standard double shot. The problem? The flavor of the espresso gets lost and makes for a very milk-heavy drink. To avoid this, a decaf shot of espresso is sometimes requested in order to maintain the proper espresso-to-milk ratio. But that's a problem, too, because decaf coffee isn't ordered often and is usually not tended to well in coffee shops, since it's lower priority. This means you're drinking older coffee, and it's more laborious for the employee since multiple shots need to be pulled at once.

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Coffee lemonade

Sometimes known as a Laura Palmer, this bright and tangy drink is one that many people find pleasant, despite its dehydrating qualities. We all know that burn-through-your-stomach feeling coffee can give us if we drink too much on an empty stomach—but lemonade is its enabler. Excessive quantities of this combination can also be rough on the teeth, as lemon and coffee both have separate and negative effects on enamel already. If you're prone to heartburn, this cup of double-duty acid isn't ideal, either.

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Iced latte with 5 shots of espresso and 6 pumps of caramel

Morning fuel, or breakfast dessert? Whatever people want to order is fine, but there are two issues with a drink like this: One, it takes longer to make, because it requires extra shots to be pulled, and it can get expensive, since the extra pumps and shots amount to excess fees. Moreover, if you're looking for a drink to perk you up in the morning, this one probably isn't it. Combining copious amounts of sugar with copious amounts of caffeine is likely to lead to a sugar crash, which will make you want to crawl back into bed again. Blame caffeine and sugar's dual (temporary) boosts of energy that spike glucose levels in the body.

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A single-shot Americano

An Americano is composed mainly of water, with tw0 shots of espresso added per 8-oz. serving, making a typical small cup. If you're trying to cut back on caffeine, though, you're better off ordering a different cup of coffee altogether. A single shot of espresso gets drowned out when poured into a cup of water. And while espresso also comes out piping hot once the shots are pulled, the smaller dose of a single shot will be more at the mercy of the water temperature.

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Coffee with butter

Feeling intense this morning? So-called bulletproof coffee is a drink made with drip coffee and a tablespoon of butter. It's often used as a high-calorie breakfast replacement because it can allegedly provide sustained energy. But it'll also provide for a cup of java that is greasy in texture, which is antithetical to the velvety-smooth cup of joe coffee shops aim to provide. Depending on the establishment, the barista also might not have the ideal butter on hand for adding to coffee at the customer's request.

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Lattes with heavy cream

A large latte typically holds 24 ounces of liquid. Depending on the coffee shop, it comes with three to four shots of espresso. While the 8 grams of whole dairy milk in a latte can often be swapped out with an alternative, heavy cream is not the ideal one—even if it sounds like it will be a richer, more delicious option. Due to its higher fat content, the cream froths ferociously under a steam wand, resulting in a thick wall of foam that makes the beverage more difficult to sip. While half and half renders a slightly smoother drink, lattes just aren't the ideal place to up the fat content of your dairy. Stirring cream right into a coffee beverage is the better move.

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Matcha with 3 pumps of pumpkin spice

Matcha is still green tea, but unlike a standard tea bag, it's made into a fine powder, resulting in a beverage with a stronger taste and a higher caffeine dosage. Due to its bold and vegetal flavor, matcha can often benefit from a sweetener like honey or agave. However, matcha doesn't tend to pair well with sweeteners like three pumps of pumpkin spice, as its natural flavors bump up awkwardly against the artificial ones in the syrup. Masking a powerful tea with these most powerful forms of sugar means you might be better off ordering something else entirely.

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Chai latte with lavender syrup

Black tea and lavender are common ingredients found in a London Fog, and the combination makes for a slightly floral taste. Since the black tea is plain, it doesn't counteract with the flower notes in the lavender syrup. On the other hand, chai tea has plenty of ingredients on its own, usually consisting of black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, and cloves. Personal taste is at play here, but the strong floral taste of lavender syrup tends to obliterate the gentle spice of chai, especially with added milk.

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Matcha with espresso

Firstly, green tea and coffee in one cup is not for everyone, flavor-wise. The result is typically a little sour—and since both are caffeinated drinks, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to combine the two in the first place. Matcha is less acidic than coffee and contains more antioxidants, so it's a healthier option if you're looking to have caffeine that won't cause withdrawal when you go a day without it. Adding espresso removes that benefit. The pairing results in a brown-gray color, obliterating the beautiful green of the matcha. This combination is just... unnecessary. Can we let these two shine on their own?

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