How To Not Order Espresso

Or: How I make my days harder than they need to be.

Here’s a coffee order: A double espresso, please.

It’s pretty simple. Just a size, and a variety.

Oddly that particular order will generate any number of different drinks. I know that because I’ve ordered it dozens and dozens of times and gotten about as many different results. Even from the same place, on successive days, which you wouldn’t think possible.

Let me explain my pain through analogy.

Martini Roulette

Back when I drank I travelled a bit for work, winding up in different states and new hotels on a pretty regular basis. And as any budding alky does, after checking in and dropping my baggage onto the floor in a pile, I’d find the bar.

If you drink lots, bars are like home no matter where where they are. You sit down, you feel good, the bartender realizes you’re going nowhere, and you start into it with vim.

What I quickly learned is that most bars are uniformly homey, what they serve is pretty inconsistent. So I started to order a set drink in every new bar that I went to, just to see what I’d get served.

(Ah yes, the energy of one’s early twenties.)

It’s been years, but I think my order was something close to “an extra dry martini, vodka, Kettle One or Titos, with a lemon peel.” Most bars shake martinis, so there isn’t a real point in asking for it stirred. You’re not James Bond.

But the rest of the drink is designed to be simple. Effectively what I was trying to order was a large glass of slightly chilled and diluted vodka, with a lemon riff floating on top; hold the vermouth.

But what I wound up getting served was a never-ending parade of different drinks. Some would come with floating ice (?), some would come with fruit and an olive (alas), and so on. I called the exercise “martini roulette.”

Back to espresso.

Making My Own Life Harder Than It Needs To Be

A double espresso is a simpler order than what I was trying with vodka, but it still doesn’t work.

Here’s a sample of how the order often goes, no matter which coast I’m on:

Alex: A double espresso, please.

Coffee Place: We pull doubles, so you’d like one shot yes?

Alex: Two of your doubles, please.

Coffee Place: So you want eight shots?

Alex: I’m not sure.

Why don’t I just oder two double shots if that’s what I want? Because it never works:

Alex: Two double shots of espresso, please.

Coffee Place: We pull doubles, so you want one double?

Alex: Oh, no, two double shots, please.

Coffee Place: A double shot, coming up.

Or: Coffee Place: Alright four doubles, coming up.

I’ve tried every variation of ordering two doubles and it doesn’t work any better than not indicating that I want doubles.

The best method that I’ve found is to order “two shots” of espresso knowing that the Coffee Place pulls doubles, have the Coffee Person clarify that fact, indicate that I would like two double shots, and then pray that it’s understood and translated correctly into whomever winds up pulling the levers.

Mostly it doesn’t work.

And that’s fine. My favorite coffee spots are great places, and I love going there even if my espresso order (it’s my fault for ordering something impossible to correctly explain) is mangled most of the time.

Which brings us to this morning.

The Coffee Exchange

When I’m in Providence (the second half of each month), I go to the Coffee Exchange most days. It’s near where I live, it’s supportive of coffee farmers around the world, and it’s packed with all sorts of people: students, working folks, academics, the lot. It’s a place that I hide in on the weekends, and depend on to wake me up every work day.

Even though I only live on the East Coast half-time, and the Exchange has a pretty large staff, some of them know my name, and, happily, my order.

Here’s what happened today:

Alex: Can I have a double espresso please?

Coffee Person 1: *starts typing order into POS

Coffee Person 2, who knows my name and order: [He wants] A double double espresso.

~ My heart begins to sing at being so seen and understood in the morning when I’d rather be three feet under blankets, back in bed ~

Coffee Person 1: $7.xx please


I don’t think I have ever paid over $7 for just my drink at the Coffee Exchange. I do know that my drink with a donut is over $7, but this dollar figure was perplexing.

So I paid, curious about what would happen next. Time passed.

Coffee Person 3, placing a small coffee cup (?) on the counter: First double espresso on the bar.

Alex: Oh shit did something get lost in translation? Do I take the cup and then wait for the second? Or do I just stand here and hope that something is made clear?

Coffee Person 2: Here’s your drink, Alex.

So I took it and ran, of course. It was espresso in a cup, what else was I going to do?

I don’t know if it was actually two double shots, but I gave the coffee spot Some Money, and it gave me Some Espresso. I think that they made another one after I left, but they had told me This Drink Is Yours, so I put headphones on, and wrote this.

Before I’ve had coffee, that’s about all the fight I have in me.