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Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

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  • Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    So I'm in a cafe last night (Penny Farthing in Northcote, a fairly good cafe) and I order a double espresso. When the barista brought it out he said "here's your short black".

    Having lived in Australia for 8 years now I'm of course used to an espresso being called a short black, but for some reason last night it struck me that it's a shocking name! Why? Well here are some reasons:

    Short black sounds too much like short mac, so much so that whenever I order a short mac I find myself exaggerating the pronunciation of the m, so it's more like a short mmmac. If we called it espresso then there'd be no confusion.

    Espresso just sounds better, a little exotic, sexy even.

    When it's served it's not even black to start with.

    Just saying...

  • #2

    I always ask for an espresso. They must be educated by example :-)



    • #3
      Was she looking at your crutch when she said it? Lol


      • #4
        Re: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

        So, what do they call a ristretto? A really short black?


        • #5
          Originally posted by MrJack View Post
          So, what do they call a ristretto? A really short black?
          They call it a "Gary Coleman"

          Apologies in advance to any who happen to take offence... none meant!


          • #6
            Re: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

            I wasn't thinking that at all...


            • #7
              Not exactly sure where short black came from but I suspect it is an Americanized thing.
              The real name for it is "caffè espresso" pronounced /kafˈfɛ/ not cafe which translates to espresso coffee or just "espresso".
              Most areas in Italy you can ask for it using either of the above or even simply just say "caffè" which translates to coffee and you will be served an espresso by default.
              Personally I can't stand it when a barista calls it short black, it's a very ugly description for a such an elegant beverage (when made correctly).
              I guess if you are served either watery, bitter, under/over extracted black mess, then its very appropriate to call it short black.
              Just my 2 cracks worth.


              • #8
                Originally posted by fg1972 View Post
                Not exactly sure where short black came from but I suspect it is an Americanized thing.
                Nope... not even close to being true. Before moving to Australia I had never heard of a short black, long black or flat white... and the first time I saw chocolate on top of a cap I was thinking WTF!!! These are all very unique Aussie aberations.


                • #9
                  Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

                  Thanks guys, I'm glad it's not just me who hates it being called a short black.


                  • #10
                    The term 'short black' is said to have come from this being used by American soldiers in Italy during WWII. Same for 'long black' which the Italians referred to as an Americano.

                    There are photos from Italy dating back to 1930 referring to a 'Viennese' - a coffee topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with either cinnamon and chocolate. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to adapt this to our modern version of a cappuccino.

                    I don't think Australia can claim credit for the terms. According to New Zealanders they own the term 'flat white'. I understand this had nothing to do with coffee but came about when they couldn't bake a pavlova any higher than a pizza.


                    • #11
                      The term is definitely an antipodean one. The first time I came across the term short black was when I moved from the UK to the North of NZ in 02, I asked for an espresso and was pointedly told it was a short black - later came to realise "foreign terms" are considered snooty and this was essentially a tall poppies issue. I subsequently also realised that calling it a short black meant the café could serve whatever the hell they wished, and often this would not be a standard espresso, certainly not an enjoyable black coffee. It was after this I gave up and started ordering flat whites, and became very particular about who I'd order an espresso from - if you can hear the banjos duelling, don't ask for an espresso...


                      • #12
                        Tried both but I mostly ask for a double espresso and hold my breath. Sometimes I get what I ask for, sometimes a long black and other times it seems like leftovers from the previous shot. Hard to get a good coffee some times. Some places I want to ask them if I can make my own coffee and show them how to use their coffee machine.


                        • #13
                          Typically I'll order a "double espresso" and have found myself showing the person behind the counter the expected depth with thumb and forefinger in an attempt to head off the standard question "do you mean a short black?"... but it makes no difference, they will mostly still ask.

                          Picture below of one I got last week...
                          The menu shows small and large espresso, small and large long macchiato but for some reason you can only get large iced coffee and iced chocolate and (rightly so) only a small short macchiato.

                          I ordered "Double Espresso", this is how it arrived at the table in a 220ml cup.

                          Click image for larger version

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                          200ml of over extracted and over roasted coffee. Nasty.

                 least they have excellent baklava (which was the real reason that I stopped there)
                          (well that and I needed to clean the mess off my visor after the twisty roads at bug o'clock)


                          • #14
                            I could imagine that wasn't half filled with water either. Just pressed the large cup on a single handle and the cycle would have started.

                            -Espresso 25ml - 35ml,
                            -Watery espresso 35ml - 80ml,
                            -Wet beans 80ml - 120ml,
                            -Used dish water 120ml - 180ml,
                            -Cold bath tub water after a sweaty gym work out 180ml - 220ml



                            • #15
                              Hahaha! I love that description brendogs. The sadReality is that so many people are
                              Just thrown in front of a machine. Shown how things "work" and that's it. There is no real interest in whether or not it tastes ok. At the end of the day your talking about people who most likely only drink instant coffee and think that crap is the ducks guts so any old espresso based coffee is ok based on zero knowledge of what it should taste like. Which leads to cramp beans, burnt milk and poorly done shots. Nothing like burnt milk and a latte you can't even hold let alone put your mouth near. Then you have places like Gloria Jeans who's coffee the last time I tasted it should be poured down the sink before the cup is handed to the customer to save their taste buds from wanting to vacate the premises.