Cleo Coyle, Author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries,Tests Your Coffee IQ

Sep 8, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle (pseudonym see below), author of the Coffeehouse Mystery series, shares with us some coffee trivia, recipes & fun. Also in this issue is a review of her latest Coffeehouse Cystery, A Brew To A Kill and a chance to win a copy of the book.

Cleo Coyle aka Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini

Pop quiz: What is a barista?

a) a lawyer from England
b) someone who prepares alcoholic beverages
c) a fashionable garment
d) a person who loves burritos
e) someone who prepares coffee drinks

A major coffee company asked 2,000 Americans this very question. As the author of a series of mysteries set in a landmark coffee shop, I was naturally interested in the results. So how did they do?

11% reported that a barista was a lawyer from England. (Okay, misreading “barista” as “barrister” is an understandable mistake.)

7% thought it was someone who prepares alcoholic beverages. (I’m guessing these people replied during Happy Hour.)

6% said it was a fashionable garment. (Deductive reasoning in play here: “Sounds foreign, and fashion houses are foreign, so I’ll guess this.”)

1% reported that it was a person who loves burritos. (I don’t want to meet these people—on the other hand, they might point me to a great recipe for chalupas.)

41% said they did not know. (That’s a fair answer for people who don’t care who made their latte, as long as it’s hot.)

34% got it right.

All of you hardworking baristas out there should not be disheartened. Two out of three people probably can’t tell you the difference between a neurologist and a podiatrist, either. But, hey, that’s where books can help.

Slang, of course, is an important part of any novel’s setting, whether its cop jargon or medical terminology, and I always enjoy reading a story in which the author has researched the culture well enough to teach me something new about it.

For our Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, which feature the ghost of a hard-boiled PI, my husband and I researched the patois used by gumshoes of the Black Mask era. For the Coffeehouse Mysteries, however, we made like our ghostly detective and haunted coffeehouses.

For those of you who enjoy coffeehouse culture already, you can test your java IQ with my glossary below. For those who don’t have a clue what the difference is between a “dry” cappuccino and a “skinny” latte, my list of terms will give you a head start on some basics. And if you’d like to be your own barista, I’ve got you covered, too. Below my coffeehouse cheat sheet, you will find my recipe for a copycat Frappuccio. May you drink (and read) with joy.

Copycat Frappuccino

Some Basic Coffeehouse Terms from Cleo

Shot–a single serving of espresso, often in a small cup called a demitasse.

Doppio espresso–two shots of espresso; “Doppio” in Italian literally means double.

Espresso–An Italian word that literally means “express,” the term refers to a method for making coffee. Espresso usually starts with a darkly roasted coffee (an “Italian” or “espresso” roast), which is ground very fine and packed tightly into the “portafilter” handle of an espresso machine. A small amount of very hot water is forced through these packed grounds at a high pressure. The contact time between the water and the coffee is very short, about 25 seconds. When an espresso is made correctly, you should see a reddish-brown “crema” at the top of your cup. This coffee foam is the single most important thing to look for in a well-made espresso. It tells you the oils in the coffee have been released and suspended in the liquid. (If you’re in France, you might hear customers ordering “café noir,” which is what they call a single shot of espresso.)

Latte–(“lat” for short.) All Italian-style drinks in a gourmet coffeehouse start with at least one shot of espresso, and the latte is no exception. Short for “café latte,” this is the most popular drink served in American coffeehouses. It’s made by adding steamed or hot milk to one or more espresso shots. Americans top their lattes with foam. Italians do not.

Cappuccino–(“cap” for short.) Like a latte, this drink starts with espresso, but much more foamed milk is added than you’ll find in a latte.

Dry (or foamy)–as in “I’d like a dry cap.” Dry means you’d like more foamed milk in your drink.

Wet (or flat)–as in “I’d like a wet cap.” Wet means you’d like less foam in your cappuccino and more steamed milk instead.

Mocha–chocolate variation of a latte

Vanilla latte–when you add vanilla syrup to a plain latte

Caramel latte–when you add caramel syrup to a plain latte

And so on: Many more variations can be made to the latte by adding different flavored syrups. The above flavors are the most popular. Others commonly found in American coffeehouses include hazelnut, almond, raspberry, Irish crème, peppermint, cinnamon, and Valencia orange.

Steamers–a drink of steamed milk using flavored syrup and no espresso.

More fun coffeehouse terms include:

Red eye–aka Speed Ball, Depth Charge, Shot in the Dark, Café M.F. This drink works on the same principal as a boilermaker. It’s a shot of espresso dumped into a cup of brewed coffee. When you really need that caffeine buzz, this is your drink.

Why bother–a decaf espresso, as in: “One ‘why bother,’ please!”

Harmless–a drink made with decaf espresso and skim milk.

Skinny–coffeehouse jargon for requesting skim milk in your drink instead of whole.

Breve–as in “I’d like a breve latte or I’d like a breve cap.” This means that you would like half-and-half instead of whole milk in your drink.

Pull–as in “short pull” of espresso or “I pulled a doppio espresso for him.” Espresso machines once had handles, which the barista pulled to begin the process of forcing the water, under high pressure, through the espresso. The term stuck, even though modern coffeehouse espresso machines no longer function the same way.

Ristretto–In Italian, ristretto literally means “restricted,” and that’s a good way to think about a restricted, or short shot of espresso. It’s made with less than the usual amount of water, essentially stopped or pulled short. (You might also hear the term “short pull.” This produces an even more intense flavor than a regular espresso shot.)

Cleo’s Copycat “Frap” (Frappuccino)

To download this recipe in a printable PDF form, click here.

Makes one 8-ounce serving

1/3 cup coffee (4 coffee ice cubes)
1/3 cup milk (low fat is fine)
2 teaspoons sugar (or more if you like your drinks sweeter)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (for a copycat mochaccino)
whipped cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS: Fill an ice cube tray with leftover coffee and freeze. Place four of your coffee ice cubes in a blender. Add milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and (optional) cocoa for a mochaccino. Pulse the blender to chop the coffee cubes into fine particles. You can create an icy drink with small chips (like a frozen margarita) or run the blender full speed until the mixture is completely liquefied yet still cold and frothy. To finish, pour this frosty refresher into a glass mug and top with whipped cream.

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Cleo Coyle is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Under the name Cleo Coyle, they’ve written 11 Coffeehouse Mystery titles, every one a national bestseller. The first in the series is now in its 17th printing. Their newest hardcover release from Penguin, A Brew To A Kill, was chosen as a “must-read mystery of the month” by Barnes & Noble and a featured alternate selection of the Mystery Guild. The series has been Star Reviewed by Library Journal and picked up by AudioGo (BBC America Audiobooks) for production in both digital and CD formats. Alice and Marc also write a supernatural mystery series set in a New England book shop. The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries are published under the name Alice Kimberly. The first book in the series, The Ghost And Mrs. Mcclure, is now in its eleventh printing; four more are in print, and more are under contract.
Alice and Marc are also New York Times bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, and MGM. Alice is a former journalist and author of children’s books and young adult fiction. Marc is also an author of military nonfiction and thrillers. They live and work in New York City. To find out more, visit their online coffeehouse at


  1. Fun post, Cleo. Being a coffee lover, I new most of the term except for “dry” and “wet.” I’m always looking for new mystery series and I will check yours out.

  2. Thank you for the recipe. Fraps are my very favorite thing. I pick up your series books every time I run into one. Have not started reading it yet, but will make a refreshing beverage and find book one and get started.

  3. I just picked up my second book, Through the Grinder. I already have On What Grounds. I also have Dead Man’s Library.

  4. When is your ghost mystery comming out? I love to read about their adventures. Just as I would love to see Mike Quinn and Clare Cosi get together for ever!

  5. I got advised that to create the perfect cappuccino you must use extremely cold milk – however I can not tell the difference in
    the ones I’ve produced at home. Despite the fact that I’m a little bit of a beginner the cappuccinos I create at home are much better than
    Costa Coffee (In My Judgment Anyhow !)



  1. A Brew To A Kill By Cleo Coyle: Review/Giveaway | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] details on how to enter to win a copy of A Brew To A Kill. Also in this issue…

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