5 Foolproof Coffee Drinks That Even the Worst Cafes Can’t Mess Up

Five foolproof coffee drinks that even the most dubious cafes can't mess up. Keep them in mind the next time you find yourself in uncharted coffee territory.

Woman grimacing at a cup of bad coffee

Last Updated on December 19, 2023

Picture this: You’re strolling down an unfamiliar street, and a sudden caffeine craving hits. You spot a coffee shop you’ve never heard of before, but with no other options in sight, you decide to give it a shot. As you push open the door, you’re greeted with a faint whiff of burnt coffee beans, and you wonder, “What on Earth can I order here that won’t taste like liquid charcoal?”

Fear not, dear coffee lovers! We’ve got your back with these five foolproof coffee drinks that even the most questionable cafes can’t screw up.

1. The Classic Americano

Closeup of an Americano coffee.

Nothing beats a classic Americano when it comes to simplicity and foolproof flavor. Made with just espresso and hot water, there’s not much room for error. A bad cafe may not pull the perfect shot of espresso, but the added water will dilute any overly bitter or burnt tastes. It’s the perfect drink for those who appreciate a bold, full-bodied coffee without the risk of a subpar espresso ruining their day.

  • Pro tip: Ask for a splash of cold water to cool it down, making it ready to sip without scalding your tongue!

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2. The Timeless Iced Coffee

Glass of iced coffee with swirling cream inside

Cold brew and iced coffee are hard to mess up, and they’re the perfect solution for sipping on a hot day or when you need a quick caffeine fix. Since the brewing process for cold brew involves steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period, it’s almost impossible for a cafe to accidentally burn your coffee. Even if they do use hot coffee poured over ice (which isn’t ideal), the ice will help temper any off nasty flavors.

  • Pro tip: Customize it with a splash of milk or a sweetener of your choice to make it extra delicious!

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3. The Laid-Back Latte

Caffe latte in a tall glass cup.

A latte might seem like a riskier choice, but hear us out. While a subpar espresso shot could potentially spoil this drink, the steamed milk component is incredibly forgiving. Even if the espresso isn’t top-notch, the creamy, frothy milk can help mask any unpleasant flavors, leaving you with a smooth, comforting drink.

  • Pro tip: Opt for a flavored latte if you want an extra layer of sweetness to further soften any bitter notes.

4. The Chameleon: Hot Chocolate with a Shot of Espresso

Glass of hot chocolate with espresso topped with a latte art tulip

This drink is a bit of a wild card, but it’s perfect for those moments when you’re not quite sure what to order. The rich, indulgent hot chocolate will dominate the flavor, with the espresso shot adding a subtle coffee kick. Even if the espresso isn’t the best, the chocolate will work its magic, and you’ll still end up with a satisfyingly sweet treat.

  • Pro tip: Add a dollop of whipped cream on top for a truly indulgent experience!

5. The Reliable Drip Coffee

Coffee in round glass carafes resting on a burner in a diner

While drip coffee may not be the most glamorous choice on the menu, it’s a safe bet when you’re unsure of a cafe’s quality. Most cafes have a constant supply of drip coffee brewing, which means there’s less chance of getting a stale, burnt cup. Plus, with a little milk, sugar, or flavored syrup, you can easily customize your coffee to your liking.

  • Pro tip: If the cafe offers a choice of roasts, opt for a medium or light roast to avoid any overly bitter flavors.

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So there you have it, five foolproof coffee drinks that even the most dubious cafes can’t mess up. Keep these in mind the next time you find yourself in uncharted coffee territory, and you’ll never have to suffer through a disappointing cup.


In a café, where tastes might betray,
The Americano saves the day.
Iced coffee, a chilled and simple delight,
Brings a caffeinated joy, light and bright.
Drip coffee, plain, yet reliably grand,
A safe harbor in coffee's vast land.

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