Mochas and Lattes and Frappes, Oh My! An Unofficial Guide to McCafe at McDonald's

McDonald's used to stick to run-of-the-mill boring coffee from a normal coffee brewer, coffee that you could just as easily make at home.

Recently, though, there have been vast improvements, as McCafe has taken over many McDonald's and provided those with more discriminating tastes a shot of espresso.

But do you find all these new, fancy drinks with weird names confusing? I did at first, but eventually, over time, one gets used to it (It helps that I eat there A LOT). It's usually only a problem if you're a McDonald's n00b, and only tend to visit the restaurant on occasion, and have yet to even master how to order a combo. This is where our need for McEducation lies.

To this end, I have put together a guide of sorts for the McCafe noobie, aimed in particular at those who have basically no experience with any of McDonald's more fancy drinks at all (though, really, anyone can benefit, I think).

A Wonderland of Mocha

First of all, depending on where you live and the franchise in question, there are at least three things on the McCafe menu that have "mocha" in the name.

So you'll have to excuse me if I roll my eyes in tedium the moment I hear someone in line in front of me utter the words: "Uh...I'll have a mocha." I can already anticipate the tired exchange which will wear on my patience and put ever more space between me and my hamburger--the cashier will ask: What do you mean? What sort of mocha? And what size? A cold one with ice or not? Nonfat milk or not? Or is it that you wanted a Mocha Frappe?

The customer in line in front of me will respond first with "Uhhhh..." (And it's times like those that made me resolve to write this guide.)

Now, don't get me wrong, the McCafe menu is annoyingly confusing at times and makes me want to grumble about how "in my day" McDonald's never pretended to be Starbucks.

But nevermind. This issue is easily resolved with a plain explanation, once and for all.

There are three main drinks bearing the name "Mocha." They can be broken down into two main groups.

The first belong to the group of drinks made with the espresso machine, the same machine which produces the iced and hot lattes, the hot chocolate, and various other simple, espresso-based drinks that don't need a loud-as-all-heck blender. These drinks are:

The Hot Mocha, or (previously, before it became confusing) simply "mocha."

This drink is hot of course, and the usual expected blending of milk (nonfat or with fat, your choice), espresso, and chocolate syrup. Think of it sort of as hot chocolate, except with coffee in it. That's it. That's a basic mocha.

Next is the Iced Mocha

This McCafe drink is pretty much the same thing as a hot mocha, only it is cold because ice has been added to it. Note that this is not blended ice as in the frappes (which we'll get to in a second), these are actually ice cubes. (Probably the same that go in your soda.)

Finally, we have the last Mocha, which belongs to our second group of McCafe drinks, the blended drinks.

This is the Mocha Frappe.

It's probably the more popular of all three, seeing as McDonald's has a tendency to advertise the hell out of it. (Or maybe it's not as popular, and that's why they advertise it. Who knows?)

A frappe has blended ice in it instead of ice cubes, and, though it appears to come pre-mixed (unlike the other mochas, which the employee will stir up right in front of you), it is likely made of similar ingredients and also contains espresso (or some sort of coffee). If you like your coffee blended with ice, that's the way to go.

Note that all the kinds of mocha drinks come with a hill of whipped cream and chocolate syrup dribbled on top. If you like your drinks to be closer to your face with nothing fluffy in the way like I do, make sure to specify no whipped cream.

Coffee Drinks That Aren't Mochas

There's actually a lot more to the McCafe menu than these mochas, though people like their chocolate so the mochas remain the most well-known.

Let's take a look at the Lattes.

Lattes come basically the same way as the first two mochas described. In fact, they are basically exactly like a mocha in terms of ingredients (milk, espresso), except missing the one key element of chocolate. This is why I want to slap people when I overhear them asking for a "Mocha Latte"--the two are mutually exclusive, and are two separate drinks. In fact, one is a subset of the other. At least when it comes to McDonald's, you are either drinking a mocha or a latte. So which one will it be?

The lattes, by the way, can also optionally come with different flavors squirted in like caramel or hazelnut. Your choice, and I doubt it costs more to add.

On the same espresso machine that produces these hot and iced lattes, as well as the hot and iced mochas, a good, old-fashioned cup of hot chocolate can also be made. They usually appear to come with whipped cream and chocolate syrup squeezed over the cream, as in the mochas, so be sure to specify your preferences.

Oh, and by the way, there are also hot Cappuccinos available. They're exactly what you'd expect.

Further, let's take a look at the lonely, adopted sibling of the Mocha Frappe, which unfortunately gets little attention by comparison: The Caramel Frappe.

Frappes come in two flavors, you see: Mocha and Caramel. Both contain espresso. Both have a multitude of caloric value. Both will make your children hyper. But drink the caramel one instead of the mocha, because, what can I say, I like rooting for the underdog.

The McCafe Fruit Smoothies

This is a pretty recent development, I believe, and I'll give you what I know so far.

There are two flavors: Strawberry-Banana and Wildberry.

I've had both. They're both good, though Wildberry has a stronger taste and more of a tendency for little particles to get all up in your teeth.

Almost everything comes pre-blended, it seems (meaning they don't have the fruit up there, blending it by hand like at Smoothie King or the like), so you can't ask for less strawberry and more banana, though you can ask for no yogurt (which comes with the smoothie unless you specify otherwise). The smoothies are made on the same machine as the frappes--the one with the loudest blender in the universe.

The smoothies are, in my opinion, the best darn thing on the whole McCafe menu. Drink copious amounts of them.

The Old McCafe Drinks That No One Cares About Anymore

It's worth mentioning the original, non-espresso iced coffee drinks that McDonald's had before the rest of the McCafe menu came along. These are just plainly known as "Iced Coffee" and appear to just be regular coffee with ice and (optionally) various flavorings in it, like the lattes.

In Practice

Now, let's put all of this random information into a more concrete form. Let's say you want to order a Hot Mocha. You say to the teenager behind the register:

"I would like a nonfat medium Mocha, hot." or any other variation, so long as you specify whether it is hot, iced, or a Frappe, whether it is whole milk that you want or not, and of course *what kind* of McCafe drink it is. This will make the process more efficient for all involved.

Though, seriously, I think they should just have one line for people who just want to buy food and cheap-ass soda most of the time (me) that won't take more than two seconds to order, and another line for pinky-raising pretentious college students who order the same coffee the same way every day, and yet another line for the clueless newbie who doesn't know a latte from a Dr. Pepper, but wants to order it anyway.

No, I'm not bitter.

Anyway, I hope this was informative.

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Comments 3 comments

A la carte profile image

A la carte 6 years ago from Australia

I ,like you, have found their coffee is really very good now :)

infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia

Great article! I have an interesting article on legal issues with regard to McCafe that you might find interesting:

Mylynda 19 months ago

Very handy and funny article to read love it! I myself still get those damn drinks mixed up lol but im a dr pepper lover too lmao idiots if you cant tell the difference between the two hmm

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