How to Order Coffee in German: The Complete Guide for Caffeine Aficionados

Sometimes, before you can even start to think of speaking German…you just need that cup of coffee.

Which can be a cruel irony if you need to speak German to get your coffee.  

But don’t despair—you can do it with a handful of key sentences!

Here’s a list of useful sentences for ordering coffee (or Kaffee  in German), plus a bit of background on German café culture.


Understanding the Café Culture in Germany

The history of coffee in Germany

Coffee snobs everywhere can rest assured that you’re unlikely to run into percolated coffee in Germany. Not only are the Germans proponents of filtered coffee—they created it. (Paper coffee filters were invented by Melitta Bentz in 1908, and the electronic drip brewer by Gottlob Widmann in 1954.)

Being a nation that leans more towards coffee than tea, Germany doesn’t mess around with this beloved beverage. They even have an annual “Day of Coffee.”

For more information about German coffee traditions, check out this post from the Coffee Tasting Club.

German cafés: Not just about the coffee

If you’re used to the American or British model of cafés, you may be shocked the first time you see a group sitting on the couches, drinking beer. Cafés in Germany not only serve alcohol, but tend to look more like bars as the evening progresses. It’s not unlikely for many cafés to clear out tables at night to make room for a party crowd.

If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing place to curl up with a good book, however, have no fear. It’s still very much a quieter coffee crowd in the café in daylight and evening hours.

Another coffee option: German bakeries

Bakeries are everywhere in Germany. Not only can you find inexpensive fresh rolls and sandwiches, but you can get less pricy coffee as well. Although you may not have all the choices of a café, a cup of Schwarzkaffee  (black coffee) is sometimes half the price.

So, what’s the deal with tipping?

Ah, the intricacies of German etiquette. Here’s the question that everyone wants to know but is too nervous to ask the waiter: What’s the expected tip?

Typically, once you’re done, the waitress will come over wearing a money pouch. She’ll tell you the price of the bill. You’ll hand her the money. And then you’ll tell her how much you want back:

Ein Euro zurück, bitte. (One euro back, please.)

Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous:

Stimmt so. (Keep the change.)

It’s not common to leave money on the table. Instead, you have to do some quick math. For a small bill, it’s usually enough to round up to the nearest euro amount. (Even for large meals, you’re only ever expected to tip a few euros.)

If you’re still wondering about tipping both inside and outside of cafés, you can check out this handy guide from Who to Tip.

How to Read a German Café Menu

As mentioned before, the easiest part of ordering a cup of coffee is often figuring out the German word for it, as both the Germans and English have tended to steal the names of drinks from Italy.

Here are some basic choices that might be listed on the overhead board:

Schwarzkaffee Black coffee
Milchkaffee Coffee with hot milk
Eiskaffee Iced coffee
Latte Macchiato Latte macchiato
Cappuccino Cappuccino
Espresso Espresso
Macchiato Macchiato
Mokka Mocha
Eiskaffee Iced coffee
Wiener Melange Viennese melange
Frappé Frappé
Flat White Flat white
Affogato Affogato
Irish Coffee Irish coffee
Marocchino Marocchino
Lungo Lungo
Ristretto Ristretto
Espresso Doppio Double espresso
Baileys Kaffee Baileys coffee
Toffee Nut Latte Toffee nut latte
Weißer Kaffee White coffee
Heiße Schokolade Hot chocolate
Chai Latte Chai latte
Matcha Latte Matcha latte
Zimtlatte Cinnamon latte
Kokosnuss Latte Coconut latte
Haselnuss Latte Hazelnut latte
Vanille Latte Vanilla latte
Karamell Macchiato Caramel macchiato
Tee Tea
Wein Wine
Bier Beer

If you’re looking to try something uniquely German, feel free to order the Radler  (shandy). Meaning “cyclist,” it’s a mixture of beer and lemonade, a great companion to German study on those fresh rolls and sandwiches.

How to Order Coffee in German: 14 Phrases for Caffeine Aficionados

These easy sentences will make your café experience in German:

1. Einen Kaffee, bitte.  (A coffee, please.)

Simple and to the point. In fact, your efficiency will probably be appreciated. If they ask “Mit Milch?”  (With milk?), you can make the barista smile by replying, “Schwarz wie mein Herz” (Black like my heart).

If you’re in the mood for a little less caffeine, try one of these variations:

Einen Tee, bitte. (A tea, please.)

Eine heiße Schokolade, bitte. (A hot chocolate, please.)

2. Was können Sie empfehlen?  (What would you recommend?)

Not only a good way to take advantage of local knowledge, but a useful trick to start a conversation in German. Even if you’re not entirely confident in your grasp of the language, you can probably pick out items from the menu among all the unknown words you hear back.

3. Ich möchte…  (I would like…)

Here’s how you would use it: 

Ich möchte einen Eiskaffee. (I would like an iced coffee.)

Ich möchte einen Cappuccino. (I would like a cappuccino.)

These phrases are very useful, and you can pick up more everyday German expressions in context with a program like FluentU.

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4. Zum Mitnehmen  (To take away)

This phrase can save you having to down the entire coffee quickly when you were hoping to get cardboard but got glass instead. 

5. Haben Sie…?  (Do you have…?)

Because the barista is likely to be a stranger, you’re expected to use the formal form of “you,” Sie . Saying du  instead may get you a strange look, or worse, spit in your Americano.

6. Achtung, es ist heiß. (Careful, it’s hot.)

Although we all instinctively know that coffee tends to be hot, the waitress may be good enough to offer a little reminder. Although you probably won’t use the phrase yourself, it’s nice to know what the other person is saying.

7. Wo ist der Zucker?  (Where is the sugar?)

This will be especially useful for bakery and coffee stands, as most cafés put the sugar on the saucer.

Here’s a list of other terms for customizing your drink:

Zucker Sugar
Milch Milk
Sahne Cream
Honig Honey
Süßstoff Sweetener
Vanillezucker Vanilla sugar
Zimt Cinnamon
Schokoladensirup Chocolate syrup
Karamellsirup Caramel syrup
Ahornsirup Maple syrup
Sojamilch Soy milk
Mandelmilch Almond milk
Hafermilch Oat milk
Kokosmilch Coconut milk
Schlagsahne Whipped cream
Eiswürfel Ice

8. Darf ich bitte die Speisekarte sehen? (May I see the menu, please?)

Some cafés have English menus as well, if you’re not feeling particularly adventurous.

9. Wie viel kostet das? (How much does it cost?)

Although the prices will usually be listed, you don’t want to have to be afraid of the bill when it comes. 

10. Welche Größe möchten Sie?  (What size would you like?)

Typically, there are only two options: klein  (small) or gross  (large), which correspond to size expectations in most other countries. Alternatively, you can be proactive and include the size in your order:

Ich möchte einen kleinen Kaffee, bitte. (I would like a small coffee, please.)

11. Sonst noch etwas?  (Anything else?)

Again, this is to be asked by the waiter.

12. Ich bringe es Ihnen.  (I will bring it to you.)

Unlike cafés in some other countries, a waitress will generally take your order after you’re seated. In the case that you do place an order at the counter, you don’t have to stand around waiting for it. They’ll generally find you and bring it over.

13. Wo sind die Toiletten, bitte?  (Where are the bathrooms, please?)

Hey, we all know what coffee does.

14. Gibt es WLAN hier?  (Is there WiFi here?)

The answer is usually yes. However, you may have to ask:

Was ist das Kennwort? (What is the password?)


Coffee drinking and language learning go hand in hand.

Not only does the first fuel the second, but cafés give you the opportunity to try out your German in a low-pressure environment or simply relax and hear it spoken around you.

And equipped with the simple sentences above, you don’t have to worry about going through the day without that much-needed caffeine jolt.

Anyone for a second cup?

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