I asked our lovely staff for their tips and tricks on how to make the best, and hopefully most consistent and available, dining hall coffee. The results vary, but you can be sure that they range from creative and elaborate to practical and trustworthy — like our lovely Bwoggers themselves!

Making coffee is an essential part of Columbia student’s morning, afternoon, and nighttime routines, but navigating the landscape of dining hall coffee-making can be tricky. Below, I have compiled my fellow Bwoggers’ recipes, pro tips, and laments regarding how we all make coffee.

Let’s begin with my step-by-step recipe for the best iced latte. First, get two cups and fill both halfway with ice. Second, put two shots of vanilla syrup (or your flavor of choice) in one cup, and fill that cup with two shots of espresso. While the espresso is melting that ice down and emulsifying with the syrup, pour your milk of choice (I personally recommend almond) into the second cup, leaving enough room for your espresso. Finally, add the espresso to the milk, stir, and enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: This recipe requires God to be on your side. In order for this coffee to be made, you must have access to ice, a syrup that makes sense in coffee (i.e. not triple sec), and the espresso machine has to be working. For your best chance at getting this recipe right, I would recommend heading to Ferris, JJ’s, or John Jay right when they open. 

The above recipe is very complex and can so easily go wrong, but don’t fear— there are simpler recipes that trigger less emotional distress. For example, according to Sydney and Talia, simply using the French Vanilla Latte function on the espresso machine is never a bad option, but again, it is pretty unlikely that the machine will be functioning properly (if it’s even working at all). The worst scenario possible is when the machines are out of espresso and they instead shoot hot water along with a pathetic trickle of steamed “milk” into your cup. Yuck. 

Another option, perhaps the safest bet, is to make Emma’s Dirty Hot Chocolate: fill your cup with half hot chocolate and half coffee and enjoy! This recipe is definitely the quickest, and because it’s only two ingredients, it’s also the most fail-safe concoction.

However, if you really want to take a chance and get very creative, you can attempt Phoebe’s Raspberry Dark Chocolate Latte. This recipe requires both precision and a leap of faith. First, put one shot (or two if you’re headed to Butler) in a cup. Next, put a very small amount of raspberry syrup in (if you put too much, it will taste very strange) and a pump-ish of chocolate syrup. Stir then add ice and your milk of choice. 

Victoria’s approach is a lot more grounded. Her Honey Spice Latte is very simple, and leaves room for creativity and personal expression. Fill up your cup with espresso and the milk of your choice. Then add honey, and whatever spices are available. You could even attempt a Dirty Chai. Although you’ll have to bring your own chai— I recommend Trader Joe’s!

Finally, if you’re more of a tea person anyway, don’t fret. Sophie’s London Fog is delicious, and because it is not dependent on the espresso machines, you’ll be able to confidently walk into a dining hall and make this anytime. Steep your bag of Earl Gray in hot water, then add vanilla syrup, cane and regular sugar, your milk of choice, and honey. Perfectly soothing every time!

Here are some general tips to always keep in mind:

  1. Never assume that the espresso machine will be working.
  2. Likewise, never assume that you will have access to ice or your milk of choice.
  3. Lastly, always be prepared to have to drink the black coffee that tastes like it was made from graveyard dirt.

And that’s it! Hopefully you’re inspired to create your own dining hall coffee concoction, and we hope our tips are useful throughout your journey as a dining hall barista.

Coffee Beans via Wikimedia Commons