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Anyone who visits Germany will inevitably end up in a coffee shop at some point during their travels, so I thought I’d put together a list of phrases you can use to navigate your way through a German café. For convenience’s sake the café in this scenario is one where you order and pay at the counter, though the conversation will be practically the same if in a café with table service.
Remember that the other customers and staff in the café are strangers, so you use the formal way of addressing them (‘Sie’ rather than ‘du’).
When you go up to the counter, greet your Verkäufer(in) (cashier) with a: Guten Morgen! / Guten Tag!
Good morning! / Good day!
Now order your drink like this: Einen Kaffee, bitte. / Einen Tee, bitte. / Eine heiße Schokolade, bitte.
A coffee, please. / A tea, please. / A hot chocolate, please.
If you’re taking away, you add zum mitnehmen onto your sentence: Einen Kaffee zum mitnehmen, bitte. / Einen Tee zum mitnehmen, bitte. / Eine heiße Schokolade zum mitnehmen, bitte.
A coffee to go, please. / A tea to go, please. / A hot chocolate to go, please.
As you can see from the sign above, Germans have also adopted the English term ‘to go’ in place of ‘zum mitnehmen’. However, they often write it twice, once in English and once in German, as if Kaffee To Go is the drink’s official name, and they then need to clarify that a Kaffee To Go can also be taken away. The result sounds ridiculous to an English speaker (‘Coffee to go – everything also to go’). This sign is not a one-off, either!
*The confusion about German coffees*
Furthermore, German coffee names are a little confusing. While a Milchkaffee (‘milk coffee’) might sound like a regular filter coffee with milk, it’s actually half a cup of filter coffee topped up with hot milk. If you want a coffee with cold milk, you need to ask for ‘Kaffee mit Milch’, after which you’ll most likely be served a cup of black coffee, and add the Milch or Sahne (cream) yourself. Meanwhile, a Latte Macchiato might cause confusion if ordered in an English café, but in Germany this is a common coffee served in a tall glass, and consisting of hot milk, espresso and foam. This is different to both a Latte and a Macchiato as we know them. Yes, it’s all a bit confusing! But Filterkaffee (filter coffee) is very popular in Germany, and is usually very good (read: strong), wherever you go. If you’re not sure what to get, but don’t want to end up with a Milchkaffee or any other foamy drink, ask for a Filterkaffee, or just a Kaffee.
Once you’ve got your drink your server may ask you: Sonst noch was? / Noch etwas dazu?
Anything else? / Anything else with it?
Reply if you want nothing else: Nein, danke. Das ist alles.
No, thanks. That’s everything.
If you want to know if the café serves a certain thing, you can use this sentence:
Haben Sie …? Do you have …?
Or if you want to know what types of things they have (eg. teas), you can ask:
Was für … haben Sie? What kind of … do you have?
*For things you could ask for, like lactose-free milk, decaf coffee, etc. see the list at the end of this post.*
Your server will then tell you how much it comes to. Remember that number order is different in German to how it is in English, so if the price of your coffee is 2,45 it will be said like this: Zwei Euro fünfundvierzig, bitte. ‘Two Euros five and forty, please’. Well, hopefully you’ll be able to see the price on the till display at this point, but you never know!
When you go to sit down, you may need to ask another customer: Ist dieser Stuhl frei?
Is this chair free?
They may reply with: Ja, Sie können Sich hinsetzen.
Yes, you can sit here.
Or they may reply with: Nein, er ist besetzt. / Nein, hier sitzt jemand.
No, it’s occupied. / No, someone’s sitting here.
You may need to ask for the toilet at some point. Do this by saying: Wo sind die Toiletten, bitte?
Where are the toilets, please?
Now, the all-important question! Gibt es WiFi hier?
Is there WiFi here?
Make sure you get the password right by asking your server to do this: Können Sie mir bitte das WiFi Passwort aufschreiben?
Could you please write the WiFi password down for me?
Work done and coffee finished, the café staff will more than likely acknowledge you as you leave. Thank them with a friendly: Vielen Dank! Auf Wiedersehen!
Thank you! Goodbye/Until next time!
This is about the extent of the phrases you need to get by for a simple, quiet Kaffeepause at a German café. Was kann schöner sein? 🙂
Coffee break – Die Kaffeepause
Coffee beans – Die Kaffeebohnen
Caffeine-free – koffeinfrei
Decaf coffee – Der entkoffeinierter Kaffee
Herbal tea – Der Kräutertee
Soya milk – Die Sojamilch
Almond milk – Die Mandelmilch
Lactose-free milk – Die laktosefreie Milch
Allergy – Die Allergie
Cream – Die Sahne
Sugar – Der Zucker
Sweetener – Der Süßstoff
Napkin – Die Serviette
A glass of water – Ein Glas Wasser