While coffee may be a simple drink at its core, it doesn't always feel that way. With all the different types of coffee drinks available at many cafes, coffee stores and roasters, it can be daunting for someone to try something new. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular coffee drinks out there and what makes each one unique.
Filter coffee is a simple coffee in its own, unadulterated glory. Often referred to as drip coffee or black coffee interchangeably, filter coffee is essentially coffee brewed in any method other than an espresso machine. Pourover, percolator, french press, you name it: this is all filter coffee.
Filter coffee is also often roasted at lower temperatures and for less time than espresso-specific roasts. This preserves more of the coffee bean's unique flavours, which shine through magnificently in a well-brewed cup.
Espresso is a small, strong coffee topped by a brownish-white foam called crema. It is brewed with an espresso machine, which forces pressurised hot water through coffee grounds. This gives espresso a thicker consistency and makes it a more concentrated drink than you get when using filter brewing methods.
Espresso beans are roasted darker and ground finer than filter-specific beans to help extract the optimal amount of coffee. Modern specialty coffee shops commonly serve a double espresso shot as the standard. This typically contains a little more caffeine than a cup of black coffee, but a lot less volume. A double shot is usually 40-50 ml and can be enjoyed on its own or as the base of the drinks to follow.
An Americano is simply an espresso diluted with hot water. Its origins are not confirmed, but the classic story is that it comes from the habits of American soldiers deployed in Europe during the Second World War. Not accustomed to strong Italian and French espresso, they would water it down to better suit their tastes. Often called caffè Americano, this drink is similar to a cup of filter coffee and is delicious either hot or iced.
A latte is an espresso served with steamed milk. The milk smooths out the intensity of espresso to create a delicious, velvety drink that is a staple in every coffee shop. Latte milk is steamed to be just slightly foamy. When mixed with espresso, it is perfect for pouring latte art, providing talented baristas with a canvas to show off their skills.
Like lattes, cappuccinos combine steamed milk and espresso, but there are a couple of key differences. First is the foam factor. While lattes have just a thin layer of foam, cappuccinos will be much thicker, closer to half milk foam and half steamed milk.
Cappuccinos also contain less milk. A “traditional” cappuccino is usually served in a 5 oz mug and this greater ratio of espresso to milk makes for a stronger drink. Cappuccinos will sometimes be offered in larger sizes that are something like a foamier latte.
The macchiato occupies a space somewhere between an espresso and a cappuccino. Meaning “spotted” in Italian, this coffee drink is simply an espresso shot topped with a small dab—a “spot”—of milk foam. They are a lovely way to savour a good espresso, with just enough milk to add some creaminess.
Mochas are essentially a latte, but with the delicious addition of chocolate. They are usually made by adding melted chocolate or hot chocolate mix to the milk before steaming it. They take their name from the city of Mocha, Yemen—the birthplace of the coffee trade. Few things pair better than coffee and chocolate, so should be no surprise that mochas are now well-established as one of the most popular coffee beverages.
Long a regional favourite in New Zealand and Australia, the flat white became a worldwide sensation over the last 10 years. This espresso drink came about as a pushback against the 20th-century trend toward very foamy cappuccinos that were more air than coffee. People wanted a simple, minimally foamy (flat), milk-based (white) drink. Thus, the flat white was born.
Flat whites feature milk with a latte-like texture and only a thin layer of light foam, but in a size and strength comparable to a cappuccino.
Café au lait
A Café au lait is filter coffee paired with hot milk. Historically, it represents a French variation of the latte. It features coffee rather than espresso and hot—but not steamed or foamy—milk. No espresso means that it is easy to make this delicious milk-based coffee drink at home with nothing more than a French press.
Less than appropriate as your daily morning boost, an Irish coffee blends espresso, cream, and whiskey. Despite the name, the origins of Irish coffee are not so certain, and various recipes have been served throughout Europe for hundreds of years. Found more in restaurants than cafes, Irish coffee is often served as a digestif to follow up a nice dinner.
Doppio is Italian for double, and a caffè doppio is simply two espresso shots. The drink harkens back to espresso’s origins in Italy, where many traditional cafes continue to serve single shots as the default. Espresso is so ubiquitous there that if you order a caffè (coffee), you will be served espresso, not the mug of filter coffee you would expect elsewhere. Caffè doppio (double coffee) is ideal for those mornings when you need an extra coffee kick.
Iced coffee is a great way to enjoy your favourite drink in the summer heat. It can be as simple as an iced espresso shot or made more complicated with various syrups and creamers.
Cold brew is where coffee grounds are left to steep overnight in cold water. This method produces a less acidic, sweeter taste and makes for an excellent iced coffee.
The frappé, another popular iced coffee drink, is a cold coffee-based beverage similar to an iced latte. It is usually made by blending espresso, ice cubes and sugar with milk in a blender, often with added flavourings such as chocolate syrup or vanilla extract. Frappés are a classic coffee drink that also goes well with whipped cream.
Find The Perfect Coffee Drink For You Today
These are just some of the most popular types of coffee drinks around today but there is so much more out there to explore. Experiment and find your perfect cup of coffee—you may even invent a new drink along the way.
Discover More At Moon Roast Coffee
Discovering, roasting, and sharing delicious coffee is what we love to do at Moon Roast Coffee. We hope this guide helps you on your coffee journey, whether that means trying something new at your favourite coffee shops or experimenting with some of these classic coffee drinks at home. Drinking coffee should be enjoyable, so take the time to enjoy the process and find your perfect cup.
If you would like to explore our range of coffee beans, grounds, and blends, take a look at our website or consider visiting our roastery - the perfect place for coffee drinkers of all levels to learn, taste and experience new flavours.