We’ve all been there. You are at the coffee shop and are overwhelmed with endless choices. Most of the time, there is no description and one should just know what’s what. Well, fear not as we explain the different types of coffees to clear things up.
Let’s start with a little history lesson. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia and then spread across Europe. It was considered a magical fruit that when boiled, would make you energetic. It first spread around the Arabian Peninsula, before making its way to Europe and on to become the delicious beverage we know and love today.
This guide will focus mostly on the 12 most popular coffee types. There is a little something for everyone, with some history peppered in. Next time you go to a coffee shop, you’ll be able to order with confidence.
Espresso is the building block of many coffee beverages. It’s smooth, rich and aromatic taste can be bitter to some, but should have a deep robust flavour. In Italian, espresso means “pressed coffee,” which is what you see baristas preparing for you. Fun fact, the term ‘barista’ was coined by Mussolini because he thought ‘barman’ sounded too American.
Espresso is made by forcing boiling water over finely compacted coffee grinds to force out it’s flavours and aromas. It’s usually brewed at a 1:2 ratio, so if you have 10g of coffee grounds, it should double and become 20g of liquid. Good extraction time is around seconds. This is the amount of time the water is going through the espresso in the machine before it comes out as brewed. The process can be a fun experiment, as the outcome can vary each time.
If you are looking to try a traditional drink, espresso is where to start. It has been considered the simplest and purest form of coffee, and you will find it in most other beverages. If you find yourself in Italy, you’ll find Italians sipping a hot Espresso quickly and moving on with their day. Espresso can be enjoyed hot or iced, so give it a try!
Double Espresso (also known as Doppio)
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It is two shots of Espresso in one container, giving it a more intense aroma and taste. If you are feeling like you need a mega boost, this could be the drink for you. In Italian, this drink is called a ‘Doppio.’
If Espresso is too strong on its own for you, the americano may be up your alley. Essentially, this drink is a diluted espresso. Not to say that it loses flavour, but if you want it to be a longer drink experience or less intense of a flavour this is a way to enjoy espresso.
Caffé Americano means ‘American Coffee' in Italian. However, the Americano is not just a cup of black coffee. It is the first step in the direction towards drinks with espresso as the base.
With the flat white, we enter the land of milk and foam. The drink’s origin began in Australia and New Zealand. No one knows for certain which one, but the thought is that people wanted something similar to a cappuccino with less foam, so they would order it ‘flat.’
The Flat White is espresso and steamed milk with less foam than a cappuccino. It’s a good place to start experimenting with foam in your beverage if you are worried about it being too much. It was first mentioned around the 1980’s and made its way to America and the UK shortly after.
As we move on, we will start to talk about other foamy milk drinks involving espresso, but the flat white is good for the coffee drinker looking for something light and not as intense as straight espresso. It doesn’t have the frothy foam on top that you get with other drinks, just milk in it to balance with the espresso.
Cafe Latte - Also knows as Latte or café au lait
So, here we to get into the froth and foam of it all. The café latte or latte for short is what most people think of when they think of an espresso drink. Looking up recipes will list espresso and milk as the two ingredients. It’s definitely a classic.
To make a café latte, also known as café au lait it takes two parts of coffee and one part steamed milk. It’s more coffee and less milk, so you'll get more of the coffee flavour.
This drink is a total classic and you can’t go wrong. Whether it’s hot or iced, it will be delicious. Many places offer flavoured options, as well.
Coming in as the original espresso and milk drink, we have the cappuccino. This drink appeared in the 1900s, a bit after the espresso machine was invented. This drink can be seen enjoyed after meals at a diner, or at your local coffee shop. It doesn’t get as much love as the latte does these days, but it’s still delicious. Cappuccinos are known for the thick layer of foam on top of the steamed milk.
The ratio for a cappuccino is 1:1:1. One part coffee, one part steamed milk, one part milk foam. With that being said, the coffee taste is present but is offset by the milk and foam, making it less intense. If espresso can be a bit much for you, definitely try a cappuccino, so you can enjoy the taste on a less intense level.
For the chocolate lovers out there, we have the mocha or mochaccino. This drink as we know it today can be seen in frozen drinks and ice creams all over. It’s essentially a latte with chocolate added. The name comes from the city of Mocha located in Yemen. However, the original drink was not a chocolate-flavoured beverage.
The coffee that came from Yemen had a different taste than the more floral coffees coming from Africa. So, it the original taste was a thicker chocolate one, without it being added in. If you are looking for something sweet and rich, a mocha drink would be the way to go.
Nowadays, when you hear the word macchiato, Starbucks comes to mind. The caramel flavoured drink is quite delicious, and an iced one on a hot summer day is perfection. However, much like the mocha, this is not the original drink.
A macchiato was initially a shot of espresso with the tiniest bit of milk in it. Macchiato means ‘stained’ in Italian. If you’re looking to try an original instead of the Starbucks drink, you can order it as an ‘espresso macchiato’ which will be more similar to a double shot espresso.
Similar to the original macchiato, we have the cortado. This is a drink that is a shot of espresso with steamed milk. So, you get the boost from an espresso shot with less intensity. There is no foam on the drink, so you just get the cut of the steamed milk without all of the pizzazz you get in a latte.
This drink originated in Spain and is popular in Portugal and Cuba. It has become recently popular in the US and originated in the 1960s. The word cortado comes from the Spanish word, cortar, which means to cut. So, the drink is cutting espresso with milk.
Coffee and dessert go hand in hand, right? An affogato is a coffee dessert. In Italian, affogato means drowned. The dessert is gelato DROWNED in hot espresso. Sounds good, right? It’s a simple dessert that usually won’t appear in a coffee shop, but can be found on menus at Italian restaurants. Definitely, something to try if you are a coffee lover.
Moving away from espresso-based beverages, we have Turkish coffee. This type of coffee was introduced in the 1500s, and also has roots in Yemen. The Turkish Governor and Sultan at the time decided to ground the coffee very finely, more than had been done before. It was very popular in the Ottoman Empire.
This type of coffee can be any bean, but it must be finely ground to a powder. The interesting thing to note is that the grounds should be left in the cup when with most coffees there is a filter system. You boil the coffee and water in a pot with any add-ins such as sugar.
While cold coffee has become mainstream recently, it has been a popular style of coffee in countries such as Japan and Vietnam for many years. Kyoto-Style Japanese coffee is a form of cold brew that has been around since the 1600s.
If you want a cold beverage, this would be for you. There are many flavours and varieties out there, and you can tailor it to your taste without taking away from the original beverage. Cold brew is made by infusing the beans with the coffee, which gives it a very strong flavour. Infusing the beans with water can remove a lot of the bitter taste you get with other coffees. You can leave the beans in the water alone, or in a cheesecloth.
The cool thing with cold brew is you can adjust the concentration to your liking. It’s easy to make big batches, or small. It’s different than brewing regular coffee and pouring it over ice, where it can become diluted and lose flavour. As far as iced coffee is concerned, cold brew is the way to go.
To sum it up, there is a multitude of ways to have your coffee. Hot, cold, sweet, bitter, you can have it however you want. Hopefully, this coffee explanation guide helps you decide on your next coffee choice. Enjoy!
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