Different Types Of Coffee Drinks: The Ultimate Guide
Do you find yourself overwhelmed when you walk into a coffee shop? Confused by the seemingly infinite number of possible brews and combinations? I get it.
Making a selection from the different types of coffee drinks sometimes seems to require a dictionary or a secret decoder.
Considering the multiple ways coffee can be brewed, it’s little wonder that there are so many different kinds of coffee. With a better understanding of what’s what, you’ll know exactly how to order the next time you enter any coffee house.
With that in mind, here we cover the following topics:
Methods of Brewing Coffee
Before delving into the many different types of coffee, you need to understand that coffees are not all created equal. You can take the same coffee beans, use five different brewing methods, and have five cups of coffee that all taste different. That’s because each brewing method has its own way of extracting the flavors that flow into your cup.
Drip is one of the types of coffee that Americans are most familiar with. This coffee is made by an automatic coffee maker which features a large carafe and basket or filter filled with ground coffee. Water is heated within the machine’s body and then drips down onto ground coffee. The result is brewed coffee that flows from the basket into a carafe.
Drip coffee machines are straightforward and uncomplicated. There’s little room for user error, so you’ll always get a decent cup of java, plus these machines are affordable. For someone who just wants a simple cup of joe, a drip coffee maker meets that need perfectly.
Pour-over coffee is similar to drip coffee in that you get a basic cup of java without extras. As with drip coffee, a filter is used, but you have much more control over the process since it’s not automated. You can change the water’s temperature, the speed at which water is poured over the ground coffee, how strong your beverage is, and how much coffee is brewed.
Heat water in a kettle until it reaches your desired temperature. Once you’ve put the filter with ground coffee into place, pour just enough hot water from your kettle to get all the grounds wet, and then stop.
Wait about 30 seconds, and then slowly pour hot water over the grounds to brew the coffee. When you’ve filled your cup to your desired level, just stop pouring water. That’s it. Again, no real flair with pour-over coffee, but you do have more control than with drip coffee.
French Press Coffee
French press coffee is beloved by many for its rich, bold flavor that results from a very basic process of steeping and pressing ground coffee to extract flavors. For someone who wants control over the brewing process, this is a great choice. You can control the water’s temperature, steeping time, plus how the coffee beans are ground.
Heat enough water to fill the French press, just shy of boiling. Add ground coffee to the bottom of the French press, adding twice as much hot water as you have grounds. Stir and wait a few seconds. Then pour the rest of the heated water into your French press. Put the lid on, but don’t press that plunger yet.
Wait four minutes, and then press the plunger down to the ground coffee. The brewing process stops immediately when the plunger reaches the bottom, and your coffee is ready to drink.
Read our in-depth guide on how to make coffee with a French Press.
The process for brewing espresso is quite different as espresso requires a minimum of eight to nine bars of pressure to force very hot water through finely ground coffee. A single espresso shot is about one ounce of liquid, with six to eight grams of coffee, resulting in a strong, concentrated flavor.
An automatic espresso machine can be a great option if you’re not experienced at pulling shots of espresso manually as it removes most of the guesswork. With some automatic machines, you only have to add your whole beans, and the rest of the work is done for you.
There’s more trial and error involved in manually pulling a shot. Remove the portafilter and clean the group head. Then, add freshly ground coffee into the portafilter, level it off, and tamp it. Fit your portafilter onto the group head, then start your shot. Initially, the shot will begin as a slow drip, then form into a stream. When the shot starts thickening and blonding, that’s your cue to stop. Drink the espresso shot as is or use it to create other drinks.
Moka Pot Coffee
You may not recognize the name “moka,” but you’d certainly recognize its iconic eight-sided design. This same design helps to evenly disperse flavor and aroma, creating a strong, rich flavor that’s sometimes called stovetop espresso.
The process hasn’t changed much over the years. Grind your coffee beans and bring water to a boil. Pour the hot water into the bottom half of your moka pot. Place ground coffee into the filter basket, then place the basket atop the bottom compartment. The top chamber is carefully screwed on.
Place the moka pot on a medium-heat burner and wait for the magic. As the water in the bottom chamber reaches its boiling point, the pressure will force water up through the coffee grounds into the top chamber. You’ll know it’s done when you hear bubbling sounds.
Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee is a relatively new addition in the java world, and no, it’s not just iced or cold java. Cold brew relies on an extended steeping time to develop flavors, so the longer you steep it, the stronger the taste. This method of brewing creates flavors that are smoother and less acidic than traditional coffee, plus it can be stored within your fridge for 10 to 14 days.
Cold brew uses a 1:8 ground coffee to water ratio, and the process is surprisingly simple. Using a coarse grind, put your measured coffee grounds in the bottom of the container. Then, pour water, either cold or room temperature, over the grounds and stir. Put the lid on it, set it inside your fridge, and forget about it for 12 to 18 hours.
After that time is up, just filter out the grounds and it’s ready to drink.
Most Popular Coffee Drinks
There are some specialty coffee drinks that almost everyone has heard of, for good reason. Listen to anyone placing an order, and you’ll hear certain words, such as “latte,” “cafe au lait,” or “Americano.” But what do those names mean?
This beverage is exactly as it sounds: just plain black coffee. No tricks, no creamer, no ice. Just coffee in its purest form. It’s estimated that around one-third of coffee drinkers prefer it black, in which case the rest of this list of coffee drinks is not for them!
Lattes are often referred to as an introduction to coffee drinks because they don’t really resemble coffee. A latte starts with a single or double shot of espresso and is finished with several ounces of steamed, textured milk. This milk texturing results in a thin line of fluffy milk on the top of the drink. Lattes are generally blended, so you can’t pick out the layers. A latte is often presented in a tall glass.
A cappuccino resembles a latte in that they have the same ingredients, but a cappuccino has distinct layers. Like a latte, this coffee starts with a single or double shot of espresso, then a layer of steamed milk, and finally a foam layer. However, it has significantly less steamed milk than the latte but more foam. A cappuccino is usually served in a cappuccino mug.
The Americano is also based on, you guessed it, espresso, but it’s much weaker. An espresso shot is pulled, and then water is added. The amount of water used is typically double the espresso. Because water is added after the shot has been pulled, the crema mixes into your drink, so it isn’t on top. Traditionally, this drink comes in a small glass mug.
Another drink based on espresso, a macchiato starts with one or two espresso shots. A dollop of frothy, steamed milk is then added, usually about one or two teaspoons. This drink is also sometimes referred to as a caffe macchiato and is typically served in an espresso cup.
Cafe au Lait
Cafe au lait literally translates to “coffee with milk.” Unlike the previous coffee types, cafe au lait is based on coffee, particularly French press coffee. It’s simple, just one part coffee, one part steamed milk. Some people prefer to use scalded milk, which is hotter than steamed milk, while others add chicory. This drink is traditionally served in a wide cup or even a bowl.
Nitro Cold Brew
Nitro cold brew is a particular kind of cold brew coffee that’s infused with nitrogen gas. Tiny nitrogen bubbles help create a texture that is both satiny and smooth. Its texture is thicker and smoother than regular cold brew coffee. This is one beverage you probably can’t create at home, though, unless you have nitrogen with a pressurized valve.
Lesser-Known Coffee Drinks
Now that we’ve covered some of the more popular drinks, we’ll take a look at some beverages which aren’t quite as well-known. You should be able to walk into most coffee shops and find these beverages on their menus, too.
A ristretto is brewed like an espresso but is known as a short or restricted shot. Less hot water, about 15 to 20 ml, is used, compared to about 30 ml for espresso. The shot is darker and more concentrated. It also has a sweeter, richer flavor than a full shot of espresso. Ristretto is served in an espresso cup.
In contrast to ristretto, a lungo uses double the water of an espresso. This is not diluting the shot after it’s pulled, but rather pulling the shot for longer. For this reason, it’s also known as a stretched version of espresso. Your resulting beverage is weaker, but more bitter, as extraction takes longer. Like ristretto, lungo is presented in an espresso cup.
A cortado is similar to a macchiato but includes warm milk (not steamed) at a one-to-one ratio with espresso. It can be topped by a very thin, light layer of foam. This combination keeps the espresso’s flavor but brings down the acidity level somewhat. There is no textured or frothed milk with this drink, and it’s usually offered in a seven-ounce cup.
Named after an overnight flight that leaves you tired and needing caffeine, the red eye is a combination drink: a regular cup of drip coffee with one shot of espresso added. As expected, this beverage has more caffeine than regular java. There is also a black eye and a dead eye, named for the additional espresso shots that are added.
Unsurprisingly, this drink originated in Turkey and uses unfiltered, finely ground coffee. Finely ground coffee is added to hot water in a small pot, often using moderate amounts of sugar. The liquid is heated until it’s just below boiling, and foam will develop on top. The beans are ground so finely that all that is left at the bottom of your cup is some powdered grinds. Turkish coffee is often served with a small glass of water.
A caffe breve is made like a cappuccino with layers but it uses half-and-half creamer instead of milk. Half-and-half creates a creamy foam that’s richer and thicker than milk. A single shot of espresso, then the hot half-and-half, then a foam layer, then served in a low cup.
The flat white is a drink that appears to take many forms, depending on who you ask. Everyone agrees that it starts with a single or double shot of espresso and includes steamed milk, but that’s where those similarities end.
Some say it has no foam at all, while some say it has less foam than a latte. Some say it contains more espresso than a latte, but maybe not. Oh, and some baristas will use a double ristretto instead of espresso. Regardless, it all sounds delicious! A flat white, no matter how it’s created, is most commonly served in a glass tumbler.
Is One Better Than the Other?
The short answer is no. There is no one-size-fits-all coffee solution. People like what they like, so that’s why there are so many varieties of java, espresso, and coffee drinks. It gets even more complicated with types of coffee beans and roasts. So be adventurous and try them all!
So how many types of coffee are there? As you can tell, there seems to be a never-ending list with all the different types of coffee drinks. It’s no wonder that people need a few minutes before placing their orders at their local cafe!
Coffee drinks may start with regular java or espresso. From there, the introduction of water, milk, or cream can dramatically alter the appearance and flavor of these beverages. Whether you prefer strong and bold or rich and subtle, there’s a coffee waiting for you.
Now you’ve learned more about the different kinds of coffees, you’ll be ready to walk into the cafe confidently the next time you’re craving caffeine. Still have questions? Take a look at the FAQs below.
Different Types of Coffee Drinks FAQs
What Is the Most Common Coffee Order?
According to research by the Specialty Coffee Association, a classic latte is the most common order at American coffee shops. But it’s closely followed by cappuccinos, flat whites, and Americanos.
What Is the Best Coffee for Beginners?
If you’re unfamiliar with coffee, start off with a smooth, creamy beverage such as a cappuccino or a latte. Alternatively, if you want to jump in the deep end and experience bold coffee in all its bitter glory, try an espresso shot.
Which Coffee Has the Most Milk?
A latte generally contains the most milk of all cafe-made coffees with several ounces of steamed milk. Likewise, iced coffees can contain plenty of dairy, be it milk, cream, ice cream, or even a combination of all three.
What Is the Purest Form of Coffee?
Most people consider espresso to be the purest form of coffee, and it’s also one of the strongest forms.
How Many Types of Coffee Drinks Are There?
The list is nearly endless when you consider the number of countries where coffee is common and the various ways it is made and consumed. From Nescafe frappes in Greece to Vietnamese iced coffee, the world of coffee is as rich and varied as the drink itself.