Coffee is the world’s favorite drink. There are so many options now, however, that it can be a little tricky even for baristas to keep up with them all.
So come with us on a magical mystery tour through some of the different types of coffee available. Learn what they’re called, how they’re made, and which one will be the right choice for you.
Black Coffee Types
Purists enjoy their coffee hot and black, with nothing added. Even black coffee, however, has many different variants. So let’s start with espresso, the base for so many coffee drinks.
Espresso shots tend to be rather thicker in consistency than most coffee drinks, and this is largely due to the way in which the beverage is prepared. A small amount of almost boiling water is expressed, or forced under pressure, through coffee beans which have been finely ground, almost to a powder.
Espresso is typically very intense in flavor and aroma. One other key characteristic is the crema on top, essentially a light foam, usually tan or brown in hue. Once you know how to recognize a good espresso, many other types of coffee just slot into place. As with so many things in life, it all starts with the preparation, and the ingredients.
You could probably make an educated guess that “doppio” means double, and a doppio, or doppio espresso, is just that: a double shot of everyone’s favorite intense, caffeinated drink. Since a single shot of espresso is around 1 fluid ounce, a doppio is usually 2 ounces.
Just as you could probably guess that “doppio” meant double, you’ve probably worked out already that “lungo” means long. A lungo is still an espresso, only made with around twice as much water. The extraction process also takes longer.
All of this adds up to around 2 ounces per serving of strong coffee. It usually has a somewhat more bitter flavor than your standard espresso.
We always think half the joy of trying out new coffee types is just speaking the words aloud. And if you’re trying to find an English equivalent for “ristretto”, then “restricted” or “narrow” gets the general idea across.
A ristretto is an espresso shot that uses the same amount of coffee as a single shot, but only around half the usual amount of water. The extraction process typically uses a finer grind than everyday espresso.
Black Coffee / Long Black
And finally, let’s not forget about our everyday black coffee, or long black, as it’s often called in Australia and New Zealand. A long black in these countries is essentially an Americano: so an espresso shot with extra hot water. It’s the antithesis of the flat white, which has recently become fairly well-known worldwide.
Froth and Furbelows: Coffees With Milk
While many coffee drinkers like black coffee, there are times when the caffeinated beverage you’re imbibing benefits from the addition of a little sugar or syrup. And if you want to make your coffee even more mellow, add in a little cream, milk, almond milk, oat milk, soya milk, or variations on a theme.
So if your taste runs to the white and frothy when it comes to coffee, just how do you decide?
There are various descriptions of flat white coffee, another term that appears to have originated in Australasia. Aussie actor Hugh Jackman has described it as being like a latte with less milk and more espresso, or actually, espresso.
A flat white should contain a double shot of espresso, with micro foamed milk that’s heated at a consistent temperature all the way through. It’s usually served at a slightly cooler temperature than either a cappuccino or a latte, and the servings are usually a little smaller too.
It’s not so long since a Cappuccino was the height of sophistication when you were enjoying a trip to a coffee shop, and now, they’re everywhere. So what is a cappuccino, anyway? Well, like almost all of the words we use to talk about coffee, cappuccino is an Italian word.
Round about the 1700s, a drink known as ‘Kapuziner’ began appearing in the coffee houses of Vienna. This coffee drink, with milk and sugar added, quickly became popular, and the Italians adopted it. It’s thought that the name came from the fact that the color was similar to the brown robes traditionally worn by Capuchin monks.
In recent years, iced coffees have made their way onto coffee shop menus around the world (even in the frozen wastes of the British Isles). While Starbucks didn’t invent the word, they did register it as a trademark. Frappuccino variations are now found in many other chains.
These days, the term is mainly used to refer to a smooth, blended drink of coffee, milk, ice and various sugar syrups. It’s usually topped with whipped cream, so as you can imagine, the calorie count is not inconsiderable.
If you like your coffee milky, smooth and mild, the Latte will almost certainly be one of your beverages of choice. You still need that espresso shot in the base of the cup or mug, but what makes all the difference is the steamed milk that’s then added. You can add pretty much anything you like to a latte – pumpkin, chocolate, salted caramel.
With lattes, it really is a case of the foamier the better. Then, of course, there’s the latte art on top of the foam – pretty much a whole new art form these days.
Essentially, this is an espresso with a small amount of foamed milk on top. Another truly lovely Italian word to describe another truly lovely caffeinated drink, “macchiato” literally means “marked”.
All right. It’s not only coffee. Or rather, it’s coffee with chocolate. Which surely has to be one of the closest drinks to heaven you can get, right? In any case, we couldn’t leave out mocha.
Each coffee shop will have its own variation on a theme when it comes to this great blend of slightly bitter coffee and ultra-sweet hot chocolate. Often available hot or cold, with or without marshmallows or sprinkles.
Cool As A Cucumber – Or Should That Be Coffee?
If you live in much of the Northern Hemisphere, you probably grew up pretty much thinking of coffee as a hot beverage. In warmer climes, however, coffee has often been served as a refreshing cold drink. So let’s take a look at some of the best.
The word is French for “whipped”, but the concept comes from Greece. Order this in Greece, and you’re likely to be served a coffee that’s been sweetened before being shaken until it’s delectably frothy and foamy. It’s then poured over ice cubes.
French variations, often whizzed up in a blender, might include ice cream as well as coffee and ice; and in America, it’s most likely to be coffee blended with ice, milk, and sugar. And don’t forget the whipped cream.
As long as you have good coffee, a decent blender, and a little ice, you can whip up your own frappe in minutes. Think of it like a coffee-flavored smoothie. For those of us who can’t decide between chocolate and coffee, there’s always the mocha frappe. Or, if you’re not in the mood for caffeine in any shape or form, there are fruit frappes too.
Iced Coffee & Cold Brew
A cold brew takes a little more planning. Ground coffee is steeped in cold, filtered water for several hours, ideally in a refrigerator before being served. Typically, cold brew can take up to 24 hours.
Around The World In 80 Coffees
Okay, that title might be very slightly misleading. But pretty much every country has its own way of making and enjoying coffee.
There are at least 40 different types of coffee in Austria alone. So what other types of coffee are you likely to see on a typical coffee shop or coffee maker menu these days, depending on your location?
Legend has it that Irish coffee wasn’t invented until 1943. Head chef at Shannon Airport, Joe Sheridan, took pity on the freezing passengers waiting for their flight. He prepared a delectable confection of sugar, a shot of whiskey, a dash of cream, and, oh yes, coffee.
You’ll find Irish coffee on the menu in many pubs and restaurants: it’s not just for St Patrick’s Day. It is also available in some places as a cocktail. Hot or cold, it’s as warming a drink as you’d expect from a windswept, rain-rinsed island famed for the myriad greens of its landscape.
Ah, the Americano. It’s become almost synonymous with an ordinary black coffee in some quarters. There is, however, more to an Americano than meets the eye.
This coffee shop staple has its origins, so the story goes, in WWII, when homesick GIs were posted to Italy. When the coffee shop owners realized the soldiers were finding their espresso a little too strong, they began serving it with a glass or so of hot water.
The Americans diluted the coffee, added cream and sugar (or whatever substitutes they could find), and hey presto. The Americano was born.
Turquoise seas, gleaming white sands, beautiful weather, glorious vegetation, and the only US state that produces coffee commercially. Yes, we’re in Hawaii.
Hawaii coffee is generally much milder tasting and lower in acidity than that from many other regions. You can expect to enjoy hints of citrus or floral aromas, with an edge of brown sugar.
You might also see it called Kona coffee. It’s not the cheapest coffee in the world, but it’s worth it. Keep an eye open for 100% Kona, and beware of coffee marked as “Kona blend” which may only comprise 10% of Kona coffee beans.
Turkish coffee is prepared in a small pot with a long handle, known as a cezve, and traditionally made from copper. For this robust, delicious brew, heat up the amount of water you need to fill your coffee cup and then add two full teaspoons of coffee.
If you want sugar you need to add it to the cezve: sugar is not added once the coffee is cooked. When the coffee has boiled, the foam is allowed to rise, and the coffee taken away from the heat source just before it spills. The foam is the most important aspect of Turkish coffee, which is usually served with a glass of water. A sweet treat of some kind is often added – Turkish Delight, for example.
Typically, Vienna coffee is sweet and served with lashings of cream, usually whipped, although there are dozens of other variations – around 40 or so, according to some sources.
So, what’s a Viennese or a Vienna coffee, then, we hear you ask? Well, if you’re enjoying a Vienna coffee, it will probably have had cream, syrup, or a liqueur of some kind added to the gorgeous caffeinated base.
The iced variants might even incorporate ice cream. Oh, and if you find yourself in Vienna, make sure you know what you’re ordering if you see Mokka on the menu. In this part of the world, it often means an espresso.
Typical Vietnamese coffee is relatively thick in texture. While Cam Phe might be the base, you’ll often find glorious local twists that make use of eggs, fruit and yogurt as additional ingredients.
Vietnamese coffee is almost always prepared using the drip method and a fairly coarse grind. The beans are put into a French drip filter or phin, and a thin lid is then used to weigh them down. The hot water slowly filters into the cup below. It’s popular to drink the resulting strong brew with condensed milk and added sweetener.
If You Are What You Eat….
Now is probably a good time to consider, what is coffee, anyway? Although there are dozens if not hundreds of varieties, there are two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans produce a milder-tasting brew, with Robusta making a stronger coffee.
We mainly think of coffee as being made from the seeds of the cherries of the coffee plant, lovingly harvested, dried, roasted and processed. Coffee can, however, be made from other substances too.
This might not be a combination of ingredients you’d intuitively put together, but it’s surprisingly good. Think of it as not unlike tiramisu in liquid form.
You’re most likely to find the egg coffee as a variant of Vietnamese coffee. It’s a little unusual in that the base coffee is almost always a Robusta variety.
During times of conflict or shortage, ground acorns were often used as a coffee substitute. While acorns don’t really taste like coffee, this drink can be ideal for those who can’t have caffeine for any reason.
Not sure that ingesting a fungus is a good idea? Well, it can be, if it’s been liquefied, dried and combined with other fungi in just the right amounts to make a great addition to your daily cup of joe.
We’re mainly talking about maitake and Chaga mushroom coffee varieties, though we really wouldn’t advise trying to harvest and process them yourself. Head over instead to one of the approved suppliers, like Four Sigmatic.
And then there are various methods of making coffee. Drip coffee is one of the most common brewing methods. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
Use a simple cup, filter and filter holder, and hot water to produce a single cup, or invest in one of the many excellent coffee machines on the market. This method is quick: your brew will be with you in just a few minutes.
With the French Press, you’re in control. You decide how finely or coarsely ground you like your coffee. You decide how hot you’d like the water. And you decide on long to let your coffee soak. We would advise around 6 to 8 minutes, though, depending on the blend and your personal taste.
Also sometimes called a cafetiere or coffee press, this gadget consists of a beaker, typically made of glass with a pouring spout, and a lid. The plunger is usually attached to some kind of mesh. Water can pass through, but coffee grounds are kept out of the liquid.
If the drip coffee and French press methods are reminiscent of your everyday chemistry lab, the siphon coffee approach is verging on alchemy. There’s also quite a dash of theater.
There are two chambers, upper and lower. The first is filled with water and when the bottom chamber is heated, vapor pressure means that the water is forced into the top chamber, where it mixes with the coffee grounds. The mixed water and coffee then fall back into the bottom chamber thanks to falling pressure and gravity.
New Kids On The (Coffee) Block
Kopi Luwak is an Indonesian term. Coffee cherries are eaten and then excreted by the Asian palm civet. The cherries ferment as they pass through the animal’s intestines. Formerly the excretions were collected from animals living in the wild but this is no longer always the case.
The method produces some of the most expensive coffees in the world. You might also have heard it called civet coffee.
Bulletproof Coffee / Butter Coffee
The story goes that, some years ago, company founder Dave Asprey was trekking in the mountainous land of Tibet. When exhaustion overcame him, a kindly local offered him tea containing yak butter. He was amazed at its effects.
Back in America, he began experimenting, and Bulletproof Coffee was born. There are three ingredients: coffee; grass-fed butter from cows; and a purified form of coconut oil or “brain octane oil”. (It’s a medium-chain triglyceride oil.)
And The Rest….
In the interests of thoroughness, we’re going to mention three other options: decaffeinated coffee and chicory, for those trying to keep their caffeine intake down; and instant coffee, for those really in a rush.
So now we just need to decide which coffee to try next from the list above. Not an easy decision to make, but a very pleasant one!
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!