The world of coffee can be confusing with the range of drinks available changing all the time. To help you out, we’ve put together a quick-reference guide to the main types of coffee based beverage you’re likely to find in big chains, small independent coffee houses and beyond.
Types of coffee can’t be explained without talking about this. Espresso is coffee in its simplest, purest form. This rich shot of coffee can be enjoyed on its own, or as the basis for every type of coffee beverage. An espresso machine uses pressurised water to dispense the coffee small amounts (between 20 and 60 ml) as a single or double shot.
The flavour of espresso depends entirely on the origin of the bean, roast and grind, however all good espressos will have a layer of aromatic, tan-coloured layer of fine foam resting on the surface, known as the ‘crema’. Some even refer to this as the ‘Guinness effect’ because it mimics the head on a pour of the Irish stout. While experts have long debated the impact of crema on the flavour profile of the espresso, the presence of a good crema typically indicates a high quality, well-ground espresso.
An americano combines a single or double shot of espresso with hot water for a simple yet flavourful drink. The hot water is poured into the cup first, followed by the espresso. This prevents the coffee from being burnt by the water, resulting in a bitter taste.
The caffé Americano (the Italian translation for ‘American Coffee’) is believed to have its origins in the Second World War when American soldiers diluted their espressos with hot water to create a more familiar taste, however this theory has never been officially confirmed.
An Americano is the perfect coffee for those who want the distinctive flavour profile of an espresso but with a less intense flavour.
A flat white is a 6oz espresso based drink with a 1:1 coffee to milk ratio. While a flat white is prepared using a similar method to a latte, less milk is used, resulting in the taste of the espresso being more prominent.
The origins of the flat white are long disputed, with both Australia and New Zealand claiming ownership of the drink.
Australian Alan Preston claims to be the inventor of the flat white in the 1980s. Preston claims the phrase originated following the opening of his Sydney coffee house, where many coffees offered a type of espresso drink described as ‘White Coffee – flat’. Preston’s claim to the flat white is supported by a photo from his coffee house in the 1980s where ‘flat white’ is jotted on the menu board.
On the other hand, Kiwi barista Frank McInnes claims that the flat white we know and love today was an accidental creation born from a mistake while preparing a cappuccino. McInnes was unable to get the milk to froth, so apologies to the customer saying “sorry, it’s a flat white.”
A definite conclusion has never been reached, so we’ll let you decide which theory you prefer.
A macchiato is a single or double shot of espresso with a small dollop of finely steamed milk placed on the surface with a spoon. A macchiato may also include a small amount of foam, however this is a matter of preference with no definitive approach.
Macchiato translates to ‘spotted’ or ‘stained’ in Italian, which refers to the milk placed on the surface of the espresso following a rise in demand for an espresso with a tiny drop of milk.
Due to the intensity of the flavour, a macchiato is best suited to espresso or Americano lovers.
A cappuccino is a staple drink in all high streets. Made up of three parts; espresso, steamed milk and milk foam, it is the frothiest of all the types of coffee, and is best suited to those in search of a caffeine hit without the bitterness of an espresso.
The first record of the cappuccino dates back to 1930s Italy, shortly after the popularisation of the espresso machine in the early twentieth century. The ‘cappuccini’ (as they are known in Italy) grew in popularity across cafes and restaurants as people went in search of a smoother, creamier alternative to traditional ‘Ottoman’ style brewed coffee.
The milk foam should take centre stage in any good cappuccino, followed by equal parts steamed milk and espresso. Care should be taken to ensure that the milk is steamed in such a way that creates a smooth, velvety froth instead of a bubbly texture.
A latte consists of the same components as the cappuccino (espresso shot, steamed milk and milk foam), but with different ratios. While the foam is the star of the show in the cappuccino, the key component of the latte is the steamed milk, with only a very delicate layer of foam on the surface of the milk.
We’ve been adding milk to our coffee as far back as the 1600s, but the method of doing so varies by location. Café’s all over the world have their own variations of this milky coffee drink, from ‘café con leche’ in Spain to ‘latte macchiato’ in Italy.
If you’re looking for a smooth, indulgent drink, a latte makes for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
That’s it for our round up of types of coffee, hopefully now you have a better understanding of the different types of coffee and what they are.
Espresso is a small drink normally between 20 – 60ml extracted under pressure from finely ground coffee using hot water. Espresso forms the base of many other coffee drinks.
An Americano is either a single or double shot of espresso with hot water. Espresso is added after hot water to provide a smooth crema.
A Flat White is a milk and espresso based drink that is equal parts espresso and milk. Normally served as a 6oz beverage.
A Cappuccino is an espresso based drink with 3 parts, espresso, steamed milk and milk foam.
A Latte is a milk and espresso based drink consisting of mostly steamed milk and a small portion of milk foam added to a single or double espresso.
A Macchiato is either a single or double espresso topped with a very small amount of steamed milk. Macchiato means “stained with”.