If you’re new to the world of coffee, you’ve probably found yourself perusing a drink menu in a coffee shop wondering what in the world all these different coffee drinks are. You may feel overwhelmed and downright intimidated, especially if you’re determined to learn the nuances of the coffee world. Fortunately, learning the different types of coffee isn’t as hard as it seems at first.
For coffee aficionados, the different types of coffee open up a world of flavor. There are so many new inventions and classic takes on the humble coffee bean. Knowing what’s what in the coffee drink world can help deepen your appreciation of this iconic beverage.
Whether you’re a coffee aficionado or new to the world of aromatic coffee beans, knowing the different types of coffee is essential to brewing the perfect cup. Here, we’ll show you everything you need to know about the different types of coffee — from the main coffee beans to the various drinks.
Two Main Types of Coffee Beans
When it comes to making a cup of coffee, it’s more than just adding a scoop of grinds to some boiling water. A really good cup of coffee starts with quality ingredients and that means understanding the different types of coffee beans in most coffee drinks. There are four types of beans including Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. In most cases, your coffee will have Arabica or Robusta beans so we’ll focus on those here.
Arabica beans are the most common coffee bean in beverages around the world. This type of coffee bean accounts for close to 80% of the world’s coffee production. Within the world of Arabica beans, there are different grades based on the quality of the bean. Instant coffee uses lower grades. Specialty coffee blends use higher-grade, washed beans. Farmers cultivate these beans at higher altitudes. They are characterized by smooth flavors and few bitter notes. Most of the 50 countries in the Coffee Belt grow arabica beans.
Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content compared to Arabica beans. Farmers grow robusta beans at lower altitudes. They grow more easily than their counterparts — largely because they are more resistant to pests. Robusta beans originated in sub-Saharan Africa. Famers mainly grow these beans on the African continent and in neighboring Indonesia and Vietnam. Visually, Robusta beans are larger than Arabica beans and they tend to have a more bitter taste.
The Different Types of Coffee Drinks
Knowing the different types of beans is the first step in choosing a cup of coffee. If you prefer stronger caffeine content, a drink made with Robusta beans may be your preference. If you like less bitter flavor, then an Arabica brew will be best for you. Learning the different types of coffee drinks is the next step in furthering your coffee knowledge and appreciation. Here are the different types of coffee drinks you’ll find on cafe menus or can whip up at home using tools like an espresso machine or Moka pot.
1. Black Coffee
Black coffee is simply a cup of water infused with coffee grinds. Known by its official name: cafe noir, this beverage doesn’t have any milk, sugar, or flavorings added.
Also called a short black, espresso is one of the main coffee drinks you’ll encounter. It’s usually served in a small 2 to 4-ounce cup and consists of 1 ounce of highly concentrated coffee. It’s aromatic and strong, making it a great choice for people who love the taste of coffee.
3. Doppio or Double Espresso
Doppio is the Italian word for a double and the beverage is a double shot of espresso. It’s basically two espressos in one tiny cup.
4. Red Eye
Named after the infamously tiring red-eye flights, this cup of coffee is sure to wake you up. A red eye is a normal cup of black coffee with a shot of espresso added in.
5. Black Eye
A black eye is to a red eye what a doppio is to an espresso. Basically, a Black Eye is a cup of black coffee with two shots of espresso.
An Americano is a beverage made by adding extra water to espresso. It’s typically made by using 1 ounce of espresso for every 3 ounces of water. The drink is said to have originated during World War II when soldiers would try to extend their coffee rations by adding more water.
7. Long Black
In contrast to the Americano where espresso is poured into a cup and then hot water is added, a long black — originally brewed in New Zealand and Australia — is made by pouring hot water into a cup and then adding the espresso. While this may seem like the same drink, it’s not. When brewing espresso, an amber-colored foam appears on top. This is known as the crema — a hallmark of a good cup of espresso. Long blacks have more crema than Americanos due to the brewing method.
A Lungo is like a long black and an Americano, but the espresso shot is pulled more slowly by the barista. Lungo in Italian means “long” and refers to the slow, lengthy pulling of the espresso from the beans. The process uses more water to draw out the coffee so a lungo is stronger and richer than its two counterparts
Also called a caffe macchiato, this coffee beverage is the first one on our list made with steamed milk. In Italian, the word “macchiato” translates to mark or stain. It refers to the effect steamed milk has on breaking the surface of the dark-colored espresso. Macchiatos are made by pouring espresso into a cup and then adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of steamed milk. This drink has plenty of acidity that’s offset by the addition of creamy milk.
A cortado is a drink originating in Spain that builds on the characteristics of a macchiato by also adding warm milk to the mix. This drink is made by layering a small amount of foam and typically 1 ounce of warm milk on top of the espresso.
A breve is an indulgent type of coffee. Baristas pour a few ounces of steamed half-and-half over an espresso and top it with a small amount of foam. It’s rich and creamy and starts to create a fuller-bodied feel than other coffees on this list thus far.
Cappuccinos are among the most beloved coffee drinks. Italians drink the beverage in the morning. However, the drink is enjoyed in other countries all day long. It features a shot of espresso, equal amounts of steamed milk and foamed milk, and then topped with chocolate syrup or cocoa powder.
13. Flat White
A flat white is like a cappuccino but without chocolate powder and foam. To make it, baristas add steamed milk from the bottom of the steamer to a shot of espresso. Since the steamed milk is thicker at the bottom, it creates a creamy, thick beverage even without the foam.
Lattes are incredibly popular among new coffee drinkers. That’s because the beverage has more milk than coffee. This decreases acidity and bitter-tasting notes. New coffee drinkers enjoy this drink since it has a mellow taste. To make a latte, you typically use 1 shot of espresso and 8 to ten ounces of steamed milk.
Many coffee shops like Starbucks also add flavorings to lattes to make them sweeter. These drinks are also famous for latte art — where the coffee maker creates designs like flowers, hearts, and animals in the milk foam.
A mocha adds a new flavor component to the mix: chocolate! To make a mocha, baristas brew espresso, add in some chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, 1 to 3 ounces of steamed milk, and top it off with 3 centimeters of milk foam or whipped cream.
Vienna coffee substitutes whipped cream for the milk. To make it, you add a few ounces of whipped cream to the top of an espresso.
An affogato is a true treat and is traditionally a dessert coffee. It features a scoop of vanilla Ice cream or gelato and a hot shot of espresso poured on top.
18. Cafe au Lait
Until now, all the coffees on this list use espresso. A cafe au lait is different. To make this type of coffee, you use a French press coffee machine. This tool brings out deeper flavors in the coffee beans. It also uses scalded milk instead of the classic steamed milk. You make it by blending equal parts of scalded milk and French press coffee.
19. Iced Coffee
Iced coffee is a delight in the summertime heat. You can make these drinks in a variety of ways, with some cafes using water rather than milk in their recipes. Many come in various flavorings including caramel and vanilla. In general, you can make iced coffee with espresso, ice, and cold milk or cold water.
20. Turkish Coffee
Turkish coffee features finely ground beans that are brewed in hot water. The grounds are left in the coffee. Traditionally, you brew this type of coffee in a special copper pot known as a czeve. You also serve it in small porcelain cups with sugar and spices like cardamom.
21. Irish Coffee
Irish coffee is a caffeinated beverage featuring coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and cream.
22. Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese coffee is an iced coffee drink that is very sweet. This drink uses medium or coarse ground dark roast beans in a drip filter. Before the coffee drip starts, you add several teaspoons of condensed milk to the cup.
Different Types of Coffee Brewing Methods
While many of these beverages below are known as coffee drinks in their own right, they are actually classified as brewing methods. Some of them you’ll recognize, but a few will probably be new to you!
Baristas make espresso drinks using a machine that moves pressurized hot water through a filter containing ground coffee beans. These drinks typically use dark roast beans rather than light roasts. Most coffee drinks use espresso brewing methods.
Drip coffee is one of the most popular coffee drinks. It’s a type of brewing where gravity is used to pull water through a filter basket filled with ground beans.
For pour-over coffee, baristas add ground beans to a filter basket. Next, the barista sets the filter basket over a single coffee cup. Boiling water is then slowly poured directly onto the ground coffee. The water slowly filters down in the cup, creating a strong cup of coffee.
Cold brew coffee is similar to iced tea. Baristas steep coarse coffee grinds in water at room temperature for several hours. Nitro cold brew coffee is another take on this brewing method. In this drink, baristas add nitrogen gas to create a smooth, creamy texture.
A ristretto is a coffee lover’s dream. A ristretto uses the same amount of coffee grounds as an espresso, but only half the water. That results in a truly intense coffee flavor that people with strong palettes will enjoy.
There are several different types of coffee for aficionados and beginners to try. As you can see, the amount of water and different ingredients added can change the type of drink, even if most of them are made with an espresso base. In addition to the staple Italian coffees, there are also new renditions like frappes and frappuccinos. From sweetened hot coffee to foamy iced lattes and strong coffees, there’s a taste for everyone. With so many different kinds of coffee to choose from, you’re sure to find one you enjoy.
Learn more about coffee at Cup & Bean. We love exploring the world of coffee, from learning about the different countries that grow these delicious beans to finding new recipes and drinks to enjoy. Join us on our discovery of coffee and continue browsing our blog for more articles on the humble coffee bean.