If you have ever been to a cafe or coffee shop you know the drink menu is often overwhelming. Navigating that menu effectively can be the difference between the best cuppa joe you’ve ever had and a steaming pool of sub-par bean juice. After all, baristas have become the new fine-dining sommeliers making coffee drinks that push the boundaries of creativity and challenge the palate.
We’ve all been there waiting in line to order a coffee drink and having a mini panic attack because we’re still trying to come to terms with the different types of coffee, aromas, and whatever the heck a piccolo is. But there’s no need to stress so much, coffee and the elements that make up the beverage aren’t rocket science.
We’ve put together a list of all types of coffees that’ll help you make a more confident decision when ordering your daily grind.
Coffee shops combine a few basic tools, goods, and processes to produce the rich, dark beverage that has been a cultural phenomenon for centuries. Water, roasted coffee beans, and the brewing process are the equation that adds up to coffee.
Types of Coffee Beans
A good cup of coffee isn’t just about how you brew it. It actually begins with which type of coffee beans are used.
Arabica coffee beans make up between 60% and 70% of the world’s coffee production (depending on the year). They are popular for their complex flavor and sweet taste. These beans are generally considered high quality and grow at higher altitudes. Due to the growing conditions, the maintenance and labor costs are high.
These beans grow at lower altitudes and the price of these beans is generally lower when compared to Arabica. They also contain about twice the amount of caffeine content as compared to Arabicas. There are high quality Robusta beans that form a portion of many popular coffee blends.
Liberica accounts for a small minority of the world’s coffee. It is native to western and central Africa. Liberica coffee is very bold and aromatic, featuring a strong, fruity taste.
Contributing to only about 7% of the world’s coffee production, Excelsa is sometimes considered a subspecies of Liberica, but fans of it prefer to keep it separate. It’s often used in house blends of Arabica and Robusta and boasts a distinct flavor that reminds you of tart fruit.
Types of Coffee Bean Roasts
The taste of your coffee is determined both by the types of coffee beans and how they are roasted. The longer the coffee beans roast, the darker in color they become, and the more flavor and aroma are released. On the other hand, the longer they roast the less caffeine and acidity they contain.
Coffee bean roasts are categorized by levels: white, light, medium, medium dark, and dark.
1. White Roast
This is the lightest roast of coffee. The flavor is so different that white coffee doesn’t actually taste like traditional coffee.
2. Light Roast
Light roast coffee is roasted the least amount of time compared to other roasts (other than white roast coffee). As a result, the coffee isn’t oily on the surface and is lighter brown in color. Some common light roast names include: Cinnamon Roast, New England, and Half City.
3. Medium Roast
Medium roast coffee is medium brown in color and is the most popular roast in the United States. It doesn’t have the oily surface that you’ll see in the darker roasts. Some common medium roast names include: American, Regular, and Breakfast.
4. Medium Dark Roast
Medium dark roasted coffee beans offer a bold body and rich flavor with a slightly bittersweet aftertaste. They feature a semi-oily surface, decreased acidity, and deeper aroma. Common names for medium dark roasts are: Full City, After Dinner, Light Espresso, and Light French.
5. Dark Roast
Dark roasts feature an extra body and heavy mouthfeel that is preferred by many coffee lovers, especially those in Europe. These coffee beans are roasted the longest until they are the color of dark chocolate or even black. This brings out the bean’s oil which you can see in the brew. Popular dark roast names include: High, Espresso, European, Dark, and Italian.
Popular Ways to Make Coffee
There are many different ways to make a cup of coffee, and each has its own set of pros and cons. You’ll also find that some people are die-hard committed to one method over another, as each way can deliver its own uniquely tasting cup.
1. Drip Coffee
This is a common way to prepare coffee at home and in many restaurants. The drip method brews coffee by heating water in a tank with heating rods. The hot water then slowly passes over ground coffee beans in a filter (usually paper) and then drips below into a glass carafe.
2. French Press
The French Press involves a glass or metal beaker that you fill with coarse coffee grounds and hot water. Then you plunge the metal filter to the bottom to separate the grounds from the coffee. Takes about 5 minutes.
3. Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brewing coffee involves steeping coarse coffee grounds in cool water for a long period of time, say from 12 to 24 hours. You can easily make cold brew at home with just a French Press, a mason jar, or an airtight cold brew maker. It is known for its strong, intense flavor with no bitterness.
4. Pour Over
Pour over is a classic, tried-and-true method for making coffee. Simply pour hot water over coffee grounds in a filter through a cone or upper chamber. It produces a smooth flavorful cup of coffee. You control the water temperature, grind, and brew time.
5. Cowboy Coffee (Boiled)
If your coffee maker suddenly dies, the old-fashioned cowboy method will at least keep you from going through coffee withdrawal. Just boil water in a saucepan and stir in coffee grounds. After the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pan, you can slowly pour the coffee into a mug.
6. Turkish Coffee (Boiled)
A traditional coffee drink in the Middle East, Turkish coffee is boiled on the stovetop in a special wide-bottomed coffee pot called a cezve. Turkish coffee is known for its frothy foam that is formed by boiling water and powdery-fine coffee grounds. This type of coffee is for those who love strong, black coffee.
7. Percolated Coffee
Also considered one of the boiled types of coffee, percolated coffee was very popular before drip coffee stole the show in the mid-1970s. Percolated coffee is brewed on a stove top or electric stand-alone unit. Boiling (or nearly boiling water) is continuously cycled through the grounds until the desired strength is achieved, usually for around 7 or 8 minutes.
8. Infused Coffee
This method is similar to steeping tea. You simply put coarse coffee grounds inside an infuser that is placed inside a carafe. Add hot water and let the brewing magic begin. This method gives you control over the brew time. Whether you like it mellow or strong, you can control your brew time to provide a consistent cup of coffee every time.
9. Vacuum Coffee
First created in the early 1800s, a vacuum coffee maker involves a complex system of glass flasks and siphon tubes that look more like a chemistry lab. This method requires an enormous amount of practice, effort, and time. As expected, it is not the most popular method of brewing.
10. Moka Pot Coffee
An Italian invention from the 1930s, the moka pot is an electric or stove top pot that brews coffee by passing water through ground coffee using pressurized steam. If you can’t afford an espresso machine, the moka pot is the next best thing.
11. Espresso Coffee
Favored by many people for its concentrated brew and jolt of caffeine, espresso is brewed in an espresso machine. The espresso machine uses high pressure to force a small amount of hot water through a “puck” of finely ground coffee with quick speed. The result is a thick brew that’s full of rich flavor and usually topped with creamy foam (called crema).
25 Classic Types of Coffee
Without further ado, let’s take a look at these 25 different types of coffee that you’re likely to find in your local coffee shop. Interested in trying them at home? There are lots of resources and recipes online to teach you how to make each one.
Lattes are usually considered to be an introductory coffee drink because their bitterness is cut by the amount of milk in the beverage. The latte is often complimented by syrups for those who enjoy sweeter drinks. As the most popular coffee drinks out there, the latte can be ordered plain or with a flavor shot, anything from vanilla to pumpkin spice.
This coffee drink is distinguished by its approximately 1oz of highly concentrated coffee. The espresso is the base for many other coffee drinks such as the caffe latte, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, flat white and Americano.
Cappuccino is essentially a latte made with more foam than steamed milk and is often topped with a bit of cocoa powder or cinnamon. The cappuccino is a staple in coffee shops all over the world. It’s classically characterized as the perfect balance of rich, sweet milk and espresso. You’ll find variations that use cream instead of milk or ones that throw in a flavor shot as well.
4. Flat White
An Australian favorite, this drink is similar to cappuccino sans the foam layer and cocoa powder. A flat white is an espresso-based drink that contains steamed milk and is the perfect option for those who seek a creamy mouthful rather than a frothy one.
Popular breakfast coffee is thought to have originated during WWII. American soldiers would add water to their coffee to extend their rations. The water dilutes the espresso but still retains enough caffeine for a classic cup of joe.
Simply known as the double espresso, “doppio” means double in Italian. The doppio is two espresso shots in one single cup. It has a strong aroma and intense taste. If you want an intense and robust style espresso, the doppio is the drink for you.
Originating from Spain, the cortado is a popular coffee drink now found all over the world. A cortado is a beverage with one shot of espresso mixed with roughly an equal amount of steamed milk. The important thing to remember is that a cortado has steamed milk and is not frothy or textured like many Italian coffees.
The Spanish verb “cortado” means to cut and in this context a cortado is used in the sense of diluting the acidity of the coffee with milk (cutting the drink).
A mocha is a cross between a cappuccino and a hot chocolate. If you have a sweet tooth, then this is probably your best bet. You can find a mocha in a simple form which is a shot of espresso topped with hot chocolate. But the more sophisticated mocha has a shot of espresso with a small part of hot chocolate (or hot chocolate syrup) and is topped with steamed milk and milk foam.
9. Red Eye
The red eye is an American style of coffee that combines brewed coffee with an espresso shot. This coffee combination is stronger than regular coffee and is a more potent stimulant to keep you awake when catching up on work or assignments. This coffee drink also has stronger variations such as the black eye, dead eye, and green eye.
Born in Australia and concocted by European immigrants, the piccolo is a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk. For those who drink a few cups of coffee a day, it’s a perfect drink inasmuch as you get the full flavor of your coffee without filling yourself up with too much milk.
Originating in Portugal, this hot coffee drink is similar to a latte and a cappuccino. The only difference is that it contains about twice as much foamed milk, making it a lighter drink compared to the other two. The flavor profile is rich and creamy and it’s typically served in a tall glass.
This brew is an indulgent twist to the average espresso. It combines either one or two shots of espresso with steamed half and half instead of milk. As you can imagine, this combination creates a super creamy, rich brew that’s sweet yet still bold thanks to the espresso. The breve is a decidedly American invention, an adaptation of the Italian classic, the caffe latte. Though some people love a creamy cafe brew as their morning coffee, it’s usually an evening dessert type of affair.
13. Café au Lait
Pronounced “café oh ley,” is typically made with French press coffee instead of an espresso shot. It’s then mixed with scalded milk and poured at a 50/50 ratio. Preparing cafe au lait is as simple as it gets. There’s no need to worry about creating microfoam or a pretty design on top. It’s perfect for the person who likes to keep their coffee simple but wants a bit more flavor.
The word “lungo” is Italian for “long” and relates to the time needed to pull it. Usually a shot of espresso is pulled using about 30 mL of water for 18 to 30 seconds. On the other hand, a lungo uses double the amount of water and because of that increase it can take up to a minute to pull. As a result of the increase in water, there’s a significantly larger shot. Once it is in the glass, a lungo is roughly the size of a doppio (double shot of espresso). Because more water is used to pull a lungo, the taste is much more subdued than that of an espresso. For some that may sound delightful, but for others the bitterness makes this version the least popular of the espresso variants.
A macchiato is essentially an espresso with the tiniest dollop of foam over it. In Italian, “macchiato” means “stained” or “spotted,” and this is exactly what is done to the espresso; it is stained with a little milk foam.
The origin of the name is really quite interesting. It comes from baristas needing to show waiters the difference between an espresso and an espresso with a little milk in it. So the latter was especially marked which became the macchiato.
You can ask for a macchiato, which is a single espresso with a dollop of milk foam, or a double macchiato, which is a doppio (double espresso) with a dollop of milk foam. Just note that different baristas have their own way of doing the macchiato. You will find some who add a dollop of steamed milk and a dollop of milk foam. It’s all down to the training and individual preference.
A ristretto is also called a “big short coffee,” which perfectly reflects its character. In fact, it is a “restricted espresso,” a thick brew that’s smaller in size than an espresso. To prepare it, you use the same amount of coffee as that of an espresso, but the brewing time is shorter (about 15 second) and less water (15 mL) is used. What you get is a dark chocolate color, slightly bitter, intense infusion with a noticeable sweetness. This type of coffee has a relatively low caffeine content because the caffeine is strongly extracted after such a short brewing time. It can be a good choice for those who cannot consume much caffeine but still enjoy intense brews.
This coffee is the only excuse for you to enjoy a scoop of ice cream during the day. Alfogato is Italian for “drowned.” The idea is that you “drown” a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso. There are some other variations of this coffee dessert, which include a shot of liquor too. In Italy, an affogato is most certainly a dessert, although you will find some restaurants and coffee shops outside of Italy which categorize it as a beverage. Some places will use different types of ice cream flavors, although the original way of making it is with vanilla ice cream.
18. Irish Coffee
Probably not something you would order during lunch break at work, an Irish coffee contains espresso, whiskey, sugar, and cream. It’s basically more of a cocktail than a coffee beverage. The creaminess of it gives a nice mouthfeel that sticks to your palate like velvet.
19. Cold Brew
Cold brew is simply coffee that has been brewed with cold rather than hot water. It usually involves a long steeping process (anywhere between 12-24 hours) in the fridge and can be drunk immediately after that or stored (in the fridge) for weeks. In terms of flavor, cold brew is generally characterized as smooth, low acid, and heavier than its hot brewed counterparts. Once the beans are done steeping, some coffee drinkers add cold milk or cream.
20. Con Panna
In Italian “panna” means “cream” so a “con panna” means “espresso with cream.” In the U.S. it is also known as café Vienne. In France and the U.K. it’s called café Viennois. In Vienna a con panna is called a Franziskaner. A con panna is a more old-fashioned way of having coffee than a latte or a cappuccino. This drink is still very popular, and no matter what you call it you will most certainly enjoy it. It’s made by preparing two shots of strong black espresso in a standard-size coffee cup and infusing the coffee with whipped cream until the cup is filled to the rim. The cream substitutes for milk and allows the coffee flavor to be drawn through the cream.
21. Café Bombon
Café bombon traces its roots from Valencia, Spain. Because of its popularity, it began to earn a name throughout the entire country then to the rest of Europe and other continents.
Traditionally, café bombon is a type of coffee drink that includes espresso mixed with sweetened condensed milk in a one-to-one proportion. The drink is assembled by pouring condensed milk first and then topping it with espresso. Because there is a difference in density, the beverages do not mix, and bombon is usually served in a tumbler glass so the layers would be visible. The beverage will be then stirred every time a drinker takes a sip. There are some coffee shops that provide a small pot separately for customers who want to add it themselves. The coffee drinker may also opt to perform this procedure in reverse, initially filling the glass with espresso and pouring the condensed milk on top.
22. Nitro Coffee
Nitro coffee is smooth, clean, and cool. It’s a variation of cold-brewed coffee that uses nitrogen gas to yield a coffee drink that’s dense and creamy with a naturally sweet flavor (thanks to the tiny bubbles). It has no added dairy or sugar. This drink has quickly become a favorite with coffee connoisseurs.
Originating in Algeria, this drink consists of a shot or two of hot espresso which is poured over a tall glass with ice cubes. Sometimes sugar, mint, lemon, water, or rum are added to the drink. The most popular version is the Portuguese mazagran which is made with a twist of lemon and essentially becomes a coffee lemonade combining citrusy acidity with the bold flavor of espresso.
24. Freddo Espresso
Popular in Greece, it’s a double shot of hot espresso shaken with ice cubes until cold and foamy, served either sweet (with added sugar), medium (with just a dash of sugar), or plain (without any sugar). The ice not only cools the drink but dilutes the bitterness.
25. Café Cubano
Hailing from Cuba, this coffee drink is traditionally brewed in a Moka (stove top espresso maker). After brewing, a few drops of espresso are added to a demitasse cup containing sugar (preferably demerara) and beaten vigorously until the mixture turns light brown and a thick foam appears. The remaining espresso is poured over the mixture causing the foam to rise to the top. The resulting drink is dark and much stronger than many other coffees.
It can be very challenging to keep up with the different types of coffee drinks. Especially when you realize that everyday baristas all over the world are creating new and innovative combinations. But in our opinion, nothing beats a good classic coffee drink and so we took a deep dive into 25 classic coffee drinks.
Now you can always have a reference if you’re unsure and can try some new flavors based on your tastebuds.
Have fun caffeinating!