Different Types of Coffee You Need to Know
How many coffee take away cups do you see at the office? Not to mention travel mugs brought from home with steaming, creamy coffee inside. You only have to walk down the street to know we’re living in a society that absolutely adores coffee. Unfortunately, I found it intimidating when I didn’t know all about the different types of coffee, different beans and brewing methods. What will suit MY palate the best? And how do I join a conversation with friends who are coffee aficionados?
I was tired of feeling left out, so I did some homework. Now, you have no need to worry. Read on to find a comprehensive summary of coffee terms, coffee types and all you need to know to understand the ‘coffee society’ you’re part of.
Different Types of Coffee Beans
Since the flavor of coffee depends on the beans you use, we’ll start off with this important topic. The facts help you pick the best beans for your brew.
The most well-known types of coffee are Arabica and Robusta, but we also cover lesser-known ones.
Before it reaches the store shelves, each of these beans will also be roasted in a specific manner, resulting in light, medium, or dark roasts. The roasting process and time will affect the final taste of your brew. You can see that each step in the process of coffee making has an effect on the final drink you find in your cup. We start off by discussing the types of beans.
Arabica beans are the most popular and most of these beans come from Latin America. Arabica beans will differ from each other, but their taste is usually on the sweeter side while providing a complex, much-loved flavor.
Many people appreciate the lower caffeine levels and their popularity is also thanks to it being a very good quality coffee.
Tip: don’t mix or dilute it too much with milk, because it will alter the flavor and you’ll miss out on some of the aromas.
For a higher caffeine intake you can opt for Robusta beans. The taste is stronger and more bitter than Arabica beans. It’s a popular option for those who like espressos.
Some find the taste dull or too harsh, but they come cheaper than Arabica beans. This is why you’ll often see this name on instant coffee packaging. Their low price is also because they come from more robust plants, making them easier to grow.
When you enjoy a smoky flavor or some woodiness, this is the bean you’ll love. This bean—as well as Excelsa which is a sub variety of this type—is mostly grown in the Philippines.
The reason it’s not that high in demand is purely because politics of the past prevented its distribution, resulting in Arabica beans trumping its competitors. Unfortunately Liberica could never win back the market share again.
This type you won’t easily find in a store because it’s often used to enhance flavors in other coffee types, like Arabica. Excelsa beans add a fruity, tart flavor to your drink.
Coffee Terms Defined
In the coffee industry you’ll hear about ‘varieties’ and ‘varietals’. Here’s what they refer to:
- Variety: Here you’re talking about the coffee plant itself, its genetics and the sub-species. You’ll come across mutations, hybrids, sub-varieties and more.
- Varietal: A specific coffee variety can be brewed and that product you’ll refer to as the varietal.
Here are some varieties to clarify the concepts.
A typical Arabica coffee variety is called Typica. You’ll drink a variety that originally came from Yemen. Over the years, thanks to trading, it spread to regions like the West Indies.
Moving to a sub variety of Typica, you’ll get Bourbon. It’s named after the island Bourbon to which people from France took a Typica plant. It didn’t stay the same though and a mutation resulted in a coffee plant that produces high numbers of cherries, making it very sought after.
Another variety named after a place is Gesha. This was cultivated in a village in Ethiopia. The attraction of this variety is its resistance to challenges like coffee rust.
Brewing Styles Explained
The next factor that influences the taste of your drink is how you brew your ground beans. With factors like temperature and pressure all playing a role in the flavor you get out of the coffee grounds, you can imagine how these different techniques result in unique coffee products.
This method you’ll know: it takes place in the coffee machines you find in homes, offices, hotels, and restaurants. Inside a machine or other container, you’ll place ground coffee in a brew basket, often containing a paper filter.
The unit drips water onto the coffee ground and the flavored brew flows through the grounds and filters to drip into a cup or jug.
With pour-over coffee, you’ll slowly pour hot water over coffee grounds that sit in a filter basket on top of your coffee cup. This is a popular method to make one cup of coffee. Different from drip brewing, you have control over how fast you pour and how hot the water is, rather than a machine doing it.
Temperature affects how much of the coffee grounds’ elements will get extracted. With cold water, you can expect a less bitter result.
During a cold brew, you’ll pour room temperature water over coffee grounds and then let it steep. Keep reading to find out more about cold coffee types like iced coffee.
For concentrated coffee, follow the Ristretto method, where a small amount of water is forced through coffee grounds at high pressure. With less water and quick brewing, you end up with a dark espresso shot.
In practice, a barista will cut the shot much earlier than with a regular espresso.
For the espresso method, you also use high pressure to force water to pass through the coffee grounds in your machine. You’ll use more water for each shot of expresso so it will result in a less concentrated drink than the Ristretto method.
We’ll cover much more about different Espresso drinks below.
Types of Coffee Drinks
Now, how do you take your coffee? Here are some of your options.
Black coffee is all about enjoying coffee’s own rich flavor. Simply pour yourself a cup and don’t add any sweetener, milk or creamer that will alter its aroma.
This much loved drink comes from a shot of espresso, mixed with steamed milk, which then gets a lot of micro-foam on top. The final touch is the chocolate sprinkles or powder on top. This drink you usually serve in a cup.
In the Galao you have a very milky drink and some may get confused between this and a latte. The aficionados know that this is a mix of espresso and foamed milk, but the Galao is the more milky of the two.
A mocha is probably for the sweet tooth in your family because you’ll mix chocolate powder with a shot of espresso. As with many of the espresso drinks, you end off with steamed milk and foam on top. Instead of power you can also use chocolate syrup. For those who don’t appreciate the acidity of some coffee drinks, this is ideal.
Of course, don’t forget the chocolate sprinkles that come last.
Don’t confuse the Mocha with Moka coffee, which comes from a unique way of brewing coffee, using a moka pot.
Café au Lait
This coffee with its stylish name requires something different to make: scalded milk instead of steamed milk. Also, exchange espresso coffee for French press coffee if you want the real Café au Lait experience. The French press process results in different flavors than an espresso.
Mix 5 oz of your chosen coffee with the same amount of scalded milk. For this you’ll need a larger mug, up to 12 oz, to serve.
Here you get a mix of delectable flavors, thanks to a mix of your favorite coffee, cream and whiskey. Depending on your palate you can also add sugar.
Espresso and Types of Espresso
An espresso is the foundation of many of the coffee drinks we’ll define below. It’s +/- 1 oz of coffee, prepared in the way mentioned above.
Let’s see what you can create from this flavorful drink.
Types of Espresso
The Basic Options
With a Doppio you have double the goodness of an Espresso. This is two shots of espresso for maximum caffeine and flavor!
Don’t let the words confuse you. In many restaurants you’ll hear this referred to as simply a double espresso. There’s no difference—it’s the same thing.
Above we already mentioned the Ristretto, using minimal water. For the opposite effect you can use much more water than with an espresso, resulting in a Lungo.
This possibly got its origin from American soldiers who diluted their espresso when stationed in Italy. To enjoy this one, pour your cup 2/3 full of normal hot water. Now pour your espresso into that and taste!
Usually, 3 oz of water to 1 shot of expresso.
The ‘long black’ is very similar to the Americano and usually also served in a glass mug. But, you’ll use more espresso—as much as two shots—and the result is a little more crema than the Americano above. You can use a 6 or 8 oz glass.
Red Eye & Black Eye
The Red Eye will wake you up faster in the morning than your regular cuppa. Take your drip brew coffee and add a shot of espresso to the mix. Take it one step further and turn this into a Black Eye by adding 2 espresso shots instead of 1.
The More Complicated Espresso Drinks
Fruit and coffee don’t usually go together, right? Wrong!
Cut two lime slices and pull your espresso over these. It’s unconventional, but the result is good enough that it became a popular drink. So, you have to try it at least once.
Cafe Cubano / Cuban Coffee
This drink has its name thanks to it originating in Cuba. You’ll need some demarera sugar—a raw, partially refined type of sugar—to add to your espresso.
Macchiato—The Traditional Version
We’ll start off with the classic Macchiato that is served in an espresso cup since it’s minimal liquid: only a shot of espresso and a maximum of 2 teaspoons of milk. Steam the milk before you dash it into the cup or use a dollop of milk foam which you drop in your espresso.
Macchiato—the Starbucks Version
This is where it gets interesting and where it pays off to keep up to date with coffee-talk. A Macchiato you order at Starbucks will NOT be the same as the traditional one described above. Instead of a tiny amount of milk or cream, Starbucks will make a latte (see below) and it’s a very sweet coffee drink.
There are many coffee options that are a mix of milk and espresso, only at different ratios. This is a very balanced option, mixing 1 oz milk (warm) with your espresso shot. On top, you’ll have about a 1cm foam layer.
Many people don’t serve this piping hot, enabling you to drink it quickly without burning your tongue.
With a Latte your espresso is turned into a sweeter alternative because you’ll add steamed milk to the mix. Don’t forget the micro-foam on top. It’s different from a regular cappuccino because you’ll use less foam, skip the chocolate, and often serve it in a tumbler glass.
Did you know this is one of the most popular coffee options in the world? For something different, you can add flavored shots.
For a flat white coffee drink, take a cup, pour in espresso, and then add steamed milk. The ‘flat’ comes from the fact that you don’t add any foam or chocolate which is common for its cousin the cappuccino. The trick here is to use the liquid at the bottom of your steamed milk, not the froth on top.
For a Breve you’ll need half and half, not ordinary cream or milk. With this drink, you’ll enjoy a much creamier drink than with many others since it’s a total of three ounces half and a half to your one shot of espresso. Also, steam the half and half before you pour it on top. Lastly, don’t forget the foam layer.
Here’s another option if you have a sweet tooth: a mix of sweetened condensed milk and your coffee. You’ll use equal parts of each, but the trick is the technique:
- Pour in your espresso coffee
- Slowly pour in the condensed milk
- A thick layer of this milk will be at the bottom of the cup
Espresso Con Panna
With espresso coffees you can expect almost anything and why not add whipped cream? In an Espresso Con Panna, you’ll pour 2 shots of espresso into a cup and then layer the cream on top. Rich and luxurious!
Below you’ll find out even more about cold coffees, but this is specifically espresso which you will chill by using ice. Then you shake up some milk until there’s some foam, and then you pour it over the espresso.
Personally, I think this one can be a drink or a dessert!
For an Affogato you dish a scoop of ice cream into a glass. Now pour your espresso over the ice cream. You can use a single or double shot of coffee, depending on how strong you like this menu item; and how much caffeine you want.
This drink ‘ties’ together with two different beverages: tea and coffee!
The name is also reminiscent of its origin because it’s a drink from Thailand.
For the Red Tie you’ll mix:
- Black tea
- Orange blossom water
- Tamarind, crushed
- Condensed milk
- Star anise
- Espresso shot
You can imagine you’re in for a sweet treat!
Here’s another drink that requires some alcohol like the Irish coffee above. Only, this is often enjoyed in the morning too.
You’ll mix your espresso with an equal part of brandy. Some people prefer grappa.
You’ll enjoy this one in a Martini glass, but the ingredients are unique to what you’ll usually expect at the bar:
- Espresso shot
- Coffee flavored liqueur
Shake it together—don’t stir—and strain it all into your glass.
Types of Iced Coffee
Below you’ll find multiple options that fall into the iced coffee category. However, a basic iced coffee is a mixture of 2 oz of coffee, ice (about 4 oz) and up to 6 oz of either milk—for a creamier version—or water.
Of course, this must be served in a bigger glass than usual and you can add flavored syrup for a unique taste experience.
Another approach is to make coffee using a hot brew method. Then, let it cool down before it’s served. This version therefore has to be prepared in advance.
Here’s another take on the drink mentioned above, but tor the real iced espresso experience is simply placing your shot of coffee in the freezer to cool down. For hot days, this makes a refreshing drink and the caffeine will give you a boost too.
The Frappuccino name is so common, you may not be aware that this is a line of coffees specifically trademarked by Starbucks. There are many varieties, thanks to adding different ingredients and syrups. The foundation is a coffee or crème base that you’ll blend with ice.
The popularity of the coffee industry has resulted in all types of innovative gadgets. Now, you can get a dispensing system that will infuse your coffee with nitrogen. This gives you a drink that tastes and feels luxurious thanks to its thick creaminess.
The result: a nitro coffee.
In its simplest form, the Mazagran is a Portuguese coffee that has been sweetened. It originated in French Algeria years ago, but in 2020 you’ll now also find alternative options. In Austria you’ll find a Mazagran that also contains rum and the locals add ice. In other countries you’ll find a Mazagran containing lemon and sugar.
To Sum It Up
Hopefully this information didn’t only educate you, but help you discover coffee types you realize you’ll enjoy much more than the cuppa you pour every morning.
Treat yourself with an espresso or something like a creamy cappuccino tomorrow and get your caffeine fix in a new way!