Let’s be honest— a coffee menu can be mind-boggling when it comes to the number of choices available. From flat whites to cappuccinos, and from ristrettos to lungos— near hundreds of different drinks all containing similar ingredients in varying proportions. If you want to uncover the coffee menu at your local cafe and read it like a pro or boost your coffee drink repertoire, look no further!
Benefits of Drinking Coffee
Coffee tastes incredible, gives us a nice boost of energy and helps us stay alert— all good things. But that’s not all coffee can do… In this study published in November of 2015, researchers found that consumption of 3-4 cups of coffee a day was associated with an 8-15% decrease in the risk of all-cause mortality. Other studies have also found that coffee drinkers may experience a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver cancer.
The exact reason for these benefits is currently unknown. Some have suggested it may be the caffeine to thank, while others theorize it may be coffee’s many antioxidants that boost its superfood status.
Types of Coffee Beans
In general, every coffee-based drink we are likely to buy, or make, whether it’s a cappuccino or a cup of black filter coffee, will be made using either Arabica or Robusta coffee beans. These are only two of the hundred or so different species in the Coffea plant family. Why do we primarily use these two?
Well, we use Arabica for its sweetness and incredibly delicious flavor profile, and we use Robusta because it is easy to grow and provides loads of caffeine.
All of what is considered the best coffee in the world is the Arabica species, and much of the instant coffee found is Robusta.
Arabica, the main species of coffee that is used globally, is famous for its delicious and widely varied flavor profiles. Depending on the variety of Arabica, and the origin in which it was grown, one might experience flavors of blueberries and bergamot, chocolate and hazelnut, and sometimes even fresh tomatoes and bubblegum! The possibilities are literally endless!
There is much speculation as to exactly how many varieties of Arabica coffee exist— some say hundreds, while others say there are tens of thousands in Ethiopia alone…Either way, there is a lot. Let’s take a look at some of the more common and well-known varieties you are likely to come across.
- Typica. A very clean coffee with much sweetness and balanced acidity.
- Bourbon. High-quality and sweet with balanced acidity.
- Gesha. Gesha coffee is rare and known for its floral, perfume-like aroma and stone fruit flavors.
- Caturra. Bright acidity with a nice medium body.
- Catui. Sweet, often with notes of chocolate and caramel.
- SL-28. Common in Kenya, SL-28 is sweet and juicy with big berry flavors.
Robusta is much easier to grow, but far less tasty cousin of Arabica. Robusta coffee has a high caffeine content, which some may see as a plus— but not a whole lot of flavor or sweetness.
The combination of these two factors makes Robusta coffee almost always quite bitter and harsh in the cup.
The flavor of Robusta on the good end of the spectrum can be nutty and chocolatey— while on the bad end, it is spicy, bitter, and earthy with notes of rubber. Because of these negative flavor traits, Robusta is often roasted quite dark as to cover them up with the taste of the roast.
Robusta is commonly used as part of an Arabica blend— the Robusta provides a strength boost to the blend, also providing the coffee with a heavier body.
Different Coffee Types
There are hundreds of different coffee types— so let’s not waste any time! Let’s dive right in and see what each coffee has to offer!
Basic Coffee Types
The first category we’re going to cover is espresso and espresso-like coffees that are served with no milk.
Turkish coffee is strong! It uses an extremely fine grind size and is served unfiltered. If your grinder at home has indicators letting you know how coarse or fine you are going, Turkish will be on the finest setting possible, even finer than espresso.
Traditional Turkish coffee is quite unique in a few different ways. It uses a small pot with a handle, called a cezve or ibrik, and it is brewed by the ibrik being dragged through hot sand. With each pass of the ibrik through the sand, the coffee boils, creating foam and a very strong extraction.
Suppose you want to try Turkish coffee but don’t want to buy the gear without knowing if you like it, worry not. You don’t need a pit of hot sand, or even an ibrik to give Turkish coffee a try— just use a small pot over the stove to get started.
Stovetop espresso makers, like the famous Moka pot, are capable of brewing a really tasty cup of coffee. While stovetop espresso makers aren’t capable of producing real espresso (a Moka pot can’t attain the pressure needed to brew real espresso), they can make coffee that is pretty close.
Stovetop espresso makers are often associated with bitter coffee— an association that is largely thanks to an unclean brewer, rather than the brewing method itself. So keep your Moka pot nice and clean and you’ll be rewarded with some easy, tasty, espresso-like coffee at home.
Espresso Based Coffee Types
Now we’re talking about real espresso— the good stuff! But what makes ‘real’ espresso? There is one main thing that an espresso machine can and must do, that nearly no other machine is capable of— creating a lot of pressure.
Brewing espresso is the act of forcing a small amount of hot water through finely-ground coffee in about 30 seconds— a very short period of time. The only way this is possible is by using pressure. The water is forced through the coffee, dissolving much of the coffee on its way through. The liquid falls into the cup, velvety and thick, full of the coffee it picked up on its journey.
There are a number of different espresso drinks, all varying slightly or greatly from one another. Given that the roots of espresso are Italian, many of the espresso-based drinks you’ll come across are named after Italian words and phrases.
Ristretto, meaning ‘restricted’ in Italian, is essentially a very low volume, concentrated shot of espresso. It uses the same amount of ground coffee as a regular shot, but half the amount of water. For example, a regular shot of espresso might use 18g of coffee, producing an approximately 36ml shot of espresso (a 1:2 ratio of coffee to water). A ristretto, on the other hand, might use the same 18g of coffee, resulting in an only 18-20ml shot.
Italian for double, the doppio is simply a double shot of espresso. This is generally the standard espresso used in most cafes and for most espresso drinks. The double shot of coffee can either be used for one drink, or it can be split up— one shot each for two cafe lattes.
The Cafe Americano, similar to the Australian’ long black’, is a shot of espresso mixed with hot water, resulting in a diner-style, filter coffee.
While the origins of the term cafe americano are uncertain, one of the fun theories dates back to WWII, when American soldiers in Italy would order a shot of espresso and mix it with a cup of hot water— making a drink closer to the filter coffee they were accustomed to back at home.
The Lungo, Italian for long, is a long shot of espresso. Because approximately double the amount of water is passing through the coffee in the portafilter, a lungo can be much less intense, yet far more bitter than a doppio. Lungo shots are not so popular in specialty coffee because of the over-extraction factor— taking more from the coffee than we need or want to— that may occur during brewing.
Much stronger than the Cafe Americano, the Cafe Zorro uses equal amounts of water and espresso to create a much less diluted cup of coffee. A Cafe Zorro usually uses a double espresso, or doppio, and hot water at a 1:1 ratio.
Cafe Cubano, also known as Cuban espresso, or a Cuban Shot, is espresso that has had raw brown sugar added to it before being whipped—whipping the espresso and the sugar while hot creates a creamy foam which gives the drink a heavier body and a sweet taste.
Another Spanish concoction to add to our glorious coffee list, combining espresso coffee with liquor— whether it be brandy, whiskey, or triple sec. There are multiple variants of the Carajillo— some with ice, others with sugar, lemon, and cinnamon. The version you’ll get will largely depend on where you are when ordering.
Milk-Based Coffee Types
You’ve no doubt heard of a Cappuccino and a Cafe Latte. But how about a Cafe Con Leche? Or a Cafe Bombon? Confused? Not for long! Let’s take a look at some common, and some not so common, milk-based coffees.
The classic, Italian heavyweight, the cappuccino, combines espresso with heavily textured milk. While the cappuccino has changed a lot over the years, from mountains of foam that need to be eaten with a spoon, to a drink that is closer to a latte, one thing hasn’t changed— that tasty little sprinkle of chocolate on top.
The Cafe Latte has many new age iterations— from pumpkin spiced lattes to caramel or chai lattes, to name just a few. But the original is still as popular as ever. A Cafe Latte is a shot of espresso blended with creamy, textured, steamed milk. It won’t taste too strongly of coffee, nor of milk— the perfect balance between the two.
A Piccolo Latte is basically a cute little baby latte. Usually, a ristretto shot served in a 100ml cup, topped with creamy, latte style milk.
Coffee? Good! Chocolate? Good! A mocha, the perfect marriage of coffee and chocolate, is made using espresso, chocolate (usually powder), and steamed, textured milk. While every cafe does it differently, a mocha commonly goes like this: chocolate powder is added to a shot or two of espresso, stirred, then textured steamed milk is poured— just like a cafe latte. What’s not to love?
The humble macchiato, its name is the Italian word for stained, refers to the appearance of the macchiato, with a stain of milk foam on the coffee’s crema. The macchiato is a short espresso-based drink with only a small amount of foamed milk spooned on top. Often, a teaspoon or two of steamed milk is also poured into the espresso.
Think of the Cortado as the Cafe Zorro of the milk coffees. Equal amounts espresso coffee and steamed milk. A Cortado is strong and bold, yet thanks to the milk, sweet and smooth.
For the lovers of sweet coffee, the Cafe Bombon is surely a winner. Popular in Spain and similar to the Vietnamese ‘Cafe Sua Nong’, the Cafe Bombon uses equal parts condensed milk and espresso, creating a sweet and rich coffee.
Cafe Con Leche
The Cafe Con Leche is a Spanish drink that combines hot milk with strong filter coffee (espresso can also be used) in equal portions. Sugar can be added to taste upon serving. The Cafe Con Leche is served in Spain, as well as throughout South America, including Peru and Ecuador.
This idea may sound a little strange at first— serving a shot of espresso with a slice of lemon on the side… The idea of the Espresso Romano is that you run the lemon slice around the rim of the cup in order to enhance the sweetness of the coffee. Does it work? Why not give it a try!
There are two kinds of Espressino, and the one you get will be largely dependent on where you are. If you find yourself in a Southern part of Italy, the chances are you’ll get this: an espresso shot is pulled into a cup coated with chocolate powder. Steamed milk is added, then the milk is topped with more chocolate powder.
If you are in the North, however, you may receive the slightly more decadent version: a teaspoon of Nutella is spooned onto the walls of the cup before the chocolate power is added, followed by the espresso and the milk, then finally the remaining chocolate powder on top.
It is hotly debated between Australians and New Zealanders as to who created the Flat White. While Aussies will swear it was created by them in Sydney in the Autumn of 83, Kiwis too claim to be the inventor of the delicious drink. The flat white is different wherever you go, but the basic idea remains the same. Creamy, textured, but not foamy milk is poured over a shot or two of espresso, creating the perfect flavor balance of rich coffee and sweet milk.
Cafe au Lait
The Cafe au lait, pronounced cafe-oh-lay, is milk coffee done the French way! Almost exactly the same as the Spanish cafe con Leche, the cafe au lait is also a simple combination of filter coffee and warm milk. The only real difference is that the cafe au lait is often served in a bowl rather than a cup or mug.
Incredibly rich and creamy, the Caffe breve is made in a similar fashion to a latte, except where the latte uses milk, a Caffe breve uses half-and-half or light cream. Many lovers of the cafe breve say you don’t need to add any sweetener to the coffee, thanks to the sweet taste of the cream and the espresso.
Ice cream and espresso? Yes, please! The cafe affogato— half dessert, half coffee— is a scoop of ice cream, usually vanilla, combined with a shot of hot espresso. Talk about decadent.
Red Eye/ Black Eye
Both the red-eye and the black eye sound far scarier and more sinister than they actually are. These are both basically a cup of filter coffee with added espresso. The difference lies in the amount of espresso they use. A Red Eye contains a single shot of espresso in a cup of regular filter coffee, while a Black Eye contains a double shot.
The ridiculously named lazy eye is a very similar concoction to both the red and black eye. Rather than copy, it’s highly caffeinated counterparts, the lazy eye opts for a little less, using a cup of decaf filter coffee, combined with a shot of espresso. Decaf…lazy…do get it?
Ah, the Vienna— the delicate and delicious combination of whipped cream and black coffee. One could think of a Vienna as an Americano with a nice mountain of whipped cream on top.
The rarely seen cafe Borgia is similar to a mocha, with two important differences. The cafe Borgia is topped with whipped cream and, here comes the interesting part…rather than being topped with a dusting of chocolate as you might expect with a hot chocolate or a mocha, the cafe borgia’s cream is topped with orange zest. The orange zest gives the drink an extra citrus dimension that some people love.
Gibraltar has been doing the rounds at specialty coffee shops of late, but what exactly is it? If you’re thinking it looks mighty similar to a latte or a cappuccino, you’d be spot on! It is very much the same as a cappuccino, with the main differences being that it has a double shot of espresso, and is served in a specific glass, known as a Gibraltar glass.
Cold Coffee Types
Iced coffee can be the perfect thing for a summer day. Let’s take a look at the options for this summer!
The summertime classic— smooth, strong, and super refreshing, the world’s best cold brew coffee is not only inexpensive, but it is also incredibly easy to make. Simply combine water and coarsely ground coffee at around a 1:5 ratio (coffee: water) and let the mixture steep for 16 hours. Once 16 hours have passed, use a filter to remove the ground coffee, and there you have it— a super delicious, convenient batch of cold brew. This batch will last in the fridge for around 10 days.
A standard iced coffee usually refers to a cold milk coffee, something similar to a latte. Espresso coffee combined with milk, ice, and often sugar to create a creamy and delicious iced coffee. A similar drink can be made without milk, by replacing the dairy with water— essentially an iced americano.
Nitro coffee is a relatively new drink. It begins its life as regular cold brew coffee, but it is then infused with nitrogen gas. The addition of nitrogen gives the coffee a rich, creamy head, similar to what you’d find on many draft stout beers— Guinness, for example. Nitro coffee is often served from a tap, just like beer is— in fact, if one didn’t know it was coffee, you’d be excused for thinking that it’s a pint of Guinness!
Japanese Iced Coffee
Japanese iced coffee is essentially an iced pour-over. It is often made using a Kalita wave, or a V60, with a carafe of ice below. As the hot coffee brews and drips through the V60 and into the carafe, the ice melts, creating a delicious iced coffee. In order to end up with a coffee that is not too diluted, one must use a little more coffee, and a little less water in the brew, with the ice-making up around 40% of the total brew water.
For example, to make 600ml batch of Japanese iced coffee, one may place 240g of ice in the carafe, only pouring the remaining 360ml of water through the V60. Japanese iced coffee is usually very light, bright, and fruity.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Sweet, strong, and rich— three words that describe Vietnamese iced coffee perfectly. The most common, and also the most popular version of Vietnamese iced coffee, is the Ca Phe Sua Da. Ca Phe Sua Da utilize a special Vietnamese coffee dripper, which sits atop a glass with ice and condensed milk? As the hot coffee drips down, it melts the ice. Once the coffee has finished dripping, the ice, coffee, and condensed milk concoction are stirred and ready to drink!
Iced Coffee Soda
While there are numerous versions of iced coffee soda, the general idea is to create something reminiscent of a classic soda drink, but with the delicious taste of the coffee. One such version uses cold brew concentrate, but instead of mixing with milk or water, try mixing with tonic or soda water. It might sound a bit strange, but you’re going to love it.
The idea and definition of frappe have changed a lot over the years. What started off as a blended drink using ice, water, milk, instant coffee, and sugar, created by a Nescafe representative in 1957, has become an empire, with iterations now including Oreo cookies, chocolate powder, and even snickers bars blended with milk, ice and espresso to create what is essentially a dessert in a cup.
Filter Coffee Types
The term filter coffee generally refers to any brew method that uses a filter to separate the ground coffee from the liquid, using only gravity and hot water to brew the coffee. There are many different methods of brewing filter coffee, so let’s dive right in and take a look!
A pour-over is a type of filter coffee in which the hot brew water is ‘poured over’ the coffee. The water slowly works its way through the coffee bed, drips down through the filter and into the cup or carafe below. To brew a pour-over, one needs to use a pour-over coffee brewer. Premium pour-over coffee makers, like Hario’s V60 or Kalita’s Wave filter, are excellent options that produce outstanding results for their price.
In order to get the full use out of a pour-over coffee maker, using a pour-over kettle, otherwise known as a gooseneck kettle, is highly recommended. A pour-over kettle allows you to pour coffee slowly and with more precision, giving you much more control over your brew, and how you are pouring.
If you have a large family of eager coffee drinkers, a batch brewer may be just the ticket! Think of a batch brewer as a pour-over robot. You add the ground coffee to the filter and the water to the machine— but that’s where your responsibility, as the machine’s operator, ends. The batch brewer will take it from here— heating the water and spraying it over the coffee. The coffee drips into a carafe that is often ether heated or insulated.
Dual coffee makers often combine a K-cup of Pod coffee maker, with a batch brewer. Batch brewers and dual coffee makers usually have a start timer function, among other nifty functions to make mornings a little easier.
Many coffee geeks favorite brew method, the AeroPress has a huge following. The fact that it can be used in a variety of different ways, and has multiple third party accessories and attachments, means the AeroPress will never get boring. And thanks to its size, durability, and weight, the AeroPress makes an excellent travel coffee maker.
For the AeroPress, try to grind your coffee manually for better taste.
A coffee Syphon, also known as a vacuum pot, looks a lot like a piece of science lab gear. With all-glass construction and the use of a stand and a heat source, the siphon is certainly one of the more eye-catching coffee makers around. A siphon uses vapor pressure in order to move the hot water from the bottom chamber to the top chamber, where coffee is added and brewed.
Upon removing the heat source, gravity takes over by pulling the water, now infused with coffee, back down, through the filter and into the bottom chamber of the device. The resulting coffee is smooth and rich with clean, crisp acidity.
Unlike a pour-over coffee, which allows only small amounts of water in contact with the ground coffee at any one time, immersion brewers, like the French press, combine all of the water and all of the coffee for the entirety of the brew. The coffee is steeped in the water for, usually, around 4 minutes. This gives the resulting brew a very rich flavor, often with a much fuller body when compared to that of pour-over or batch brew coffee.
The most popular form of immersion brewing is a French press. Frech press coffee makers are constructed of glass, plastic, and steel. Brewing coffee in stainless steel maker makes it taste better. Stainless steel wares also have the benefit of not being breakable, in the way that glass is, adding a nice safety factor. The same thing goes for mugs — the safest coffee mugs are the ones made of stainless steel.
Unique Types of Coffee
So we’ve covered both black and milk-based espresso drinks, cold coffee and filter coffees…what else is there? There are a few other types of coffee that don’t quite fit the mold of any of the previous categories. Some are wonderful, while others are just downright weird and bad (see Kopi Luwak), let’s take a look at the unique types of coffee.
K-Cups and Pods
Possibly the most convenient of all brewing methods, K-cups and pods, are as simple as you can get. No need for a grinder, bags of coffee, or even a kettle. K-cups are so simple— add your K-cup or pod to the machine, engage the brewing, and you’re done! One K-cup allows you to brew one mug of coffee. You can even organize your pods with a neat little holder— coffee pod holders look great on the countertop.
Instant coffee has made leaps and bounds of late, as far quality and flavors go. With multiple specialty coffee roasters making instant coffee, the days of the burnt rubber taste of Nescafe, or the generic coffee flavor of international roast are about over. The best thing about instant coffee is that you can prepare instant coffee fast and easy.
Traditionally, Irish coffee consists of a concoction of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar, which is then topped with whipped cream. The idea is to drink the coffee through the cream. Versions of the Irish coffee have been around for a long, long time, with the earliest iterations popping up in 19th century Frace.
The Keto diet has taken the world by storm— and don’t be thinking that Keto lovers won’t add butter to coffee too! Bulletproof coffee is essential a cup of freshly brewed, hot black coffee, blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. The resulting coffee is a creamy, rich, latte-Esque drink with high-fat content, perfect for keeping the body in ketogenic mode. By eating and burning fat rather than carbohydrates, bulletproof coffee can help you lose weight.
Now we get to the strange and not so nice side of weird, with Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak refers to coffee that has passed through the digestive tract of the Asian palm civet. After the coffee seeds have been pooped out, the seeds are collected and roasted. While this may not sound so awful, the way in which this usually happens is.
The original idea behind Kopi Luwak was that the civets would only choose the perfectly ripe cherries to eat, and, as the seeds pass through the civet’s digestive tract, ferment slightly, imparting a particular flavor on the coffee seeds. The poop from wild civets was collected, roasted, and brewed. These days, with the higher price that Kopi Luwak can attain, farming of this coffee has become a huge industry, which involves civets being locked in small cages and force-fed coffee cherries.
Kopi Luwak is almost always of poor quality, with many experts believing the process actually diminishes any quality acidity and flavor in the coffee.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
If you are buying your own coffee, and brewing it at home, spending more almost always means a higher quality coffee. Good coffee costs more money than bad coffee at every step in the chain— from growing and processing to transport and to roast. That isn’t to say that you need to spend an arm and a leg to get good, sustainable coffee that is good for everyone. You could purchase your favorite coffee from Amazon — they often have some excellent deals on delicious coffee.
If you are buying a cup of coffee from a cafe, the price you are paying isn’t necessarily tied to quality. The price per cup might be due to the location of the cafe, the brand of the cafe, or the volume of coffee that the cafe makes in one day. For proof of this, just take a look at the price and quality of a cup of coffee from Starbucks!
Do’s and Don’ts With Different Coffee Types
- Do experiment with different coffees. The more you try different things, the more you’ll find what you like.
- Do be mindful of the other ingredients you add to your coffee. Delicious espresso will mean nothing if you are adding poor quality milk or unclean water to it.
- Don’t be afraid to try the vegan versions of these coffees. There are many excellent alternative milks— from brands like Bonsoy to Oatly. Some are so good you might even prefer them!
FAQ About Coffee Types
What is the most popular type of coffee?
Between 2017 and 2018, the SCA (specialty coffee association) analyzed data taken from millions of coffee drinkers. It turns out that the Cafe Latte was the winner and most ordered coffee, with over 67 million orders!
What are the top 10 coffee brands?
In terms of sales and market share, the top 10 coffee brands in the USA are currently:
- Costa Coffee
- Dunkin Donuts
- Tim Hortons
- Gloria Jeans
- Maxwell House
What’s the difference between regular coffee and Americano?
An Americano is an espresso-based drink, combining hot water and espresso to make a cup of coffee around the same strength as a regular filter coffee. In a way, the Americano is designed to emulate a regular filter coffee.
How many types of coffees are there in the world?
Coffee is full of variety at every stage. There are hundreds of species of coffee, with each species owning thousands, if not tens of thousands of varieties. These varieties are brewed into hundreds of different coffee drinks, from the filter to espresso, and milk coffee to iced coffee.
What is the most common type of coffee?
As far a the coffee bean itself goes, we produce and consume more Arabica coffee than we do any other kind of coffee.
What type of coffee is the strongest?
You can’t get much stronger, both taste and caffeine content-wise, than a double shot of espresso. Espresso is bold and strong.
Hopefully, this article has made deciphering any coffee menu a little easier! So get out there and try something new, choose a coffee you’ve never tried before. If you can’t find one of these coffees at a cafe but still want to try it, why not brew it yourself!
Photos from: keko64 / depositphotos.com, gurZZZa / depositphotos.com, Olegkalina / depositphotos.com, aerogondo2 / depositphotos.com, AntonMatyuhka / depositphotos.com and rozmarina / depositphotos.com.