Coffee, Explained: Mochas, Macchiatos, Cappuccinos, Cortados and more!
Even for coffee connoisseurs, the sheer number of types and varieties can be confusing. Sometimes it feels like you’re playing alphabet soup–and all you want is your caffeine fix. Never fear morning warrior, here is a handy explanation of the many types of coffee you’ll often find–and some rarer types too.
Drip Coffee: This coffee is made by coarsely ground coffee beans soaked in water for minutes, not seconds. Known as “drip” because coffee literally drips down during the brewing process. Also known as “black” coffee, if not taken with milk.
Cold Brew: Coarsely ground coffee beans are soaked in cold water for hours, resulting in a type of black coffee with a different flavor profile than drip. Oftentimes, cold brew is sweeter.
Espresso: This is the building block of coffee drinks. A small amount of water is quickly pushed through finely ground coffee beans in mere seconds. This results in a strong, highly concentrated “shot” of espresso, about the same size as a shot glass. This is the building block of coffee. Most coffee drinks are simply an espresso + something else. Sometimes you’ll hear talk of “double shots” or a “doppio.” It is what it sounds like–twice the amount of espresso. Commonly mispronounced as “expresso.” (Don’t be that guy.)
Americano: Espresso + water. That was simple. Sometimes called “American Coffee.”
Cortado: Espresso + milk, with the same, or sometimes double the amount of milk as espresso.
Macchiato: Espresso + foamed milk, generally at a 1 to 1 ratio. Similar, but not the same, as a Cortado.
Latte: Espresso + steamed milk, generally with 3 to 5 times as much milk as espresso.
Cappuccino: Similar to a latte, only with large amounts of steamed milk foam. Often topped with cinnamon or chocolate powder.
Flat White: Espresso + specially prepared “microfoam” milk. The special steaming process gives milk its velvety, smooth consistency. Usually made with less milk than a latte, contributing to a stronger flavor.
Viennese Coffee: Espresso topped with whipped cream. Delicious!
Frappuccino:A trademarked drink made only at Starbucks, this is a line of cold, sugary beverages, sometimes with espresso inside.
Mocha: Espresso + steamed milk and chocolate. This sweet treat has its origins in a type of coffee bean, also known as Mocha, which is said to taste like chocolate.
With this knowledge in hand, soon you’ll be ordering like a coffee expert. But the best way is to try each type for yourself and see what you like best.
Alex Webb is a traveller who has visited over 30 countries and lived in Hong Kong, Japan, China, South Korea, and the United States. He has written for National Geographic Books and co-authored a book published by the Financial Times Press. When he’s not travelling or writing, he enjoys playing guitar and writing songs. Follow him on instagram at @alxndrwbb