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12 Different Types of Coffee Drinks Explained

It seems that every time you get used to the list of coffees on your local coffee shop’s menu, a new style suddenly becomes popular.

Coffee is a relatively simple drink. But it can be made in a range of different ways.

Types of Coffee

To help you decipher the difference between a latte and a flat white, as well as the difference between a Turkish coffee and an Americano, here is a rundown of the most commonly found types of coffee drinks found in cafes and coffee shops. 

Espresso

An espresso is the most basic type of coffee. It is made through pushing hot water through coffee grounds. And that’s it!

Espresso is the basis for pretty much every other type of coffee. Especially the different types you will find at your local coffee shop.

Almost every coffee listed below will include espresso. The main difference will be whether it has milk. And how that milk is prepared.

One of the most important things to remember about this kind of coffee is its name. A lot of people mishear it and pronounce it as “expresso”. This isn’t a big deal (and is actually quite funny), but it’s best to bear in mind!

That said, espresso can be drunk on its own. It is presented in a very small cup. Espresso can be sipped or drunk in one go, as a shot.

An espresso is often called a “shot” of espresso. So, if you ask for a latte in a coffee shop and are asked “One shot or two?” You’re being asked if you want one shot of espresso or two. 

Americano

An Americano is simply a black coffee. It is made by mixing a shot of espresso with hot water. It can be served with hot or cold milk. And it is one of the simplest ways to drink coffee. 

This type of coffee is also referred to as “caffè Americano”. This simply means “American coffee”. Its origins are not entirely known.

But it is believed to have come from American GIs pouring hot water into their espresso when stationed in Europe during the Second World War. They did this to make it taste more like the filter coffee they were used to at home.

So, if you were to order an Americano in Europe and the US, you might get some different responses. And potentially two different drinks. 

Cappuccino

A cappuccino is a delicious drink if you enjoy foamy milk. Cappuccinos are made by adding hot steamed milk to a shot of espresso. When milk is steamed, it becomes thicker and more velvety.

And a foam appears on the top. In a cappuccino, the milk is poured on top of the espresso shot. And the foam added on top.

Iced cappuccinos are becoming more popular nowadays. As iced coffee as a whole is becoming more popular. It is essentially a shot of espresso poured over ice.

Topped with a lot of frothy coffee. Perfect is a black cold brew isn’t quite your thing.

Latte

A latte is very similar to a cappuccino. However, it has significantly less foam. To make a latte, a barista will steam the milk in the same way as for a cappuccino.

But they will only pour in the milk. They will prevent the foam from pouring in. This makes a latte deliciously creamy. Hence, its name which is Italian for “milk”. 

Lattes are taller drinks than cappuccinos. And more milk is usually added. This is why lattes are often presented in tall glasses.

Lattes are perfect for people who enjoy the energy boost from coffee. But aren’t a huge fan of the taste of a strong espresso.

Iced lattes are one of the most standard iced coffees. They contain a shot of espresso poured over ice. Topped with lightly steamed and frothed milk.

This is great if you want something a bit more special than an iced Americano with a dash of milk. But don’t like all of the foam of a cappuccino. 

Flat White

Flat whites have become much more popular in recent years. They are very simple but strong coffees. They are very short, they are almost halfway between an espresso and a cappuccino. It contains two shots of espresso.

And is made by quickly pouring steamed milk directly into the cup. This causes the foam and milk to combine. Making a very velvety coffee. 

Flat whites first became popular in Australia in the 1980s. But have only really boomed in popularity since around 2010. They are hugely popular in Australia and the UK. But have only recently become a common sight in the US.

Flat whites are deliciously creamy coffees. And are almost a cross between the foamy cappuccino and the creamy latte.

But shorter and with an added shot of coffee. Essentially, it’s a strong cup of coffee with a small amount of very thick and creamy milk. 

Macchiato

Macchiato are very short coffees. They are essentially espressos with a little milk added in. This will only make the coffee a little creamier and less harsh. But it is still a very strong coffee.

Macchiatos are often confused with cortados. But these are different due to their milk content.

Macchiatos only have a very small amount of milk added. It is for days when a strong shot of espresso is needed. But a little flavor and creaminess will be appreciated. 

Cortado

Cortados are similar to flat whites and lattes. They are made by combining a shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk.

This milk will be close in consistency to that used in lattes. It will be thick and warm. But not frothy as on a cappuccino. 

Cortados are not as commonly seen as most of the other coffees included on this list. But they are becoming more popular.

Especially due to the growing popularity of flat whites. Cortados are similar to flat whites. But are shorter and have only one shot of espresso.

Mocha

Mochas are very popular drinks. This is mostly due to the fact that they contain chocolate.

A mocha is essentially a chocolate version of a latte. It can be made in different ways. One is through adding hot chocolate powder to the steamed milk.

The other is through essentially combining a hot chocolate with a latte. It can be made through adding in melted chocolate or with chocolate sauce. 

Mochas are named after the city of Mocha in Yemen. This is where much of the early coffee trade took place. Mochas are often treated as modern drinks.

However, they have been popular since the late 18th century. As people have loved adding chocolate to anything they can for a very long time. 

Frappes and Frappuccino

Frappes are a very specific kind of iced coffee. Rather than pouring the coffee and milk over ice, frappes are made by blending the ingredients with ice. This is similar to making a milkshake. Frappes are often flavored with syrups or sugar. 

Frappes are sometimes called “Frappuccino”. But this is a name trademarked by Starbucks. And does not refer to all frappes. As frappes have been around in some form since the late 1950s. 

Not all frappes are the same. Most frappes today are similar to Frappuccino. However, when they were first invented, they were made by combining instant coffee with sugar, milk, and water. Essentially making an iced version of an instant coffee.

So, make sure to check the menu before ordering a frappe or a Frappuccino. As they are slightly different drinks.

Affogato

There is some argument over whether this is a coffee or a dessert. But it is essentially both.

An affogato is a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This won’t be something you see very often on a coffee shop menu. But it is offered in many Italian restaurants. 

So, if you have finished a meal and can’t quite decide between a coffee and a dessert, an affogato is a perfect compromise.

Vienna Coffee

This is another coffee that isn’t seen on coffee shop menus often. But you could almost definitely get one if you asked for it.

A Vienna coffee is a shot of espresso topped with whipped cream. It is delicious and decadent. And perfect if you want something a little more interesting and fun.

Irish Coffee

An Irish coffee is pretty much any coffee which has whiskey added to it. Note the “e” in whiskey. If you were to use a “whisky” in this drink, then it would be Scottish, rather than Irish.

So, if someone asks if you can “make it Irish”, this means adding a dash of whiskey to their coffee.

This can be done with almost any coffee. But will most commonly be added to something like an Americano, cappuccino, or a latte.

As the whiskey will interfere less with the consistency. Due to the alcohol content and its thinness, whiskey can alter the consistency of a coffee. More specifically it can alter how creamy it is.

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Written by Ryan F.

Ryan is a Philadelphia local who enjoys checking out Philly's restaurant scene every chance he can. He grew up in South Jersey and now lives in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood.