The Beginner's Guide To Different Coffee Types

There are so many different types of coffee out there it can be overwhelming knowing which to pick when in a coffee shop. 

From classic espresso-based drinks like the latte to fancy pour overs like the Chemex and V60, we touch on the most popular types of coffee you’ll find on a specialty coffee menu for anyone in need of a crash course, as well as how these different drinks are made.

Different Brewing Methods For Coffee

different-coffee-types-brewing-methods

Coffee can be prepared in many different ways and different coffee drinks are often named after the equipment or method used to make it. For example, someone may ask for a “V60” in a coffee shop when they want a black coffee made with a V60 coffee dripper. 

While the list below isn’t exhaustive, it includes the most common types of brewing and coffee preparation methods being used in coffee shops today.

Espresso Machine

An Espresso Machine is most commonly used in coffee shops and other commercial settings, although you can get excellent at-home machines today too. They work by pushing hot water through a disc of ground, tamped coffee in a filter. The end result is a double shot of approximately 60ml (depending on the filter size and machine settings) of the espresso machine. 

The main components of an Espresso Machine are a grouphead, milk steaming wand and filter. Accompanying accessories needed are typically a coffee grinder, scales, and a tamper. Coffee beans must be ground finely (the exact grind size will depend on the machine you are using) into a filter and tamped before water passes through it.

To “pull” the perfect shot, it should typically take somewhere between 20-35 seconds. Any more or less than this and you run the risk of producing coffee that is watery and weak or overly acidic and bitter.

Moka Pot

A Moka Pot is a stove-top coffee maker that uses boiling water passing through ground coffee to create a rich brew. We find that Moka Pots are great to use as an alternative to espresso machines for those who don’t want to invest in an expensive machine for their home.

To set one up, you simply pour cold water into the bottom chamber of the pot and pack the filter with your favourite ground coffee. Once on the stove, leave it over a medium-high heat for a few minutes. During this time, the water will pass through the grounds and produce coffee in the upper chamber. 

You’ll know when your drink is ready because the liquid will start spluttering out of the spout at the pot and the coffee will become lighter in colour, developing a slight crema on top (a layer of creamy froth).

French Press (Cafetière)

A French Press, also known as a Cafetière, is one of the most common coffee brewing methods, thanks to how easy it is to set-up and use. A French Press is an example of immersion brewing, rather than drip brewing, which is what we see with equipment such as a V60. This means that the ground coffee is submerged in water for much longer (between 2-5 minutes) and then filtered. 

To use your French Press, all you need to do is combine your coffee (a 1:15 ratio of coffee to water is a good general rule, but this will depend on how strong you like your coffee and the beans you are using) with not-quite-boiling water and leave it to brew. After this, slowly press down with the plunger and serve!

V60

A V60 may look a little more complex than other brewing equipment, but it’s very simple to use and allows you to draw out all the flavours of your beans, making for the perfect filter coffee. 

To make a coffee using a V60, you first need to boil some water and place a filter into the cone, rinsing this and disposing of the water afterwards. Rinsing your filter ensures that you don’t get any unwanted flavours from the paper, leaving you with only the taste of the coffee. 

Place about 15-22 grams of ground coffee (this amount can be adjusted according to your personal preference) into the filter, and slowly begin to pour the boiled water onto the coffee, moving in circular motions. The steps you take may depend on what “recipe” you’re following, but below is an example of Santiago brewing up some Hermanos coffee using the V60 method. 

AeroPress

An AeroPress is the perfect piece of brewing equipment for someone who likes to make quality coffee on-the-go, but it can be a bit more tricky to use than other options, such as a French Press. 

One of the best things about using an AeroPress is that virtually no other components are required: the only other things you need are ground coffee and a kettle. After boiling water, add ground coffee (we like to use a 1:15 ratio of coffee to water) to the AeroPress filter and pour enough water to cover the grounds and allow them to sit for about 30 seconds. Once this is done, you’re able to add more water and stir before plunging and forcing the water through the filter. 

Make sure you have a mug underneath the Aeropress before plunging!

Chemex

A Chemex is used to make pour-over coffee and is increasingly popular not only amongst fans of specialty and ‘third-wave’ coffee, but people who want to get the most flavour out of their beans and try a new method of brewing. 

To get the best out of your Chemex, add 22 grams of ground coffee (we prefer a medium-coarse grind) for every 330ml of water you plan to use, as per the brewing best practices from the Specialty Coffee Association. 

What throws a lot of people off with a Chemex is how to fold the filter paper. Most Chemex filters are circular, so you need to fold them in half twice, with the end result looking like a triangle with one curved side. Of course, you can buy pre-folded filters, if you want to make life easier before you’ve had your morning coffee!

Pour water over the coffee until it’s just covered and leave it to ‘bloom’, a process in which the coffee grounds release CO2. After about 30 seconds you can continue pouring slowly in circular motions until you have used up all of your water. The process is not dissimilar from that of a V60, it just takes a little bit of practice. 

Check Out Our Home-Brewing Guide 

Arabica And Robusta Beans: What’s The Difference?

Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans Different Coffee Types

Arabica

Arabica is the most popular type of coffee bean used for espresso-based drinks. The reason for this is that Arabica plants tend to produce coffee that is smoother and sweeter than Robusta. 

Arabica accounts for approximately 70% of the world’s coffee production, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), and is grown in numerous countries with tropical climates around the world. Although originally produced in Ethiopia, you’ll now find Arabica farms in Colombia, Brazil, India, and Guatemala, amongst other countries.

The beans are delicate and fragile, and need a very specific climate in order to thrive. The best Arabica will be grown slowly in areas with cool temperatures, high elevation, and moderate rainfall. 

Despite the fact that the Arabica plant is much harder to tend than the Robusta plant, farmers adapt and overcome environmental challenges to continue production due to the phenomenal demand for the beans in the global specialty coffee market.

Find out more about why the world loves coffee Arabica 

Robusta 

Robusta beans have historically been used for more inexpensive coffee blends and instant coffee. They account for much less of the world’s production of coffee (about 30%), but some countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia favour these beans over Arabica. 

The flavour profile of Robusta is more bitter and harsh than Arabica, with less acidity and a higher caffeine content. What makes Robusta popular is its low price and the fact that the plants are significantly easier to grow; they are much more resilient and can withstand low altitudes, pests, and a range of climates. 

Explore Our Full Range Of Specialty Colombian Coffee Beans! 

What Should I Order? Most Common Types of Coffee Explained 

different coffee types infographic

Espresso

  • Single (30ml) or double (60-70ml) shot of espresso

Latte

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 250ml of steamed milk and microfoam 

Cappuccino

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 250ml steamed milk and foam

Flat White

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 100ml steamed milk

Americano

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 250ml hot water

  • Dash of milk if preferred

Macchiato

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 3-4 tsp of cappuccino foam 

Cortado

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 60ml steamed milk

Iced Coffee

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 250ml cold milk (or water)

  • Ice

Mocha

  • Double shot of espresso

  • Chocolate powder or syrup

  • 250ml steamed milk

Long Black

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 100ml hot water

Piccolo

  • Single shot of espresso

  • 60ml steamed milk

Affogato

  • Single shot of espresso

  • 1 scoop of plain milk or vanilla ice cream

Ristretto

  • Double shot of highly concentrated espresso (30ml)

Gibraltar

  • Double shot of espresso

  • 60ml steamed milk

Espresso

An espresso can be served as either a single (30ml) or double (60-70ml) measure, and although it only has one component, it can be difficult to get right.

To master this drink, coffee beans need to be ground to the right size for the specific espresso machine being used, the right amount of ground coffee needs to be measured out (about 18g for a double shot), and the coffee needs to be pulled for the right amount of time (between 20-35 seconds). The perfect espresso should be rich in flavour and have a luxurious crema on top. 

Latte

A latte is one of the most popular espresso-based drinks in the UK and beyond. They are typically made with a double shot of espresso, and topped up with about 250ml of steamed milk and microfoam. We also love an iced variation of this drink, which is just a double shot of espresso, ice, and cold milk. 

Tip: when making an iced coffee, be it latte or americano, don’t pour your espresso shot directly over ice. Baristas have claimed that the ice ‘shocks’ the espresso and changes the flavour profile, making it more bitter and diluting the drink by melting the ice too quickly. Instead, try pouring the coffee over the milk, and then adding ice.

Cappuccino

Another popular drink, the cappuccino, originated in Austria, but is commonly associated with Italian culture. It is similar to a latte in as much as it uses a double shot of espresso and milk, but the way that the milk is steamed is what sets it apart. 

Rather than leaving the milk ‘wet’, it is steamed to produce between 3-4cm of foam on top (not bubbly!) and traditionally served in a cup slightly smaller than that used for a latte.

Flat White

The flat white is the stronger and smaller version of the latte, although they do have some other crucial differences. A flat white will always have a double shot of espresso, and only about 100ml of milk. The milk has less microfoam than that of a latte, so is wetter and has a stronger espresso flavour. 

The origin of the flat white is a common point of contention in the specialty coffee industry, with both Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand claiming to have invented this third-wave drink.

Americano

An americano is a coffee consisting of boiling water and a double measure of espresso. When milk is added (usually cold but some prefer it steamed) it’s referred to as a white americano. 

The best way to prepare an americano is to add the boiling water (about 250ml, but the amount of water completely depends on how strong you like your coffee) to the mug before pouring over the espresso, as this way you’ll keep the crema on top of the drink.

Macchiato

A classic Italian drink, the macchiato, is a short and strong coffee. The only components in it are a double shot of espresso, topped with a small amount of foamed milk, similar to that you would find in a cappuccino.

The name ‘macchiato’ comes from the Italian for ‘spotted’ or ‘stained’, and was first used by servers to differentiate to customers the difference between an espresso and an espresso with a small amount of milk!

Cortado

A cortado is similar to a macchiato, but has an even amount of milk to espresso to cut through the acidity of the coffee. The milk is also less ‘foamy’, instead being steamed to a very fine microfoam. The other similarity is that a cortado typically has a double shot of espresso.

Iced Coffee

Cold Brew

Unlike the other different coffee types on this list, cold brew is not made with espresso. It uses ground coffee beans of any variety, soaked in room temperature or cold water for between 12-24 hours. It’s really easy to make cold brew coffee at home, all you need is a large jug or cold brew coffee pot to keep the steeped coffee in, and a filter or fine sieve to pass the grounds through. 

Once you’ve made your cold brew, it can be drunk by itself over ice, diluted with milk, or even mixed with nitrogen to make nitro cold brew (we wouldn’t recommend doing this at home!).

Nitro

Nitro is a type of cold brew coffee that uses nitrogen to create a thick and creamy drink, not dissimilar to a pint of beer! It is becoming increasingly popular amongst coffee lovers, because it brings out the natural sweetness of the beans and gives a smooth mouthfeel.

Compared  to other coffee drinks, nitro cold brew can be a little tricky to make, mainly because specific equipment is needed. Once you have steeped your ground coffee in water and made cold brew, the coffee is charged with nitrogen gas using a whipped cream dispenser and a nitrous oxide canister. 

Typically, nitro coffee is served chilled, but not with ice so as not to dilute the drink or ruin the foamy top.

Frappuccino 

The Frappuccino is a blended coffee-based drink that originates from the words ‘frappe’ (a milkshake with ice cream in it) and ‘cappuccino’, now owned by Starbucks, although you’ll now see coffee shops and supermarkets selling countless variations of the beverage, including many without any coffee in them!

To make a Frappuccino, you need coffee, ice, and milk, although many other ingredients are usually added, such as syrups, spices, or whipped cream. To make one at home, you’ll need to blend the key components, along with any additional flavourings that you like.

Iced Latte

An iced latte is very similar to its hot counterpart, except you don’t need to steam any milk. Instead, a double shot of espresso is poured over cold milk and ice. You can also make an iced variation of a flat white, cortado, piccolo - you name it! Simply substitute the steamed milk for cold milk.

The beans that you use for iced coffees depend entirely on personal preference, but we personally love using El Vergel beans because of their roast (medium-light) and versatility.

Iced Americano

An iced americano is also very simple to make, and follows the same guidelines as an iced latte or flat white. Rather than using hot water, add a double espresso to 250ml of cold water and ice, and top up with a small amount of cold milk if you enjoy white americanos. 

Mocha

There are lots of different ways to make a mocha, but our favourite method is to mix a double espresso with good quality cocoa powder or syrup, and then topping this with between 200-250ml of steamed latte milk. 

Some coffee shops will offer variations of mocha, such as using white chocolate instead of dark or milk, adding whipped cream, chocolate dusting, and other flavours like caramel or vanilla. It is thought that mochas originated in the Yemeni city of Mocha, but was originally used interchangeably as a word for coffee, rather than a chocolate-based coffee drink.

Long Black

A long black has become synonymous with third-wave coffee culture and is most commonly found in Australia and New Zealand. It is similar to a flat white in the sense that it is short and strong, but it has no milk in it. Instead, a double espresso is added to about 100ml of hot water.

Piccolo

A piccolo, also known sometimes as a ‘piccolo latte’, shares a lot of characteristics with a cortado, but it is slightly less strong. Whilst a cortado has equal amounts of coffee and milk, a piccolo only has a single shot of espresso, and 60ml of steamed milk and microfoam (depending on how strong you like it). 

Ordering a piccolo in a coffee shop can be confusing at times, because some cafes and countries have their own version of the drink - often making it stronger and with less milk than a cortado.

Affogato

An indulgent Italian dessert, ‘affogato al caffe’ consists of a scoop of either plain milk or vanilla ice cream, with a shot of hot espresso poured over it. The ice cream melts into the glass, leaving you with a decadent and perfectly-balanced after-dinner treat. 

As well as a classic affogato, popular variations include the addition of alcohol such as Amaretto or Kahlua, chocolate syrup, biscotto, coconut, or another flavour of ice cream. 

Ristretto

Not for the faint of heart, a ristretto is a shorter, stronger version of an espresso. It is made with the same amount of coffee that you would use for a double espresso, but ground finer and using less water. This means that you are left with only 30ml of coffee.

A ristretto brings out more pronounced flavours than an espresso, and is known for being less bitter and more full bodied and bold. 

Gibraltar

A Gibraltar is a lesser-known and more recently-invented coffee. It was developed in San Francisco in 2005, and since then has been more common in specialty cafes, especially in the USA. 

Similar to a cortado in some ways, it consists of a double shot of espresso and about 60ml of steamed milk. One of the things that sets a Gibraltar apart is that it is traditionally served in a Gibraltar Rocks Glass.

Advice For Beginners

advice on different coffee types

If you’re looking to step outside of your coffee comfort zone, we recommend taking it one step at a time. If you’re used to drinking lattes, the chances are that your usual order isn’t going to switch to a macchiato or long black immediately (but who knows!). 

Try out as many different coffee types as you want, as the more you taste, the more you’ll understand what your likes and dislikes are. For example, do you prefer microfoam, foam, or no milk? Do you like a longer or shorter drink? Do you want your drink to be strong or diluted? Once you’re confident of your answers to these questions, you’ll be able to use our guide to find your ideal coffee.

Many people stick to drinks with a high ratio of milk to coffee because they think they don’t like the taste of espresso, however, many have also been surprised by how much they like filter coffees and shorter drinks after giving them a chance. 

Read Our Guide To Buying Specialty Coffee Beans


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