Coffee is coffee, right? Wrong! There are many types of coffee out there (and we’re not talking about Dunkin vs. Starbucks).
Whether you are a fan of coffee with milk or without, hot or iced, light roast or dark roast, there are countless combinations one can form to make their own favorite personal cup of coffee.
Types of Coffee Beans
How many types of coffee are there? There are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. These are the two coffee plant species that are most commonly grown across the world.
Aside from the two coffee plant species that exist, there are numerous processes one may employ to enjoy a hot or cold beverage from these caffeinated beans.
What is the most popular type of coffee? The majority of the world’s coffee is Arabica coffee, about 70% of total coffee production. Most black coffee lovers prefer arabica selections due to the smooth, pleasant taste they offer without any milk or sweetener enhancements.
Arabica coffee comes from the plant Coffea arabica. The plant itself originated from Ethiopia; however, it gained recognition in Arabia from the 7th century. Many light or blonde roasts are known to come from arabica selections.
Coffee growers harvest Robusta coffee from Coffea canephora var. Robusta plants. Robusta coffee accounts for about 30% of the world’s coffee and is the cheaper option of the two.
Baristas use this variety of coffee beans for flavored and instant coffee selections due to the bitter, intense taste and high caffeine content.
Types of Hot Coffee Drinks
In every coffee shop, you will see most of the following varieties of coffee or espresso drinks. Many are staples of the barista training course and show just how versatile the humble coffee bean is.
You brew black coffee with hot water using the classic drip coffee method or pour-over, gently extracting the complex flavors found in Arabica beans.
Black coffee is one of the easiest to recognize from this list, and every coffee shop serves it.
Espresso comes from coffee grounds ground to a finer powder than that of black coffee. Less water is used to extract the flavor from the grounds, resulting in a powerful 1 oz shot of espresso.
What is the difference between espresso and regular coffee? The difference between espresso and regular coffee is espresso has more caffeine per ounce, a more potent flavor, and a shorter brew time.
A doppio is simply a double shot of espresso.
Like hot water is the base for espresso and regular coffee, espresso is the foundation of most drinks on a coffee shop menu.
A macchiato is a shot of espresso with a dash of steamed milk on top. “Macchiato,” of Italian origin, translates as spotted.
This espresso drink causes confusion for Starbucks lovers at any other coffee shop. While Starbucks’ “macchiato” is a popular, sugary drink, an authentic macchiato is entirely free of sugar.
A lungo is essentially a shot of espresso that brews longer and uses double the amount of water for the same amount of grounded coffee beans.
If you want the volume of a doppio only with less caffeine, try opting for a lungo next time.
A ristretto is an espresso made with the same amount of coffee grounds while using half the water. If you’re a coffee lover that lives for intensity, a ristretto may be your new best friend.
A redeye is your standard cup of black coffee with an added shot of espresso, hence the daunting name for the drink.
A redeye is for those who like a regular cup of coffee with an added caffeine boost.
An americano is a shot of espresso with about 3 oz of boiling water, essentially replicating a black cup of coffee.
An americano is the closest to a standard cup of coffee that a coffee lover can order using only espresso.
Lattes combine espresso with steamed warm milk and a layer of foamed milk on top. You can add any flavor such as mocha, peppermint, or pumpkin spice to this mixture for a completely different flavor profile.
Baristas Caffe lattes can be identified and attract many coffee lovers with the aesthetically pleasing “latte-art” created by baristas in coffee shops all over the world.
A cappuccino is a layered drink with 1-2 shots of espresso on the bottom, then equal amounts of steamed milk and foamed milk (in that order).
Unlike a latte, a cappuccino is generally a smaller drink, served with about 2-3 oz of steamed milk per shot of espresso. The layer of foamed milk on top should be thicker than that of a cafe latte.
Often topped with spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, or chocolate powder, think of a cappuccino as the latte’s shorter, cozier cousin.
The cortado is espresso combined with an equal amount of steamed milk.
Unlike most beverages on this list, “cortado” is a word from Spain that means “to cut.”
Coffee connoisseurs tend to order this drink at coffee shops to judge the quality of the espresso, as well as the precision of the barista’s ratios of steamed milk to espresso. It’s an easy beverage to judge upon, due to the precise 1:1 ratio it should have.
Like a latte or cappuccino, a galão is made by combining one shot of espresso with approximately 3 oz. of foamed milk.
No steamed milk is used for this beverage. You must be a foam-lover to enjoy a galão.
A flat white is made by adding ⅓ part espresso to ⅔ part steamed milk, not the other way around. This order is essential to a flat white, known for its creamy rather than foamy texture.
The flat white fits somewhere between the description of a latte and a cortado.
An affogato is an Italian coffee dessert made by pouring 1-2 shots of espresso over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato.
This dilutes the sweetness of the creamy ice cream or gelato with the hot, bitter contrast of the espresso.
If you are a coffee lover with a bit of a sweet tooth, this “beverage” may be your new favorite dessert from Italy. The name for this delectable combination translates to “drowned” in English.
Café au Lait
A café au lait is made by mixing equal parts coffee and steamed milk.
Unlike most other creations on this list, a café au lait is made by brewing strong coffee instead of espresso as the foundation. Most often, the French Press method is used for this mixture of French origin.
In a traditional Irish coffee, you combine and stir hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar, then top the mix with cream.
Perhaps the only espresso drink on this list that shouldn’t be enjoyed shortly after waking, there are many variations to this cocktail.
Types of Cold Coffee Drinks
Coffee and espresso-based beverages aren’t just for sweater weather! When the sun is out, an iced coffee drink might just be the perfect way to cool down.
What is iced coffee? Iced coffee is simply the addition of ice cubes added to any type of brewed coffee. It is often served with milk, cream, and sometimes sweeteners or various flavored syrups.
Iced espresso is simply a drink with your desired number of espresso shots poured over ice.
Typically, your iced espresso is a much smaller drink than an iced coffee due to the potent caffeine content in a single shot of espresso.
An iced latte combines espresso and cold milk over ice. The only difference between an iced latte and a caffe latte is that the milk is not steamed.
Like other lattes, there’s almost no end to the variety of flavors you can use to customize your iced latte. Iced pumpkin spice, caramel, vanilla, and mocha flavors are popular at coffee shops, especially during the summer.
Cold brew coffee is made by steeping cold water with ground coffee beans over 12-48 hours. The longer it’s steeped, the stronger the cold brew will become.
And no, cold brew isn’t just an iced coffee.
This chilled, patiently made drink has gained momentum and fans over the last decade. This drawn-out process is essential for creating a smooth and sweet taste unlike any other method of brewing. (Except perhaps the next drink on the list.)
Nitro, or nitro cold brew, is served by adding nitrogen bubbles to cold brew coffee on tap.
Beer isn’t the only nitrogen-beverage served on tap these days. This type of coffee drink is what you get when nitrogen bubbles are added to cold brew coffee, resulting in a foamy layer on top.
Blended coffee, including frappuccinos or frappes, is any way of blending coffee with espresso, milk, flavorings, sweeteners, and ice together to create a frosty treat. It is often topped with whipped cream and sometimes even chocolate syrup, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.
McDonald’s and Starbucks have popularized the art of blended coffee, but it’s also a favorite at local coffee shops worldwide.
Originating in Algeria, a mazagran is strong coffee served over ice with lemon and water instead of milk.
Popular variations of a mazagran include adding mint, sugar, and a bit of rum. It is considered by many baristas and coffee lovers to be a summer classic.
Types of Coffee Roasts
In general, the type of roast has to do with how many times (if any) the beans “crack” during roasting, indicating the temperature of the beans.
There are other specialty types of coffee, but we discuss only the four most widely available here.
Dark coffee beans are roasted the longest of the common types of coffee beans, past the first crack and to the end of the second crack (at 440 degrees or higher). If coffee beans exceed 465 degrees Fahrenheit, the beans begin to taste of charcoal when brewed.
Dark roast coffee beans are known for their very dark brown, glossy appearance and have a robust, full-bodied flavor.
It’s a common misconception that dark beans contain the most caffeine — in fact, the longer coffee beans are roasted, the lower their caffeine content.
These beans are generally used for espresso, and many coffee lovers swear by darker selections paired with milk.
Medium roast coffee beans are roasted until just before the second crack during roasting (at 410-440 degrees).
A medium roast selection of coffee beans is thought to balance acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. A medium roast coffee may be paired with milk but can also be easily enjoyed black without any additions, as these beans are considered the most versatile.
These are brown, thicker than light or gold coffee beans, and generally don't have a glossy appearance compared to most dark roasts.
Light coffee beans are roasted until shortly after the first crack, which happens around 350 degrees. The final temperature of light roast coffee beans is 350-410 degrees.
Light roasts are certainly lighter in color, of course, when compared to the two types of coffee beans above. They’re considered the most acidic of the 4 roasts and can generally be identified by their complex, sweet flavors that often contain floral or fruity hints.
These characteristics are precisely why many people who only drink black coffee prefer lighter roasts. They are almost always best consumed without any milk additions and are popularly used as pour-over selections. Light roasts are very rarely used in espresso drinks.
Gold roast coffee, or gold coffee, is roasted at low temperatures for an extended time and boasts the lowest acidity of all the coffee roasts.
It’s essentially an ultralight roast designed to maintain a smooth-tasting cup of coffee without bitterness. It also contains the highest caffeine content of all brewed coffees. Green coffee technically contains more caffeine, but is unroasted and not brewed like other coffees.
Gold coffee closely resembles tea with its golden, translucent appearance and light, nutty flavor. It’s an excellent option for those looking for energy without stomach discomfort, any added anxiety, or maybe even those who don’t like coffee!
Types of Coffeemakers
What are the 12 ways to make coffee? The 12 most popular processes for brewing a cup of coffee include drip, single-serve, espresso, Turkish, Moka pot, pour-over, steeping, vacuum pot, French press, Aeropress, Vietnamese phin, and cold drip.
Drip coffee is made by the automatic dripping of hot water over grounds in a paper filter.
For most drip coffeemakers, you simply scoop your ground coffee beans in the filter, fill the machine with water, and press start. In just a few minutes, your glass or thermal carafe will be filled with fresh, black coffee that will stay piping hot for hours.
Drip coffee is considered to be the most popular way to make black coffee at home.
Single-serve coffeemakers create drip coffee for a single serving of grounds in a cup rather than over a paper filter.
In this day and age, many coffee lovers are willing to sacrifice quality for efficiency. Single-serve devices, like the Keurig, are trending because they’re so easy to use.
Simply place your pre-packaged cup of ground coffee beans in the slot (or a reusable filter), choose your size, wait for your cup to fill, and voila: hot coffee!
Espresso machines use a pressurized system of forcing near-boiling water through a pressed-down puck of coffee grounds.
This creates a concentrated 1 oz. shot of coffee with about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of black coffee.
Turkish coffee is made by boiling sugar, water, and ultra-finely ground coffee grounds in a Turkish pot called a cezve.
The ground coffee beans are set to a boil within the cezve with water and sugar. Once it begins to froth, the coffee drink is removed and immediately served. That’s why it’s so essential for the coffee grounds to be extremely fine.
What makes this coffee special is that the grounds are not separated from the drink itself at all (even when served), and sugar is added before the brewing begins instead of after.
The Moka pot was invented in 1933 by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti and makes coffee by pressurizing boiling water by steam and passing it through coffee grounds.
This traditional coffee-making process can be done over a stovetop or even a campfire.
Careful not to let it brew for too long, though, or your coffee will taste bitter and burnt — and nobody wants a burnt brew.
To make a pour-over, grind your coffee beans to a medium consistency, place them into a paper filter in a pour-over-style glass coffeemaker, and slowly pour boiling water over the grounds.
Often used with a light roast, a pour-over has become one of the most popular coffee drinks to order at coffee shops. It results in a complex flavor that can only be extracted from this particular method.
The process is quite simple but requires precise movements and timing for the product to come out as desired. The potency and volume of coffee depend on your timing and the consistency of your coffee grounds.
Steeping is simply the process of adding coffee grounds (or tea) to hot water and letting it sit to infuse the water rather than adding boiling water to coffee grounds.
Examples of this method include French presses, cold brews, and even coffee tea bags!
The vacuum pot operates by heating and cooling water in the bottom half of a siphon, which boils and rises to the coffee grounds and falls back down once cooled.
A vacuum pot is a rather rare process for brewing coffee that creates an aromatic and vibrant cup of coffee.
As previously mentioned, the French press is a brewing method that requires the barista to pour boiling water over ground coffee beans and let it steep. The process concludes with a firm press of the coffee grounds.
This is a popular way of brewing in any coffee shop or coffee lover’s home and an efficient, high-quality way to make coffee while traveling or outside the house!
An Aeropress is a very similar device to a French press. The main difference between the two is how you extract the final beverage from the coffee grounds.
Once steeped, the Aeropress is flipped over, and the syringe-like device is pressed down, releasing your freshly brewed coffee straight into your cup.
This is unlike the French press, which requires the barista to press the grounds within the liquid before pouring the drink.
Often used with robusta beans, the Vietnamese phin is a drip method that involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds within a metal chamber. The chamber is covered with a lid to entrap the heat and slowly drips into a mug sitting under the plate beneath the space.
This method requires patience but results in a robust beverage low in acidity and pairs well with sweetened condensed milk and ice.
The cold drip method usually requires a triple-tiered drip tower. It’s the slow process of letting cold water slowly drip down and through fresh ground coffee beans and can take up to 12 hours.
Once served, it generally comes as a 1 oz espresso-sized shot (over ice, of course).
Speaking of patience, many get the cold drip brewing method confused with a cold brew. Other than the temperature of the water and the time it takes to make a cup of coffee, these processes are actually very different.
Ready for better coffee?
If you’d like to try a low-acid coffee that’s easy on the teeth and tummy with a deep, nutty flavor profile, give gold coffee a shot!