Types of coffee drinks – an explanation, how to make them & their history

coffee types explained

types of coffee drinks

In this guide, we will talk you through all the main varieties you need to know about if you’re a coffee lover.

The world of coffee is growing every single day, and it’s often hard to keep up with the latest nitro micro-foam soy half-fat iced organic vanilla confusion.

We’ve kept it simple and included the eight main types that you will find in most local coffee shops.

After reading this guide you will:

  • Be clued up on the most popular espresso-based drinks
  • Have an insight into the genius ways that they are made
  • Know exactly which ones you need to try next
  • Know the history behind them and how they came about

Click a button below to navigate through this guide…


cappuccino        latte        espresso        americano

flat white        mocha        macchiato        iced coffee

Which coffee is best for these drinks?

The drinks in this post are best done using an espresso machine. Therefore, you will need a very fine grind. One of our best sellers for espresso machines is the Continental Blend, which can be found here coffee.

Buying in bean form and grinding yourself is the best way to have make these coffees in the freshest way possible.

Click here to find out more about our signature Continental Blend coffee



What is a cappuccino?

It’s one of the best-known hot drinks on the High Street, and it’s made up of three parts; espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. It is one of the frothiest drinks you can buy at a café and is favoured by many for this reason.

Most of the drink should consist of foam, usually with equal parts of steamed milk and espresso.

Careful attention is needed when making a cappuccino to get the right amount of foam, whilst pressurising the milk with a steam wand.

How to make a cappuccino

If you’ve ever wanted an insight into the steps your barista takes to brew a cappuccino, here’s how it’s done:

  1. Either a single or double shot of espresso is poured into the mug.
  2. Cold milk is poured into a frothing jug, usually just below the handle as a rough guide.
  3. The steam wand is put into the milk whilst it’s still switched off.
  4. The jug is turned on a slight angle, the wand is positioned so it’s just below the surface of the milk and so it’s pointing near the barista.
  5. The steam wand is turned on and the frothing begins. The wand may be brought close to the surface to create extra foam.
  6. Once the temperature reaches 50°C – 60°C, the steam wand is switched off. The ideal temperature is 65°C – 70°C, but it will rise by around 10 degrees after you stop foaming.
  7. The jug is then tapped on a hard surface to remove any large bubbles and swirled to get a smooth consistency.
  8. The milk is then poured over the espresso, usually using the side of the jug rather than the mouth as this allows the foam to pour out.

We wouldn’t recommend requesting this at your local coffee shop…

Should I order a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an indulgent drink that is perfect for relaxing moments.

Catching up with friends, staying in on rainy days or taking a break at work are all perfect settings for a cappuccino.

Of course, you can enjoy this drink any time you like!

If you’re looking for a caffeine kick but don’t want the sharpness of a black coffee, a cappuccino might be your new favourite coffee go-to.

Next time you order this drink, ask for a chocolate dusting on top to sweeten things up.


Where does the cappuccino originate from?

When coffee was first discovered, it was brewed in a pretty simple way known as the ‘Ottoman’ style. This consisted of boiling coffee in water with the occasional addition of sugar to make it more pleasant.

By the late 18th century, parts of Europe began to filter their coffee for a much smoother drink.

With the addition of cream and sugar in Viennese coffee houses, the term ‘cappuccino’ was created.

Capuchin’ translates to hood or cloak, and, at the time, the monks of Vienna wore brown robes which were a similar colour to the cappuccinos. This is how the now world-renowned drink received its name.



What is latte coffee?

A latte consists of the same three parts as a cappuccino (espresso, milk foam and steamed milk), but the ratio is what differentiates this drink.

The majority of a latte is made up of steamed milk, and only a very small amount of foam is added.

The steamed milk used in this drink is also much smoother than a cappuccino and contains less large bubbles.


How to make a latte at home

Think you have to venture to the nearest café for your creamy latte fix?

Think again.

We’re going to tell you how to enjoy the smoothness of this increasingly popular hot drink in the comfort of your own home.

Other than your usual brewing devices, all you need is a French press (or jar) and a microwave.

  1. Brew some strong coffee and add a little to your mug.
  2. For the milk frothing, you can use a French press or jar. Either plunge the milk repeatedly in a French press or shake vigorously in a jar.
  3. Immediately put the container of foamy milk in the microwave on a low setting for 30 seconds to stabilise the foam.
  4. Pour the milk and spoon out the foam over your coffee and enjoy!

Should I order a latte?

Similar to a cappuccino, a latte is a luxurious drink that is perfect for unwinding. If you’re looking for an indulgent drink that feels like a treat, a latte will be your ideal order at any café.

Or, try following the Italian regime and enjoy one in the morning with your breakfast at home.

If you you’re more of an evening person, you could round off a dinner party by putting your new-found brewing knowledge to good effect and treating everyone to a homemade latte or two to accompany the conversation into the small hours.


Latte history – where did it originate?

The addition of milk into coffee has been around since the 17th century, but how we do it has varied along the way.

The distinction between cappuccino and latte, as the two have developed, is unclear, as they are so similar.

In 1867, the term ‘caffè latte’ was used in novelist, playwright and literary critic William Dean Howells’ essay “Italian Journeys”, which was the first recorded use of the term in the English language.

Since then, countries all over the world have applied their own adaptations to the drink. For example, in Spain, ‘café con leche’ (coffee with milk) is a popular drink.

In Italy, latte translates to milk, so to Italians, it is known as a ‘latte macchiato’.



What is an espresso?

An espresso is a rich, thick and strong shot of pure coffee. It is usually dispensed as a single or double shot, and each is a relatively small measurement, due to the strong flavour.

How to make espresso without a machine

We’re going to be honest with you…

Homemade espresso without a machine won’t be the same as your local coffee shop order.

It will be similar, and still a delicious, rich and strong drink, but not the same as a coffee machine espresso shot.

But if you want to start enjoying homemade espressos, rather than relying on a barista, here’s how to do it using an aeropress

  1. Grind your beans on a fine setting.
  2. Place a paper filter in the filter cap and pour boiling water over it to remove the paper taste.
  3. Screw the cap on and add your grounds. You may want to add a little more than usual if you want a strong espresso.
  4. Pour boiling water over a second paper filter and place this on the bottom of the tamp, so it meets the top of your grounds.
  5. Use the tamp to push down the grounds and compact them.
  6. Allow boiling water to cool for a couple of minutes and then pour in the aeropress just above the number 2.
  7. Immediately insert the plunger and press down until all the coffee has poured out, making sure to push into the grounds.


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Aeropress Gift Set

The Aeropress is an all-time favourite brewing method for many coffee lovers. It is favoured for its convenience and ultra-smooth tasting results. It is the perfect portable device that allows you to brew anywhere. Receive paper filters and a bag of coffee when purchasing this gift set.

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What does espresso taste like – should I order it?

It tastes like a very strong coffee, although it’s difficult to be precise about the flavour, as it depends on the type and origin of the beans.

So, if you’re not a fan of strong-tasting coffee and need milk to give it a more mellow flavour, espresso may not be to your liking. But there’s only one way to find out, and we’d recommend you give it a try before passing judgement.

Espresso aficionados will tell you there is no better pick-me-up, whenever you need a boost in your busy day.

If you are tempted by this tiny drink, the ideal time to order one is in the morning, when you are setting off on what you hope will be a productive day.


Espresso history and origin – where it all started…

Angelo Moriondo was the first person to patent the design of his ‘steam-driven “instantaneous” coffee beverage making device’ in 1884.

It is said to be one of the earliest discoveries of the espresso machine.

However, it was nothing like the machines we are used to in modern times. It only brewed in bulk, rather than individual shots, which was a slight inconvenience for individual use.

In 1901, Luigi Bezzera made many improvements on this initial design and patented them, which he later went on to sell.

Since then, espresso has become the base of many coffee beverages, and its popularity grew rapidly throughout the 1990s in the UK.



What is an americano?

An americano is a shot of espresso with hot water. It is often confused with filter coffee, but the two are very different.

An americano is simply made with an espresso shot from an espresso machine and hot water.

Filter coffee is made through a filtering process, such as aeropress, pour over, V60 drip method, chemex or any other device that uses a filter, such as the filter Java coffee in this video…

How to make the perfect americano

To make an americano, simply follow the steps to brew an espresso shot and add hot water. However, there is a very important step to achieving the perfect americano.

The hot water should be poured into the mug first, and then topped off with a single or double espresso shot.

This it to prevent the coffee from being burnt by the hot water and giving it a bitter taste.


What does an americano taste like – should I order it?

Technically, an americano is a diluted espresso shot.

So, if you enjoy the dark taste of an espresso but don’t want it quite so overpowering, go ahead and order an americano.

On the other hand, if you find the distinctive strength and richness of pure espresso enjoyable and beneficial, you’re probably best sticking to your favourite tipple and skipping the americano.

Americanos are a favourite for so many, as they can be easily customised to your taste. Add milk, cream, sugar, syrups or anything else that takes your fancy to turn it into the perfect drink for you.


Americano coffee history

In Italy, the term ‘caffè Americano’ translates to ‘American coffee’.

Although it isn’t officially confirmed, it is believed that the americano derived from the Americans during World War II.

When in Italy, the American soldiers diluted espressos with hot water to create a drink that they were more familiar with.

This is where the term ‘americano’ was created, and it has stuck ever since.


Flat white

What is a flat white coffee?

A flat white is a single or double shot of espresso topped with a little steamed milk and foam.

It differs from a regular latte as there is less milk, meaning a higher coffee-to-milk ratio. This results in a stronger tasting beverage.


How to make a flat white coffee

When making a flat white, the process is very similar to preparing a latte.

The milk is steamed in the same way, focusing on evenly foaming the milk and not creating too much froth.

With a flat white, it is vital to tap the jug on a hard surface when the milk has been steamed to eliminate large bubbles and create an ultra-smooth, glossy texture to the liquid.

The milk is then quickly poured over the espresso with the mouth of the jug close to the coffee, to ensure mostly steamed milk is being poured in, rather than all foam.


Should I order a flat white?

A flat white is ideal for those who like the creaminess and indulgence of a latte but are looking for a stronger taste of coffee.

It is the perfect in-between option for those who don’t want an americano but still want a prominent coffee taste.

Although it has a stronger taste than a latte, as there is a lot less milk, you can make it stronger still by using a double shot.


Where does a flat white come from?

There is a lot of debate as to whether the flat white was invented in Australia or New Zealand. The two countries both claim the credit for this wonderous creation.

We’ll give you both sides of the story, so you can make a decision for yourself…

Local Australian Alan Preston claimed he coined the term on his menu board after gaining inspiration from Queensland.

He saw many adverts for “white coffee – flat” which then prompted him to add ‘flat white’ to his offerings. He claims he invented the term in the 1980s.

New Zealand’s version of events starts with former barista Frank McInnes. He said the invention of a flat white was an accidental discovery after he served his customer a mediocre cappuccino.

He failed to froth the milk, so apologised to the customer and stated: ‘Sorry, it’s a flat white’.

Which story do you believe?



What is a mocha coffee?

A mocha is simply an espresso-based drink with the addition of chocolate.

It could be any of the beverages on this list with some form of chocolate added. This could be powdered chocolate, syrup, shavings or any other kind of chocolate flavouring.


How to make a mocha at home

The great thing about mochas is that they are designed for customisation. You can make it any way you like, but here’s an easy method you can recreate at home:

  1. Brew a fresh cup of coffee like you normally would.
  2. Add one tablespoon of cocoa powder and one tablespoon of sugar.
  3. Shake some milk vigorously in a jar and then put in the microwave on a low setting for 30 seconds to stabilise the foam.
  4. Pour in some milk, spoon the foam on top and finish with chocolate sprinkles.


What does mocha coffee taste like – should I try it?

A mocha is deliciously sweet way to enjoy coffee, although it’s not to everyone’s taste.

If you have sugar in your coffee and enjoy sweet-flavoured syrups, we’d recommend trying a mocha. The combination of chocolate and coffee is indulgent and delicious for those who have a sweet tooth.

If you don’t enjoy sugar in your beverage and want to enjoy the taste of pure coffee, this probably isn’t the drink for you.


History of mocha coffee – where it originated…

You may have asked yourself, what does ‘mocha’ mean and what has it got to do with chocolate?

Nothing, is the answer. It actually has nothing to do with chocolate.

In fact, the term ‘mocha’ originates from a variety of coffee that is grown in Yemen. Mocha beans were named after the Mokha port that they were shipped from in this Middle East country.

These beans are now more commonly known as Arabica beans.

Just how and when the term mocha became associated with chocolate is unclear, but many believe it is due to the chocolatey flavour of the Yemen coffee beans.

As chocolate become more common throughout Europe, many countries began to add it to coffee for a delicious, sweet taste.



What is a macchiato?

A macchiato is a single or double shot of espresso with a dollop of steamed milk placed on the surface.

Some baristas may put a little foam on top of a macchiato, but it will only be a minimal amount as a macchiato is designed to showcase the true flavours of the espresso.


How to make a macchiato

To make a traditional macchiato, you will require an espresso machine and a steaming wand. Here are the steps a barista follows to brew your magical macchiato…

  1. A single espresso shot is brewed into a small macchiato glass.
  2. The milk is steamed the same way it would be for a cappuccino.
  3. The jug is tapped on a hard surface and swirled to remove any large air bubbles.
  4. Spoon one or two dollops of foamy milk directly on top of your espresso shot.

These steps can be customised, depending on your preferences.

If you’re looking for a real caffeine buzz, try using a double shot instead of a single.

Or if you’re looking for something a little weaker, pour the milk into the glass instead of spooning it in. This will allow more steamed milk to pour in and will dilute the taste of the espresso.


What does a macchiato taste like – will I like it?

If you don’t particularly like espresso shots, you most likely won’t enjoy a macchiato.

This beverage is simply a shot of espresso with just a dollop of milk on top, so the two are pretty similar.

If you do enjoy espresso, or very strong americanos, we’d recommend giving a macchiato a try.

The dollop of foamy milk takes the slight edge off the sharp espresso taste, but it remains a full-flavoured coffee.


Macchiato origin – the history behind the drink…

Macchiato’ literally translates to ‘spotted’ in Italian.

In Portugal, this beverage is referred to as ‘café pingado’, which translates to ‘coffee dripped’.

Disregarding ratios, the premise of a macchiato is coffee with a drop of milk on top.

The drink originated from the demand for espresso with just a tiny bit of milk. Italian baristas referred to it as ‘spotted’ or ‘marked’, to express the visual difference, and the name ‘macchiato’ has been associated with this beverage ever since.


Iced coffee

What is iced coffee?

Iced coffee is a chilled beverage that is usually served over ice.

There are so many different adaptations of this drink that it is difficult to give just one definition.

Examples of iced coffee include iced latte, Frappuccino, iced americano and iced mocha. Milk, sweetener, water, and other accompaniments can be used to customise this icy beverage.

We find that it pairs perfectly with a cookie (or two)…

How to make iced coffee at home

Iced coffee is a refreshing treat we enjoy all year round, who says it’s just for summer?

Whilst an iced americano is a cool way to appreciate the true flavours of your beans, we can’t resist some sweet flavourings every now and again.

Once you have mastered brewing your own espresso shot at home using an aeropress, making your own iced coffee creations will be a breeze… and actually pretty fun!

  1. Add some ice cubes to a glass.
  2. Pour over one shot of cooled espresso.
  3. Add some English toffee nut syrup and stir.
  4. Top up with milk to your desired strength.
  5. Finish with chocolate shavings, whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
  6. Sit back, relax and sip away!

Find three more fantastic recipes in our guide to flavoured iced coffee.


What does iced coffee taste like – when to order it…

The best thing about iced coffee is that there’s something for everyone.

It is often associated with sweet flavours, but have you ever tried an iced americano? It’s strong, dark and refreshingly cool.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to iced coffee, and pretty much every espresso beverage can be put on ice and be just as good.

Try something different every time by working your way through the many syrup options that your local coffee shop has on offer.

If you’re looking for a cool caffeine fix and still want to enjoy the rich taste of coffee throughout the summer, iced coffee is a must try.


History of iced coffee…

Mazagran is believed to be the first example of iced coffee. It is a sweet drink that combines espresso, lemon, mint and rum.

This drink originated in 1840 and is described as the ‘original iced coffee’.

Frozen coffee drinks were experimented with throughout the 19th century, often referred to as ‘café frappé’.

Documentation of brewed coffee that is then chilled with ice appears in the late 19th century, which suggests that this is when the discovery was made.

It has since been marketed and turned into a global phenomenon by the help of American brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Hi!!,

    The Article is full of knowledge about coffee. Thanks for sharing. Its quite interesting for coffee lovers. keep posting.

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